Tezpur-born Auroshikha Dey has played a police officer in Naseeruddin Shah-starrer Charlie Kay Chakkar Mein (2015), and a non-glamorous Gujarati surrogate mother in the short film, Points of Origin (2014), besides numerous other films in her kitty such as NH-8: Road to Nidhivan (2015), and Prem Mayee (2012). Her army upbringing led her to embrace adventure sports and contemporary dance. In Swati Bhise’s The Warrior Queen of Jhansi, she plays the role of Jhalkari Bai. The film has Devika Bhise as Rani Lakshmi Bai with Rupert Everett and Derek Jacobi in key roles. Scheduled to release on November 15, The Warrior Queen of Jhansi is produced by Bhise, and distributed by Roadside Attractions (US) and PVR Pictures in India. Excerpts from a conversation with Dey:
Not much is known about Jhalkari Bai’s contribution during the Indian rebellion of 1857. Who was she?
People used to say that Jhalkari Bai looks a lot like Rani Lakshmi Bai. That is the reason when Jhansi was captured by the British, Jhalkari Bai disguised herself as Rani Lakshmi Bai so that the queen could escape. That was her biggest contribution to the first war of Indian freedom. In fact, the Department of Posts had released a stamp to honour her on July 22, 2001. She was a courageous woman, who belonged to a Dalit family and overcame many odds.
How did you train for the role?
There were three very important things: archery, sword fighting and horse riding; I did not know any of these. Swords are very heavy and during practice my wrist ached a lot. I bruised my thumb just by rotating it. Finally, I become good enough to duel with the sword. During archery sessions, I injured my hand many times with the bowstring. You have to hurt yourself to go to that professional level. My entire body ached after horse riding.
Apart from war, what does The Warrior Queen of Jhansi focus on?
The movie is not only about the war. The director has focused on the reason it happened. There is a lot of history. People will know Rani Lakshmi Bai in a much better way than what we read. It is also about every body else who had helped Rani Lakshmi Bai to win the war. We talk about a lot of warriors. But we do not talk about the contribution of women warriors in Indian history. It is among the first wars that happened in 1857, executed by a woman warrior and yet we do not talk about it. That is the reason it became more important for the director to make people know more about her story. We wanted the audience, especially the Hollywood audience, to see a woman warrior in India. She might not fly, she might not have powers, but she has courage.
There have been several movies on historical events as well as biopics in recent years. What do you feel about it?
We should remember our freedom fighters. We should remember people who have sacrificed their lives for us. We should know about then, by not only reading about them but visually as well. People have to know them and relate to them emotionally. Textbooks cannot give you that. When the audience leaves the theatre after watching The Warrior Queen of Jhansi, they will have a better understanding of history. To put it in another way they will not only remember Rani but also the other people who were equally important. It is an imagination of emotions.