Cherry-picking, I call it. Not making the choices most heroines make, working at her own pace. And being confident (or lazy?) enough to say ‘No’ to some big banners because ‘the role wasn’t right’. For her, the length of the role doesn’t matter, how long it will be cherished does. Anushka Sharma comes with a rare nonchalance that most acquire only towards the latter part of their career. The biggest launch, the biggest banners and the megastars, and yet, she didn’t jump at all the ‘cheese’. This cat has the patience and determination to wait for the cream. As Karan Johar’s ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ (‘ADHM’) will probably prove all over again. More power to her.
Karan Johar revealed that you were the script police on the sets. True?
Yes, I would ask him a lot of questions, though I don’t think it annoyed him. He would ask me to give my shot and not torture him (laughs). But we both knew that there was a reason for it. My character and the kind of relationship she shares with Ranbir (Kapoor)’s character needed a certain understanding, so we had to keep in mind that it doesn’t get lost in the midst of everything else.
I heard that after pack-up, you would disappear and return to the set only the next day.
Honestly, I cannot handle too many things at one time. When I’m shooting, I can do just that. Now I’m beginning to accept that I can’t multitask, some people can. I know Karan can do it. After shoot, I need to catch up on sleep. Everyone who works with me knows that the one thing I can’t do without is my quota of sleep.
Yes, Ranbir and Karan said that they shopped more than Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan) and you…
Totally! Every day after pack-up, Karan and Ranbir would go shopping. On my way back from the gym, I would see them entering the hotel with lots of bags. Karan had a separate room for his wardrobe. Yes, he had a room just for his clothes to be laid out; it was like a walk-in closet.
In your movies, is there any character that you have connected with instantly?
I don’t think I can become her (a character) completely. I can physically change my appearance, I can modulate my voice, work on my accent and appearance. I can think about what she is going through, and empathise with her. Like in ‘ADHM’, Alizeh is an extremely emotional person, who is very impractical about love and relationships, but I’m the opposite of that. I’m not a very emotional person, and by that, I mean I am not completely led by my emotions. Alizeh is somebody who will leave everything for love. She goes to London and lives there because of a heartbreak. I don’t think I’m like that. I feel emotions, but I deal with it in a practical way. I wouldn’t do something that would completely displace my life.
Was being directed by Karan Johar on your bucket list? He didn’t quite approve of you when he saw you for the first time on the set of ‘Rab De Bana Di Jodi’ (‘RNBDJ’)…
It was definitely on my bucket list; in fact, I agreed to do the film instantly. I take at least one night to think over scripts. But with ‘ADHM’, I loved it instantly. When Karan called me to discuss the film, I wasn’t really sure if he was calling me for his own film. This man didn’t even want me in the industry in the first place (laughs), but it’s really big of him to accept it on national television.
Ranbir said that the first time he met you, he stayed away because you were a Yash Chopra heroine. You scared him away, huh?
Ranbir has a habit of adding so much mirch-masala to stories. The real story is this. He was working out at the gym and I had come to work out, too. He was with his trainer and we both exchanged pleasantries. I finished my workout and he continued. It was as simple as that. We didn’t speak at all, also because I’m very shy and awkward with new people. I take a while to start chatting with someone. I think the first time Ranbir and I really spoke was after ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’, when he started telling me what he thought of the film. Of course, today we are very good friends. There’s a natural ease between us, as there is no sense of judgment. Sometimes, you just click with some people. I think the two of us have a natural chemistry, just like the film needed. Anurag (Kashyap) would always tell us that if I start rolling a camera behind-the-scenes between Ranbir and you, I can make another film.
Did the failure of ‘Bombay Velvet’ affect you deeply?
I think failure makes you more appreciative of your success and whatever you have achieved. Failure does not let you take things for granted. For me, it happened right after my first film. With the scale of a film like ‘RNBDJ’, I could have been at a different level right after its release. It didn’t happen that way. It wasn’t overnight stardom. After ‘RNBDJ’, I wasn’t seen on magazine covers right away. So it was disappointing and I faced it very early in my career. In fact, for six months, I didn’t even have a film. I knew I was doing a film with the banner that launched me, but because of some confusion, people thought I was only supposed to do projects with that banner. And then, ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ happened and it was appreciated. The film taught me that if the script is good and I am good in the film, it can do so much more for me. Those phases in my life prepped me for the rest of my career. Yes, I was disappointed that ‘Bombay Velvet’ didn’t work, and I felt bad for the producers who lost money, as it affects the industry at large. But carrying the baggage of a failed film is a mistake and I don’t do that.
In all the commercial films that you have done, you’ve always shared equal ground with the hero. Has that been a conscious decision?
I realised that’s my USP. ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ did what it did to me because of my performance in the film. For me, what I’m doing in a film is really important; I won’t do a film because I want to be part of a big banner. I’m not saying it’s wrong, whoever wants to do it should do it. It just doesn’t satisfy me as a person. I feel fortunate that I’m working in this industry, so I want to make the most of it by cautiously choosing films that I want to be a part of. I’ve never been lured by what is working and what’s the trend. I’ve never paid attention to what everybody is thinking or expecting of me. In a way, I’ve always been anti-establishment. If someone is doing something a certain way, I want to do just the opposite. I think taking risks pays off in the long run.
Are you fiercely ambitious?
I’m ambitious, but I have principles when it comes to my ambition. I don’t believe thatdhande me sab kuch chalta hai. I’m not that type. I’m not someone who thinks that you can be anything, do anything and say anything because you need to get your work done. I have certain principles and a value system which I cannot compromise on. I don’t think that to look better myself, I can run down others. I cannot be so competitive that I harm someone else in the process. I often appear to be really chilled out, but inside me, something is constantly working. It’s harder to work the way I do. I believe that I need to do good work and keep getting better at it. The trappings of being a star are very scary, and you are expected to do certain things to be a star. You are also expected to behave like a star, and for me, these things are really difficult and exhausting.
Has stardom changed you? I mean, you come from a simple, non-filmi family. The transition must have been dramatic.
I don’t think it has changed me, I feel that I’ve improved as a person. For a creative person, it’s most important to have a perspective, and the only way to have perspective is by keeping things in check. I always spend time introspecting and making sure that I’m doing something with myself, rather than just doing things. I have a life beyond movies, and once I’m done shooting, I don’t just hang out. I go back and watch TV shows and enjoy my down-time. I’m mostly by myself. I’m not someone who likes to go out too much.
When you started out, there was this perception of you being snobbish, even aloof to an extent. Now, that perception has changed.
I was never snooty; in fact, I’m very respectful of people. Again, people expect you to be a certain way. But like I said earlier, I’m never going to do something which doesn’t come naturally to me. For instance, I won’t put on an act of raising my pitch or tone to look excited on meeting someone. I have never felt the need to prove my respect for anyone just because I want them to like me. I knew it would take longer for people to understand me, which is what has happened. Now, they’ve understood that this is who I am.