• December 4, 2021

Ankita Lokhande on Pavitra Rishta 2.0: Not possible to replace Sushant Singh Rajput

“I know people will never forget Sushant Singh Rajput as we shared crackling chemistry but then I have to work with someone or the other,’ says Ankita Lokhande on working with Shaheer Sheikh in Pavitra Rishta 2.0

When certain shows and characters leave a mark on the viewers, the makers, hoping to add a new fanbase often decide to revive the magic and one such show is Pavitra Rishta, the original Zee TV breakout, which came out in 2009 and made its lead actors — Late Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) and Ankita Lokhande a household name during its over five year-run. Pavitra Rishta is all set to make a comeback, however, this time it is a digital spin-off and the reboot version will be in an eight-part web series that will premiere on digital streaming platform Zee5, starting 15 September. Lokhande will reprise her role as Archana, while popular television star Shaheer Sheikh will play Manav, the role which was earlier played by SSR followed by Hiten Tejwani and Karan Veer Mehra for a brief period in SSR’s absence.

“When I met Ekta she was offering me some other show but I have always been so connected to Pavitra Rishta the show that I debuted with and I told her let’s do it again. I have lived this journey for five-and-a-half years and there are a lot of emotions attached to it. I spent a lot of time and effort creating and working on my character Archana. I didn’t want some other actress to do it after five years, I wouldn’t like it. So many other actors left the show but I was the only constant, I did it with shiddat (intensity and passion). Since Ekta is equally attached to the show, she didn’t take even a second to rethink and said ‘yes’ for another version,” says Lokhande.

Lokhande attributes the show’s popularity to its ‘pure’ characters, ‘subtlety’ in emotions and feelings, and above all dollops of romance. “Pavitra Rishta is all about romance. The lead characters Archana and Manav are in love but they don’t say it because of the family situation. It’s about two people who may not be perfect as individuals but they are perfect for each other and that is what connected with the audience. It is an unsaid, unexpressed romance and feelings where your eyes and body language speaks a lot instead of words,” she says.

To maintain that connection with the viewers, the makers haven’t changed much in the lead characters’ graph and their basic traits, says Lokhande. “The only change is that my character is a confident, working girl in the new version. She is not weak and she is now a bit more vocal about her love for Manav. She now expresses her feelings. They used to compromise on love but not anymore. But again I don’t have too many dialogues. I am expressing more through my emotions. When Archana and Manav come face to face it is only their feelings through which they express and we have retained all of that. Most importantly, I didn’t want them to change Archana’s look and we have retained that simplicity. My body language, mannerisms automatically change once I get into that attire and styling. Of course, this time it is a new love story altogether. but you will see the feel of the old Pavitra Rishta. You have to keep a little bit of that connection,” says Lokhande.

Talking about the show’s male lead that became a focal point of discussion post SSR’s demise, the fact is that Manav has also been played by two other actors – Hiten Tejwani and Karan Veer Mehra after SSR quit the show sometime in 2011 to focus on his Bollywood career. But the situation after SSR’s demise is quite different. One would recall the mass hysteria post SSR’s sudden death last June, and recently, when the makers released the first look of Lokhande and Sheikh from Pavitra Rishta 2, SSR’s angry fans demanded a boycott of the show.

“I know people will never forget Sushant as we shared crackling chemistry but then I have to work with someone or the other.

Yes, Pavitra Rishta has been Sushant and Ankita’s show originally but Sushant left after working on it for two-and-a-half years, whereas, I continued till the end, for five-and-a-half years. Hiten and Karan have also played Manav in Sushant’s absence. Replacement is not easy, and replacing Sushant is not possible,” says the actress.

She continues, “But I feel that I and Shaheer can create a different kind of magic together. As an actor, it is my job to romance even a plant or a tree and make people believe in that. After Sushant, somebody who can play Manav is Shaheer. He has that innocence, that charm that was seen in the original Manav. When I learnt that he is one of the options for the role I was happy. He was the only choice for me. But then, the show is not about Ankita and Sushant, or Ankita and Shaheer, it is about the characters – Archana and Manav and their love story,” she adds.

When asked if Shaheer was under pressure of living up to the expectations of the viewers, Lokhande said, “On the first day of the shoot he was very nervous. Not just the audience, he also wondered if I would like it or not because I know Manav better than anyone else. I know exactly how Sushant had played the part. I told Shaheer that you don’t have to copy Sushant or any other actor but to create his own Manav. I told him, ‘Listen, it is true that Sushant and I became the household name but people will fall in love with this couple as well’. Also, it is so rare to see pure, romantic stories on digital platforms, we mostly see crime-based, or thriller shows on OTT.”

If one may recall, the SSR saga, as it had unfolded and captured prime time news slots, has had emotions running high on social media, with hashtags like #JusticeforSushant and #Warriors4SSR. With collective sentiment rising against the movie industry along with the media frenzy that whipped up around this tragic death has seen Bollywood at one of its lowest in the public eye. Lokhande, who was also caught in this burst of fury, however, isn’t complaining. “I am glad that Sushant has a massive fan following. There is no way that you can stop people from reacting like this. I feel for the fans who are missing Sushant, and whatever I have done for Sushant.. though I think I haven’t done enough but whatever I have done I have done it for me, for my relationship and I am with his family,” she says.

While Lokhande believes there is a certain charm about television, she is upbeat about the show going digital essentially because of planned methods of working, fewer hours of work, more discipline, and marketing. “Shooting for television is very spontaneous but in digital and web series it feels as if we are making a film. The quality of work is different on digital. Even our set this time looks so different, it is not that glossy, there is no chamak damak, it is all very natural and very real what we see these days on web series. Then, we always have the script ready. Everything is sorted when we go on the set. You know exactly what you are doing and we have enough time to understand our character sketch. In television, we don’t have time for all that but still, you make your character so alive that people connect with it. That is the charm of television but digital has its different market altogether,” she says.

Ankita was recently seen in a couple of films like Manikarnika and Baaghi 3 in secondary roles, “But now you will see my film for sure. The next film will be my film but I can’t reveal more than this. I’m done with Pavitra Rishta. Since shoot time in digital is far less as compared to television I have more time on hand,” said Lokhande, who always harboured dreams of becoming a ‘typical’ Hindi film heroine and had expressed regret of refusing film offers from certain big production houses in the past.

“But I have no regrets about starting from television. I have always been quite passionate about my work. I have shot episodes while suffering from dengue, malaria, typhoid…I remember once I went in an ambulance to shoot for Pavitra Rishta. My doctor had accompanied me, there was a drip on my hand, I removed it and I gave the shot,” she says. And looks like the actress’ intense passion for Pavitra Rishta will remain eternal as she signs off saying, “Even after doing Pavitra for almost six years I still love the show. I will still choose this show over two films if there is yet another interesting take to the story.”

Pavitra Rishta 2.0 will release on ZEE5 on 15 September.

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