Ankita Lokhande: Jhalkaribai was a hero of the dalit community but not many people know about her

The actor makes her Bollywood debut alongside Kangana Ranaut in the upcoming film, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi
Ankita Lokhande: Jhalkaribai was a hero of the dalit community but not many people know about her

Television star Ankita Lokhande is making her Bollywood debut in the upcoming Kangana Ranaut-starrer, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. Co-directed by Kangana and Krish Jagarlamudi, the film is a biopic on Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, who fought against the British rule in India during the rebellion of 1857. Ankita portrays the role of Jhalkaribai, a prominent advisor to the queen and the leader of her women’s army. We spoke to the upcoming actor about her experience of working on the film and her plans for the future.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Although stories of Rani Laxmibai’s courage and valour are very popular, little is known about Jhalkaribai, who was an important figure during the battle at the fort of Jhansi. Tell us a little bit about your character.
Jhalkaribai is a beautiful character. She was a strong warrior who fought for her country. Right from her childhood, she was a fighter who stood up to any challenge. Before Kamal Jain (the producer) narrated the script to me, I knew nothing about Jhalkaribai. In history books, there’s no description of her in a prominent way. But when I researched about her life, I found out she was exactly the same as Rani Laxmibai, in both age and valour. The only difference was that she came from a poor family. One reason for me to play the part of Jhalkaribai was to make people know more about her. She was a hero of the dalit community and she is still worshipped by the people of Bundelkhand.

Was there a lot of physical training involved for the role?
Of course, quite a lot. I’ve never done action before. This was the first time I got a chance to learn horse-riding and sword-fighting. We trained for thirty days to prepare for the war sequences in the film. Hollywood stunt director Nick Powell flew down to train us. I was a little scared but it was a lot of fun.

How was your experience of working with Kangana — both as a co-actor and also as part of her first directorial venture?
Since this was my debut film, I was quite nervous. I wanted to prove myself. As a co-actor, Kangana was very supportive and aware of what was going on with me — that’s exactly what you need when you are just starting out, somebody who supports you in the process. Then, when she came on set as a director, she was even more kind and supportive to me. Whether she was in the scene or not, she would always sit there and give me inputs. Not every director can give you that level of attention and care. She took interest in the smallest of things and was constantly there for me.

Did you have to reshoot any scenes?
No, no reshoots for me. All my scenes are part of the film — nothing was reshot.

Manikarnika is a big-budget epic, with lavish sets and cinematography. It’s quite a grand debut for you. Going ahead, what sort of films can we expect to see you in?
After Manikarnika's release, I am hoping for more good films to come my way. I’m not particular about genres or anything like that. If I like the script and the character being offered to me, I will do the film. I want to do a proper, heroic, typical Bollywood film soon. That would be great. I would also love to do a web series. Digital platforms have opened up many avenues  for good actors. In films, you only get 2-3 hours to tell a story, so you can’t use many actors — but ever since digital shows have come, I can see the talent growing in our industry. I am not saying I am doing one now, but I would like to be a part of a web series in the future.

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