It has still not hit me that I am famous: Pankhuri

It has still not hit me that I am famous: Pankhuri

By Bulbul Sharma | | 17 June, 2017
Pankhuri Awasthy, Star Plus, Kya Qusoor Hai Amala Ka?, Gautam Rode, Razia, Draupadi, TV actress
Pankhuri Awasthy.
Pankhuri Awasthy, who is currently seen portraying the character of a rape victim in Star Plus’ Kya Qusoor Hai Amala Ka? (a Hindi adaptation of a famous Turkish serial Fatmagul ) speaks to Guardian 20 about her much-talked about relationship with Gautam Rode, opens up about her career choices and also talks about how playing roles like Razia, Draupadi and now Amala have shaped her up.

Q. A major part of celebs’ life is made a piece of gossip these days. We also hear rumours of you dating a co-star of yours. How do you deal with those?

A. When the time is right I will myself speak about it to everybody but how I deal with it is usually these rumours are leaked by somebody who is close so it makes it difficult for me to trust people… Marriage is a far-fetched thing right now and I am the kind of person when something as major as marriage is happening, I can’t keep mum. I will really come out and be very happy about it. Before the world can speculate I think I will give it to them on the plate.

Q. These days we hear a lot many claims by TV actress’ being mistreated, and molested on the sets. Has anything of the sort ever happened to you?

A. No, nothing of the sort has ever happened to me. I have been very lucky. In these almost three years of me being a part of the industry I have never come across somebody who had made advances. I have worked with some very good production houses —BBC Worldwide, Swastik and now 24 Frames, even the ads that I have done, I don’t think I have ever come across somebody who has spoken to me wrongly… It happens everywhere but it depends on how you deal with people.

About them being true I am only speculating as you are because I have no idea.But of course, there is no smoke without fire. So may be something might have happened.

Q. You have lived in Delhi, Noida, Lucknow and then have also worked in Bangalore for a while. It was a big decision to move to Mumbai.  How did it happen? Were you ever apprehensive about shifting your base to Mumbai?

A. Never. I always wanted to come to Mumbai because I always wanted to become an actor. And I didn’t know how to. I have done a lot of theatre in school and college, even when I was working in Bangalore. How I took a plunge and came to Mumbai was — I had auditioned for a TV show on Doordarshan when I was in college. I got selected for that but that show never came. However, somebody from the crew of that show from the technical team had joined BBC Worldwide two-and-a-half years later and he called me for an episode in Yeh Hai Aashiqui. It was a six-day shoot… Post which I started getting offers, it was in 2014. And then there were several times that I used to travel to Mumbai in the morning and come back to Bangalore on the same day evening. In October, BBC called me for their show Fanaah season 2 on MTV after that I finally moved to Mumbai.

Q. You have stood apart with your portrayal of strong women characters and have definitely made a mark in this industry obsessed with saas-bahu drama. Was it a conscious choice or it just happened?

A.It was a mix of destiny and somewhere my preferences…  When Razia came to me and I told it to my family, the first thing my mother also told me was that this is one character that you should portray... Even for myself, it was the character of the first woman ruler of India... There are some characters that really attract you and that affinity I had with Razia. Draupadi was definitely a choice. Razia is historically very significant and substantial, Draupadi is mythologically relevant. The strength of a woman was common in both these characters... About my third character Amala, before auditioning for it I didn’t know that it was a remake of a popular Turkish serial. I had been selected for some other serial on some other channel and was shooting for the pilot as well but I had that strange affinity for Amala…. She is a socially relevant character.

Q. Will we ever see you in a saas-bahu drama? Are you open to roles like these?

A.I don’t mind… Not to take away anything from them and their makers that’s what works on the television… These shows do really well…  I just want my character to be meaty.

Q.Has playing characters like Razia Sultan, Draupadi and now Amala shaped you as an individual, in fact, more as a woman? How?

A. Yes definitely. When you play a character say for example Razia for a year and for 12-13 hours a day, so many qualities and the way that character talks gets into you subconsciously. For Razia, I always had to maintain that poise of a princess and now that poise comes naturally to me… With Razia, I have explored so much. I became a guy, a dwarf, a messiah and of course I was playing a princess and also explored a romantic relationship. So in addition to exploring different sides of a character you explore different sides of yourself as well.

Draupadi again is very strong. It’s a tragic character and she has come into existence for sacrifice. She is born to become the reason of a Mahabharata. In real life also when I was doing the cheer haran sequence for the promo it was slightly intimidating for me...

While doing Amala I have become very sensitive towards rape victims. Before portraying the character I would also read rape news, feel bad about it, empathise with the people for some time and then move on without thinking about them…

Q. You definitely have been lucky to have got recognition at a young age. How do you keep yourself grounded and focused?

A.It has still not hit me that I am famous. It has not hit me right now, simply because I don’t believe it somehow. It might be my attitude or my upbringing but I just don’t feel it… Bigger things are still to come and there’s a long way for me to go right now, in terms of my acting career.

“Any role that comes to me I take it up as my responsibility and a challenge that needs to be fulfilled.”

Q. Amala is definitely a different character, different than what we have seen you doing in the past except for the fact that they were all strong women. I am sure it must have been difficult to relate to the character of a young girl who has been raped. You had any double thoughts about taking it up?

A. I wasn’t apprehensive about it at all. Any role that comes to me I take it up as my responsibility and a challenge that needs to be fulfilled. It’s only while you are doing a show sometimes that you realize that it’s a lot more than what you had thought. I personally tried for the role because it is based on such a serious topic. I personally tried that everything I do has to be real. I am not going to resort to artificial sources of crying.

I haven’t always done this but for this particular role and especially when we were shooting at Dharamshala for the post-rape scenes I didn’t use glycerin. I just had to read the script and I just had to imagine what a victim would feel and tears just flowed.

Q. Did you worry about how would the audience react to a character like Amala?

 A. I just didn’t think how the audience would react. I just thought about what I am going to perform and how I am going to perform. I believe so firmly in this subject and in the way we have portrayed it… I don’t think there has been another show that has dealt with rape and has delved into it so much. It is a reality, audience’s these days have to open their minds to topics like these. I understand that masala works on television but at the same time, you can’t turn oblivious to subjects like these.

Q. What sort of preparations you did to get into the skin of Amala?

A. We all have experienced eve-teasing. I have also travelled in the metro and by the auto, lived in Delhi and Noida and these places just aren’t safe. I am not completely n unaware to these things… Whenever somebody touches us without our permission; blind rage just takes over us. You feel violated, you feel angry like how could he...

There were workshops where we rehearsed with our co-stars so as to become comfortable in my skin with this character because ultimately it is a rape. We were made to meet a psychiatrist who told us about the life of such people and explained to us the trauma they go through. We were told about Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) and maximum training has happened on the sets while doing the scene.

Q. When do you intend to foray into big screen?

A. I don’t have any plans… I have never tried because I have done TV back to back… If destiny has it for me then it will happen. Till the time I am getting to act, it doesn’t matter if it is a big screen, television or theatre. It is the character that appeals to me. I would love to play sportsperson, a musician, rockstar… There are so many different things to do except for what I have done on television.

Q. Any particular director, actor you are looking forward to working with?

A. I would love to work with Imtiaz Ali and Ranbir Kapoor for an interesting project.

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