First rule of trumpet-blowing. Never blow your own. Second rule: before blowing make sure you have the facts right. Even basic research is lacking in the effort to be the first one to get there…you know what I mean by ‘there’? On top of Google.
But to get there you need to be fair and square. So my point: while I applaud Riz Ahmed’s nomination in the Best Actor award category (how deserving, we shall soon know) I must hasten to point out that he is not the first Muslim actor to be thus honoured.
What about Omar Sharif the Egyptian Muslim actor who was not only nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor, he also won the award for his stellar performance in David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia. Omar was the first Muslim, the first Asian to win an Oscar. In fact, the role was first offered to an Indian Muslim, India’s most distinguished actor to date, the great Dilip Kumar.
I once asked Yusuf Saab why he said no to Lawrence Of Arabia. He softly replied, “With due respects to Mr David Lean, working in the West did not interest me at that point of time, or at any point of time. I was so busy doing the work I so liked in Indian cinema. There was no need to expand my horizons.”
Riz Ahmed is playing solid lead roles in the West which is a singular achievement. Till a few years back Indian and Pakistani actors were mostly cast as Asian cabbies. Unless you were playing a specific Indian/Pakistani character like Om Puri in My Son The Fanatic or Irrfan in The Namesake. Now of course, Indian and Asian actors play colour-blind roles in American films. Geraldine Vishwanathan plays ‘Lucy’ in The Broken Hearts Gallery.
Riz Ahmed is cast as Ruben Stone in Sound Of Metal. There is no mention of his Brown backstory anywhere in the plot. No hint of his Asian antecedents in his character. In that case, why are we celebrating his nomination as an Asian/Islamic triumph?
Image source: Instagram/rizahmed