A film in which I only look good doesn’t satisfy me, says Anushka Sharma

Actor Anushka Sharma on her next release, learning to negotiate space, turning producer and coming to terms with trolls on social media.

Written by Alaka Sahani | Updated: June 26, 2016 9:55 am
anushka sharma, anushka sharma interview, anushka sharma eye interview, phillauri, nh10, sultan, sultan movie, express eye Anushka Sharma at a promotional event at Mehboob Studios, Bandra, Mumbai. (Source: Express Photo by Aman Deshmukh).

Sultan actress Anushka Sharma on her next release, learning to negotiate space, turning producer and coming to terms with trolls on social media.

In Sultan, you play the role of Aarfa, a wrestler. How did you go about it?

I got only six weeks to train before my first bout in the film was shot. During this period, I also had to look the part, learn wrestling and speak like a Haryanvi. People have this preconceived notion about the way wrestlers look. Everyone thinks they are big, which I am not. I was worried whether I’d be able to convince people that I am a wrestler. So I had to do a lot of weight training and body-building.

Was learning to wrestle tough?

Wrestling is a contact sport. As actors, we are used to keeping people at a distance. When you have to be really close to someone, it feels uncomfortable. I could learn the sport only after I overcame that. Then I started enjoying wrestling, which is a way of fighting where you don’t injure your opponents. It is more about power and tactics. It is about knowing how to bend someone’s body in such a way that the opponent has no option but to give in to gravity.

This film is a sports drama and follows the journey of very real people. It is the first time you will see a female wrestler on the big screen. Aarfa represents a modern Indian woman. Women in sports can’t ignore their duties at home even as they push themselves, working doubly hard to realise their professional dreams.

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Have you been consciously picking progressive roles?

Every character I have played so far is real to me. It is important that I take up the kind of roles I can relate to. Every time I choose a film, it has to say something different. Characters have to be unique, they should be roles that I have not done before. To do a film in which I look good and has lovely songs, does not give me professional satisfaction.

Is that why you turned producer?

The idea behind turning a producer was to create good cinema. My brother Karnesh and I want to make the kind of movies which have not been done before. I would watch films like Frances Ha and The Squid and the Whale, and wonder why we weren’t making these beautiful, slice-of-life movies. Then I thought: why am I not doing it?

Now that you are working on your second home production, Phillauri, (directed by Anshai Lal), have you come to enjoy the role of a producer?

I love the work that goes into making a movie and creating a different world. It is a wholesome experience. After I turned producer, people asked me, ‘Why are you taking up production? You are still so young and doing well.’ Just because an actress decides to make movies, do people assume that her career is not going well? I thought people would perceive this move differently and see that a girl is trying to do things differently — being ambitious and taking risks.

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You are known to be pretty hands-on as a producer.

You learn so much more about your own craft when you come to know what goes into the making of a movie. Setting up a project is very difficult — you have to get the right people together and pitch to studios, and when one is trying to sell a different idea, it might not be received well. People in the industry have the habit of sticking to formulaic movies that have proven to be a success.

You started shooting Phillauri a while ago and it is nearing completion now. What happened with the project?

It was a start-to-finish schedule which went off really well. My brother and I work on a project together. I can’t be everywhere, but we think in the same way and rarely have disagreements. We like the same kind of films, and make a wonderful team.

Do you take calculated risks?

What’s a risk? Not every time will you find supportive people. NH10, from the start, was meant to be an ‘adult’ certificate film. It was gory and hard-hitting. It was difficult to find backing for it and, hence, I had to turn producer. That was not a risk for me. I believe if the storytelling is interesting, it is not a risk. The motivation comes from a good script and an engaging story.

In spite of applying for adult certification, NH10 still ran into censor trouble.

We obviously did not want any cuts in the film and we tried not to let the message or content of the film to be diluted because of the cuts. Since I went through this experience, I am aware of the trouble the Udta Punjab team faced, even though their case was more drastic. When I heard about the cuts, my reaction was, how are we going to make films if there are 89 cuts suggested by the board? I am so proud of our judicial system, that they backed our filmmakers. That’s a victory for the entire industry.

Do you support the growing demand for the overhauling of the film certification process?

During the release of NH10, I had said that the focus should be on certification. The Central Board for Film Certification can introduce more categories in the adult section, but it should not censor movies.

The argument that the use of expletives will have a negative impact on the audience is stupid. The audience is not stupid, and our endeavour in using them is to make a character more real. You can’t put a veil on reality. That’s not a positive sign for a developing country.

You have been keeping a very busy calendar.

I have been working on movies back to back. After Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, I moved to Sultan and Phillauri. I will soon start shooting for Imtiaz Ali’s next with Shah Rukh Khan. I have managed fine so far, though I crib to my manager that she does not give me even a day’s holiday.

Now that you have worked with the top three Khans and some of the leading directors, do you think that you have ticked all the boxes?

I do believe that I have had a very good career. I have worked with some of the biggest directors in the country. They all had different visions and that ensured that I was cast in some very interesting movies. But I am still very restless and never complacent.

When one searches your name on Google, the top entries are about Virat Kohli and you.

That’s the reason I am not going to talk about my personal life anymore. For all the work I have done, people just want to focus on my personal life. I feel that as an actor and a woman, my achievements and work are overshadowed by my relationship. People assume that’s the most interesting aspect of my life.

In his recent column on trolling, Karan Johar wrote about the harassment you faced on social media.

I used to get affected by trolling a lot. Now, I have come to terms with the fact that these are dark, hollow people, who get pleasure by being mean to others.

And what Karan said at the end of his column — “I am nicer than you” — is a fact.

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