Utkarsh Ambudkar has come a long way from his start as a video jockey om MTV Desi and appearance in films and television shows such as “Pitch Perfect” and “The Mindy Project.” The actor, rapper and singer recently added a new role to his diverse repertoire: bad guy.
The Indian American actor plays Max Vora in the film, “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” He is actually one of two actors of South Asian descent in the film. Max’s girlfriend in the film – Lucy Gulliver – is portrayed by lead actor Geraldine Viswanathan.
The creative team behind “The Broken Hearts Gallery” viewed Max as a “Hugh Grant type.” Ambudkar, aware of the expectation of Max being a “Hugh Grant type,” wasn’t sure he succeeded in being this suave, sophisticated, desirable character. But he embraced the character, nonetheless. Max, indeed, is the bad guy boyfriend whose role is to facilitate the film’s lead character – played by Vishwanathan – to find her true love (Dacre Montgomery’s Nick).
“I don’t know if I succeeded [in being the Hugh Grant type], but my hair certainly did,” Ambudkar laughingly told India-West. “I didn’t really feel any pressure because Max’s function in the story is pretty straightforward.
“The movie is very much about the love between Geraldine and Dacre’s characters,” Ambudkar continued. “Max exists to set that love into motion, which I hope plays well. I don’t know Hugh Grant, but any comparison to his work on-screen would be most welcome!”
A central theme of “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” which releases Sept. 11, is being vulnerable about past relationships. Ambudkar said anyone who has ever been in a romantic relationship of any kind would be able to relate to the storylines of “The Broken Hearts Gallery.”
“I think in general this film does a great job of recreating a feeling that most of us are familiar with – placing our self-worth in another person’s hands,” Ambudkar told India-West. “I know that experience all too well (from both sides) and I think this movie does a great job of empathizing with that unique kind of heartbreak.”
“The Broken Hearts Gallery” is also a snapshot of today's relationships. There are so many types of relationships on display throughout the film, but there seems to be one constant: the formula for a successful relationship isn’t complicated.
“I think ‘The Broken Hearts Gallery’ shows us that while there are literally billions of different relationships in this world, they all really succeed for the same reasons: honesty, communication, and a mutual appreciation for ice cream,” Ambudkar told India-West.
As for Max Vora, there wasn’t much Ambudkar liked about him. He was the film’s villain, after all – he’s not meant to be likable.
“Well, we shot a LOT more than what ended up in the final cut, but as it stands, there’s not much that I personally like about Max. And I think that’s the point. He exists in this film to be disliked. If he was likable, I think it would confuse the main love story,” he told India-West. “Max and I are different in nearly every single way, right down to the shoes. It’s funny, I would ask [director] Natalie [Krinsky] in every shot if my feet were visible, because if they weren’t, I could wear my slides (sandals) and be comfortable. I shot almost that entire movie in sandals!
“I can empathize with Max trying to fill a hole left behind by his ex and missing out on what’s right in front of him.” Ambudkar shared with India-West. “I think most people have been on both sides of that equation.”
Ambudkar also touched upon the film’s diversity – with respect to the front-facing characteristics of the main actors and some of the supporting characters featured throughout “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” Two of the film's main characters are portrayed by actors with South Asian roots, but it’s not something that feels put in front of us, for the sake of diversity. The film is ultimately a normalized love story, one occurring in any American metro.
“The Broken Hearts Gallery” didn't feel like a coming-of-age South Asian story, but instead an American story.
“I think you’re spot on,” Ambudkar told India-West in agreement. “Diversity is a very broad term and showcasing it can happen in many different ways. On the one hand, we want to see/tell stories about our indigenous cultures. We want to celebrate where we come from and we want people to appreciate our specific cultural stories.
“It also means that we can just tell good stories, populate those stories with actors that reflect the real-world diversity that we already see – and in that way, like you said, we normalize the everyday world,” Ambudkar continued. “I think this movie aims for the latter, and hopefully executes that effectively.”