Cricketer-turned-actor Salil Ankola gets candid about his life struggles, new show and more

Updated: Nov 16, 2016, 11:00 IST | Letty Mariam Abraham |

Salil Ankola, the once-star cricketer who quit due to an injury shot to fame through movies and TV shows, and then gathered infamy due to alcoholism. He talks about life and what matters most in a candid chat

Salil Ankola in Karamphaldata Shani
Salil Ankola in Karamphaldata Shani

Salil Ankola is no stranger to controversy. The once-star cricketer who quit due to an injury shot to fame through movies and television shows, and then gathered infamy due to alcoholism. The actor, who is all set to make a comeback with a new fiction show, 'Karamphaldata Shani', claims he is now two-and-half-years sober. In an exclusive chat with hitlist, the actor talks candidly about life and what matters most."

What compelled you to take up 'Karamphaldata Shani'?
I don't think there was any reason for me to say no to the show. I was offered two roles, but I preferred to portray Surya. Between my last reality show, Power Couples, and this, I was offered quite a few shows, which I am glad I didn't do. It took them time to convince me to take it up.

Salil Ankola with his kids
Salil Ankola with his kids

You say that your worst time is over. Do you worry about the future?
My time was bad because my perception of life was very different. The only possibility of bad times returning is if I go back to addiction, which will never happen.

So did going to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings help you deal with your addiction?
I don't believe in AA meetings. I went to about a 100 of them and they didn't work for me.

Salil Ankola with wife Ria. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Salil Ankola with wife Ria. Pic/Nimesh Dave

What worked for you?
Nobody knows what works. One day, this was in March 2014; I woke up on my birthday and decided to just quit. I was done.

Do you still consume alcohol – even if just socially?
It's been two-and-half years now, and I haven't touched a drop. I have a lot of parties at my house and my whole fridge and bar is full with the best liquor in the world, but I don't touch it.

Salil Ankola
Salil Ankola

What changes do you see in yourself now that you are free of the addiction?
My thinking, perception of life and my behavioural pattern has changed. I was not rational then.

Is there anything that you did then that you regret now?
That's one thing an alcoholic should never be doing. It had to happen. I didn't ask for it to happen — that's why alcoholism is not a stigma, it's a disease. Frankly, I can't remember anything after I was drunk. I've had blackouts for 14 days straight.

When you met Ria (second wife) for the first time, were you already an addict?
Yes, I was already in that state when I met her. We connected on Facebook. I found her through a common friend, Sangeeth Sivan, who I adore. I liked her and I said, 'Hi' and within 20 days, we met. She was in Allahabad, I was in Pune, and soon, we decided to get married. She knows everything about me, but she stood by me. Her family obviously didn't approve of me, but over time, they have accepted me.

When you look back at your life, what has been your lowest and highest point?
I can always get back materialistic things. But losing out on relationships was the worst thing I did. I lost out on my kids growing up years. My first wife passed away. I was not there for my mum and dad. But Ria came into my life and everyone has come back. My kids are more close to her than me.

Have you ever sat down with your kids and explained your situation to them?
No, it has never happened. I don't want to justify myself. It's done, gone and finished. It was never about forgiveness, I just needed them to trust that their dad will never do that again. That comes with time. I met my mum after two years, I entered the room and she sniffed liquor. I told her I am two years clean now and she believed me.

Do you feel that you've lost out on a lot of opportunities in this time?
I am lucky I am alive. That changes your perspective. I shouldn't have been.

Do you think the cricket world has been unfair to you?
I don't think they were ready for an open-minded person like me. I should have been born at least 13 years later. May be I could have played a little longer, but I had to give it up because of my injury. I stopped when I was 27. I was supposed to go for the West Indies tour just before the accident.

When you Google yourself, does the news bother you?
At least now, better stories appear. In between, it was all negative, about being caught drunk driving or my first wife and my separation in 2008 or other things like that. I was seeing someone else and I was happy for her because she was dating someone too. God knows what prompted her to take her life, but that was bad for me. I always wanted to quit but didn't know how.

Financially, how did things work out for you?
I did television but not when I was lost. There was a time when I was sleeping on the road or in my car. There was no stability. I didn't have a home, just a car, in 2011. At that time no one helped me.

Do you watch 'Bigg Boss'?
I watch it for Salman Khan. He's an inspiration, inspite of all the ups and downs he has been through, and it's amazing to see him now. He didn't have a godfather, even though he is an industry child. My friend Rahul Dev is there, so I'm watching it.

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