Anushka Sharma completes seven years in the industry this week. we got seven of her directors to talk about the actress
Anushka Sharma completes seven years of her career in Bollywood this year. Born in Ayodhya and raised in Bengaluru, she started her career as a fashion model. She got her first film break with Shah Rukh Khan when she acted as the romantic female lead opposite him in Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008). In a career spanning just seven years, the actress has worked with directors like Raj Kumar Hirani (PK), the father-son duo Yash Chopra (Jab Tak Hai Hai Jaan) and Aditya Chopra and Anurag Kashyap (Bombay Velvet). She is currently working in Karan Johar’s directorial next Ae Dil Hai Mushkil opposite Ranbir Kapoor. Anushka turned producer with crime thriller NH10, which was made at a meagre budget of `14 crore; the film grossed almost `40 crore at the BO. Amazing journey, right? We got seven of her directors, including the man who discovered her — director Maneesh Sharma — to talk about working with her.
I have always found this self-assuredness of hers very non-filmi. This attitude she has carried in her personality and for me, that’s the best part. I told Adi, ‘I think we have found our Tani’. He asked me ‘Why do you say that?’ I said, ‘Because she’s such a natural.’ Anushka has such a baggage-less way of performing in front of the camera which is her USP. Adi told me that Anushka acchi hai, but we should not stop our hunt. I next met Anushka at one of the fashion weeks in Delhi. It was a good stop for fresh talent, so I got an all-access backstage pass. I asked her to give me a perspective on the other girls I was meeting there. She knew they were potential competitors, but yet she participated whole-heartedly and was very fair to all the girls I met, who’s good and what the model excelled at. I told her, ‘I hope you realise that I am still looking for a new girl to play the part,’ and Anushka looked at me and said simply, ‘That’s all about destiny.’ That had a lasting impression on me. Her mixture of innocence, confidence and integrity played on me in a big way. I came back to Mumbai, told Adi and as they say… the rest is history. Maybe because we almost started our careers together, I had that connect with Anushka. She sets herself apart as a presence. In the first couple of years of her starting out, she couldn’t communicate too well with the normal audience, but I had faith in her. When we started Band Baaja Baaraat, I was adamant that Anushka play Shruti Kakkar, we now just had to figure out our Bittu. There was never any doubt in terms of her integral talent and it just became better and better. She was doing a film with Aditya Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan at just 19. She could have been a precocious kid, but she came without any baggage. Maybe because I have grown up with Anushka with regard to our careers, I am a little biased towards her.
She does films selectively and that’s a good thing. Anushka has achieved a position where she can choose to be selective. She is working with the best directors we have today and while she’s most passionate about her films, yet films are not the be-all and end-all for her. She loves to spend time with her family and friends and travel. Today, she can just take time and choose the scripts she wants to do and believes in. Anushka has an admirable integrity. The film she chose to produce first, shows that. Strangely, Anushka never surprises me that much while performing a scene. Her high degree of performance is a layered craft. As an actress and a director, we have an equation — we don’t talk much while shooting. I have to just say one line and she understands what I am trying to convey. We kind of know what’s expected, our connection is so strong. She stems from a place so honest and from the gut and heart, that individually, she strikes the right chord.
Dil Dhadakne Do 2015
Anushka is a delight to work and connect with — very easy and relatable
I met Anushka at Shah Rukh’s home at a party thrown by Gauri on their terrace. She and I hung out and spoke for some time and I found her refreshingly unaffected and unassuming after Band Baaja Baaraat’s success. I just liked her and connected with her energy and knew that at some point that I wanted to work with her. Anushka is a delight to work with — very easy and relatable. She’s into what she does and really cares about your film. There’s a mutual respect between us. Dealing with her was very simple. During the shooting of DDD, we would often dock at a town or city for a day, when we were not shooting. People would go out. Once in Rome, she was out for the day and it started raining. I called and told her that we can’t shoot the scene and if she could come back and shoot on board. Anushka came back and was ready in just half an hour! I think Anushka is doing very well in her career and making the right choices. I really look forward to working with her again.
