Winner of a Filmfare Award, the 28-year-old actress is igniting Bollywood by breaking the female archtype and portraying characters with depth and a diverse range of emotions
One of the qualities which strike me about Anushka Sharma is her ability to be inquisitive about the most difficult of life’s questions as an actress in Bollywood: gender pay gaps, not enough space to be choosy over roles, and how seasoned actresses aren’t in demand after a point in time. While the first two can still be compartmentalised as feminist and “lack of creativity” issues, the latter is really a sordid state of affairs in the industry because the thought train for seasoned actresses runs in an entirely opposite direction in Hollywood. It’s something I have struggled to understand about Bollywood too because I cannot imagine why seasoned actresses cannot be looked upon as Indian beauties, still very comfortable with drama at the same level as glamour.
Anushka made her debut with a bang in 2008: in the Aditya Chopra film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi she was cast opposite Shahrukh Khan, and it was a part of a three film contract with Yash Raj Films which concluded in 2010. Given her appetite for varied roles, it was tough to spot a lot of it during the earliest phases of her career except for a minor role later with the same banner, which I must say ended up less memorable than I had expected it to be – Sharma’s role in Jab Tak Hain Jaan (2012) was a serious clash with the deeply romantic story of the Yash Chopra film since it was all motorbikes and documentaries but still such a good sign of bravery in essaying a pretty one-of-a-kind role in a traditional Bollywood love story.
However, it did prop up later on in her work: Anushka refused Disney-UTV’s Tamasha (opposite Ranbir Kapoor) because the script was heavily crafted around the male protagonist and chose to portray a sixties’ jazz singer (with her gorgeously elaborate costumes) in the Fox Star Studios Bombay Velvet, released in mid-May last year, which proved to be a commercial muck up. Some of her biggest releases till date always reveal a different kind of heroine: in the Fox Star Studios Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Anushka is already emotionally entangled with the wrong man before coming across the right one but even that (despite the strongest desires that it does) doesn’t really go smoothly by any means, and for the Disney-UTV PK (where she starred opposite Aamir Khan), the young actress played a really good friend of a lost human-like alien.
Anushka, it was surprising to learn, is from an army background. Her life revolved around subjects like an army cantonment, the Kargil war and special services provided to army families, which had managed to open up lots of inexpensive recreation facilities, which otherwise wouldn’t have been so, for her. It was interesting how growing up in that environment had influenced Anushka because it’s such a distant (and not-to-mention different) culture really; she spent a good portion of her childhood in Bangalore, and actually harboured alternative professional inklings: Anushka wanted to be a model and even walked the ramp for Wendell Rodricks in 2007, before pursuing an acting career, with which she is always attaching a greater priority tag to her values, than simply a superb/formulaic, stereotypical female role in a romantic Bollywood film.