Anushka Sharma, who made her Bollywood debut with the 2008 film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi opposite Shah Rukh Khan, is undoubtedly one of the leading ladies in the industry currently. With a career over a decade, she has proved her calibre by experimenting with nuanced roles in films such as NH10, Pari or Sui Dhaaga. However, acting is not her only forte as she is attempting to push several boundaries as a producer, too.
Anushka’s venture into production began with her 2015 film NH10, which was produced by Clean Slate Films, a production house founded by Sharma and her brother Karnesh Sharma. NH10 was a crime thriller that had relied entirely on Sharma, and it brought a change in the way women were generally portrayed in Bollywood by telling the story of a woman who tries to fight honour killing and avenge her husband’s death. Thus began her conscious effort into telling stories and exploring themes that were seldom covered in Hindi films.
Through her on-screen roles, and off-screen role as a producer, the Sultan actress has helped in bringing forward stories of independent, ambitious, and resilient women that try to break free from the Bollywood stereotype of a woman and write their stories themselves.
Clean Slate Films produced three more films – Phillauri, Pari, both of which had Sharma as the lead, and Bulbbul – and a web series Paatal Lok. In Phillauri, she took a small detour from her previous roles and played the role of a dead spirit stuck in the mortal plane due to her unrequited love. In this supernatural tragi-comedy, Sharma again attempted to show the independent side of a woman, who is resilient and fights back even if she is from an older generation.
Her next film Pari was also a horror flick but it pushed the boundaries of the portrayal of this genre in Bollywood. Unlike other attempts before Pari, this film didn’t delve into the overdone concept of good vs evil. Instead, it showed how someone perceived as the devil can possess human-like qualities.
With Bulbbul, the actress didn’t appear on screen but paved the way for new talents to experiment with the folklore of a witch or ‘chudail’ by adding a feminist angle to it.
Apart from women-centric projects, Sharma’s filmography took a darker turn with the political crime thriller series Paatal Lok. This series was unapologetic in depicting the socio-economic class divide, religious fanaticism, child abuse and discrimination against transgenders, and lack of women’s safety in the country.
Anushka Sharma, who broke the glass ceiling by being one of the youngest female producers in a male-dominated industry, has continuously attempted to promote and work on movies that do not fit the typical Bollywood model. And this fresh wave of change is only a hope that it will pave the way for more nuanced and different content on screen.