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Published Verve Magazine (Cover story) April 2015 and on vervemagazine.in
Photographs by Prasad Naik

Anushka Sharma for Verve Magazine April 2015 cover

“I don’t think I have ever felt like I have belonged to any place.” Coming from an army background, she has spent her youth travelling around the country. Even Bengaluru, where she spent most of her time, wasn’t really home. Anushka Sharma moved to Mumbai over eight years ago with no connections, accompanied by just her mother and brother. “The beauty of my childhood, the lovely experiences I had…all came into focus when I didn’t have them anymore.”

The arrival into the city, into the civilian world, made her appreciate the sheltered and contained life she had lived before. “That’s what your journey is about — when you are living it you don’t know what it is, you are only experiencing emotions. In the army background you are prepped to live in order; when you come out of it, you experience chaos. You live and you continue the motions to cope with it. You ride the tide. You can’t stop and think; you go with the flow.”

In her new, comfortably appointed home in Versova, she tucks herself into a nook of her massive sofa and bites into an extra-large samosa with relish. This particular house has been a labour of love; with an entire floor (over 6000 square feet) devoted to private spaces for her parents, her brother and herself. Bright vases, patterned wallpaper, large mirrors, distressed furniture all radiate a happy, lived-in vibe. After the success of the Aamir Khan-starrer, PK, she’s shooting nights, and also juggling the launch of her maiden production venture, NH10 while awaiting the release of Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet with Ranbir Kapoor. She doesn’t have the jaded eye of a seasoned traveller or the wide-eyed wonder of a newbie. She’s free from poetry but she finds the silent music that calls out to her when she moves to her own rhythm. Over cups of cappuccino made with freshly crushed coffee beans and topped with smileys patterned in the foam, we discover the girl behind the gypsy.

“Mumbai made me grow up.”
“I was 17 or 18 when I came to Mumbai. I didn’t have any friends when I came here. My brother (older by four years) accompanied me…we got even closer. You learn so much about yourself. For an outsider, the city doesn’t have a residential vibe, unlike Bengaluru and Delhi. Here, every area is a mix of workplaces and homes. You are constantly surrounded by a rapid pace and energy. You find it daunting, you get involved in it, you get sucked into it and finally find your calm in the city.”

“Mumbai is an extremely professional city.”
“I have gotten a lot from it and I have grown to respect the place. There is a vein in which people who live here function, especially those who have come from outside to work. People are hard-working — constantly on the move, constantly trying to make something out of their lives.”

“Although you are a part of this huge population, you are constantly alone.”
“People say Mumbai is a lonely city. Everyone’s moving in a hurry. No one casually chats with anyone. In a train filled with people, no one is having a conversation. Everyone is in his or her own zone. And you want that, you are looking for this time to yourself.”

“I just want to be left alone when I am travelling.”
“Even when nobody knew who I was, I would explore places as if I were lost in my own world. That’s the time you enjoy your privacy. In India I can only see places when I am shooting, because they are cordoned off. It’s only abroad that I can experience something as normal as getting out of the hotel and walking on the street rather than getting into a car and going somewhere….”

“I’m not interested in sightseeing.”
“As actors we travel a lot. We live in places for 15 days to a month and a half. A film crew is always interested in the sights. For me, it’s all about the experience. I want to go to a restaurant; I want to walk on the streets and eat in the quaint places, experiencing the local flavour of the place. That’s exciting.”

“I always end up talking to strangers.”
“While growing up I used to watch a lot of travel shows. The one thing that connects people and places is food. There are so many stories you hear when you go to a restaurant or to a bar, meeting local people, talking to them. That discovery is very important, which is why I don’t like going to touristy places. If my friends want to go to Goa, I won’t take them to Baga. It will be to a place that I have discovered after several visits to Goa.”

“I’ve always been open to new experiences.”
“Travel is anything that enables you to have a different perspective on things, which could be 50 or 5000 kilometres away. I constantly want to see and know more. I don’t have a wish list, because when you really want to connect to places you keep your horizons wide and open.”

