Alyy Khan: Finding the truth in a complex family drama

Alyy Khan as Bashir in Mogul Mowgli
Alyy Khan as Bashir in Mogul Mowgli



ALYY KHAN is one of the few actors who has been able to successfully balance working on film and television projects in India, Pakistan and the west.

Whether it has been as part of challenging drama serials or high-profile films, the versatile performer has always been able to give each project an extra edge.

His latest release is British movie Mogul Mowgli, where he plays the key role of the lead protagonist’s father, in a story about a rapper on the verge of a big break who suddenly develops a debilitating illness.

Riz Ahmed has co-produced, co-written and stars in the drama, which was recently screened at the London Film Festival and is on general release now through BFI distribution.

Eastern Eye caught up with Alyy Khan to talk about acting and his new film.

You have played a wide array of characters, but which one is closest to your heart?
It is definitely the character of Hamlet. It was in one of the last plays I did with my late guru, the amazing Hima Devi. The production had costumes by India’s first and only female Oscar winner Bhanu Athaiya. It was a memorable experience.

Tell us about Mogul Mowgli and the role you play in it?
This film is a personal insight into the insecurities of people and the difference between generations. I play the father to (lead character) Zed, who is unexpectedly faced with a life-altering situation. My challenge with this role was to try and understand the fragility of relationships. Riz Ahmed has been a driving force of this film.

What do you like about him as an actor?
I like his spontaneity and how he really understands his craft. He worked really hard on this film.

Which is your favourite moment in the movie?
There are a lot of great moments in this film. I particularly enjoyed the rap battles.

Who are you hoping will connect with this film?
I hope it connects with a wide general audience who have a passion for good cinema. It is a film about different generations, so will connect with both in some way.

You have worked with some amazing people, but who would you say was the most memorable?
Yes, I have been able to work with some great people, but if I had to single out one, it would be Indian actor Tom Alter. Despite being a veteran with an amazing body of work, the energy and enthusiasm that he brought to every scene would shame the most jaded thespians.

Does your approach as an actor change between the roles you do in film and television?
TV is more of a close-up medium, whereas film is more about scale, so most seasoned actors will understand the lenses and tweak their performances accordingly.

Alyy Khan as Bashir and Riz Ahmed as Zed in Mogul Mowgli (Photo: Rob Youngson – Pulse Films & BBC)

What inspires you as an actor?
A good script obviously, and one in which I think I could contribute in driving forth the narrative. That really inspires me.

According to you, what is the secret of a great performance?
A good performance is just being and searching for the truth. When you find that it all falls into place.

Why do you love being an actor?
I enjoy what I do and feel like I’ve never had to go to work. I get to meet new people and have fresh experiences with each project.

Finally, why should we all watch Mogul Mowgli?
Because it is a great film that everyone will be able to identify with and has a powerful message.

Mogul Mowgli has been released in UK and Ireland cinemas by BFI 

Visit Twitter @rizwanahmed, @curry_crayola and @BFI for more information.