Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Anushka Sharma

“You cannot completely like your own films the way you can like someone else’s work”

By Ankita R. Kanabar and Amul Mohan

(This interview has been published in the March 7, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

Photo credit - Zaheer Abbass
Her plush penthouse apartment sprawled over the 20th floor is covered in shades of white, almost giving you a royal, vintage feel. The house completely reflects this girl’s personality who’s come a long way, making it on her own. Her manager then guided us to another room and there she was – in a printed blue top and a pair of denim capri pants almost sans make-up. Somehow she didn’t give us this quintessential prim-and-proper Hindi cinema heroine vibe. The fact that she was a normal girl in the comfort of her house made her such a refreshing change. She’s seated in one corner of the couch, with her feet curled up and a cushion placed on her lap just as we begin to talk. Her next film ‘NH10’, that she describes as her most challenging role so far, is just a few days away from release and also sees her turn producer. Clearly then, that forms the crux of this chat. Shedding light on her latest venture, turning producer and the nitty-gritties of her craft – here’s Anushka Sharma for you!

You had an extensive workshop before ‘NH10’ went on floors…do you prefer having workshops before every film?
I would like to, and it has happened with certain films, but not always do you get to do that. Sometimes you’re doing too much work, sometimes your co-actors are running in-between films, it’s not always possible, but we’ve done that in ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’. I feel workshops help me so even if sometimes my co-star isn’t available, I like to sit with the director. During ‘PK’ I would sit with Rajkumar Hirani, rehearse my lines and discuss the scenes. What it does is, it saves your time because you have already worked things out, you know how to approach the scene, the director has pretty much told you what he wants from you. So on the set, you’re just shooting the scene. It really helps because then you’re already developing the character before you go on set. I think every actor should do workshops, it’s important. Also, it helps you do a back-story. In a film like ‘NH10’, a lot of time isn’t given to dwell into the back-story of the characters, despite it being character-driven. Fifteen minutes into the film and the plot has already started. You have only that much time to make the audience invest in you. So, you have to come prepared as an actor. You need to have a back-story in your head, which might not play on-screen. Your relationship with your co-actor has to kind of speak of many years, which you’re not showing. For instance, in ‘NH10’, within the first few minutes of the film, you establish that Neil (Bhoopalam) and I are a couple, you need to see that chemistry. Now because, people also haven’t seen Neil and me together earlier, it probably would take that much longer for them to accept, but by doing workshops the chemistry comes easy and you save time on the set. When you do workshops you can be spontaneous, and when you don’t, you’re still figuring out the basics on the set.

Is there any one thing that you can pin point on, which made you turn producer for this film?
With certain films like ‘NH10’, it’s commercially more viable to let go off your actor fee and get involved in risk-sharing with the studio. Because, while I feel there’s scope for more of these films to be made with people willing to watch them, they’re not getting picked up by producers. When you get involved like that, there’s a reason for people to back those films. That was the motive. I’ve really believed in this film, and wanted it to get made by giving it whatever it took, to go on floors. The project was brought to us by Phantom, but they hadn’t spoken to a studio. So, I got into a fifty per cent partnership with Phantom, and then Eros picked up the film.

How challenging has juggling between two roles, that of an actor and producer, been?
Because this company is run by my brother and me, we’ve divided the responsibilities. There are certain things I don’t understand, and it’s not good for me as an actor to get into those things also. I’ve worked in the capacity of a creative producer. My brother takes care of the other things, which I’ll be aware of, but I don’t dwell into them much, because then it’ll be a disservice to the film as an actor. But what I’ve now realised is that I think shooting is the easiest of the entire process. What happens before and after is the worse. You understand that when you produce a film. So, yes it was challenging, and even more, for a film like ‘NH10’ because you’re fighting a lot of issues. I was also fighting creatively. I didn’t want the promotional song. But what made it a little easy was the fact that I was working with Phantom that also believes in pushing the envelope in that sense. If I wasn’t working with them, if our wavelengths didn’t match, then it would be harder and there would be creative conflicts.

