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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

New York City-based actor who was born in San Jose and grew up in Bengaluru, Rohan Gurbaxani, has been making remarkable but quiet moves in Hollywood over the past few years. Within a year of graduating from New York University, he bagged over seven feature films in 2019, including four acting roles in the following movies: action-comedy Chick Fight, action-thriller Knuckledust, and action thriller Red 4

Gurbaxani in the movie, Chick Fight.

Rohan has also worked with New York City-based indie film production company, Yale Productions, as an assistant on their films: I Used to Go Here starring Gillian Jacobs and Becky starring Kevin James which later went to feature in the SXSW Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival, respectively. With no lineage in the entertainment business, he charted his professional journey on his own merit.

In this exclusive interview, he talks among other things about his experience of being an Indian actor in Hollywood, his all-time favorite films, and his plans for Bollywood.

How did you decide to become an actor? 

I definitely did not have an epiphany moment. For me, acting is a cultivated passion, a gradual realization. From the very beginning, I used to perform as a dancer—from Shiamak Davar classes to participating in almost every dance competition in school. Looking back, I unknowingly always had a knack for performance but no inclination towards acting at all.

Fast forward to when I was a teenager and my mother randomly enrolled me at the Jagriti Theatre in Whitefield. I wouldn’t say that was the turning point, but it was perhaps when the seed was planted. It’s funny I had close to zero acting experience in school. Yet if you asked anyone from my adolescent years about what I’d end up doing in life, they’d say, “Rohan? He wants to be an actor.” The irony is that none of them, my parents included, had ever seen me act! Somehow, my complete lack of experience never stopped me from defiantly saying, “I want to be an actor”, even though deep down I had no clue where to even begin…

Luckily, my first sign of validation came in big. I got accepted into arguably the best drama school in the world—Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. It was only then that I remember telling myself, “Alright maybe, just maybe… something can be done here.”

Did you have to face any challenges due to being an Indian actor in Hollywood?

Fortunately, no significant challenges. I still have a long journey ahead of me but in my opinion, how you carry yourself is important because it eventually reflects in your work and the opportunities you attract. Having said that, the West is gradually realizing that we as a minority embrace an invigorating cinematic presence. However, I do not think the inclusiveness is snowballing at a fast enough pace.

Tell our readers a little about your role in the recently released comedy film Chick Fight.

All I can say is that I play the character Kye, a college kid on spring break who ends up at Alec Baldwin’s bar. Anna (Malin Åkerman) happens to be there at the same time for other reasons, and a conflict ensues between the three of us. 

Behind the scenes with Gurbaxani in the film, Knuckledust.

Tell us more about your role in the latest films Knuckledust, Red 48, and Confession.

Knuckledust is an action-thriller starring Camille Rowe, Moe Dunford (TV show Vikings), Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones), where I play a naive playboy whose wits get the better of him. I have two more films coming out in 2021, a mystery-thriller called Confession starring Golden Globe nominee Sarah Hay where I play a lawyer, and a cameo in another action-thriller called Red 48 starring Oscar nominee John Malkovich and Tyrese Gibson.  

Which has been your most memorable/rewarding project/role so far?

Although working with Alec Baldwin on Chick Fight was an unbelievable learning experience, I’d say playing Requin in Knuckledust was most rewarding, since there was more to play with and also because it was my very first role out of school.

Which are some of your all-time favorite films?

Into the Wild, The Shining, Lion, The Lunchbox, The Master, and many more. 

Who are some of the contemporaries who you look up to and whose work you admire?

Cillian Murphy, Shia LaBeouf, Ranbir Kapoor, and Jake Gyllenhaal are a few. Their work and perspective on life and the world around them resonate with me.

What are you working on next? What can fans expect from you?

Well, I am back on my home turf (Bengaluru) and just starting to tap into the Hindi film industry. I have some projects in the works, so stay tuned!

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 

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Neha Kirpal

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She has worked for over a decade in print, television, and online media. Her diverse interests in the culture beat include books, music, travel, films,...