A FORMER Gurkha who was once shot in Afghanistan has found his 'second life' as he is soon to become the leading star of the big screen.

Growing up in Nepal, almost every household in Ritesh Chams' hometown had a family member who was an ex-Ghurkha. Ritesh, who now resides in Reading, was inspired by the tales of his grandfather's exploits which ultimately led him to enlist in the Royal Gurkha Rifles.

Following 11 years in the Rifles, Ritesh is now set to become the leading star in the film Gurkha Warrior which tells the story of 'the World’s Bravest and Most Feared Soldiers'.

Having never left his hometown before joining the army, Ritesh relished the opportunity to travel the world in a career that saw him visit 25 different countries. But in 2010, he was shot on patrol in Afghanistan, which resulted in him being medically discharged after more than a decade of service.

For Ritesh adapting to post-army life was a gradual process, but he used it as an opportunity to explore his other interests, channeling his energy into a commercial pilot course, and learning Taekwondo to a black belt standard.

Reading Chronicle: Former Gurkha and veteran of the War in Afghanistan  Ritesh Chams to feature in new film

But he believes that acting was what gave him his second life. After first performing on stage as a child, Ritesh graduated from Pinewood Studios' acting school in 2017 and has since worked on projects in both Nepal and London.

Now he has assumed the role of Corporal Birkha Bahadur Rai in award-winning director Milan Chams' new film Gurkha Warrior.

British troops were deployed during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) to combat a Communist insurgency against colonial rule. Gurkha Warrior tells the untold true story of a group of Ghurkhas who, following an ambush by the insurgents, embarked on a daring rescue mission to save their missing comrades.

The film is based on the memories passed down through the families of those involved and corroborated by historian and author Gordon Corrigan.

Ritesh described how filming presented a formidable challenge as it took place during the winter months and within the dense jungles of Nepal and Brunei.

The actor had to contend with 3.30am starts and bone-chilling temperatures. He also did many of his own stunts, including fight scenes and falling from great heights meaning even he could not avoid injuring himself on set occasionally.

On a more poignant note, Ritesh recounted the difficulties of being reminded of his time in Afghanistan whilst filming the combat scenes. Still, he admirably took it all in his stride as the team had to work around strict production deadlines hastened by the impact of the pandemic.

Reading Chronicle: Gurkha Warrior will premiere on September 10 in London

When asked about Ritesh, the director said they wanted 'to cast a real Gurkha'. The input of other ex-Ghurkhas involved with the making of the film and years of research has made Ghurkha Warrior, in Ritesh's words, an 'authentic and reliable account'.

Questioned on whether his experience in Afghanistan shared any similarities with those of his predecessors, Ritesh said he could relate to the good humour between soldiers. But he added that whilst filming, he realised the limited support and supplies those who fought in Malaya had compared to his own experience, making survival even more of a battle.

Ritesh spoke fondly of the relationship between Ghurkhas and their British comrades. In fact, it was a Brit who came to his aid when he was shot down in Afghanistan.

Reading Chronicle: Gurkha Warrior will premiere on September 10 in London

He hopes Ghurkha Warrior will give viewers a deeper insight into Ghurkha culture and tell the story of their experience in a way that has never been done before.

Proceeds from Ghurkha Warrior will support the Film + TV CharityThe Gurkha MuseumWalking with the Wounded and The Gurkha Welfare Trust.

It will premiere in Leicester Square, London, on September 10, and goes on general release around the UK on November 10.