Anu Bhatt is a multilingual actress and Bharatanatyam dancer based in Los Angeles. A love of performance led her to get her undergrad at UC Berkeley, MFA from CCPA/Roosevelt in Chicago, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate from UCSD. After signing with an agent at her end-of-year showcase, she became a SAG-AFTRA member three years later. Now, her credits include The Seagull (Masha) at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, premiering and touring her one-woman show Hollow/Wave, creating and award-winning first short film, AutoCorrect, and currently, her second short film, Crossing the Desert, which is in pre-production. Throughout her career, Bhatt found maintaining a resilience-based mindset proved valuable to fighting against cultural norms as she pursued the arts. Her advice to young artists? “Growth mindset, growth mindset, growth mindset. I can't say it enough… it's not only okay to fail, it's normal and necessary…” Read on to learn more about Anu Bhatt and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Anu ("Uh-N-u") Bhatt
Heritage: South Asian/Indian
Hometown: San Diego
Current City: Los Angeles
I am currently in pre-production for my second short film, Crossing the Desert. I'm also practicing self-tapes so that when things pick back up again I'll be ready. I'm ALSO doing content creation for my Instagram channel(s) that combine acting and languages.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
I just played Masha in Future Home Productions' The Seagull at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. It was an opportunity that came at the perfect time to practice growth mindset and deeply connect to my scene partner(s). I love sharing my life experiences, so premiering and touring my one-woman show Hollow/Wave, and creating my award-winning first short film, AutoCorrect, are other favorite credits. I would also love to play more Shakespearean characters: Iago is a favorite, as well as Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Growth mindset, growth mindset, growth mindset. I can't say it enough because it took me so long to even be aware of how I was comparing myself to others and always thinking "why not me?" I started creating my own work, but I also had to shift my mindset into believing 1) I still have time, I'm not "behind" or "lost"; and 2) that it's not only okay to fail, it's normal and necessary so that I can remember that I'm a human and normal like everyone else.
How did you get your start?
I got an agent through the end-of-year showcase at my MFA program at Chicago College of Performing Arts/Roosevelt University in 2013, and I started auditioning for TV and commercials. But before that, I was already acting onstage, and I've done that since I was in middle school. I worked on many union and non-union theater projects in Chicago, and I became SAG-AFTRA in 2016 after several day player roles and a national commercial.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
Telling my story onstage or onscreen is incredibly empowering and memorable. When I premiered my one-woman show Hollow/Wave at Silk Road Rising in Chicago, I felt I had come into my own. I got that feeling again when I first saw my own short film (and my face) on the big screen at my first film festival. When people tell me I've made a positive impact in their lives, it feels like I have fulfilled my purpose.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Maintaining a resilient mindset. My mind can be my biggest enemy. It's taken me years (I mean like 20 years) to even develop a growth mindset and to recover from perfectionism. I not only come from a cultural background that is entrenched in structure and traditional career paths like doctor, lawyer, engineer, but I experienced significant trauma in my childhood. As a result, I have to work daily on my mental health and watch that feeling of imposter syndrome and inadequacy.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I speak multiple languages, and I am obsessed with Linguistics. I love analyzing words, letters and sounds in different languages. Often I'll find myself lying in bed and think "but wait, why is that word like THAT and not like THIS?" That is truly a proud nerd moment. I majored in Linguistics in undergrad, and I speak French fluently. I speak Spanish, Hindi, Bengali and Korean NOT fluently!
Who do you admire?
My mom. Her resilience, her self-sacrifice, her goodness and her belief in the goodness of others. Not many people have that grit or that genuine-ness.
Did you always want to be in the arts or did you have another path before you got here?
I thought I would become a translator and work at the United Nations. When I got a full-ride to the MFA program at Roosevelt, I felt it was meant to be and I followed that path. But I could have ended up a professor of French!
When did you know you wanted to have a career in the arts?
I've always wanted to be an actor. When I was little I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and play out scenes with myself.
Is where you are now where you thought you’d be?
Not exactly? I thought by this age I'd be acting opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. But in a way, I know and love myself far more than I used to, and so that's an incredible success right there.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
I taught French, as well as theater in French, to kids, and have tutored adults in French as well. I also taught English online throughout the pandemic.
Do you have any other “special skills?”
I'm an Indian classical dancer (Bharatanatyam).
Do you have any side projects you’d like to highlight?
I'm growing my Instagram brand as someone who mixes language lessons with entertaining stories. So you might see me publish reels with stories about name pronunciation and how stress placement is important, using life anecdotes and funny characters.
If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?
Work ethic. My parents work so hard and have instilled in me the honor in doing the work and helping others. This has helped me to build community as an actor. My mom never stops putting one foot in front of the other. She has taught me what it means to just keep trying, even if you have to sit down, get back up and try again. My dad has spent hours investing in my mental wellbeing, by helping me develop a "big-picture" view of who I am outside of this career, and how to be a human rather than "just" an actor.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
You are capable. You are worth it. You are a little warrior. Keep going.
Where did you study at?
I went to undergrad at UC Berkeley, got my MFA from CCPA/Roosevelt in Chicago, and my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate from UCSD.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Learning to sit with my anxiety and depression.
What are some goals you hope to achieve?
I want to be on a successful TV show, earning those residuals and making an income that lets me not worry about a side job anymore.
What do you love most about what you do?
Acting is about representing life as it is: the profundity and banality of humanity and relationships, the mess, the success, the brief glimpses of light amidst the darkness. These are the most amazing and relatable things to represent onstage or on screen. I'm obsessed with watching incredible actors depict this in my favorite shows and plays, and I hope to be able to do more of this in the future.
What helped you most to rebound from what you considered your biggest failure or mistake in your career?
The pandemic, ironically. I was burning out in 2019, not knowing why I was acting anymore. I was just going through the motions, hoping to "make it". Thanks to the pandemic, I took a "reset" from acting. I stepped away, returned to teaching, and started writing screenplays. My gut said this was the right thing for me, but of course my mind was like, "you are losing time, girl! You're old! Everyone is gonna be a movie star when things open up and you will be a nobody!" But when things opened up, I had reframed my relationship with acting and this creative career. I had more curiosity, less jealousy of others, and more willingness to play. I started enjoying the self-taping process (imagine!). I started learning from others rather than always thinking "why not me?" I started pouring into community-building with a focus on helping others rather than gaining for myself, knowing that the result is mutual growth and help.
How do you deal with performance anxiety?
I try to trust myself more, and to remind myself that each performance is just one iteration of the character that I'm playing. There is no "perfect" and there is no "final product". That said, I do put in hours of work into memorizing my lines, answering questions about my character, and investing in the relationship my character has with other characters in the story.
Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?
I drink two glasses of water every morning when I wake up, then I meditate, stretch and do some morning-page journaling. This helps me settle into the day and set my mind right for what's to come. I had this routine before the pandemic, but the pandemic helped me to realize how fragile mental health is and how much we need to maintain it on a daily basis.
Do you have a favorite book/screenplay/script?
I love historical fiction. Two of my favorite books areMara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, andThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
Oof, that's tough because I have many points in my life where things changed permanently. One that I'll name is in 2010 when I checked myself into the hospital for depression and anxiety. It was a turning point where I was forced to face my mental health challenges and start the incredibly long and arduous journey of self-awareness, therapy and healing from trauma.
To find out more on Anu Bhatt, please visit her at:
Instagram: @iamanubhatt and @thedramaticlinguist
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