“I find it difficult to connect to European countries.”
“I find that language is a barrier — as much as I love Europe and its unique culture — I don’t think about living or having a house there.”

“I bring back fridge magnets from every place I go to.”
“I also always pick up one for a friend. Unfortunately, in this (new) home, I am unable to put up the magnets on the modular kitchen fridge, so now I just keep them or give them to people….”

“My home is very personal.”
“I didn’t want someone to just do my house. I didn’t want an opulent looking place with chandeliers and velvet or the colour red. I find it impersonal. I wanted a space that would be an extension of my own personality. I’m a little rough around the edges, I’m not very proper; so the elements in the house are close to that.”

“The moment in my life that I felt extremely proud was the day I moved into my house.”
“People in the industry who come from an affluent background, may feel it’s just buying a house…but for me, it’s a milestone. When you come from a middle class background, it’s the biggest achievement. I’ve lived in government lodgings all my life. My father had taken many loans for our house in Bengaluru. I’m very close to my family and always wanted to live with them. When I moved into this house, my father looked very happy — and for the first time I felt proud of myself. Though I had an apartment before, this was the ‘big’ house we all wanted. ‘Achievement’ is a personal term. For the world achievements may be fame and money, but just the fact that we had made a home, meant the world to me.”

Anushka Sharma for Verve Magazine April 2015 cover

Places with connect

St Ives, England
“I had the most amazing mussels here. (I am now a vegetarian). I could see seagulls near the ocean, hear the sound of the birds, the weather was beautiful; I was with my closest friends and the mussels were so fresh….”

Galibore, Karnataka
“I went to a fishing camp with two friends. The Kaveri River flows by there. It wasn’t the fishing season; bits of the riverbed were exposed. We didn’t fish, but we would go on boat rides. We stayed in a camping site that included tents and barbeques, no resorts!”

“Even though I’ve only been there once, I really liked it.”

Café Y, New York City
“It’s an underground café in the Village. I heard the most beautiful music here. It was commercial music, but done so differently.”

North-east India
“The north-east is the loveliest part of our country. When I was six or seven years old my father was posted in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. I used to travel to places people hadn’t even heard of. It was a completely different world.”

London, United Kingdom
“I could have a house in London. I’ve been there the most number of times; I know the place really well.”

Anushka Sharma for Verve Magazine April 2015 cover

Right Here, Right Now with Anushka Sharma:

On my iPod “Take Me To Church by Hozier.”

In (On) my fridge “No fridge magnets!” (There’s a story behind this. Read more here.)

In my bag
 “Wallet, Lip Balm, House Keys.”

On my blacklist
“Complicated people, drama, lies, dishonesty.”

In my wallet
 “Money, credit cards, identity card.”

In my bedroom “I like it clean. I don’t like hoarding things. Just my bed, TV and books.”

On my bookshelf  “Lots and lots of books. A favourite, JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.”

On my phone “Phone calls, music, e-mails.”

On my wall “Two pictures of a ballet school, showing the feet of ballerinas. It describes all the things your body can’t naturally do, that you train your body to do – it shows strength and hard work; it is beautiful and creative.”

In my car’s glove compartment “Tissues.”

In my wardrobe “Clothes waiting to be colour coded! I have no OCDs but my wardrobe is chaotic. It’s a walk-in wardrobe where I just leave things. I can’t find clothes. So I keep saying I need more clothes.”

On my bucket list “To travel, to grow, to learn.”

In my beauty bag “Lip balm, mascara, under-eye cream.”

In my bathroom “I’m obsessed with bath products! I have lots of shower gels and multiple body lotions. My nose is sensitive and when I wake up and go to have a shower, I like to surround myself with lovely fragrances.”

On my skin “Moisturiser. I have asked all the women whom I have met who have great skin, if they moisturised a lot when they were younger, and they said yes. However late I may return from a shoot or however tired I may be, I make sure I moisturise everyday.”

In my life “Family, work, love.”