Anushka Sharma started her production house early in her film career, and without the backing of any film family. She and her brother Karnesh are not from the industry, and it seems the title of their production house, Clean Slate Films, is reflective of that.
Being outsiders didn’t stop them from taking up this path within her first decade in Bollywood, unlike a Priyanka Chopra or a Deepika Padukone, who ventured into production well after their acting careers became successful.
Much like many of her movie roles, Anushka’s film production choices have been offbeat, too. She started off with the critically acclaimed NH10 in 2015, seven years after her Bollywood debut with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
She had seven releases in those seven years, and NH10 was her ninth film as an actress. The film emerged as a sleeper hit, earning much more than the budget it was made with. It also received mostly positive reviews, with CNN-News18’s Rajeev Masand calling the film a “standard genre movie on the surface” with layers of “rich subtext” that delivers “so much more than your average thriller”.
What makes a story appeal to Anushka, the producer? “For me, what a film is trying to say is really important. Is it going to make people think? Those are the scripts that excite me,” the 30-year-old told Vogue in an interview in March this year.
Clean Slate Films followed up on the success of NH10 with Phillauri in 2017 and Pari in 2018. Both films delve into the supernatural. “I like looking at what lies beyond what meets the eye. I love films that challenge my perspective – it doesn’t just have to have a supernatural element, it could even be a relationship between two people that helps you see things in a different way,” she said in the same interview.
Although both Phillauri and Pari opened to mixed reviews, Anushka’s bold decision to back such unusual topics was lauded.
Her search for more exceptional stories goes on, and it has been reported that she will soon be producing a web series on Tarun Tejpal’s book, The Story of My Assassins, which will be streamed on a major OTT platform. In an interview recently, writer Hardik Mehta, who is scripting a show for Anushka, had described it as a “Delhi-based investigation drama” which is “tentatively-titled Assassin” and is “along the lines of US show True Detective.”
Anushka started off as the youngest producer in Bollywood with NH10 when she was just 25 years old. Three films later, it’s still early to predict where her journey will take her. But it’s evident that she has begun on the right note, and is not afraid to venture into unfamiliar territories.