Actor Siddhant Karnick is known for his roles in Tv shows like Remix, Mahi Way, EK Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani and Pyaar Kii Ye Ek Kahaani. He has also been a part of films like Lafangey Parindey and Thappad, and now he is all set to make his international debut with Michael Steiner’s And Tomorrow We Will Be Dead.
The film is a hostage drama based on a true-life story of a Swiss couple abducted by the Taliban. In the film, Siddhant plays Nazarjaan, the Taliban commander in charge of hostage negotiations with the Swiss government. Ask him how the film happened to him and he says that he had to give multiple rounds of auditions. “I am not in a zone where someone comes and offers me a role. I have to audition for everything.”
And Tomorrow We Will Be Dead is the opening film at the 10-day Zurich Film Festival which flags off tomorrow. Ask Siddhant about his experience of working on the film and he shares, “I always wanted to work with filmmakers from abroad. As much exposure you get, your experience also increases proportionally. It’s a learning and evolving process that every actor aspires for globally. Everyone talks about working in Hollywood and I used to have the same kind of opinion, but when I got this offer to work with a Swiss team, I took it and what an educational process it has been. Just like the refined clocks that they make, they are also as refined and punctual on set.”
So, apart from punctuality, what difference did he notice between the work culture here and there? “The sense of mutual respect everybody has for everyone else’s job there is amazing. Here we are used to a hierarchy that translates to the set as well. Over there, everyone is given that sense of responsibility and respect that the time for their work is theirs only and nobody can take that away from them. That translates into the quality of work as well,” he replies.
Siddhant shot for the film partly pre-Covid and partly during it. He started shooting in Udaipur during February 2020. “In March, we had 10 days of shoot left when the lockdown was enforced and the team had to go back. And they couldn’t return to India thereafter, so we had to complete the rest of the shoot in Spain in December.”
Considering it is a hostage drama and Siddhant plays a Taliban commander, one must wonder that it must have been a dark character, but Siddhant denies it. “No, it wasn’t in a dark space. In fact, I had to come out of a dark space for it. We all have been given one narrative of the Taliban since 9/11, and shown them in a certain light. So, all of us, including me, have a preconceived notion about it and I had to come out of that for this film. I had to have a neutral stance and that’s where I faced difficulty,” he informs.
And that’s where he took the help of his father. “So, my father is a retired army officer. He had studied the Afghan forces a lot and he told me one very important thing that stayed with me. He said that one country’s terrorist is another country’s freedom fighter. We all see Taliban as an outfit of terrorism, but they see it as a movement of freedom. They have been in existence for so long and faced so many nations,” he insists.
Siddhant reveals that they intend to show a different point of view of Taliban through the film. “My director told me that he doesn’t want to show the Taliban in the way it has always been shown before. There is a humanity also in them that we don’t get to hear about. The story is a first-hand account of a couple who spent 290 days in captivity. Religion and politics aside, there is a relationship that has grown between us humans, and through my character, the other point of view of the Taliban is shown.”
The actor informs that his character is based on a real man who died in a drone strike in 2018. “So, it was another challenge for me since I had no access to him. I had to depend on the couple’s account and my director’s vision. There is not much research out there on him and David and Daniela (the couple) both had different views on him, so it was really tricky to commit to a single personality,” he confides.
Giving an example of the other side of Taliban, Siddhant narrates an incident from the set. “When we were shooting in Spain, Daniela received a message from one of her Afghani handlers that Nazarjan was asking about her before his death and hoped that they were well,” he shares, adding that to play the commander, he had to change his body language, voice and had to learn Pashto language, for which a coach from Afghanistan came to help them. “He used to sing Hindi songs with us and give us authentic references of the country.”
Image source: Instagram/siddhantkarnick