Ali Fazal Opens Up About Racism In Hollywood And Nepotism In Bollywood!
Ali Fazal is all set for his big Hollywood release. After making an appearence in the Furious 7, he now has the lead role to play in Stephen Frears upcoming film, Victoria and Abdul, which will explore the relationship that Queen Victoria shared with a mere munshi. In fact he was the last person the queen spoke to before she died! Ali Fazal will be seen opposite Oscar winning Judi Dench in the film.
We had the chance to catch up with the actor ahead of the realese of Victoria and Abdul. Read on the interview as he opens up about his Hollywood experience, his upcoming releases and about racism in the country and in the West:
How did Victoria and Abdul happen?
I think somebody had a long conversation up above Cloud 9 and the Gods decided that let’s have Ali Fazal play Abdul Karim. Umm… It was a long process honestly with lots of readings, look test. Stephen Friers, the director of the film, made sure that he grilled me nicely before choosing me for this part, almost to a point where I was delusional about it. But I think that was needed, you know, because of the kind of character this man is. I remember the day I got the part, after which we did not have any formal rehearsals which was very unlikely for a big production house and a film like this. But I think that is because of the way Stephen Friers work; he really trusts his actors once they are in. It happened last year. Then there was a month and a half of prep and three months of shoot.
So were you not grilled that much in the film as much as you were before it happened?
Yeah in the film also a lot of grilling happened, but that was me grilling myself more than anybody else. It was a very different and new process that I was put through. So I had to be up and about. We were reading a lot of stuff. I spent a month researching about a lot of things. The costumes, the handwriting, then reading Urdu… A lot of things.
That was my next question- how did you prep for the part of Abdul Karim?
Well, it started with a lie- the lie that I have read Shrabani Basu’s book. I did not read it. I consciously stopped actually. I didn’t want to have that one perspective on it. I think Lee Hall, who is the writer of the book, has given a very fantastic approach to it. It can fit in any time in history and yet it is a true story about these two people in the 1800s. The spiritual nature of the relationship between Victoria and Abdul can transcend all ages. Just to discover and understand that I had to read almost about 7 books, some autobiographies of people who were there at that time and witnessed this crazy relationship that spanned over almost 15 years. It has been a very in depth route to a story that has been neglected and hushed away.
source- the Indian Express
And it is great that we can finally see it, with you on it! There is a very evident tone of racism in the movie. Given it is the 1800s and an Indian is close to the Empress, it is not much of a shocker. But there still exists many examples of racism even now! Did you face any casual racism while shooting in the West now?
There is nothing like casual racism unfortunately. I wish there was because it is hard to remove racism from any age. There has always been racism and probably there will always be. But that being said, fortunately the kind of people and the artists I was working with were very progressive in nature. Judi Dench and Stephen Frears are experienced but they made me feel absolutely comfortable. But then I feel across the globe and even in our country there’s racism at its peak in so many ways. That racism is of course disguised in many other ways today while it was straight on your face back in the 1800s. All it took was someone to say, “He is Indian so he is less. He is a Muslim so he is even lesser”. But now we have more politically correct words.
"There has always been racism and probably there will always be!"
How was the experience of working with Judi Dench and Stephen Frears?
I just couldn’t have asked for more. It was divine! For everyone, there is a before and after phase. Meeting them opened a world of knowledge and experience. Stephen Frears is a legend in himself and I have grown up on his movies and the films of Judi Dench. For me, sharing ideas and notes with them were a dream come true. Till now I thank my stars and everyday of that shoot has been etched in my memory.
Stephen Frears also compared you to Shashi Kapoor…
Yeah I mean Shashi Kapoor is a legend. He will always be an evergreen star. And it so happened that Stephen Frears had directed with Shashi Kapoor . So that was something like a beautiful circle. I just hope I am half as good as Shashiji and I can do justice to the part. I already had a big responsibility of the Indian flag.
But I am sure you did a great job because the trailer looked superb and extremely promising..
I know but that’s scary because when you love the trailer, the expectations get even higher.
Is there any other Hollywood venture we are going to see you in?
Oh there are! I am very excited. It’s been a good time in London and then in America. I think the announcements will come soon for my American counterpart. We have 2-3 projects in talks with right now. I am back in India now and was busy finishing Fukrey 2 and a few other work here. So I will go back soon and start working and as we go along I will have a better idea of what I will be doing next. This year is packed up and I will be busy finishing the pending work here.
How did you juggle between Bollywood and Hollywood all this while?
I think I had very kind and wonderful producers in Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar. Excel has been really supportive. They shifted Fukrey shoot for 2 months to accommodate Victoria and Abdul so that I could come back and then begin with the whole team. We have finished Fukrey and now only the songs are left.
What are your upcoming Bollywood projects?
Fukrey 2 is definitely there. There’s also 'Tadka' with Taapsee, but I am not sure when it will release. I haven’t signed anything new. There is just another shoot with Amazon and Excel.
Oh so we will see you in Amazon Prime huh?
Yes, you’ll definitely see me there. We are going to finish it. And I am enjoying the release month. Then I will take a break.
And taking about the web, when will we see the baby’s face in Bang Baja Baaraat?
(Laughs) I don’t know! That you’ll have to ask the makers yaar. I’ve been after Anand also. Anand Tiwari, who directed the series, is busy with a feature I guess. I am really excited for him. But I don’t know. Let’s see. There were in talks about season 2 .
We just hope the Season 2 happens because it was one fantastic web series…
I know. I think it became too big a hit and all the people in it became famous after there and found very nice jobs. They’ve all gone here and there (laughs).
The last question now, what are the differences between the way Hollywood and Bollywood works?
Oh I think I would give Hollywood credit to have a democratic eye for talent. Uh and I think even though we have some great films coming up with good content, technologically we are a good 15-20 years behind. This is something that will only get better with time! But we are already on a global stage, at par with a lot of other industries. Slowly we are expanding and it is a good time. I mean I am happy to be a part of this bandwagon along with a lot of colleagues of mine.
"Oh I think I would give Hollywood credit to have a democratic eye for talent"
It is sad that a lot of good films get brushed past. But the times are changing and audience is looking forward to content driven films. Hollywood is constantly keeping the bar high. Nowadays we have so much access to Hollywood films that people are getting almost infected the good content and they want good content. So non-sensical cinema is being called out and people are not going to watch that. And good content is working. So we should trust this and in a year or two, we will definitely be proud of ourselves.