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Sharma was born in Bangalore, but her parents are from Uttarakhand. Her father, Col. Ajay Kumar Sharma, is an army officer and her mother Ashima Sharma is a housewife. She has an elder brother named Karnesh, who was a state-level cricketer and is now in the Merchant Navy. She studied in Army School and graduated with specialization in arts from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. She then moved to Mumbai to further her modeling career.Sharma says she originally wished to make it big in the modeling world but had no strong aspirations for films. She began her modeling career at the Lakme Fashion Week as a model for Wendell Rodricks's Les Vamps Show and was picked to be Rodricks's finale model at the Spring Summer '07 Collection. Since then she has done campaigns for Silk & Shine, Whisper, Nathella Jewelry and Fiat Palio.Her first acting role was in Aditya Chopra's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) opposite Shahrukh Khan. The film was a huge success and her performance was appreciated. Film critic Taran Adarsh said, "Anushka looks the character and surprises you with a confident performance. It's no small achievement to share screen space with an actor of the caliber of SRK and Anushka manages it very well from start to end." Her second film, Badmaash Company, also under Yash Raj Films, was released on May 7, 2010. She was praised for breaking out of the shell of the conservative and homely Taani to play the feisty and independent Bulbul, and her performance was applauded.She has two other projects on hand. She began shooting for her first venture outside of Yash Raj with Nikhil Advani and Akshay Kumar in Patiala House in December 2009. Patiala House is scheduled to be released on February 11, 2011. She has also started filming for her third Yash Raj Film, Band Baaja Baaraat, directed by Maneesh Sharma and co-starring debutant Ranveer Singh.