A comedy about interfaith dilemmas gets SUBHADRA DEVAN in knots with its lead actor, Omid Djalili
BRITISH-BORN stand-up comedian Omid Djalili plays a man caught in conflicting religious identities in the movie The Infidel.
Born to Iranian parents, the 46-year-old has his own stand-up comedy (watch it on YouTube) and has appeared in small roles in films such as Gladiator, Sex And The City 2, The Love Guru, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End and Notting Hill.
The Infidel is produced by our very own Arvind Ethan David, who is based in London. In an earlier Life & Times feature, he said: “To do this movie and do it right was an important thing to do.”
At the film’s opening in Singapore in September, he said The Infidel “is actually very respectful of faith and people of true faith”.
“What it mocks is prejudice, fanaticism and people who use the teachings of religion for false purposes. Those people deserve to be mocked. In a way, the only rational response to a fanatic is to laugh at him.”
He added that the crew took care to consult the Muslim and Jewish communities in the UK during the making of the movie.
“Anyone who has seen the film realises that it is a warm-hearted, inclusive and tolerant comedy that respects religion. Only people who haven’t seen it decide to be offended.”
Here, Omid gives his inimitable responses about The Infidel, which will open in local cinemas tomorrow.
Wikipedia states that you’re the London-born son of Iranian Bahai immigrants, and you play a second-generation Pakistani from east London in The Infidel. Where does the versatility come from?
You’d presume it’s my love of people and cultures, but I don’t like anybody — especially you.
What was your first reaction to the script?
That only a Jew could write something so good.
Which scene was the hardest for you?
The scene in a taxi, talking to driver Richard Schiff while facing backwards. I had to stop four times to dry vomit.
Do you agree with the ending?
The ending is a bit like my stand-up act: Confusing, strangely compelling, and a sense of what could have been.
Any thoughts about possible adverse audience reaction to the film here?
Yes. Please love me.
Your best experience on screen to date?
The Infidel, without a doubt. Though it’s a close run with Gladiator and a dead beat Turkish character I did on The Bill.
How did you end up being born in Britain? Have you visited Iran?
You don’t choose where you’re born. I visited Iran in 1971. I wish I was Malaysian.
What do you like about doing comedy?
If middle-aged women in Essex like you, they throw their underwear at you on stage, ironically.
And dislike sometimes?
They do that everywhere else in the UK, but they do it without irony and a fair degree of spite.
If you had to give a career talk to students, would you recommend doing comedy?
No. Stick to law and taxi driving.
Tell me about your first show as a stand-up comedian.
People who were there said I wasn’t funny at all. But I thought the Groucho Marx nose and glasses worked very well.
Your best stand-up gig to date?
At a mental hospital for the criminally insane. They said they related to my act.
Your best joke?
Please leave me alone, I’ve said enough already.
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