She may only be five-year-old in the film industry but in a short span of time, Anushka Sharma has established a firm hold here. Proving her mettle with Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, she went on to act in Yashraj Productions Badmaash Company and Band Baaja Baaraat and even attempted Nikhil Advani’s Patiala House. Interestingly, even after completing her three-film deal with YRF, the actress was chosen for their next production Ladies VS Ricky Bahl and this year, she bagged a part that any actress would kill for. She stars in Yash Chopra’s magnum opus Jab Tak Hai Jaan along with Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif.
“To have your name go down in the history as Yash Chopra heroine is a dream that every actress possesses. ‘Yash Chopra heroine’ is a brand name,” says Sharma with a glint in her eye. She recalls that while she was extremely excited to be a part of this project, the nervousness stemmed from the responsibility to give her best. “But once I began working with Yashji and realised how relaxed he is, it was the best experience of my life. I got withdrawal symptoms when the shoot was about to be completed. I would tell the assistant directors to increase the schedule by two-three days. I was feeling so hurt and upset that I didn’t leave Kashmir for a day even after wrapping the shoot,” says the actress.
While Kaif plays the quintessential Yash Chopra heroine who believes in love, Sharma plays fiercely ambitious Akira, a documentary film-maker with Discovery Channel who wants to make a documentary on Samar Khan (played by Shah Rukh Khan). “My character is anti-Yash Chopra heroine. She is cynical about love and ruthless with her ambitions.” Ask if she relates to her character and she says, “I relate to the character on the levels of being ambitious. I started working when I was 15 years old and I am very hard working too.” Though, the actress believes that she is principally correct and structurally ambitious. She elaborates, “I will never step on somebody’s toes to move ahead because I don’t need to. I have never spoken ill about any person in print though people do that indirectly, I will not do that.”
Unlike her character, the perky actress is a firm believer in love. Though, she clarifies, “I am not a cliché romantic. I don’t like flowers, chocolates and candle-lit dinners. I would slap a guy who would give me these things. Love lies in small things. For instance, watching a movie together. The guy isn’t concentrating on the movie but he is there because he wants to spend time with me. Small things matter to me”
Though, acting in this film was no cakewalk. She had to prep up physically because she was required to do extreme sports like rapid river crossing and white water rafting. “I didn’t just have to look fit, I had to be fit because I actually had to do these things instead of just acting. So I needed to have a lot of balance and body control. I was required to have core strength. When I did this rapid-river crossing, my stomach hurt for a month. Moreover, since we were shooting, I had to give many takes and it was physically draining but exciting also because it was adventurous. I love nothing more than films and travelling and here I got to visit new places like Ladakh and Kashmir.”
Interestingly, Anushka is the only actor besides Shah Rukh Khan, who had the opportunity to be directed by the late film-maker Yash Chopra and his son, Aditya. She compares their film-making styles, “Yashji’s films are more from a female point of view while Adi’s films are from the point of view of a man. His films are all about good values and being righteous. Yashji’s films are about the intricacies of human relationships. Besides, he is faster with his takes. We would go on a set for 12-hour shift but would be done in six-seven hours. Adi is also very quick, don’t get me wrong, but he would shoot safety takes. Yashji is like an express train.”
Meanwhile, Sharma, who made her debut opposite Shah Rukh was more at ease working with the actor this time. She beams, “During my first film, I was a little confused because everything was very new to me. Having done five films, I was more confident in front of the camera this time. Also, in the time between Rab Ne.. and Jab Tak Hai Jaan, I have come to know Shah Rukh on a personal level too. I love spending time with him, he is a really cool guy.”
The actress, who shares dramatic and emotional scenes with Kaif, feels that it is equally important for two actresses to get along in a film. Fortunately, she shared a good rapport with Kaif. She elaborates, “We are in a comfort zone where we can just be sitting next to each other, not talk and then suddenly start talking and laughing. Somewhere, Katrina and I are very similar. We don’t like to force relationships onto people and pretend to be best buddies. Adi toh thought that he should be making a film only with Katrina and me because we were writing a parallel script with only both of us in it. She is a nice girl to work with, worldly wise and very mature,” she says.
Ask what she will take back from the late film-maker’s swan song and she fondly replies, “I will take back the things that I have learnt from Yashji - humility, warmth and the need to enjoy your work. As a producer, he could have been very worried about box-office figures but during the shoot, he was just enjoying his work. Somewhere, all of us will have a running of 10-15 years as actresses and it might be really successful. But what’s the use if I turn back and feel that I’ve not enjoyed it, I was just in a race. So I am enjoying myself.”
And the actress has all the reasons to do so. While she remains YRF’s blue-eyed girl, she is also acting in outside banners. In fact, she completed the shoot of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola with Imran Khan and Pankaj Kapur before hopping on to Jab Tak Hai Jaan. The actress confesses that she did take some time to settle into JTHJ mode as she was coming from a Vishal Bhardwaj film “where everything is about subtlety, sometimes, you don’t even realise that he cheat shoots you and when you see the shot, you can’t believe that you actually did that.” On the other hand, she had to understand that Yash Chopra’s films are dramatic, emotional and eternal love stories. “That took some time but I am happy to work with different kind of directors. It improves my craft and I don’t get stuck in a rut,” she smiles.
Next year seems to be extremely promising for Sharma. While Matru... releases in January, the young talent is going to be busy shooting for Rajkumar Hirani’s P.K. co-starring Aamir Khan and Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet with Ranbir Kapoor. So what drives her film choices? “My decisions are completely based on instincts. After reading the script, I ask myself three questions. Firstly, if I want to be a part of the film. Secondly, if the role is challenging enough and thirdly, will I be upset if somebody else gets to do this film and that is the deciding factor. When I get that feeling, I have to do the film,” she says.
Currently witnessing a great professional high, the actress believes that her patience has brought her this far. She introspects, “I didn’t turn into an overnight star post my first film and everybody kept insisting that I should sign many films. I decided to be patient. I realised that I did not want to do films where I would only be an ornament. I wanted to do films which had some scope for performance because otherwise I would not have been proud of myself. Today, God has answered my prayers. I am working with four of the most incredible directors of our country who are so different from each another that it makes me a versatile actress.”
With a warm smile and promise in her voice, Sharma signs off, “It’s a great phase but there’s more to come.” l