Vishal Bhardwaj: Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola 2013
She did a very difficult shot in a very sober state
Though I loved Anushka right from Band Baaja Baaraat, I can’t forget her very impressive debut in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. She is one of the finest actresses among the new lot and always the first choice for Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. Anushka is a very professional actor. She did a very difficult ‘drunk’ scene opposite Pankaj Kapur in a completely sober state. Anushka not only stood her ground against an experienced actor like Pankaj Kapur but also delivered a layered, finely-nuanced performance way beyond her age and experience in the film.
Maneesh Sharma: Band Baaja Baaraat 2010
and Ladies vs Ricky Behl 2011
She helped me review actresses for the role that she was also auditioning for
Anushka has done not only my debut film Band Baaja Baaraat, but I was also very involved with the casting process of Adi’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. I was an associate director when Adi was looking for a new girl for the film. I was the one responsible for the casting and was meeting various girls. At that point, it was under wraps that it was for an Aditya Chopra film. We were casting it as a YRF film. During one of these screen tests, in comes this girl… I was playing table tennis and perspiring a bit. When Anushka saw me, she was initially a little disgusted seeing my sweaty self, but then as we got talking, we became comfortable. My first impression of her was — here’s this girl who has come to audition and there was a strange self-assuredness and confidence. I have met lots of young talent since then and most have been nervous, but Anushka was professional, practical and gave it her best shot.
Raj Kumar Hirani: PK (2014)
She didn’t react to my offer at first and continued talking about this and that
My first encounter with Anushka was when she messaged me during Band Baaja Baaraat asking me when I would like to watch the film. I had to politely decline saying I wasn’t in town. Later, when I heard that the film was very good I went one night to the theatre to watch it, I came back completely blown by it. I called her after that saying how much I loved it. Then, when I was writing for PK, I decided that Anushka was the right girl to play Jagat Janani Sahni or Jaggu. I bumped into her at a trial of Rockstar. After the trial, I went to her and told her that I had written a script and would like to meet and talk to her about it. She didn’t reply, but kept on talking about some scene in Rockstar and how it made her cry. I was like ‘Oh, she’s not responding!’ but she continued talking and not once mentioned my script. I thought, maybe she wasn’t interested. When I got a call from her the next day asking, ‘Did you offer me a film? I am sorry I was completely ignoring what you were saying as I was into this and that.’ She was surprised that I didn’t want to do an audition or even do a reading with her, but I was very sure that only she could do it. Anushka is a wonderful actress to work with. It took us some time to complete the film but she was there everyday, sitting and reading. She is involved in everything, from the way she would do her look to her character. We made her change her hairstyle and she was so excited that she wanted to cut it short but because she was doing Bombay Velvet, she couldn’t as there would be continuity problems. Every person has a different way of working, Aamir and Boman love rehearsals and with Anushka, we did lots of rehearsals and she was always there. I knew what path she was taking. She would be sitting and rehearsing quietly in a corner and doing her bit. She is very dedicated. If she has an issue about something, she will call and ask me ‘Can we do it like this?’ She’s involved and yet, not pushy. Anushka has a very interesting voice and she uses that well. I saw NH10 and think it’s her finest work till date, PK included. I loved her in BBB, it’s what made me take her in PK, but I was blown by her performance in it. She made you scared, especially in the last scene. To do a manly scene like that for a girl is very tough and yet, because you believe in what she’s doing, you are rooting for her. Anushka is still a middle-class girl from a small town. She still hasn’t got so used to all the glamour and fame. I wish she stays like that forever.
Nikhil Advani: Patiala House (2011)
She said to me: you don’t have to go through layers to contact me...
