'Shani' Fame Salil Ankola Talks About Cricket Career, Alcoholism, Failure, Divorce And Second Wife

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By Shefali Jha Last Updated:

'Shani' Fame Salil Ankola Talks About Cricket Career, Alcoholism, Failure, Divorce And Second Wife

His life is an open book. From being a cricketing sensation, a successful supermodel to battling alcohol addiction, separating from his first wife and spending years in rehab; Salil Ankola’s journey has been nothing less than a rollercoaster ride of battles and tragedies.

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Despite the entire trauma he has been through, Salil has successfully come out of his downward phase as a strong survivor. He not only took charge of his life at the right time, but also found a soulmate who pushed him to be the best version of himself. And today, lifting a blockbuster show on his heavy-weight shoulder (quite literally!), and producers lining up every day outside his house to sign him, Salil has definitely emerged as a superstar in real life too. In an exclusive interview with BollywoodShaadis, the man-of-will, Salil Ankola and his wife, Ria Banerjee, get candid on their life, failure, difficulties and love story:

On reaching new milestones in life

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

Salil feels that his wife, Ria Banerjee from his second marriage keeps him motivated and has reshaped his career all over again. On playing Suryadev, in his new show, Karmphaldata Shani, Salil shared:

“Initially, I was not keen on taking up the role of ‘Suryadev’, as I strongly felt I was not cut out for mythological shows. I always felt that the body language, and acting in mythological shows are generally very loud, something I knew I would not be comfortable doing. But, Ria convinced me to give it a try. I have had several arguments with the directors and producers of the show over the acting. I used to tell them not to teach me how to act. I know, how I would look good onscreen and have always maintained that style of acting. I have to thank Rahul (my director) and Ria, for convincing me to do this.”

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On being one of the most-loved contestants on the show Power Couple

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

Although Salil and Ria were not the winners, but Salil’s fans were too excited to see him back on the silver screen after a long time. Till now, his and Ria’s love for each other is talked about by many. When we asked Ria about how she feels on their life after Power Couple and getting all the attention from media and Salil's fans, she shared:

Ever since our Power Couple days, people have been writing to me and telling me that they loved both of us on the show. They ask me about the keto diets, recipes, send their regards. The fans have become a larger part of the family. Having said that, we don’t allow anything to affect us or our family. We are private people and would love to remain so.”

On regaining back the same media frenzy

Salil Ankola

It is rightly said that when one is used to the media paparazzi, too much and too little attention becomes difficult to handle. There was a time when Salil was one of the most desired men in telly town and then life hit him hard. But he emerged. He emerged as a phoenix in his own life. When asked about how he feels to receive so much of love from the media and being in the limelight all over again, Salil shared:

“Well, I have seen my cricketing days, the days of glory and glamour. I have dined with royals and big-wigs. I have had a successful career in modelling and acting. And I have also seen the other, negative and pathetic, side of the world. So, it’s always a great feeling to be here at this position and receive so much love.”

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On his first meet with Ria

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

If a lot can happen over coffee, a lot can happen over social media too! Yes, it all started with a friend request. Ria had sent Salil a friend request when he was in the rehab. He came back, logged into Facebook and saw many friend requests, mostly of young girls. And then he saw Ria’s... Next? Hear it from the man himself:

“We had few mutual friends and I liked her simplicity in her profile. I was sort of intrigued. And once we started talking I realised she was so true and innocent. I told her everything about myself, including the fact that I had nothing with me, except for a 100rs note. And she did not seem taken aback. She understood what I had been through and what I was looking for. Ria was unlike any other girl I had ever met. Once we kept talking from 7pm till the next morning continuously."

And now, hear it from the lady herself, whose simplicity made Salil fall for her:

“I had sent him a friend request when ‘Kabhi To Nazar Milao’ had released. And that was just randomly. I saw the video and many years later sent him the request. He accepted my request 1-2 years after that. By the time I had totally forgotten that I’d sent him a request. And as he said, once we started chatting on FB and then talking, there was no looking back. We talked a lot for 20-25 days. And since, I had also gone through a bitter marriage, I understood his anguish. I felt this instant connection with him and loved his honesty.”

She further added:

“I had gone to Pune for another job and met him there for the first time. He took me straight to his parents and told them he wants to marry me. They warned me against him but, I had already found my soulmate in him. I really loved him but because of the ugliness in my previous marriage, I was scared to trust anybody again. I also had my daughter with me so I had to consider her views too. But, since Salil had told me everything about his addiction, his tumultuous first marriage, the low phase in his career; I just wanted to be with him and care for him. I didn’t want to just leave him after being so close to him. So we went ahead with our relationship and got married in a private ceremony.”

