To play a dead man in major part of a film with no dialogue to deliver may not be a role to die for. But, by playing Osama bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow’s five-Oscars nominated Zero Dark Thirty (ZD30), Indo-British actor Ricky Sekhon has played role of a lifetime and feels “happy” to have contributed to a film that “can get people talking about issues affecting us in world conflicts”.
The Southall-born Sikh actor, who has his roots in Patiala, talks to HT City about playing the al-Qaeda chief in ZD30, which was partly shot in and around Chandigarh in February last year.
“When preparing I was given the advice not to think too much about my perception of politics — this could sway the reaction I would portray — and focus on the basic character motivation at that point in time,” says the 29-year-old who has a drama degree from Royal Holloway, University of London.
“But after research, which included a lot of political commentary and opinion, it was hard for me to stay objective. Learning about al-Qaeda, Wahhabism, Qutbism, Political War, Religious War and Cosmic War was not something I would have done unless absolutely forced to. But having said that, I am extremely glad I did. Not just because I feel I know much more about it than most people would care to but also because it’s nice to be able to pick through all the bull**** we are so readily fed,” says Ricky who also played henchman of Abu Hamza al-Masri in David Baddiel’s 2010 comedy The Infidel, and had quoted in NYT that he’s graduating “through the ranks of terrorists”.
On the risk of being typecast, the Punjabi Londoner feels it is all relative: “There are probably less (leading) roles that Asian actors would conventionally be cast in, but there are also significantly less of us going up for them. In Britain, as things are getting much more multicultural, observing that when casting for film and TV is of utmost importance to stay relevant. In the years since the London bombings happened, I auditioned for the part of one of the bus bombers, but didn’t get it. It’s no secret that I will go up for negative roles throughout my career. I just hope that is not the extent of it — as I have a lot more to offer.
I started my career in comedy which, I think, is my forte.”
And when it comes to Bollywood, Ricky is “a little overwhelmed by the sheer output of the industry”.
“I respect the industry and understand how competitive it must be to make your film stand out amongst them all to get the audiences in. I have screen-tested in India before — for casting director Seher Latif — who cast some of the Indian actors on ZD30,” says Ricky who “would love the chance to act in a Hindi or Punjabi film”.
“But I would only consider it if I lived in India for some months prior to the film to learn Hindi. I was trained in acting, but not in dance or singing, so that aspect of Bollywood would be particularly testing for me,” says the actor who started his acting career with National Youth Theatre in London.
The actor, who tries to visit India every one or two years, loves “visiting family in Patiala, site-seeing and shopping”.
“There is so much you can do in India but because of work commitments I never get to stay longer than a week,” he says.