It was great to spot cricketer-turned-actor Salil Ankola on the screen once again, in the recent Vidyut Jammwal-starrer, The Power. The former Indian fast bowler may be 52, but he looks not a day older than mid-thirties, essaying a hunky bodyguard to one of the key characters in the Mahesh Manjrekar film.
The role may have been a short one, but it somehow defines Ankola’s career — in showbiz as well as cricket. He is always been around and you can never quite ignore his towering persona.
Right now, Ankola is Chairman of the Senior Selection Committee of Mumbai Cricket Association. It is a job he was appointed to in December and he is happy to have “returned to the game after a long time”.
“I have been appointed about two and a half months back now. I was appointed on 16th of December. It feels good (that I) returned to the game after a long time. My team is doing well,” Ankola told IANS.
Ankola has reasons to feel ebullient about his new post. Life as a cricketer, as well as an actor subsequently, hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride all along. He started out on a high representing the country in 1989, incidentally in the same tour of Pakistan as Sachin Tendulkar. Ankola was 21 then.
Most pundits felt he had the capability to do a lot for India, but Ankola had to call it a day at the age of 28, due to a sudden development of bone tumour in his left shin bone, owing to which he could not run for two years.
Opportunities, however, were waiting in a very different area. It was at this stage, after all, that Ankola moved into the world of the screen for work.
He started gaining visibility especially on the small screen. Since the late nineties, he has found brisk work on television. Over the decades, he has been seen on shows such as Saturday Suspense (1997), Lekin… Woh Sach Tha (1998-2000), Rishtey (1999), Noorjahan (2000-2001), Ssshhhh… Koi Hai (2003-2004), Vikraal Aur Gabraal (2003-2004), Zindagi Teri Meri Kahani (2005), CID: Special Bureau (2005-2006), Ak…tion Unlimited Josh (2006), Pyaar Ka Bandhan (2009-2010), Savitri: EK Prem Kahani (2013), Savdhaan India (2013), and Karmaphal Daata Shani (2016-2018).
His roles as Vishal in Chahat Aur Nafrat (1998-1999), Ravi in Kora Kagaz (1998-1999), his multiple avatars of Ranveer Rathore/Sandeep Jain/Shakti Singh in Kehta Hai Dil (2002-2005), and Mahen in Karam Apnaa Apnaa (2006-2009) were highlights that let him reinvent his stardom, from cricket to acting.
He had entered Bigg Boss season, too, but had to be evicted by the makers following a Mumbai High Court order. Ankola had apparently violated a contract he had signed with Balaji Telefilms, which barred him from participating in any show made by a rival production hous.
Ankola also had a Bollywood sojourn, but he is yet to score a big role. He has been seen films like in Kurukshetra (2000), Pitaah (2002), Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne (2003), Silence Please… The Dressing Room (2004), Riwayat (2012), Tera Intezaar (2018) and the recent Manjrekar OTT release, The Power.
Understanding his roster as an actor is important to understand that he has mostly stayed busy through the years, through thick and thin. He underplays his small role in The Power.
“I’m not trying to make a comeback in the movies. I have acted for 20 years now. I have been doing regular work for the past 20 years,” Ankola pointed out.
Yet, there was an undeniable dark phase in his life, even though he had no dearth of work. Around 2008, the press was abuzz with reports of Ankola being admitted to rehab care. According to a Mumbai Mirror report of November 2008, Ankola was admitted to a rehabilitation centre in Pune. He had become an alcoholic, which in turn led to depression, demanding treatment, the report further stated. He was back to a rehabilitation centre in Pune in 2010.
There was turmoil in his personal life, too. His first marriage to Parineeta ended in a divorce in 2011. She later committed suicide.
The tides changed for Ankola in 2013 when he met Ria Banerjee, a doctor from Allahabad he met on Facebook, according to the report. They got married soon enough.
Ankola has credited Ria Banerjee for tiding over his bleak period in life. They had a court marriage and Ankola has said that in Ria he found reasons to be “happy once again”.
Today, Ankola is back being occupied with his primary passion of cricket even as he does the odd role on TV or in web series to keep alive his love for acting. His kids have grown up, too. Patil’s son Chirag got engaged to Ankola’s daughter Sana in 2016, and were subsequently married.
In 2018, Ankola became a grandfather when Sana was blessed with a daughter, Riana.