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On the days he wanted to give up

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

Addiction is bad. Addiction is hard. Addiction is stubborn. There were days when Salil wanted to give up. But probably the intuition of a promising future ahead stopped him from giving up. Throwing more light on the same, Salil shared:

“A person becomes alcoholic or goes into any other form of addiction because of the surroundings and the people around him. When he does not get love for the way he is, when he is unable to express himself. When people around him think their life is better off without him. The same had happened with me. But, once I was with Ria, I got all the attention, care and love I ever wanted. So, yes, there were bad days, but, her love kept me going.”

We asked Ria about the same and how difficult it was to pull through the situation. To which the doting wife replied:

“Never. I was mature enough to understand what I was getting into. I wasn’t whimsical and it wasn’t an impulsive decision. We fight every day, but it never got to the point of thinking about of parting ways. Our kids laugh now when we fight, because they know the very next moment we would start talking about food. “Kya banana hai, kya khaana hai, kya le jaana hai?”

On how Ria helped him regain his self

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

It is true that people leave you at the time of your worst. This is actually how the world operates. While Ria shared that some people from the industry Salil belonged were actually supportive, others did not spare them. This is how the wonder-woman helped Salil cope up with life:

Even when I had met him, Salil was struggling to come out of alcoholism. He wanted to get fit and I realised that the best thing for him would be to move out of Mumbai for a while. So I took back my old job in Chandigarh and Lucknow. Once we moved there, Salil focused on his health and mental well-being and was totally off alcohol. The decision to move away helped him drastically. Since his kids were here, we came back to Mumbai once he was hale and hearty.”

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On what has motivated him to stay away from alcohol

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

Salil has been clean and far away from alcohol for a very long time now. When asked about what kept him motivated and going, he shared:

“When you turn into an addict, you lose your will to live. You harm yourself mentally, physically and professionally. You don’t have anybody you should live for. So, why did I have to think twice when I got a girl like Ria. Once I met her, it was an automatic process of wanting to stay alive, wanting to be better and wanting to stay away from any kind of addiction for her. It’s all destiny. Once I found her, I got a purpose in life. I found my inner spirituality and became aware of the powers of the universe. It all happened with me for a reason – the good, the bad and the ugly so that I could be a better and the best version of myself.”

On what attracted Ria the most about him

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

Ria gives it on his straight-forwardness. She further shared that many people find that annoying but she feels that it is the only trait an honest man can have. He has also been extremely supportive and protective of her, which every woman wants in her man. Ria shared:

“I get the feeling of assurance and relief when he is around.”

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On his relationship with his family when he was dealing with alcoholism

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

Our family members suffer the most when we are suffering. Isn’t it? When asked about how he dealt with his family back then and his present equation with his family members, Salil shared:

"Once sour things never go back to the way they were. But, nevertheless, we respect each other’s space and privacy. I am happy in my own life and they’re happy in their own.

On his relationship with his half-daughter Ishi

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

We asked Salil if he took time to break the ice with his half-daughter, Ishi. To which he replied:

“Absolutely, not! Ishi and I are closer today than Ria and I are. In fact, I am not that close to my biological daughter (Sana). Karan and Ishi are my lifelines, my life revolves around them.”

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On how Ria fares with her half-children, Sana and Karan

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

Ria shared that Salil’s both the children from his first marriage love her and have always been good to her. She further shared:

“Even when I had just entered their lives, they never misbehaved with me. I gave them the space and respect the deserved and got all the respect and love back from them. Now, Karan talks more to me than he does with Salil. And since, Salil is so busy nowadays, all the important matters, he discusses with me.”

On their ‘secret mantra’ to keep a relationship going strong

Salil Ankola and Ria Banerjee

We bet that the love they have for each other did not go unnoticed by anyone. When asked as to the secret behind both of them going so strong, the wonder couple gave us serious relationship goals. Salil shared:

“Give each other space. We know all our passwords, there is nothing hidden, no secrets. And once in every two months, we both go to a secluded place, without the kids just with our music system. We both listen to songs the entire journey and eat good food. We don’t talk to each other during those three days, just be with each other and enjoy the nature. And we come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. (If you’re married, you should try that too, sometimes!)"

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And Ria, quipped:

“You have to respect the institution of marriage. Believe in the power of love. Also, talk. Families are breaking because we no longer talk. Everyone gets busy with their phones, office work, and social media. They don’t sit and talk to those who matter. Also, listen. Not just hear, but listen when your partner is talking. And last but not the least, have no rules. I keep telling Karan to bring a wife but ask her not to bring any rules with her.”

Isn’t this a story of inspiration, life’s rollercoaster ride and success? It is really amazing to know how beautiful life can get, only if you want it to be that way. Salil and Ria, we wish you a lifetime of happiness, strength and togetherness.

Images Courtesy: Instagram

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