Also for a film as intense, didn’t the entire shooting process affect your psyche in any way? Even physically, it must have been demanding…
It has been the most challenging film for me, so far. I would shoot some scenes and feel gloomy for the rest of the day, because I got into it so much. When we were shooting, at one point, we were in a secluded area, pretty much away from the city. So, it was more like you’re living, breathing, waking up to this film and are surrounded by people making it so you get sucked into it even more. I think I felt emotionally drained after some scenes. Physically, I had issues like a back-problem because a lot of running, falling and getting up. We were shooting in jungles, and 12 hours of running can be really tiring. You don’t realise it at that point, because the adrenaline is so much, but once you go back to your room, you feel you’re in a lot of pain.

Were you shooting for any other films along with ‘NH10’? How was it getting out of that zone and move into another?
We had two schedules. A larger chunk of the film was over in one schedule, and then we just had a 12-day shoot in Gurgaon. And in between I shot for ‘Bombay Velvet’ and ‘PK’. The first day of the shoot when you move from one film to another film, is scary. There’s something called as ‘traitor syndrome’ that you feel. It’s a fear that people will come to know I can’t act. The director feels people will know he can’t direct. You feel that way, because you don’t really know what will happen. How much ever you plan it, what happens after action is not in your control, you go into a different space all together. When you are so involved in the process, coming back to a film, after shooting another is difficult. It takes a couple of days to get into it again, but once you’re in it, then it everything else comes automatically.

At this stage in your career, what is it that you look for in a script? Is it a conscious decision to make choices that will push you higher?
I want to pick up new stories, different roles. The roles that I’m doing right now - whether it’s ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, ‘Bombay Velvet’ or ‘NH10’, when I read these scripts, I had not seen something like that, on-screen before. That’s the idea – to do things which haven’t been done before because otherwise, it’s very boring for me, to follow the same routine even in life. I get bored too easily. Ever since the beginning of my career, I haven’t done too many films. I think people who’ve come after me have done more films than I have. But now I think, I’m at a place where, I’ve got that security of having established myself  so I can take that liberty even further.

Photo credit : Zaheer Abbass
A while back, during an interview with us, Ranveer Singh had said, you gave him a very good advice during ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’ – ‘don’t talk at your co-actor, talk to them’. That was just your second film and you still were so evolved. How much have you changed since then?
(Laughs) I’m still talking to the actor, just talking better. Yes, I remember telling him that. You can’t come over-prepared on the set. That’s one thing you can go very wrong with, as an actor. On the set, you’ve got to be someone who can be moulded into something very different. If you plan out everything in your head, then you create boundaries and you cannot have boundaries as an actor. It’s very important. What helps Ranveer is that he is not inhibited at all. I would say that to him, because I knew that was his strength and he wasn’t playing to it at that point. I knew he’d be so much better if he did that.

Even you’ve been quite uninhibited…
Yes, as an actor, I think I have been. Always! (smiles).

Do you also analyse your own self that way and think about how you can improve?
You’ll always see your work and feel you can do it better. That’s why you don’t like your films. You cannot completely like your own films like how you can like someone else’s work, because you know you could have done it better. You can always do things better, but it’s just that one chance you get. But honestly, to think of it, if you had to do the same things again, probably you wouldn’t be able to create that magic. So, eventually, what happens is the best for the film.

Lastly, ‘NH10’ is obviously adult and hard-hitting in its content, and with new guidelines of the censor board, what are the steps that you’ve been taking to avoid complications during the release?
If the adult content is seen in the context of the script, then all of it makes sense. From the trailer itself, it’s very evident that it’s a real film with real characters, so their body language is very organic and real. We’d always decided to present it the way it was, then follow the guidelines of the censor board and see what happens. But I believe if things are looked at in the film’s context then it shouldn’t be a problem.

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