The trailer of Riz Ahmed’s feature Mogul Mowgli was unveiled last week and fans have been left excited for the feature’s release. Directed by New York based Pakistani-American film-maker Bassam Tariq and co-written by Riz Ahmed himself, the film is an existential narrative, based on a British-Pakistani rapper who, on the cusp of his first world tour, is struck down by an illness that threatens to derail his big break.
Riz Ahmed in a recent interview with Little White Lies, shared his thoughts on how the film and their respective lives overlap. He acknowledged that both him and Tariq are from different Pakistani communities, with one growing up in the US and the other in the UK, but at the very core there are striking similarities. “There are differences in the communities here and there, but essentially the emotional ground and experiences that this film covers are based on our shared experiences as diaspora artists who are trying to find a way forward by looking back,” Ahmed said.
He went on to add that the film deals with the inner conflict immigrants like himself, are constantly dealing with. “Looking back means confronting things we were trying to escape on some level and yet the source code, the map for navigating our way forward, is often in the past. This film is a bittersweet love letter to the home we are trying to run away from that is our destiny,” he said.
In many ways, it can be said that the film is satirising Ahmed’s own life and the film in several instances is taking “the piss” out of him. “Part of what the film is doing is taking the piss out of me. Your true self isn’t that persona, so part of what the film is doing is ripping the piss out of the persona. But part of the journey that Zed is going through is recognising that part of himself is illusory,” the actor said. He further gave an example of how self-parody has been an often used trope in Hollywood.
“I enjoyed that self-lacerating portrayal. It’s like when you watch Woody Allen playing a neurotic artist, or in Atlanta or Curb Your Enthusiasm – there’s a great tradition of performers satirising themselves because at the heart of that experience there is some insight they want to share,” he said. During the interview, he was also asked why he didn’t take the Good Will Hunting route, wherein Matt Damon had written his role as that of a genius who seems to be doing well in his romantic life. Ahmed highlighted that the “idea of self” at this point, is still very much alien to those in diaspora.
“Maybe it’s our limiting self-belief that we can’t see ourselves as genius superheroes who are great with the ladies. But for whatever reason that template, that idea of self, isn’t available to us in the diaspora. We are not yet super heroes. There isn’t that herculean template for us but there is – perhaps as there was with the Jewish or Italian diaspora – something messier, grittier, more complicated and surprising,” he said.
We can’t wait to see Riz Ahmed in this production whenever it releases!