Anushka : I am a girl without a plan
The actor talks about her 2-year-long sabbatical from work, her new thriller Silence, working with Madhavan and more.
Anushka Shetty is back after a two-year break, with hew new Amazon Prime Video release, Silence. Her fans have bombarded her social media accounts asking for updates about her projects, and while your average celebrity will likely talk about how draining it is to be at the receiving end of mass questioning, she expresses gratitude for their interest in her work and health. “Whenever someone asks me why I have taken a break and when they can expect to see me on screen again, I perceive it as genuine care. The demands never bothered me.” Instead, she says, it feels like affection. “My fans were celebrating my 15th year in cinema, though I was in the middle of a break. To them, I’m not just as an actor. Their care feels personal." However, social media isn’t just rainbows and strawberries, and actors, especially, are forced to deal with a lot of negativity. “You cannot drive away negativity by dwelling in it or talking about it. The solution has always been positivity. Count your blessings, stay away from toxicity and help others in every way possible way.”
Anushka goes on to explain why she took a sabbatical at the height of her career. "Working back to back on films like Baahubali and Rudhramadevi left me exhausted and I also suffered some injuries during their making. It seemed like the right time for a break and I had been meaning to take one from 2010. However, the stringent schedule of films I signed up for meant that I could never give myself a breather,” she says. “It would have been wrong to take a break at the expense of hundreds of people associated with my projects. I didn't want to do that."
Recounting her 15-year journey in cinema, Anushka calls herself 'a girl without a plan'. "None of my films were planned. I am a person who believes in the heart rather than in analytics. I guess that’s why my filmography is so diverse. It is important to me that I feel comfortable with the team and go through personal learning while working on films." She says cinema is magic to her, not a business. "I am a filmbuff who has been given to celebrate the magic of cinema onscreen. I have never tried to understand the business angle of it all. People celebrated the success of Arundhati as their own, though I was a newcomer. No money can bring me that sort of joy."
Anushka says that it was important for her to unlearn some of her acting habits while working on Silence. “When I began my career, I thought acting was all about delivering dialogues. So, you can imagine how doing a deaf-mute character in Silence is a bold move for me. I realised that subtle expressions could convey more than a page-long monologue. I also liked how my character’s inability to speak is normalised in the film." She heaps faith on her co-star Madhavan, alongside whom she debuted in Tamil cinema in Rendu (2006). "Maddy has evolved into an all-rounder now. He is directing films while maintaining a fine balance with his acting career. Even though we met only a couple of times in between, the warmth and respect we share for each other is still the same." She adds that returning to old friends reminds her that the years have rolled by. "When I first met Maddy, his son was a kid, but now he is a National-level swimmer. It is a reminder that the years have passed. It's a realisation that feels so strange to actors because we are constantly travelling and hopping from one set to another without a break, without taking note of the passage of time.”
The COVID lockdown means that work on her upcoming three Tamil-Telugu bilingual projects has been temporarily halted. This has allowed her extra time to spend with her family. She notes that the virus has reminded everyone the fragility of life. “The pandemic is nature's way of reminding us that it is superior to all of us and all we can do is be kind and be there for each other.”
She feels that the recent shift of entertainment content to OTT platforms might be a game-changer. “A lot of writers who were sitting on stories for the past ten years have got their content made, thanks to OTT platforms. I think this shift will create employment for many deserving ones in the industry.” She goes on to remind though that the magic of silver screen cannot be recreated at homes. “I am a huge fan of big screens and the emotional rollercoaster you go through in them. Even a high-tech home theatre can never replace the joy of watching films with an audience. I strongly believe everyone must work towards striking a balance between theatres and OTT platforms."
Anushka assures that her upcoming line-up of bilinguals will be announced soon by their respective production houses, and she exudes confidence that these projects will satisfy both her Tamil and Telugu fans. “After Baahubali, every film I have done has been a bilingual. They help ensure that I don’t have to sacrifice one group of viewers for another.”