Looking back, Patralekhaa “thanks god that she didn’t get the films offered to her.” There were independent productions, opportunities that a new kid-on-the-block would jump at, but once the best comes along, everything pales in comparison. In Patralekhaa’s case, it was producer Mahesh Bhatt and director Hansal Mehta’s CityLights.
A hard-hitting story of a farmer from Rajasthan who relocates to Mumbai with his family after a tragedy, CityLights (which releases on May 30) is the official Hindi remake of BAFTA-nominated British film, Metro Manila (2013). “I play his (Rajkummar Rao’s) young wife Rakhi, who has to face her own challenge of adjusting to and surviving in the new city,” says Patralekhaa, who found the role emotionally demanding. “When one has to play a character like this for days together, it gets to you — the fatigue, the thought of how life can be so difficult for some people that one just breaks down,” she adds.
Devoid of the typical glamour, this was a role that most first-time-actors usually shy away from for the fear of being stereotyped. But for her, being in the A-list of Bollywood comes secondary. “I don’t aspire to be a Deepika Padukone or a Katrina Kaif — the industry already has one of each. I want to make and walk my own path and I have a feeling it will be unconventional because I am drawn to that side of cinema more,” says the actor, almost sounding poetic like her name, which her grandmother, a poet, gave her. “It means letter writing,” she adds. Interestingly, till this film happened, Patralekhaa went by the name, Anwita Paul till she reverted to the original.
Her formative years in Shillong saw Patralekhaa being brought up in a “very western environment” “So, getting under the skin of Rakhi was tough, and Hansal sir made us spend time in Rajasthan, with the families, learning their language and culture, and attending script reading workshops,” she says. More than the workshops, Patralekhaa’s skills were further honed by being in the company of her co-actor Rajkummar Rao, whom she is also rumoured to be dating. “I watched Shahid at MAMI in Mumbai and was blown away. When your co-actor is good, scenes automatically turn out to be great,” she explains.
A known face in television commercials, Patralekhaa’s father wanted to see his daughter follow in his footsteps and become a chartered accountant. After completing her schooling from Assam Valley Public School, she shifted base to Mumbai for graduation from HR College of Commerce, and also enrolled herself in Barry John’s acting workshops. “Honestly, I was never academically inclined. I was always attracted to glamour, and would end up signing up for co-curricular activities in school and college,” says Patralekhaa.