In 2008, Anushka Sharma made her acting debut opposite Shah Rukh Khan as the vivacious Taani who is caught in an unlikely love triangle between her timid husband, Suri, and his cool alter-ego, Raj, in Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
More tangled romances starring the two followed in Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) and Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017). Now, Sharma and Khan return to the big screen for one more love triangle in Aanand L Rai’s Zero, which opens on December 21.
“It is great that I am completing 10 years in the industry with this film, which stars Shah Rukh [Khan]. It is kind of like a full circle, just like a zero,” Sharma said at a press event for the film on Wednesday.
Zero is centred on the pint-sized Bauua Singh (Khan), who finds himself caught between Sharma’s Aafia, a NASA scientist with cerebral palsy, and Hindi film superstar Babita (Katrina Kaif). Also starring Tigmanshu Dhulia and Sheeba Chaddha, Zero has been produced by Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment and Rai’s Color Yellow Productions.
“The film is a celebration of love and imperfections in a larger-than-life fashion,” Sharma said. “By and large all love stories are the same. Two people love each other and then there is a conflict in the film. The complexity of the conflict is what makes the film interesting.”
The strength of Aafia’s character and Rai’s vision drew Sharma to the role. “Her [Aafia] life is so much more beyond her condition,” Sharma said. “It was exciting and beautiful to get into the life of someone like her who is undeterred by her condition. Aanand sir’s vision has a larger-than-life cinematic experience. He is a very sensitive as a person and director.”
To prepare for the part, Sharma met an occupational therapist and an audiologist. “I had to understand how someone with this condition uses their physicality,” Sharma said. “I had to create this involuntary action, which is like a spasm, during my dialogue. That was really hard to do. But I just followed Himanshu [Sharma, the film’s writer] and Anand sir’s vision. A lot of care was taken by all of us to make sure that it comes across like that. The occupational therapist was always on set. ”
The film marks Sharma’s fourth collaboration with Khan. Their chemistry and ability to pick different roles is what makes their pairing work, the actress said.
“We have done characters that are interesting,” Sharma said. “He played Suri, in a completely different role in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and in Jab Tak Hai Jaan, he was an army officer and I was like a person who just shook things up in his life. We find characters in which we can play off each other. That is what makes it interesting.”
Though Jab Harry Met Sejal failed to win over critics and the box office, Sharma does not take this to heart. “I don’t take the baggage of a film and move forward,” she said. “When you take the baggage of a successful film you become complacent and when you take the baggage of a film that has not done well, you become fearful.”
Her strategy for choosing a script has remained the same ever since she started out, Sharma said. “If I am not doing something that excites me I get bored,” she said. “It excites me to reinvent myself with every film. And with every film I want people to see a different personality. Ultimately you want to be remembered for the difficult things you have done in your life.”
The actress ventured into production in 2014 with Clean Slate Films, which has made NH10 (2015), Phillauri (2017) and Pari (2018). The company’s upcoming projects include a crime drama for Amazon Prime Video and Netflix movie Bulbul.
Sharma, who has had four big releases this year – horror-thriller Pari, Sharat Katariya’s drama Sui Dhaaga, Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju and Zero – wants to take things slow on the acting front. “The most difficult roles of my career has been this year with Pari, Sui Dhaaga and Zero,” Sharma said. “I have had such a chaotic year last year and this year. I want to take the time to prepare for my roles. I have reached that sense of security as an actor where I do not do films for the heck of it and just to fill my calendar. I want to take the time to make the right choices.”