Ankita Lokhande plays Jhalkaribai in Kangana Ranaut starrer Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Ankita talks about her character in the film, the transition from TV to Bollywood and the MeToo movement.
Q. Did Manikarnika feel like the best debut? Why?
I don’t know what is best and what’s not. I believe in making the best for your own self and I am doing that with Manikarnika. I made my character best for myself so that I could be seen and could leave a mark on people.
Q. Manikarnika mostly revolves around Kangana Ranaut’s character. Being your debut, did you not feel that you will go unnoticed?
I don’t think I can ever get unnoticed by people because I know myself. If I am doing something which is of 15 minutes also, I want to leave a mark. You can do that only if you have a character that requires you to perform. Jhalkari is one such character. When you will watch the film, you will understand what I am trying to convey. Of course, it is Kangana Ranaut’s film out and out. She is there all through, but I am sure Ankita will also be visible to the audience.
Q. How much could you relate to the character?
When I heard about my role, I was keen to know more. We have known Rani Laxmibai but I had never heard of Jhalkaribai. Who is she? My fascination started with her name. Going by it, I thought she would be someone sweet, but she is not. She is totally opposite in fact. She is difficult, brave, confident, committed, loyal towards the country and a faithful friend to Kangana’s character. That is what the story is about. How women came together, fought and won the battle. The film basically is about women empowerment, women standing up against the wrong and in my perspective, the film is releasing at the very right time because we all are witnessing a change in India where everybody is waking up to women’s power.
Q. Did you find any similarity between Jhalkaribai and Ankita?
I think Jhalkaribai is moofat. She is very out there about her opinions and I am exactly like that. Somewhere people do take it otherwise, but I am what I am. Jhalkaribai takes a stand, not just for herself but wherever she feels she needs to support people. That is me. People do talk bad about me because I poke my nose in many matters. I am like that because I always want to take a stand against wrong and support the good.
Q. Do you feel such stories driven by women is important in today’s time and age?
Of course. Today, we say we are so advanced and open-minded but I do not think so. Wearing short clothes do not guarantee open-mindedness. Look at these women. The strength they carried. They gave away their lives for the country. Do you have that courage? I don’t. It is not that easy. It happened because women supported each other. Today, we are not supportive of each other. We are concentrating more on pulling each other down, which is harming us. We need to realise the power we have within ourselves. If we all stand together, for each other, there is nothing impossible. It is high time. We should take a stand against whatever needs to be corrected.
Q. Who according to you is Jhansi of Bollywood and why?
I think Rekha ma’am is the Jhansi of Bollywood. Till today she is so brave, bold and such a pillar for the industry.
Q. You were India’s perfect bahu when you appeared in Pavitra Rishta. After the show, you disappeared from the scene for a long time. Did you plan to quit?
It was never like that. How can I quit? I cannot. It is in me. The acting ka keeda is in me. I will do it till I die. People assumed that I have quit the job but that was not the case. I am here to work. I love to entertain people and make them feel. By portraying the character of Archana in Pavitra Rishta, I made people cry. This time too, with Jhalkaribai, the audience will be left teary-eyed.
Q. Was it intentional to not look back at television?
Nothing like that. I do not plan my life. Whatever comes my way, I take it. I am a risk-taker but that does not mean I am not going to go back to television ever. I have always maintained that television is my maika while cinema is my sasuraal. I have given six years of my life to television. I think, on a creative basis, everyone needs to grow. Cinema is larger and offers more opportunities to perform.
I want to play roles. I cannot stay stuck in one thing even though I did it for Archana and have no regrets about it. I was happy to stay on television. It will always be my baby. Now, films are my second baby. I have always been focused about how I want to take my career. When I was doing television, I was not everywhere. Similarly, right now my focus is only on the debut. So, I am content with how my career is taking the turn.
Q. And then boom, we see you making this sparkling entry looking your best self. What inspired the change?
(Laughs) Everybody is asking me the same thing. In fact, I see people tweeting if I am the same Archana who was playing this perfect bahu in Pavitra Rishta. I guess it is just the clothing and looks. For me, I could not see any change but yes, in the gap I took (from work), I think I have grown as a human being. I worked on looking different than Archana and even Ankita. I wanted people to look at me differently. Also, I have understood the importance of self-love. I have started taking care of myself and have become more confident. I keep giving myself pep-talk that you cannot let anyone take advantage of you and people coming or leaving you shouldn’t stop your life.
Q. You were one of the actors who spoke about MeToo when it hit the entertainment industry in India.
I felt the need to speak against it and I did. I cannot go and convince people to support or come out. If they do not feel it, we cannot force them. Do not stop yourself because someone around you is not doing it. If you have been through it or you want to express your support, tweet, write or express in any manner you can. Just do it. Do not think of repercussions. Take a stand. I may be wrong for many out there but for myself, I am right.
Q. What do you have to say about the latest allegation against Rajkumar Hirani?
I cannot judge anything nor can I give any statement. I know him. I think he is a genuine and nice human being. He is too senior, and I have seen his work. Having said that, I cannot say anything because the girl only knows what she has gone through.
Q. You confessed to being in love in recent interviews. There are also marriage rumours. Tell us something about it.
Well (takes a long pause) marriage is not on the cards for now. I am very much committed to my work and excited for the film’s release.