Hate begets hate. Positivity spawns positivity and failure is just one more step in our march to success - this is the mantra that Anushka Sharma lives by. She shrugs off slander, laughs away at the evils of social media and confesses that she didn't have a clear vision from the beginning, but says, "I knew what I didn't want to do." That's her - feisty and fearless. It reflects in her choices of films, too. Like the upcoming 'Phillauri', which is also her second production with brother Karnesh. How different can she be? Read on to find out more about what makes Anushka tick...
For 'NH10', your first film as producer, you chose Navdeep Singh as your director, who was just one-film old. Now, for 'Phillauri', you are again working with a first-time director, Anshai Lal. You really vest a lot of faith in new talent, right?
I have worked in 'Band Baaja Baaraat' with a new director, Maneesh Sharma, and that was a turning point in my career. In fact, at that point, when I was so new, I needed an established director even more, but I believed in him. I think at some point someone gave me a chance, so there is no reason why I shouldn't do the same. I hadn't seen Manorama Six Feet Under when I decided to work with Navdeep Singh. I judged him on the basis of how he had written the story and the way he narrated the film. Sometimes, your instinct tells you that something is right. Anshai Lal, on the other hand, has been my brother Karnesh's (producer) friend for years and when he came up with the idea, we all liked it, but there was no story around it. I was intrigued by his take on something like a boy getting married to a tree because he is a manglik.
In Bollywood when a film does well, people rush to adapt, remake and repackage the same concept. Even actors follow suit, and it becomes a vicious cycle...
The industry likes to repeat things that have worked with the audiences. I am completely the opposite of that. I will not do something that I have done before. I have refused a lot of good scripts just on those grounds. The films were good and they did well too, but it didn't work in my scheme of things. After 'NH10', I was offered a lot of roles to play a strong woman avenging her husband's death, but I wasn't keen on doing them. If something has worked and it's repeated, how will it work again? If you observe, often when people come to you with scripts, they give you a reference of some other film. Like that, 'NH10' became a reference film. And I want to create more such reference films. Today, people have access to all kinds of entertainment from around the world, so unless it is a Salman, SRK or Aamir film, which draws audience to the theatres owing to their huge fan following, you have to offer the film goers something different. That is the only way you can get them to the theatres. Even Sultan for that matter, was different for a Salman Khan film. In the same way, 'Phillauri' is dealing with something new, even if it is a commercial family film. In fact, the way the character of the bhoot has been presented visually is something you have never seen before in films.
Do you think that when a film fails, the entire onus is on the actor?
That's not true. It affects everyone. But the thing with actors is that when a film fails, we can quickly move on to another film, but a director finds it harder to come out of a slump. The recovery is quicker for actors, because we can work on many films at the same time.
From the start, you seemed to have a clear vision of what you wanted to do, and the pressures of stardom haven't tempted you to do otherwise. Like resisting the need to work with only superstars so that your stock goes higher...
I haven't done it for nine years, why would I do it now? I didn't succumb when I was new, so there is no question of it at this stage. It's not like I had a clear vision, but from the beginning, I knew what I didn't want to do. I don't want to just look glamorous in a film because I believe I have more to offer. And I want chances to express that.
Your brother Karnesh and you seem to be great business partners, but do sibling squabbles ever come in the way?
We have our fights, but the truth is that when you are working with a family member, you forget about being tactful. On the contrary, when you are working with someone else, you are often careful about what you say and do. Karnesh and I had to travel this journey and reach a point where we could comfortably find a balance, which is important for a healthy partnership. The trust factor between us is immense, and our values are the same, as we have been brought up by the same people. We both deal with situations in a similar way. Our parents are proud and happy that we are doing something together, though they don't specifically discuss films, unless it comes up in conversations. They are not film parents who get involved in what we are doing.
A few years ago, you were advised to not get into the production business...
People say things to you depending on the way they understand the world. I don't think that they are doing it out of malice in their heart - that's what they know, so that's what they will tell you. If I was scared of failing as a producer, I wouldn't be in the business. I know that physically, I can't be everywhere, but I am wholly and entirely involved in everything along with my brother. I think responsibility pushes me and I'm not the kind to crack under pressure. There were people from the industry like Mukesh Bhatt who called me up and encouraged me when I turned producer. And there were some who didn't take me seriously. I guess they thought it's a random one-off thing, but now they have realised that I am serious about it. When people deter me, it only makes me stronger. I know being a producer is risky business, but what is not risky? Even when you act in a film it is risky because you don't know what its fate will be. I don't work with fear, I work with conviction.
You have expressed you anger against trolls on social media. What is your way of dealing with them?
When my films are releasing, I look up a lot at my mentions, otherwise I don't bother. The best thing to do when someone is being inappropriate is just ignore and block them. Block the trolls - it is the best feeling. I believe that if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all. We live in a world where hatred is on the rise and people think it is okay to hate. I don't want to encourage it, even if it is on social media. As an actor, I don't need any of those people in my space. After a whole day of hard work, the last thing you need is people talking bulls**t and being nasty. Sometimes, you have to become thick-skinned as an actor. You begin to understand how these people out there are insecure and unhappy about your life and success. There are a lot of misogynistic men out there, who have an issue with women expressing themselves. They cannot stand it and this is how they express it. They are actually powerless people. The only power they have is the 140-characters online.
Taking off from what you just said, have all these years in the industry made you thick-skinned?
I won't say that nothing bothers me, but I'm logical and practical. Once I understand why someone is saying something, I deal with it better. Yes, there are times when you get very shaky and upset, but you have to let it pass. For me, the most important thing in my life is to make peace with things and move on. Frankly, I have not faced extreme failure ever in my life. Also, given the number of years I've been around, I've done fewer films compared to my contemporaries. I leave no stone unturned to do my best; if it doesn't work, I just accept it. I know that we all like to be control freaks, but trying to control things too much can mess you up. I think it is important to go through failures to change the course of action in your life. Sometimes, failure is a telling sign, and you got to understand it and act on it.
There has been a lot of talk about your supposed engagement (to Virat Kohli). Is marriage on the cards soon?
It's not something I like to talk about. I want all the focus to be on my work and I am giving people enough reasons to talk about my work (smiles).