AFTER THREE-YEAR HIATUS AND BREAK-UP WITH SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT, TV ACTRESS ANKITA LOKHANDE BACK IN AN ACTION IN KANGANA RANAUT’s QUEEN OF JHANSI :

After a three-year hiatus and break-up with Sushant Singh Rajput, the TV actress is graduating to the big screen as Jhalkaribai to Kangana Ranaut‘s queen of Jhansi.   Ankita Lokhande, who seemed to have disappeared into the blue post her break-up with Sushant Singh Rajput last year, has just returned from a trip to Bangkok. And despite nursing a cold which she attributes to the change in weather, she sounds ebullient, set to return from a three-year hiatus with the Krish-directed period extravaganza, ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’, featuring Kangana Ranaut in the titular role. After ruling the small screen as Archana Karanjkar in Ekta Kapoor’s long-running tele-soap, ‘Pavitra Rishta’, Ankita will be seen as Jhalkaribai in her Bollywood debut.   Kamal Jain, who is producing the film which is presented by Zee Studios, approached Ankita, who he’s known for a long time, with this historical character of a woman solider in Rani Laxmibai’s army who rose to the position of a prominent adviser and, at the peak of their battle with the British, disguised herself as the queen so she could hoodwink the enemy. “I’d never heard of her before, not many have, but Jhalkaribai was one of the greatest heroes of our proud history.   I’m honoured that I’ll be telling her story to the world, fighting alongside Kangana’s Rani Laxmibai,” says Ankita, who since the last month-and-a-half has been training in sword-fighting with Hollywood action director Nick Powell, who has to his credit films like ‘Braveheart’, ‘The Last Samurai’ and ‘Bourne Identity’, among others. Ankita admits that the first day Nick put the sword in her hand, she was completely clueless about how to handle it. “Since then, he has taken me by the hand and shown me how to fight. He treats me like a kid and makes the training so entertaining,” reveals the actress, who has also been taking horse-riding lessons.   “I’m indebted to Kamal sir for this challenging role in a big-budget film scripted by ‘Baahubali’ writer KV Vijayendra Prasad alongside a National Award-winning actress like Kangana who exudes power and is an inspiration to all women. I’m looking forward to learning from her once we start shooting in August.” There has been talk of her doing a Sanjay Bhansali production as well. She refuses to discuss any of the other projects out of respect for the makers. Pointing out that she was getting offers even during her break, she recalls that when friends would call her from their shoots and talk about their work, she sorely missed the lights, camera and action. “Acting is my passion but when God was giving me work, I wanted something else. Now, I’m acting, fighting and dancing only for myself,” she beams, like a little girl gifted a favourite toy.   Is this the girl who claimed she didn’t want to work and sat at home for three years while Sushant made his career in films? Had their six-year relationship not splintered, she might have been married by now. “I don’t know how these stories about me not wanting to work got around. After six years of ‘Pavitra Rishta’, I simply wanted a break and come back as a different Ankita. And I have,” she asserts.  She was one of the most promising TV stars around, doesn’t she regret waiting so long to enter B-town? “I was always a content girl. I stayed with ‘Pavitra Rishta’ for six years. Even after others left, I carried on because a mother doesn’t abandon her baby. No regrets, my TV show gave me name, fame and money, and now I hope to repeat that success on a bigger platform,” she said fervently.   Is she in touch with Sushant? Have they remained friends? “No,” she said shortly, clearly unwilling to dwell on the subject. “I’m not thinking of the past or the future right now, I’m only focussed on the present. I have my own home, a car I bought with my own money and a beautiful film I can’t wait to start. I get gooseflesh at the thought of seeing myself on the big screen,” she signs off.  The Times  of  India : 3rd. July,17

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