Be it her reel choices or real disposition, Anushka Sharma (right) has always been upfront and honest about her thoughts. When it comes to feminism, the actor says “nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of anything”. HT caught up with the Sultan (2016) actor a few weeks ago to talk about feminism, being an outsider in the industry, and Shah Rukh Khan.
Feminism has become a hot topic these days. What’s your take on it?
I would like to take this opportunity to first clarify what it means to be a feminist. A feminist is someone — either male or female — who believes in equal rights for men and women. But people have forgotten that definition and look at feminists as an anti-men brigade, and that it’s only about men hating women, but that’s not the truth. Feminists are people who are fighting for equal rights for women, because we are at a disadvantageous position. And in that sense, I identify with being a feminist, because I am a liberal and free-thinking person. Why just gender, I believe nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of anything. All human beings should be looked at as humans.
Do you feel things are starting to change now?
Historically, women have had to struggle because of the way society has functioned. But today, we have reached a point where we don’t need to live like that. Now, both men and women can coexist with equal rights and opportunities. And when that is denied to somebody in general, and to a woman who feels that she is deserving of something, it makes one feel bad. The word “feminism” has been corrupted a lot. On top of that, you have people coining terms like, ‘feminazis’ which make me go like, ‘What are you even talking about’?
You’re an outsider who has made it big in the industry…
I think everything comes with its own pros and cons. No matter if they’re an outsider or not, everyone has their own challenges. Honestly, until we don’t walk in somebody’s shoes, it’s very hard to say what they go through. I am sure they also go through a lot of pressure — like expectations from family and a family’s name to uphold. Also, sometimes, outsiders can take more risks because they have nothing to lose. I came to the industry from nowhere, so whatever I was getting was a surplus.
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Do outsiders have advantages over insiders?
I think the only thing that I feel is a disadvantage as an outsider is when you go to a social gathering. So when an industry kid goes to a party, they have an innate ease, because they know other people or are familiar with them. For someone like me, they are all people whom I have seen in movies. Maybe we can never have that ease as outsiders. There is always a sense of restlessness. Anyway, I am a bit socially awkward and I feel totally inept socially.
Your film choices have been quite disparate but they have been interesting…
It’s not like I think about such things purposely. I was always like this, even when I was a kid. I do things that seem right to me with full conviction, and then I don’t think about what others are doing. If I had thought that way, I wouldn’t have done NH10. It’s not a film that you usually want your production debut to be. I could have picked some other film, but this was powerful, and something new. Such decisions can be full of doubt, too, but I have never been like, ‘nahi mujhe nahi karna chaiye, main chaar logon se puchti hoon. What will they say?’ (No, I don’t want to do this. Let me ask some people). I have gone ahead with what I feel, and it has paid off.
But does it never scare you that it might not work?
I do not want to be afraid. Of course, I have a thought process, but if I believe in something, then I want to back it without any fear. All my decisions haven’t been conventional, so if I start to be afraid, then I feel that I’m weak and that I’m not being true to myself. It’s not like I am being fearless just for the sake of it. I’m doing things that seem right.
How do you take a call on films? Do you discuss them with anyone else?
At the end of the day, you are accountable for yourself, so I have to be answerable to myself for my decisions. An actor’s requirement is to do good roles. What else do they need to think about? I can’t even understand any other way of doing things. That way, if things don’t work out well, I won’t have anyone to blame, so I take ownership of all my films. We are all free-thinking people, have our own careers, and we will all decide what is best for us and what’s not. Our thinking can be different, but that doesn’t mean that somebody is right or wrong. You choose your own path, carve your own niche, and ultimately, no one forces you to do anything.
You worked with Salman Khan for the first time in Sultan last year, which got you a lot of praise…
Obviously, it feels great, because when Sultan came out, the reaction was, ‘You stood your own with Salman with the way you performed’. It feels great, because, generally, people say that it is very difficult to notice anybody else in a Salman Khan film. I was happy, which is why I did Sultan (2016). I thought that was a very strong character and the role had the potential to let me to do something different. And with a Salman film, you know that your work is reaching so many more people. It gives me immense satisfaction and happiness.