In an exclusive interview with International Business Times India, model-turned-actress Unnati Davara, who played the role of Rani Lakshmi Bai's strong ally in Manikarnika, has spoken at length about her big Bollywood debut, working under Kangana Ranaut's direction and her desire to get recognized as an actor.
It would have been a dream come true to make a Bollywood debut with a big film and a big star cast. Tell us about your role in Manikarnika?
Yes off course, I was really very excited to be a part of such a big film. It was quiet challenging for me to play the role of a warrior initially. Only thing I was confident about was horse riding because I was selected on the basis of horse riding. But again I was looking forward for training with swords and horse riding also. So I was excited to be a part of this film not only because of this things but also because of the people who were involved so I could do my best under their survillieance and train myself as much as I could because I'm playing fierce warrior in the film who fights till the end. So for me to transform myself into warrior is quiet difficult because the kind of person I'm, for me it was not easy. My character does not talk much she only talks through her action and she is very trust worthy ally and friend of Rani.
The script must have demanded you to learn horse riding and sword fighting. Was it physically draining to pull off the action sequences?
Action sequences while we were getting trained I was lucky enough to get trained by the best. I was really really excited and I love my training. Obviously when you learn and get train it's very tiring especially I'm rider but it was really long due break on horse riding. When you do horse riding you get greeses on your thighs and buttock. It just pains a lot. Even with the sword specially wrist gets pain as you give your strength while fighting. So physically I used to get drained. I was shooting in the month of June July in Hyderabad under the sun on the ground. I have a very sensitive skin so it used to burned and peel off. But mentally I knew I had to get my best to get into the character.
You made your acting debut in 2012 with Bengali film Teen Kanya and later in 2014 in Punjabi film Yoddha. What took you so long to break into Bollywood?
To this there are many reasons why I took a long break. All this while it was not that I was not working but yes with Bollywood it's just take your time. I was working as a lead actor in a horror film half shoot was over but demonetisation and all this happened and the film didn't happened. And then later I was looking for something exciting to be a part of like I'm very passionate about acting and it's just not about getting famous and all I always believe in script and the people and the team. I was working by my gut whether a small project or big and this was one of the reason. Also as I'm not from film fraternity. Yes I took little more time and second reason was I was unwell for 6 to 8 months and that was something that kept me away from Mumbai city because my family had called me back home. Whenever there is a break in your career it takes more efforts to come back because Bombay is the city filled with lots of good actor now with Manikarnika it's all worth it.
Manikarnika has been in news for the wrong reasons. From Sonu Sood's exit to Kangana taking over director's seat to budget going overboard to facing opposition from Karni Sena. Did it ever make you feel that you shouldn't have been a part of the film while all this was happening?
Honestly, I feel hats off to the entire team of Manikarnika right from Zee Studios to core team we believed in the project that needs to see the light of the day. It was not an easy film to make because there was ed's who got replaced. The only thing was commendable was the team spirit that wanted to finish the film be it Kangana, Krish, and all other actors because all of us used to adjust with being under the sun and climax scenes with all of this chaos I never felt to leave it's a great film to be part of and it's amazing not just the script but all because of people engaged in this film who were from different parts of the world. I have some good memories. Every project comes with new learning.
It is being said that Kangana has been dominating on the sets and fiddles with co-actors' role. Did you ever feel that Kangana was not giving you enough freedom to showcase your skills in front of the camera?
To be very honest, it's is Kangana's film because to play jhansi ki Rani is not a easy thing as she was the freedom fighter and all of us were adding value to her biopic. Kangana was very clear what she want as fast as character is consider every one were given the kind of space they were meant to be given. When she was directing for a month I felt she was actually transforming herself from actor to director and vice versa. But as fast as scenes were concerned she used to appreciate the performances. Even as a co actor and as a director she was very supportive.
Did you enter the modelling world considering it as a stepping stone aspiring to become an actress?
Yes, I always wanted to become an actor since I'm not from film fraternity so the best way to get into the industry was Miss India because it is the platform that makes you more reachable in the industry as a fresh talent and eventually when you put all your hard work to become and actor is another story altogether. Because modelling and acting are two different thing. Always we come across the same but the feel is different. I think modelling is much easier than acting as acting can be quite tedious in terms of psychologically because as far as playing a character is concerned one needs to bring out their best. So yes I was modelling to become an actor only.
Who do you look up to in the film industry?
Since I'm a miss india I grew up watching all the Miss Indias. Among them one of the miss India is an actor who I look up too she is Priyanka Chopra I feel she is fantastic, fantastic to another level as an actor as a professional. Like her journey from Barelli to becoming Miss India and from there to be a versalite actor. And now international star. For me she is a great inspiration. The kind of work she does I really get attracted. I really look up to her.
Do you think your role in Manikarnika will help you get recognition in the industry?
I think as an actor first of all Manikarnika is a very special film. Very close to my heart because I learned a lot. Because it's such a great film with great actors in it. To play myself in those five six minutes was quite difficult honestly because the kind of screen space I could get as far as scenes and dialogues was concerned. I had no choice but to perform my best. So as an actor I want to get recognized as an actor. I think I have done my part a bit. It's now about the people who will tell me if they are liking me or not. Fortunately things are going well I'm getting lots of calls and wishes because everyone is liking my performance and that's what I wanted. So yes I think people are recognizing me as mundar. It feels great.
Lastly, any new projects in the pipeline?
There are lot of things coming my ways in digital space. But I'm looking up string in Bollywood. So if anything comes with good performing script I'll definitely go for it.