Anushka Sharma: You are misunderstood a lot when you’re straightforward – Anushka Sharma’s film trajectory needs to be stolen. She is one of the few fortunate heroines who has featured in three Rs 300-cr plus films — PK (2014), Sultan (2016) and Sanju (2018). She has also earned herself the reputation of working around each of her movies with quiet dedication and dogged determination. Right now, she is nurturing a film that seems to have its heart in the right place — Sui Dhaaga: Made in India. Even as she is stitching up loose ends, she takes a short break to answer our questions. Excerpts…
How was it working with Gen-Now star Varun Dhawan for the first time?
It was great. We didn’t know each other at all. So, we didn’t have the camaraderie that you have when you engage socially. We did have a few common friends, but we didn’t spend time together in a personal setting. He was a revelation. He’s a genuinely nice guy, well brought up and totally driven. He’s crazy, I love him (smiles). The good thing about him is that he has no ego as an actor. Varun does not portray something that he is not, which is something I really like about him. The fact that we did not ‘know’ each other helped as in the film, our respective characters — Mamta and Mauji — discover each other over a period of time.
You’ve been balancing your career with middle-of-the-road cinema and pure commercial fare. After Sui Dhaaga, you have Aanand L Rai’s Zero with Shah Rukh Khan. You had an interesting cameo in Sanju, too. Is this by design or is this how you intend to continue?
I always wanted to do more accessible cinema and balance that with films which have a different voice. I think Sui Dhaaga and PK are a good balance. My upcoming film doesn’t have lip-sync songs just like Dangal. I’m not comparing it to Dangal, I’m just talking about these films in terms of their content and how they speak to a wider audience. Also, movies like Sui Dhaaga allow you to engage with filmmakers who have a different voice. This, in turn, helps you to take that understanding and evolution that you might have experienced as an actor to another film, even if that is of a more commercial nature. Also, I can’t keep doing one thing. The luxury of an actor is to keep on reinventing. If I’m doing the same thing again and again, then it’s no fun.
When I get a different character to play, or work with a director who has a diverse vision, it’s exciting. You spend a lot of time on a film, away from home and family. So, you want to be excited about going to the set every day.
Had you taken up embroidery before the film?
I can’t recall. Perhaps, when I was in school, but not properly. My mom has done interiors and fashion designing. In fact, she used to do these wide embroidery designs that we had put up in the living room of the home we grew up in. I observed her body language closely, which helped me. But I did learn embroidery for the film and would practise on the sets, in between shots.
Did you create something for your husband (Virat Kohli), like his name or put his initials on a handkerchief?
Not really. I’d be constantly practicing embroidery on a handkerchief, or a pillow cover or a pocket square but I can’t remember doing something specific for him. I used to call the costume department and keep asking for more dhaaga (thread). After a point, they were irritated and would run away from me (laughs).
It seems like you’re doing less work now.
Do you know how many releases I have this year? Four. Starting with Pari in March, then Sanju in June, Sui Dhaaga and Zero later this December. Last year, I had three. In the last few years, I’ve only been working.
Do you plan to continue doing three-four films a year?
I’ve not decided that yet. In the past three-four years, I’ve portrayed different roles that demanded a lot from me. Ideally, I’d like to do two films a year, so I could plan and focus on them. If a third film comes my way, I’ll think, ‘Haan, mujhe woh bhi karni hai.’ That’s not something you can control as the excitement about a script and working with a director are other aspects that prompt you to take up a film.
Would you equate that as ambition or a drive?
Ambition is when you’re working towards the end goal. I’ve been working since I was a teenager. I enjoy my work. I’m in a profession where I do one project and then move on to another. I’m self-employed, so I can control what I take up. For the last 10 years, I’ve only been working. The month-long break this year is the longest I’ve had in a decade.
Did you not take a wedding break last December?
No. Until two days before my wedding, I was shooting. I don’t consider it a break because that is a milestone in my life. I needed a break from work to relax. The one I took this June-July was the longest one in my life. I also realized that it’s not good to keep working continuously. On my return, I felt energised and my creative juices were flowing better. When you’re working every single day, you are going from one set to the other and straddling films, ads and interviews. People get a kick out of that, but it doesn’t work that way for me. I need a proper work-life balance. At the same time, the films I take up are the subjects I choose to do, not because I’m working towards an end product or someone is telling me that I’ve to act in a certain number of movies. I’m in a secure position in my career.
I enjoy the different kind of work that I’m offered. It’s testimony to the fact that directors are seeing that versatility in me, which is something I’ve always strived for.
Most of your co-actors say that you are a straightforward person. Are there any disadvantages to that?
Yes, you are misunderstood a lot when you’re straightforward! When people don’t say what they mean, and I say what I mean, the others are looking for another meaning. The order of the world is that no one is having transparent conversations with one another. That really frustrates me. So, I surround myself with people who understand me the way I am.
In your case what you see is what you get, right?
Yes. I’m not doing anything wrong that I need to hide. I’m comfortable in my skin and I don’t need to project an image of what I’m not. And whatever my issues or shortcomings are, I’m owning them and working on them. I’m not going around hiding or camouflaging them with a big smile on my face. I don’t want to be liked by everyone because it’s extremely strenuous to lead that kind of life. When you understand that the other person is struggling as much as you are in trying to create that image, and you start being yourself, the people around you relax. That is something I’ve discovered and I find it more peaceful. Once someone asked me what makes me take decisions and I said that I do things that make me peaceful. All my decisions are related to that. You have to be true to yourself.