Mumbai: The world of glitz and glamour usually brings name, fame and money but things are not as hunky-dory as expected for actor and auto-rickshaw driver Laxmi Pandhe.
Life changed for her after actor Boman Irani spotted her driving an auto-rickshaw at night on the streets of Mumbai, last month.
Posting a video clip of the encounter with her on social media, Boman shared the inspiring story of how Laxmi juggles two jobs — acting in Marathi TV serials, films and driving an auto-rickshaw.
It made her famous. A lot of people talk to her now and also ask for a selfie, she says.
“I do text him (Boman) once in a while with a ‘Good Morning’ message. I have never asked him for work and I know I can get work if I talk to him or ask for it. But I haven’t. In fact, I have never ever asked anyone to give me work. I rather follow a proper professional way to get work. I am happy and proud that I am a self-made person. I am content with my life and career,” Laxmi said.
Laxmi studied in a local municipal school up to class eight in suburban Mulund. As her parents were finding it difficult to make the ends meet, she dropped out of school. She was always passionate about acting but couldn’t muster the courage of sharing it with her family until one of her family members saw her in a TV serial.
Laxmi shares, “I was interested in acting but my family did not like it. I was crazy about every aspect of cinema, I love dancing as well. I used to dance in our chawl functions, during Ganesh Chaturthi procession, etc.”
The first appearance of Laxmi was in 2013 Marathi film “Jai Maharashtra Dhaba Bhatinda” followed by smaller parts in popular Marathi crime TV serial “Lakshya”, 2018 Marathi film “Mumbai Pune Mumbai 3” among others.
Recalling her entry into television and films, Laxmi says, “I had a passing shot in ‘Jai Maharashtra Dhaba Bhatinda‘, which I had got through a coordinator. My first ever salary was Rs 250 and I was over the moon. Later, I saw that film in the theatre and I was very happy. Sadly, I couldn’t share this happiness with my family.”
Laxmi continued doing few more passing shots without the knowledge of her family until her outing in the hit crime show “Lakshya” was accidentally noticed by one of her brothers-in-law.
“I was there for two-three different episodes in the show from a receptionist to a bar girl. When my brother-in-law informed my mother and three elder sisters about this I was very scared that they would yell at me. To my surprise they were all happy and proud,” Laxmi adds. Though she got a go-ahead from her family to follow her dreams the journey wasn’t easy for Laxmi in the industry infamous for nepotism.
“I did some small roles here and there in some lesser known TV serials and films, till I got the role of a maid in this popular Marathi film ‘Mumbai Pune Mumbai 3’ and ‘Project Marathwada’, in which I played a farmer’s wife. This film had Om Puri and Seema Biswas in the lead. I felt I would get more work in good films and will get prominent roles as well but that didn’t happen.”
Unable to bear the expenses of her family, Laxmi decided to take up other odd jobs like working with a beauty parlour and doing the nursing job.
“I have always got roles through coordinators and I had to give them 50% of what I earn from my acting assignments. We were not a financially stable family as my elder sister was diagnosed with cancer and my mother got retired from her government job, I had to contribute more money. I would take up acting work in between whenever something interesting came,” says an emotional Laxmi.
As she wasn’t happy with the odd jobs that she was doing, Laxmi decided to drive cab but due to financial reasons, she settled down to driving a three-wheeler (auto-rickshaw) instead.
She has been driving auto for a year and will continue to do so whenever she has no acting offers.
“I do not consider any job as big or small. I have done everything on my own be it acting or any other job. I am also happy that I did not succumb to some exciting offers in acting, where I was paid a lot of money but I had to compromise for it. For me, my self-respect is more important.”
“Hard work is all I know,” Laxmi signs off.