Actor Riz Ahmed scripted history after he was nominated for the Oscars in the “Best Male Actor" category for his role in the film Sound of Metal. Riz is the first Muslim actor be nominated in this role. In the film, Riz plays the role of a drummer who loses his hearing abilities. “I’m honoured to be nominated by my fellow actors alongside such inspiring performances, and am grateful to the Academy for their support and encouragement," Riz said soon after his nominations on Monday. “Sound of Metal is about how a health crisis can cut you off from your life and loved ones, and force you to grow in unexpected ways. In a challenging year for so many, I hope this story can inspire us to forge new and deeper connections with ourselves and others."
“When you hear your own name it’s a weird feeling, I just quietly gave thanks and felt some gratitude … but when I heard (names of fellow nominees including Paul Raci and Darius Marder) I was punching the air and jumping up and down in my bed and screaming!," he said in an interview with the AP.
Riz (or MC Riz) started his acting career in 2006 with Michael Winterbotton’s Road to Guantanamo. He has acted in several films like Nightcrawler, Mira Nair’s Reluctant Fundamentalist Shifty, Four Lions, Trishna, Ill Manors, etc.
Riz Ahmed was born in 1982 to a British-Pakistani family in Wembley. His family had moved to England from Karachi in 1970s. In fact, Riz comes from a family of firsts. One of his ancestors, Sir Shah Muhammad Sulaiman, was the first Muslim to become the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court under the British rule over the undivided India.
Despite being a successful and highly acclaimed actor, Riz has faced enough Islamophobia. He recalls being ‘typecast’ as a terrorist at the Luton Airport when he was there to attend the Berlin Film Festival. His film Road to Guantanamo, story about group of friends being jailed and tortured illegally, was screened there and highly acclaimed. But what he faced at the airport was ironic. “I found myself as helplessly cornered, it was in a windowless room at Luton airport. My arm was in a painful wrist-lock and my collar pinned to the wall by British intelligence officers. It was “post 9/11”, and I was now labelled a Muslim," he wrote years later in 2016.
“As a minority, no sooner do you learn to polish and cherish one chip on your shoulder than it’s taken off you and swapped for another,” he wrote.
“Returning to the glamour of Luton Airport after our festival win, ironically named British intelligence officers frogmarched me to an unmarked room where they insulted, threatened, and then attacked me. ‘What kinda film you making? Did you become an actor to further the Muslim struggle?’ an officer screamed, twisting my arm to the point of snapping," Riz wrote.
At one point, Riz felt he was doing similar kinds of roles, a Muslim boy of South Asian background, be it Road to Guantanamo or Reluctant Fundamentalist. That is one reason, he says, that he moved to Hollywood from UK as he didn’t want to do roles that weren’t ‘intrinsically linked to race’. But there again he found himself in similar roles, like Naz Khan in HBO minis-series The Nigh Of where he is a again ashy Pakistani boy.