COVER STORY

The Warrior Within

The Warrior Within

Caught in the whirlwind of her debut film Manikarnika, Ankita Lokhande talks to Archita Kashyap on what gets her mojo going

"I have always wanted to play strong characters, and Manikarnika brought me this opportunity for an ideal debut"She had a head full of lush curls. A prolific career in primetime soaps straightened them out. But unlike most that become standardised by showbiz, Ankita Lokhande reveals an independent, spontaneous streak to her persona and what made her make her hindi film debut with Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi.

Caught in the whirlwind of her debut film Manikarnika, Ankita Lokhande talks to Archita Kashyap on what gets her mojo going
You’ve taken your time to act in a Hindi film after a very successful career in TV. What were the roadblocks in moving to cinema?

You’ve taken your time to act in a Hindi film after a very successful career in TV. What were the roadblocks in moving to cinema?

There were no roadblocks. I got many good offers. But I was a little confused about what I should be doing after Pavitra Rishta. I never had to struggle to find roles in cinema. After the serial, I chose to take a break for myself. I was keen right from the start to pick up a role that is performance-oriented. As an actor, you should feel good about a specific character that you are playing.

When I got a chance to play Jhalkari Bai, I was very convinced about this role. She was a real person and the character has been kept very real. I didn’t think twice before saying yes as I just grabbed this opportunity to do it. Jhalkari Bai is an unsung hero but she was a very important person to Rani Laxmibai. While choosing to play this role, I also wanted to know what kind of a person she was; what was she like? What did she mean to Rani Laxmibai?

As a debutante, I would never get an opportunity to play a person like Jhalkari, who made such a huge contribution to her country. Our film has focused on such unsung heroes who have sacrificed their lives for India but no one knows about them. I felt it is a huge responsibility too, to portray the sacrifice, commitment and fierce loyalty that Jhalkari Bai had for Rani Laxmibai and her country.

The dynamic you share with Kangana is similar to Jhalkari Bai and Rani Laxmibai. With actors and directors walking out, this film has gone through ups and downs. Did she ever intimidate you, given that she is a fiery personality? Or did you find it comfortable to work with her?

Kangana and I were a team and she is a friend. You are right. I was like her Jhalkari Bai and she was Rani Laxmibai to me. It is my debut film and Kangana stood by me throughout. If I have stood by her, she has also stood by me. She has been a big support to me. I am giving you an honest answer here; Kangana is not at all like what people think her to be. There is a lot of mis-perception about her.

People often create perceptions about her. They might have never met her but they presume things about her. Kangana is a very good soul. She is honest and straightforward. It also happens to me. People might not have met me even once but they say bad stuff. Once they do meet me or interact with me, they realize that I am just like any other girl.

The dynamic you share with Kangana is similar to Jhalkari Bai and Rani Laxmibai. With actors and directors walking out, this film has gone through ups and downs. Did she ever intimidate you, given that she is a fiery personality? Or did you find it comfortable to work with her?
Why does this happen? Is it because both of you are independent-minded women working in showbiz, an industry with a traditional set up where women, at least actors, tend to be demure?

Why does this happen? Is it because both of you are independent-minded women working in showbiz, an industry with a traditional set up where women, at least actors, tend to be demure?

I would say most girls (working here) were brought up like that. It’s not just about this industry. I have not been brought up to accept things just as they are, but I have been taught to be upfront and straight forward. My parents have been a big support and they have brought me up to be strong, a bit like Jhalkari Bai actually.

I am not afraid of anything. I can handle any circumstances that come my way. And I am upfront. So people often misjudge that (I think). If I find something wrong and speak out, that’s not wrong, is it? If I have an opinion, then that makes me a strong person. That doesn’t make me a wrong person.

Kangana is also like that. That’s why we got along so well. She is someone who will take initiative for her happiness. I think all women, these days, need to be like that. I believe all of us should take care of our own happiness and our own selves.

Have you found it difficult to land decent parts in cinema or TV? Have you felt that female actors often get offered similar roles, packaged differently?

I wouldn’t say that. I never felt that the same characters are being packaged differently and presented to me. I have always believed that I must be convinced of my character. I have always wanted to play strong characters, and Manikarnika brought me this opportunity for an ideal debut.

Have you found it difficult to land decent parts in cinema or TV? Have you felt that female actors often get offered similar roles, packaged differently?
Does it get annoying that everywhere you go or speak, the focus remains on your relationship with your ex Sushant Singh Rajput? It’s been a while since you broke up and now share a cordial relationship. The focus though seems to be about your ex, Sushant.

Does it get annoying that everywhere you go or speak, the focus remains on your relationship with your ex Sushant Singh Rajput? It’s been a while since you broke up and now share a cordial relationship. The focus though seems to be about your ex, Sushant.

Rather than call it annoying; I would just say that’s it now! I am done with this. Please let people talk about my work and me. I would genuinely request people to focus on my work, as it’s a new journey and a new start for me. Everybody has a personal life, and that’s ok (to get attention). I am a newborn baby in cinema right now, and I would really just like that to get attention at this stage.

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