Since long before Riz Ahmed wrote it, Riz Ahmed promotes Mogul Mowgli.
Ahmed co-wrote the feature film with Bassam Tariq. It was released in the UK later in the year 2020 and finally made it to the United States on September 3, 2021. This intimate film is an honest portrait of Ahmed’s greatest passions, rap music and identity. It also shows the tension that comes with living in oppression’s world.
The film’s surface has similarities to Sound of Metal. This role earned Ahmed an Acting Academy Award nomination in 2021. He plays Zed in Mogul Mowgli. Zed is a Pakistani-British singer who’s about to embark on a major tour, but his life is halted by a debilitating illness. He is forced to return home to his family and spend time with them, especially his parents Sudha Bhuchar and Alyy Khan.
Mogul Mowgli, unlike Sound of Metal is full of markers of Ahmed’s cultural heritage. He also narrates the story with his sharp voice. The film opens with Zed’s incisive verses about the colonizers and the colonized, a subject Ahmed mines endlessly for his own music, which features in the film.
You are often asked “Where are you from?”
You know, like “Where are you actually from?”
Although the question may seem simple, it’s not hard to find an answer.
Although I could probably tell them Wembley, I doubt that they would want it.
However, I won’t tell them any more because anything I have to say is incorrect
Britain is where I was born. I enjoy a good cup of tea.
Tea isn’t made in Britain. It’s made from my DNA.
Where my genes come from
They make my jeans there.
Send them to NYC. That’s where you stack the Ps.
The British flag was not something I liked as a skinhead.
The shits came back when I returned to Pak.
My ancestors were not from India, but India for me
My people created the West. We even made the skinheads swastikas.
Everybody wants their country back.
A map is necessary to get me back from where I came.
—Riz Ahmed, “Where Are You From?“
Mogul Mowgli allows you to see the creative journeys on its website. Ahmed recounts his hesitation in pursuing film and music, citing that so many artists were not like him. He wrote, “[T]he only thing that kept my going was not confidence.” It was an urge to communicate, to let out a feeling, and to be authentically me through performance.
For years, I felt too conscious of my role as one of few brown or Muslim voices in the arena. This awareness was helpful, because it meant I could let my creative curiosity go to bigger questions like ‘what do we need?’ and ‘what would I have liked’ when I was growing-up. It is now my intention to explore and I hope people feel liberated when I am able to do so.
Tariq, a debut feature director for the first time, is a strong, convincing voice, regardless of whether Tariq was a part of the diaspora. The film, despite Ahmed’s lyrics, doesn’t want to reveal Zed’s identity to white lovers, friends or antagonists. It instead keeps its conflict close-knit. It’s all about Zed, his religion, his family and his music. Partition caused by colonial India’s division into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where it was then called, is a generational trauma that Zed carries, but he never manages to untangle. This event continues to scar South Asians all over the globe.
Although it has a connection to actor’s life, Mogul Mowgli serves as a vehicle for Ahmed’s unique artistic voice. Ahmed’s role on HBO’s The Night Of has earned him critical praise and an impressive resume, which includes roles in Star Wars and Girls. Yet never once was he typecast or limited, and his music and identity remained vital through solo work and Swet Shop Boys. Many South Asian actors are looking for that perfect role. Ahmed’s roles felt right and were vastly different from others. Ahmed is the only person who can bring life to his tale — and he’s undoubtedly the man for it.
Mogul Mowgli now plays in selected theaters
Publiated at Sun, 12 September 2021 18:28:13 +0000