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Ankur Bhatia: I am confident in my shoes, no matter who I share the screen with

Ankur Bhatia

A well-paying job in New York's financial sector is a dream, but Ankur Bhatia had different goals. He left it to become an actor. A chance meeting with Apoorva Lakhia drew him back to India. "Mumbai is like New York; the only difference is that people look and sound familiar here," says Ankur, who plays Ibrahim Parkar, Haseena Parkar's husband, in the biopic of the same name. He spent a considerable amount of time trying to find his feet. BT met the Bhopal-bred actor, who, after a bit role in 'Zanjeer' and a supporting role in 'Sarbjit', is ready for his third outing. Excerpts... It's hard to recall the work that you have done so far. Could there have been a better start? Yes, but let's look at the positive side — I had a decent start. I'm not from a film family to get a crackling launch. 'Zanjeer' was a stepping stone in terms of mainstream movies since I had done independent work in the US. I met director Apoorva Lakhia while I was in America. I returned to India but he didn't have work for me then. I spent two months meeting people, but nothing worked out. The day I was about to leave Mumbai, Apoorva cast me in a role that had been abandoned by another actor. It was a five-day shoot that took 18 months. I did two Telugu films in the interim. Those three films became my learning grounds. Then came 'Sarbjit' for which I grew a beard and put on weight since the character had an age graph. I got decent reviews, but no one recalls me because of my look. That movie, and working with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda and Richa Chadha filled me with confidence. How did you land a role in 'Haseena Parkar'? I met Apoorva when he was planning it. He told me that although I fit the bill appearance-wise — Ibrahim Parkar was also 6 feet tall — I needed to audition. He also made me do thorough research. I went over to Jairaj Lane where the family stayed and Ibrahim ran a restaurant, the only vegetarian eatery in the Muslim-neighbourhood that catered to Maharashtrian mill workers. Given his physique, he also doubled up as a Bollywood stuntman. He used to mimic actors and tease Haseena. He had a swagger and held his own wherever he was. He was a lovely, lively guy. I had a different picture of him in my head when I landed the film. Ibrahim is a pivotal part of Haseena's story, and I earned the role for myself. While working with actresses like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Sarbjit') and Shraddha Kapoor ('Haseena Parkar'), does their star power intimidate you? Once you start shooting, everything changes. During 'Sarbjit', I was a tad nervous while I was in the vanity van, but once I stepped out, I started seeing everyone as the characters they play. Aishwarya was Dalbir and I was her husband. It's only because of that attitude that I could hold her hand firmly and tell her, 'Aaj gayi, to phir wapas mat aana.' That scene looks convincing because I wasn't intimidated. My first big scene with Shraddha in 'Haseena Parkar' was our wedding night sequence, but since we had a comfort zone, it fell into place. I understand that I am an actor and so are the others. I am confident in my shoes, no matter who I share the screen with. Is the industry more open to newcomers now? There are more avenues for newcomers and auditions have made the casting process more transparent, but there's still time for the dust to settle. Auditioning for roles worked for me, but there are many aspirants who are not so lucky. When I look back, I feel that my story is similar to Urmila Matondkar's in 'Rangeela' — she goes from being a background dancer to the leading lady. I was in a similar space in 'Zanjeer' and today, I'm playing a pivotal role. Has your family come around with your change in profession? My father was aghast when I left my job in America, but later, he and my mother came around. After I returned to India, my father suffered a cardiac issue and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. So, thanks to this job, I was here when my parents needed my brother and me the most. That's why I believe that everything happens for a reason.


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