Actor Ekavali Khanna is making her presence felt in Bollywood with interesting roles
If her short yet impactful presence in Bombay Begums (as Devyani Oniyal, Rani’s (Pooja Bhatt) ex-colleague and counterpart at a rival bank) has stirred you, then let us tell you actor Ekavali Khanna is no rookie at her job. An actor by chance, ever since her debut in 2014 in National award-winning filmmaker Chandra Prakash Dwivedi’s Zed Plus, Ekavali has acted in an eclectic range of films including Nila Madhab Panda’s Kaun Kitne Paani Mein, Sudhir Mishra’s Daas Dev, Bollywood Diaries, Bioscopewala, Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, Dear Dad and Veere Di Wedding.
Her role as Najma, in What Will People Say, Norway’s official entry to the Oscars 2019, earned her praises from all quarters. But sadly, apart from small parts in films like Katmundu, Khola Hawa, Ganesh Talkies and Nirantar, Ekavali couldn’t sink her teeth in Tollywood, her home ground. “I’m extremely reserved and cannot beg for roles or bag one by the virtue of being friends with filmmakers or producers. In Mumbai, there is a very professional auditioning system in place and whatever work I have done there, has been by the virtue of that, which is sadly lacking here,” says the actor known for her striking features.
With Bombay Begums still among the top ten shows on Netflix in India, we spoke with the ravishing single mother of two grown-up sons about being a part of the successful series, her other projects and more. Excerpts:
You held your own as Devyani Oniyal in Bombay Begums. How does it feel?
I am overwhelmed by the response and I can’t thank casting director Shruti Mahajan enough for calling me for the audition. You know the show is a success when there’s a mixed response with people questioning or calling it a little bold or mature. And though the show is women-centric it’s not about male-bashing. My character Devyani is good-looking, well-dressed, articulate, successful and a perfect woman in society’s eyes. But in the end, she turns out to be unscrupulous, defending a man who’s a sexual predator and that says a lot about the woman. Bombay Begums has effortlessly brought out the stories of these real women with all their frailties in tow.
How did you prepare for the role?
It was a very self-explanatory character and since the script was good, I didn’t have to spend hours on research. Plus, when you get good directors like Alankrita (Shrivastava) and Bornila (Chatterjee), more than half your battle is won. To bring in that extra layer of sophistication and entitlement in Devyani, who has studied at Harvard, I also did a little bit of research on Harvard University and its alumni.
How was it working with Pooja Bhatt?
Pooja’s lovely, very grounded and real. She is unpretentious, open about her identity and exudes beautiful energy.
Does it still hurt that Tollywood never really gave you a real chance?
Initially, it did hurt but now I believe it was good in a way since things opened up in Bollywood. In the Bengali film industry, I am still at the periphery.
What are your upcoming projects?
I just completed Dhiraj Kotkar’s The Incomplete Man; Santosh Upadhyay’s Masoom Sawal, the second season of the web series Out of Love and will begin shooting for another series in June.
Hair care: I oil my hair four days a week with plain coconut oil.
Diet: I eat everything, especially fish, veggies and chicken with rice or chapatti. If I crave something, I make it at home.
Health drink: Coconut water.
Exercise: Walking and running.
Fashion code: I love wearing handloom and chiffon saris. But you will also see me in jeans and t-shirts.
Five wardrobe essentials: A nice black sari, a red sari, jeans, a white shirt and a salwar kameez or sharara with a dupatta.
Beauty essentials in your bag: Lip-gloss, sunscreen, perfume, sanitiser, kajal and a compact
Bombay Begums is streaming on Netflix.