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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Coming from theatre, I honestly believe my craft will find me work- RAVI JHANKAL

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RAVI JHANKAL tells JYOTHI VENKATESH that he will keep working in the film industry till there is quality work coming his way.

How did you approach the role of Lakhan, a negative character in Kasaai?

It’s been a long and varied journey in this industry. I have worked in over 80 films and hundreds of TV episodes, but as an actor I have always craved for something different. I was on the lookout for good work that was against the tide because it had been a while since I had worked on an interesting character since Agneepath.

How did you react when you were offered the out and out villainous character in Kasaai?

On being offered the film, despite the budget constraints I was impressed by the cast and crew the director had assembled, especially some very fine technicians from the institute. The challenge for me as a performer was to get rid of the inhibition of playing such a dark role where I am basically a letch and a murderer. I am glad to have dived into the process and be a part of the filmmaker’s passion. This was a small little movie that was completed in about two weeks and it is elating to see it getting so much love in film festivals. I am also glad that it is all set to be streamed on ShemarooMe Box Office.

Where are you based out of?

Right now, I am staying in Jaipur where I’ve made a lovely bungalow. My wife lives here and conducts her dance classes. My daughter is in this field too, she is assisting Shoojit Sircar now.

Which was your debut film?

My brush with the silver screen began with Shatrughan Sinha’s Kalka and my very first scene was with the great Amjad Khan.

You’re known as a “Shyam Benegal” actor till date!

I think I am one of the few artists who have worked in most of Benegal Saab’s films, right till 2014. No matter whether an ad or a feature film, I have always been with him. Besides Benegalsaab, I have also collaborated on a few films with Govind Nihalani.

Would you call being labelled an art house actor as a disadvantage or an advantage?

I am not really bothered about these tags, because for instance, someone as legendary as Om Puri was also stereotyped as a Shyam Benegal actor. I see it as a badge of honour, having even worked in television with Mr. Benegal. He has this penchant for working with the same people once he is fond of them, and I’ve been blessed to be a part of his troupe. Even in Welcome to Sajjanpur, I was initially not supposed to do the eunuch’s role but as luck would have it, the initial actor backed out and the role finally came my way. Although I’ve worked on so many television projects, cinema is what I am famous for.

What are the five films that are close to your heart?

Welcome to Sajjanpur, NH10, Agneepath, Samar and Kasaai.

You’ve worked with superstars like Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan. Do you network yourself amongst them?

Coming from theatre, I honestly believe my craft will find me work. I don’t exactly believe in meeting people or going to their offices without work in hand. To be very frank, such a situation also didn’t arise where I had to put myself out there too much, as work has kept coming my way organically by the grace of God. I am also thankful that my wife and I had saved a lot for a rainy day and now during the pandemic we are fortunate enough to be comfortable.

How will you chart your journey as an actor over all these years?

I am proud that there has been consistent growth in me as a performer. I always begin every new project of mine as my very first film, with the exact energy and zeal I had in me as a debutant. I am surviving as an actor because I can still bring that freshness in my art.

Are you satisfied being a talented actor or do you regret not being a commercial star?

Benegal Saab had once shared this wisdom with me that he felt I am an incredible performer but I’ve still not hit the mark when it comes to commercial success. Some of it also has got to do with luck and I do feel that I deserve much more but I also don’t regret whatever work I have done. I’ll keep working in this industry till there is quality work coming my way.

Which directors are there on your current wish list?

I am very fascinated by the talent from Bengal, like Dibakar Banerjee, Pradeep Sarkar, Shoojit Sircar and people of their ilk. These filmmakers have a balanced understanding of art and commerce. Also, I have a soft corner towards the people of my state, although there are very few filmmakers down here who understand cinema but I hope to contribute to the industry here too.

What are your upcoming projects?

I am working on Lohardaga, I am also working on another film based out of Gujarat, and the director is a young Maharashtrian boy who’s a bundle of pure talent.

Do you think OTT is the future of cinema?

I don’t think much about this space, to be honest. I am very old school that way. This may be a good platform for small budgeted films but I never think this can replace the silver screen; the fun of the good old theatre can never be replaced. Cinema is meant to be watched in cinemas.

I have worked on a Netflix series though, it’s called Hasmukh. To be honest I am more excited for my daughter’s maiden voyage in the film industry. If everything goes as per plan you may hear some good news soon on her career front.