For someone who is generally shy and entered the film industry with reluctance, Anushka Shetty has achieved remarkable success. In a little over five years since her debut in the Telugu film Super, Anushka has notched up an enviable 22 films in that language with three under production, and five in Tamil. “I'm amazed at this score. In fact, in my first year in the industry, I wanted to run away and go back to yoga — I was seriously considering it a profession,” says Anushka who has trained extensively under yoga guru Bharat Thakur. “I have been practicing yoga for the last 12 years. Coming from a conservative family from Mangalore, I had hardly watched any movies or television during my student days. A director friend of the family suggested that I audition for a Puri Jagannadh film. Not at all keen, I went unprepared, dressed in my workout clothes. As luck would have it, it was a tomboy character and the director immediately decided I was the right candidate. So here I am, still in the industry, much against my personal likes and dislikes,” says Anushka.
Four films and a year later in the Tamil film industry, what does Anushka think about her Tamil debut, Rendu? “The character I played in Rendu is still etched in my memory. But, after Deiva Thirumagal, it is Anuradha (Anushka's character) that has captured my heart. Not because my character was unique, but because of Krishna (Vikram) and Nila (Sarah). When I first went to the set, it was not Vikram that I saw, but Krishna. He was so much like any other special child, and having worked with special children in my earlier days, I took to Krishna immediately. Throughout the making of the film, Vikram was literally the character; it was only later at the audio event that I saw the real Vikram,” says Anushka.
The 2009 Telugu release Arundathi was a huge hit for Anushka. She was felicitated with numerous awards for her double role — since then, it's been an exhilarating ride for Anushka. Despite her busy schedule, she managed to squeeze in two Tamil films in 2010 — Vettaikaran with Vijay and Singam with Suriya. This year saw the release of Vaanam featuring Simbu and the Vikram-starrer, Deiva Thirumagal. “I tried to strike a balance between my Telugu and Tamil assignments. But the flow of the Telugu productions didn't leave me with enough dates to do Tamil, as much as I've wanted to. I always believe in completing one film before moving onto the next, so that the dates don't clash. This year onwards, I've decided to do a few more Tamil films, provided good scripts come my way,” says Anushka. Meanwhile, Anushka is reading a couple of Hindi film scripts.
What does she look for in a project? “First of all, the script should excite me. Then I look for what my role has to offer. I do make an allowance for these two if the project is helmed by a good director and has an established and talented actor opposite me. I'm not always insistent on getting a meaty role or more screen space if the overall project is interesting,” says Anushka.
Relatively young in the industry despite the number of films under her belt, Anushka feels she still has a lot to learn and achieve, compared to many of her peers. Success or failure, cutthroat competition does not faze her — she attributes it all to her continued practice of yoga and meditation. “Following the Bharat Thakur formula gives me a sense of calm and peace. It helps me unwind and doesn't allow success to go to my head. I remember when Arundhati was released and became a huge hit, everyone else around me was celebrating; for me, it was like any other film. All the excitement is during the making of a film. Once I'm done with it, I switch to my next project and am excited about that,” says Anushka.
After having worked with numerous directors, Anushka still longs for that one elusive project with veteran director Bapu in Telugu and Mani Ratnam in Tamil. “I have watched some of Mani Ratnam's movies and they are so stylishly made. Total entertainers. I am a fairytale person and firmly believe that movies are made to entertain. At some point in my career, at least before I vanish from the industry, I must be part of either director's projects. That will give me immense satisfaction,” says Anushka, who considers herself a director's actor.
Now that she is content with life and the way her career has shaped up, what does she intend doing? “Travel is a passion. I intend seeing the world. My first port of call will be Cambodia to see the temples. And, then Java…,” she reels off almost every other exciting place on Planet Earth. Happy journey!