Anushka Sharma likes to keep it all short and to the point. Right from the quick ‘hello’ to her forthright answers, the actor sure likes to tell-it-like-it-is but without peppering her responses with extra effects. There’s no giggling, nor does she seem nervous, considering next Friday will see the release of Jab Tak Hai Jaan — a movie that will forever be remembered as Yash Chopra’s swan song.
“The name of my character in the film is Akira Rai,” says Anushka by way of introduction before she proceeds to spell it out for us. “A-K-I-R-A... the name was misspelled in another interview,” she reasons before revealing that “she plays a documentary filmmaker in the movie.” Getting on to talk about the movie, we bluntly wonder if she had to audition for the film or if it just fell into her lap? “Yashji offered me the film,” she says stoically. But very soon she goes on to add, “I consider myself very fortunate that Yashji picked me for it. He could have picked anyone for it and there are many actors who’d have willingly done it. I count myself lucky that I got to be a Yash Chopra heroine.”
Ask her the reason he gave her for picking her out from the current crop of actors and she point-blank states, “He thought I acted well.” The movie also sees her sharing screen with Shah Rukh Khan, a second time around. Was she as excited and nervous as she might have been the first time she acted with him, in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi? “You are not fully and entirely comfortable when you are working with someone for the first time,” answers Anushka recalling her debut film, “but this time around it was easier because between Rab Ne... and Jab Tak... I’d gotten to know him pretty well. Meeting at parties, talking to him for long hours, we’d developed a closer bond and that helped.” That answer arouses our curiousity if there is a romantic angle between the two in the film. “I’ll prefer to keep that a suspense for now,” she says with a hint of a smile.
It’s a well-known fact that the portions between SRK and Anushka were shot in Leh, Ladakh. How adventurous was it shooting in the arduous terrain? “It was very adventurous,” she exclaims before delving into the details. “When I read the script I knew I had to be physically fit, and not just in the aesthetic sense. It was difficult to shoot in the high terrains and the role required me to run up and down mountains and hike, too. I was also part of a few action sequences. There was also a rapid river sequence I had to do and I remember my stomach hurting a month after the shoot. It was physically demanding.”
Quiz her, if shsooting in such difficult environs got the entire cast and crew closer and she readily agrees to the observation. “It definitely brought us all closer,” she says. Reminiscing about it, she says, “We were in Pangong lake, some 14,500sqft above sealevel, living in these small tents because there are no hotels there. So, in the evenings, bonfires would be put up and all of us including Yashji and Shahrukh would huddle around it and no one would want to get into the tents because it used to be cold inside them.”
And finally, before wrapping the interview, there is one question that begs to be asked. What is that one memory of Yash Chopra that she will always carry with her? “It is a visual memory I have,” she says proceeding to describe it. “Every time I went to the sets, I’d see him looking like this kid in his trademark white beret, all excited to make the film. There was a childlike enthusiasm and innocence he had and that’s what I’ll always remember.”