Ankur Bhatia talks about taking his craft a notch higher with Aarya 2

After having appeared in films like Zanjeer, Haseena Parkar, it was the web Disney+Hotstar series, Aarya fronted by Sushmita Sen, that brought him to fame. As he kickstarts shooting for the second season of Aarya, Ankur says nothing comes easy in life, be it opportunities or roles. One has to be prepared to identify them early on in life. In a free-wheeling chat with the Cinema Journal, he opens up on how he keeps getting better at his job. Excerpts from the interview:

The underworld is a common theme to be spun into a story for web series nowadays. What is the USP of Aarya 2?

Underworld has been a common theme in cinema for quite some time now. The story is not entirely about the underworld. It revolves around a woman who is constantly battling all odds to save her family, be it managing the family business or handling deception from within the family. There is more meat to it than just the underworld. It talks about women of today and how strong they are. That is our USP.

I can’t tell you details of Aarya 2 as we have just started shooting. I want the audience to wait, watch and be surprised. I can assure you that this season will also keep you on the edge, and make you crave more. I hope to receive as much love and blessings from the audience as we did with season one.

Tell us about your experience of shooting the series.

The series has been shot in a 360-degree format without any action and cut. It was very organic as a scene was shot and finished all in one go! There are some takes that are as long as 30-40 minutes. It is more like a theatre performance. I have worked with other people before, but they have all shot films in a very traditional format. This is very new to me. It was a real challenge as an actor to accommodate myself in that situation. Every director has his or her particular style of shooting and bring their respective learnings and experience to the set. As actors we just have to perform and make it believable to serve the story.

What's your take on the portrayal of small towns in movies and series?

It is a very positive development in Hindi cinema that small-town stories are making such a comeback. We don’t always shoot in Switzerland anymore. Rather, we show and tell stories from small interior towns such as that of Bhuj or Bhopal. Indian small towns have a distinct flavour of their own and the audience is familiar with that milieu. So, when they view that on over-the-top (OTT), they relate to it, enjoying it to the core. They get the puns and laugh at the smartness of language. You see, you can’t bluff a town full of people from all ages and backgrounds. That is just not possible. The audience is very smart, you can’t trick them.

Has OTT helped the cause of cinema in India?

It has broadened the horizon in terms of content and variety. The theatre, obviously has its own charm but yes, OTT has no time constraints. You can switch it on whenever and wherever you are comfortable, and in the mood to watch something interesting. It is a big boost for everyone associated with filmmaking.

Does going to a film school help an actor prepare well for a career in cinema?

Going to a film school will definitely prepare an actor in a wholesome manner. A lot of people come to Bombay wanting to become a superstar, with no background or training in acting. They set very unrealistic goals for themselves. It is not that simple and you need to learn the craft. I am an engineer with a Master’s Degree in Mathematics. I have worked for seven years in the financial industry in New York, before I became an actor. In the transitional phase, I did 17 short films so that I could learn the craft hands on. There has to be a learning curve before you dive into any profession. Film schools definitely help with nuances.

How do you maintain a family life when you are always on the go — shuttling between New York and Mumbai?

It is quite difficult to maintain a family life when you are always travelling. Personally, I make it a point not to carry any work stress when I am at home. I segregate work and home. You have to develop this “switch on-switch off” method so that your family does not get affected. I also work in New York, in fact, currently, I am shooting two films there. We make it work at the end of the day, we make that effort!

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