Ankita Lokhande, of Pavitra Rishta fame, will soon make her Bollywood debut as Jhalkari Bai in Manikarnika alongside Kangana Ranaut. She speaks to Guardian 20 about what led to her move from television to the Hindi film industry. She also talks to us about her role in the film and her ambition to prove her mettle over the big screen as well.
Q. You are all set to make your Bollywood debut with Manikarnika. What avatar will the audiences see you in and how different will it be from the other roles we have seen you in?
A. It will be a never-seen-before avatar as I am playing a warrior in Manikarnika. In the past, audiences have seen me playing a quiet girl and a housewife in Pavitra Rishtabut in the film, it will be completely different and I think it will also change people’s perception towards me. Jhalkari Bai [played by Lokhande in Manikarnika] was a fierce woman who fought with Rani Laxmibai during the British rule. She was very much like Rani Laxmibai in terms of the ideologies and the philosophies she believed in. She also had a knack for handling the toughest of situations with ease, strength and tact. I have done action in the film which is the highlight for me. It was an amazing learning experience, not just in terms of the action I have done but it is the entire process of filmmaking that I have learned from. When one gets to play a real-life character, it becomes all the more difficult. First, because you have to live up to your director’s expectations and second, you must do justice to the character by portraying it as close as possible to the character it is based on. We have all heard and read about Jhansi Ki Rani since childhood but learning and knowing about Jhalkari Bai was overwhelming. And I am also excited because the audiences will come to know about this brave personality through me.
Q. How didManikarnikahappen and what in particular did you like about the project?
A. Manikarnikahappened because of the producer Kamal Jain. I was on a break from TV, looking for films, reading scripts and meeting directors and producers. In that while, I met Kamal Sir and he told me about the film and my role. I liked it immediately, mainly because of the character that I was offered—Jhalkari Bai and I felt it will be an honour to play her character on-screen for my debut in Bollywood. As I said, we’ve never heard of this character before and that was also the reason for me to get on board for it. Playing a warrior on screen was always on my list and I am lucky to be debuting with such a role.
Q. How is it like sharing the screen with Kangana Ranaut, who plays the lead, Rani Laxmibai, in the film?
A. It was wonderful sharing the screen with the Queen. She is a nice human being, very loveable and caring. She is very professional and completely into the character all the time. I think she is very honest towards her work, very straightforward and that is why I could connect with her easily as I am also the same. We bonded off the sets too.
Q. With Manikarnikayou will be making a comeback to the world of acting after a break of almost four years. What took you this long? And why the break?
A. Well, I think it’s okay to take a break and look at the things around you from a distance. It is important sometimes to calm ourselves too. I travelled a long journey of five years on TV with Pavitra Rishta and when it got over, I felt it was necessary to halt and think how I should move ahead. Then I figured out that I should venture into films and explore the medium. So I waited for the right script to begin with and now it’s happening with Manikarnika.I don’t want to rush things by doing anything and everything. I will take my own time and only do films and characters that will suit me best. I am happy that I took this break and gained a little perception. I am very content in my life.
Q. How is Bollywood treating you so far and what are the kinds of expectations that you have as you begin your journey in the film industry?
A. It has always treated me very well and I think it will continue to do so. I am not expecting; instead, I am just trying to live up to their expectations. I have worked with all my heart for Manikarnika, I just hope for now that it comes out well and everybody likes it.
Q. A lot of TV actors these days are trying their luck in Bollywood. What do you think has led to this trend?
A. Simply because Bollywood has a larger audience and provides greater exposure. TV is limited to a country and films are a worldwide medium. And it’s always good to experience new things in your career. But I will always be grateful to TV, as whatever recognition I have gained today, it is because of TV. And I hope that the same will follow after the audiences see my work in films.
Q. So what are your thoughts on both these mediums? And what according to you is the biggest difference between TV and films, since broadly speaking, these are both acting platforms?
A. Well, it is an altogether different experience to be working in films. In TV, due to time limits, I had a lot of pressure, but in Manikarnika, I took a lot of training to prepare myself for the character prior to shooting. In both the scenarios, there is no compromise when it comes to the creative process but only the way of working is different. I enjoyed then and I am loving it now.
Q. What led to you to choose acting as a profession? And how did it finally happen?
A. I only wanted to become an actor since childhood. I am not an actor by accident but by choice. I shifted my base to Mumbai while I was studying, to pursue my career in Bollywood. It all began when I participated in Zee Cinestars Ki Khoj, and from there I got an offer for Pavitra Rishtaand I couldn’t turn that down.
Q. Did you ever fear being typecast when you were working in Pavitra Rishta? Also, have you ever felt limited by the medium?
A. Honestly, no. I never feared being typecast. It was the biggest break for me when I started out as an actor. All I did was to work with honesty. I did not have the time to think about anything else because we used to shoot for really long hours to meet with the channel’s deadline. At that time, nothing else crossed my mind. Only when it got over and I took a break, I decided to do films. I was lucky to be part of TV then and I am excited to take on films now.
Q. Which directors and actors would you like to work with in the future?
A. The list is too long and I have just begun. I am right now only concentrating on my work and working every day to be better at it, so that I get approached for films or when I approach the directors I don’t get rejected. I don’t want to be choosy at this time of my career and that’s why I am only concentrating on what I should be best at so that I don’t disappoint either my directors or my fans.