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There's a radiant glow on Anushka Sharma's face inspite of being dead tired with the hectic promotions of Imtiaz Ali's Jab Harry Met Sejal.
Settling on a chair in front of us, she quips, "Thanks guys, how are you all doing?'. Later, we ping pong the same question to her and pat comes the reply, 'Very fresh.' The smile on her face just refuses to fade.
Over to the spunky actress who speaks her mind on Shahrukh Khan, stereotyping Gujarathis in her upcoming film, the importance of a director in an actor's career and a sort of eye-opener on sexism in the industry.
Excerpts from the interview-
'Shahrukh Khan Is Still The Same As A Person'
Q. This is your third film with Shahrukh Khan. Has he changed as a person? How is your equation with him?
A. I think our equation has got better. Simply because I am now more confident as an actor. My relationship with him is better. He is still the same as a person. He has always treated me nicely. He is very supportive of me on a personal level. When I was a nobody, he was so nice to me.
Q. If in real life, if you end up facing a similar situation like Sejal, how would you react?
A. I would have caught the flight and left. (laughs)
'Can You Say That No Gujarati Speaks Like That?'
Q. Your character in the film speaks a heavily accented Gujarati. A lot of people felt that you ended up stereotyping the community. What's your take on it?
A. "Can you say that no Gujarati speaks like that? See, we expect a representation that we have made in our head about it but that is not how it works. This is not to someone's liking no? If you can tell me for a fact that no Gujarati speaks this way I would accept ki chalo theek hai.
In fact, I had asked Imtiaz the same thing and he had said that he has met girls who speak this way and that is what he found charming about them. Also, the way in which Sejal speaks, it denotes her limited experience she has had in life. She is someone who has gone to a Gujarati medium school and has been only amongst her cousins and family. She lives in a very constrained environment. That's why she has such a limited exposure."
'What I Like About Imtiaz Ali Is That His Female Characters Are Very Well-Defined'
Q. You have done love stories earlier as well. But what's so different when you are working with Imtiaz Ali who is known for his intense love stories?
A. There is a very interesting manner in which Imtiaz works. He understands his characters in the films very well. He gives you a proper backstory for every character. Not every director provides you with that kind of data. So with Imtiaz, you just have to follow his vision. I have always appreciated his work and liked the characters that he has brought on screen. I liked the simplicities and complexities that they have.
What I like about Imtiaz is that his female characters are very well defined. There is a journey that they have. The coming in age of a character through a process of falling in love with somebody. Even Sejal has her journey of finding her true self and connecting with it.
'I Wish I Was A Little Bit Street-Smart Like Sejal'
Q. If you ever had to imbibe a trait from Sejal in your real life, what would that be?
A. I wish that I was a little bit old street smart like her. She can get out of any situation very intelligently.
'It's Only The Director Who Can Add Value To Your Career'
Q. You have worked with great directors like Late. Yash Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani and now Imtiaz Ali...
A. The fact that they chose me over everybody else makes me feel very special. Maybe I am doing things right. I think that it's nice that you are somebody whom so many different visionaries are imagining in their stories. I feel proud of this. Utimately, its only the director who can add value to your career and give you that diversity as an actor. I am very happy that I got this opportunity."
Q. You have a great fan following in the South as well. Would you ever take up a Tollywood film?
A. There are no plans as such. But if something comes up...I think I find it very difficult to do a film whose language I don't understand. But then never say never.
'The Good Part About Being An Actor Is That You Are Very Privileged And You Have To Accept And Understand That'
Q. What is the best and worst thing about being an actress?
A. There is no bad thing about being an actor apart from the fact that you are constantly judged very quickly and people form a very strong opinion without knowing much about you. The good part about being an actor is that you are very privileged and you have to accept and understand that. You play different characters and understand so many personalities in a way that it helps you to maybe develop your own personality better.
Q. When you look back, how do you define your journey?
A. I think I have been very fortunate. I had some very good opportunities that I have done my best to make most of it. I created a path for myself which was not something which was done before. I take a lot of happiness and pride in that. I feel very satisfied with the journey that I had.
'When You Do Female Centric Films, Why Don't They Open To The Same Box Office Numbers As Against Male Centric Films?'
Q. Anushka, you have always openly spoken about sexism existing in the industry....
A. When I spoke about sexism, I was not talking just about me but in general. Has it changed completely? No, it hasn't but is we moving positively towards that change. I think yes but I think you can't hold the industry for it only because I think it also has to do with people.
When you do female centric films, why don't they open to the same box office numbers as against male centric films? This is such a deep rooted thing, so many years we have not really expected much from our female actors. So it will take time for us to get there. We are all pioneer of this change. May be we won't be able to see the real benefits of this change completely but at least we are doing something that will help the process."
Q. Finally on a lighter note, what's on your playlist that you love listening to while driving?
A. It's that Justin Bieber song, Despacito.