Ankur Rathee on upcoming films, making Marathi debut and travelling 4500kms to propose his girlfriend
In the past few years, Ankur Rathee has created a space for himself through a series of small but interesting roles in web-series like Four More Shots Please!, Undekhi, Made in Heaven and films like Thappad. As the 29-year-old Indian-American actor gears up for his Marathi debut, also his first film in a lead role, we catch up with the actor on his upcoming projects and his recent adventure to propose to his longtime girlfriend Anuja Joshi. Excerpts from the conversation:
Q: You were the good boy that everybody was rooting for in Four More Shots Please! and then you played a conflicted guy in Undekhi. How challenging were both the roles? And, what is it that you look for in a role?
Neither of them was particularly challenging because I had a strong team surrounding me. And, honestly the team - director, writer, producer, cinematographer and other actors - is a big criterion while I pick a project because cinema is a collaborative medium. Besides this, I evaluate the purpose my character serves in the larger scope of the narrative. I seek out a character that serves somewhat of a challenge for me as an actor, a role that pushes me to a place I haven’t yet fully mastered or explored. All that being said, there are no strict rules and if the story is important or inspiring enough, I want to be a part of it.
Q: Tell us in detail about your Marathi film, Nirmal En Route. What brought you on board and what are you bringing for your audience with this film?
Honestly, I was drawn to this story because it’s an uplifting one. I knew working on this film would be both artistically and spiritually satisfying, and it was! My character in this film embarks on a spiritual adventure and through his lens, I experience Pandharpur Wari first hand. The devotion I witnessed on this 21-day annual walking pilgrimage, which is over 800 years old and sees participation from over 1 lakh Maharashtrians, was awe-inspiring. This is the magical world in which our film is set. Unfortunately, that’s all I can disclose at the moment.
Q: Tell us about Sarabha: A Cry for Freedom. How challenging was it to play the iconic Bhagat Singh?
The film revolves around the life of the revolutionary Kartar Singh Sarabha. Depicting Bhagat Singh, even in a cameo role, was an incredible honour. This will definitely be my most visually transformative character so far. I look nothing like any of my other characters you’ve seen on screen.
Q: We heard you are working with Nagesh Kukunoor on his next project. Tell us more.
I can’t disclose any details about this project. However, I will say he is one of the sharpest directors I’ve worked with in my career. Picking his brain on set has been a privilege. So smart.
Q: You recently got engaged after a pretty dramatic proposal! When did you plan this and what were the challenges of executing it keeping in mind the situation that we are currently in? What was your original plan?
I knew I wanted to pop the question in 2020 but the pandemic threw a wrench in my plans. However, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. When I want something, I go and get it and so, I drove 4500 kms across the USA to make Anuja [Joshi] my wife. Once you decide what it is you want, you can start finding creative solutions to all the challenges in your way. In our case, the virus was the biggest roadblock on our road trip. My family and I decided to drive instead of fly to limit exposure to the virus, stop in cities with low COVID cases per capita, and eat and lodge in places following strict WHO and CDC guidelines. Four days and many bottles of hand sanitizer later we reached Anuja’s hometown to surprise her with an intimate proposal in the woods.
What was the reaction of Anuja?
She cried a lot. I hope from joy. And, then she said yes.
Q: It has been seven years that you guys are together! How did you meet and when are we hearing the wedding bells?
We met as co-stars on a short film 100: the Tribute (2014), directed by Raashi Desai and Siddhi Sundar. Anuja was finishing her degree at NYU Tisch and I was finishing mine at Princeton University at the time. The film is on YouTube in case you want to see how it all started for us! We’re in no rush to plan the wedding. Instead, we’re enjoying being fiancés.
Q: Lastly, what's the key to a successful relationship?
I have no idea. I think I just got lucky with Anuja.