Anushka is an anomaly. She’s extremely headstrong. She came to my office when was signed by YRF for a three-film deal, so I thought she wasn’t doing films outside. I felt I had to speak to Adi. She called me up and asked me why I did that? Her whole point was – ‘Why do people assume I cannot make decisions by myself?’ I thought I was making the right moves from one producer to another and not offending anybody, but she was like, ‘Pick up the phone and speak to me! You don’t have to go through layers to contact me.’ Even now, when I want to pitch stuff to her, I just send her a message and she messages back. I find that a very endearing quality in her. She keeps in touch with the people that she’s worked with. What struck me about her, is her approach to their work. Anushka becomes like an AD on the set, thinking not only what’s best for her own characters, but things which contribute to the film as a whole. Yet, she is very caring about her films and character and the people she loves. She’s extremely bindaas about whatever she does. She says that her private life is nobody’s business and sticks to that. She may be called an ice maiden because of that, but she is ‘take it or leave it’. Certain things are off-limits and she’s very clear about her boundaries which few are allowed to transgress.
Parmeet Sethi: Badmaash Company (2010)
According to me, she’s the best actress in Bollywood today
I had seen Rab Ne… and seen this very Indian girl (Anushka Sharma) when Adi suggested her name for my film. I was unsure as I didn’t know how she would perform. Her Badmaash Company character Bulbul Singh was very bold, outspoken and sexy and the complete opposite of the image she had in RNBDJ. But then, the actor in me, questioned me and pointed out that people did the same thing with me and typecast me. When I met Anushka for the first time in the YRF office, she was very talkative. She started chattering and I realised that this is exactly the character that I wanted. I don’t have to direct her — she was such a motormouth! I was like wow! That was my first impression of her. Through the making of the film, I discovered that Anushka has so many layers to her. According to me, she is the best actress in Bollywood today. She hasn’t got her due yet though she’s doing great in her career. The beauty of Anushka is that she understands what you want effortlessly. Just a nudge and in the next shot, she will give you exactly that. She is spontaneous and natural as an actor. she has just gone from strength to strength in her career. Being selective is good for her as she wants to make the right choice in scripts. She carried NH10 on her shoulders, made the real moves and on a low budget.
In Haryana, 3000 men surrounded our car. I was panicking but Anushka just calmly and asked,
‘Itne saare log hamein dekhne aaye hai?
I first bumped into Anushka at Anurag Kashyap’s office but I don’t think she remembers that meeting. I had sent across the NH10 script to her and while she had read the script earlier, she couldn’t do it as she was busy with Bombay Velvet. Then she contacted me and asked me to come over to her house for a meeting. I was very impressed and taken aback by how open and honest she was the first time I met her. She was not starry at all and easy to connect with. The other producer had asked me to give a particular pitch, but I gave her the real pitch and she was happy about that. Anushka said, ‘You have told me the truth, now I really want to do it.’ As a producer, she is totally supportive. She was the only producer on set and gave us whatever resources we needed. She’s totally supportive as a producer and very hands-off creatively. Best combo ever. Before the shoot, we had workshops for a month. We shot the film in Gurgaon near Haryana and parts of it, at a village near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The locales were gritty and real and I was worried if she could handle it, being a star. But Anushka is very fit physically and zero-fuss and handled it all with aplomb. She is up for just about everything. Though we had a body double we didn’t end up using her as most of the stunts have been done by Anushka. Once while shooting in Haryana, a mob of 3000 men surrounded our car. It was on our fifth day of shoot and I was terrified for Anushka. I thought now we can’t shoot the film. There were just a few cops and couldn’t really do anything. We sat inside the car and just locked the door. Anushka was completely calm while I was panicking sitting in the backseat with the cameraman and looking out. Anushka just sat calmly and asked, ‘Itne saare log hamein dekhne aaye hain?’ As an actress, Anushka’s willing to go that extra distance and be vulnerable on screen. She let herself look dirty, muddied up and mascara running down her face which few actresses would do. Anushka is not afraid of showing her vulnerability on screen which is a great quality. She does not hide behind a shield or mask. So, I connect to the person as opposed to the star. She’s talented, dedicated and hard-working, combined with her ability to be vulnerable as an actor. The whole shoot was memorable! All I will tell Anushka is, “Stay real!”
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