Sayed Ragab: rep­re­sen­ta­tive of sim­ple ci­ti­zen in Egyp­tian cin­ema

Married twice, jailed twice, fame ar­rived af­ter his 50th birth­day

The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page - By Tamer Fara­hat How did Sayed Ragab start? When will we see you in in­ter­na­tional cin­ema? Who is re­spon­si­ble for the theatre’s de­cline?

Sayed Ragab was born in 16 Novem­ber 1950. His ca­reer be­gan as an en­gi­neer at Nasr Com­pany, be­fore he re­signed and segued to act­ing.

He grad­u­ated from the Higher In­sti­tute of Dra­matic Arts and then worked for sev­eral years in the field of ex­per­i­men­tal and im­pro­vi­sa­tional theatre. He per­formed in Egypt and abroad and won the Best Ac­tor award in the Cairo In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Ex­per­i­men­tal Theatre in 1992.

He married a woman from out­side the art scene and gave birth to Amira and Zeyad. How­ever, the so­cial gap be­tween the cou­ple fi­nally broke the mar­riage apart af­ter 13 years. He then got re­mar­ried to an Amer­i­can woman.The cou­ple fell in love as she was fund­ing the band he was act­ing with. She en­cour­aged him to con­tinue his act­ing ca­reer.

Sayed Ragab, an ed­u­cated and well-in­formed artist by virtue of his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the po­lit­i­cal work of the Tag­amoa Party for some time. He said pol­i­tics never hin­dered him, but rather ex­panded his thoughts. He stressed that work­ing in pol­i­tics was not be­cause he liked it, but be­cause it was a duty to him.Yet, when he had to choose be­tween art and pol­i­tics, he went with art.

Sayed Ragab did not for­get be­ing tor­tured in prison dur­ing the era of Mubarak. He still thinks it was the hard­est time in his life be­fore he re­tired pol­i­tics.

He has par­tic­i­pated in nearly 50 works of art, the most fa­mous of which are films such as: We­lad Rizk, The Big Night, Lion Heart and se­ries such as: “Sun­set Oa­sis, Ra­madan Karim, and Afrah Al Kubba”, as well as Nesr El Saeed and Abou Al-Arousa.

Ragab is the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sim­ple ci­ti­zen as he is called, per­haps be­cause of his ap­pear­ance, which is very sim­i­lar to the sim­ple street man who suf­fers from the pres­sures of life.

Bet­ter late than never ap­plies to the great ac­tor Sayed Ragab, whose fame only started af­ter his 50th birth­day, and on this oc­ca­sion Daily New Egypt in­ter­viewed Ragab to learn about his roots and his path to fame, the tran­script for which is be­low, lightly edited for clar­ity: How did Sayed Ragab start?

I grad­u­ated from the Fac­ulty of En­gi­neer­ing, the de­part­ment of Au­to­mo­tive Tech­nol­ogy, and worked for a pe­riod in one of the com­pa­nies spe­cialised in this field.This com­pany in­cluded a team spe­cialised for all kinds of arts,from sport and art,and theatre and po­etry. This was how I be­came more in­ter­ested in art.

I par­tic­i­pated in the theatre team in small per­for­mances, and we per­formed a theatre per­for­mance called “Omna Al Ghoola”. It was at­tended by Hus­sein Al-Gritli. He pro­posed I join a new band that he founded named El-War­sha (the Work­shop). I agreed. Through this work­shop, I met di­rec­tors and be­came even more in­ter­ested in act­ing, es­pe­cially ex­per­i­men­tal the­atres.We were am­a­teurs but we trav­elled the world to rep­re­sent Egypt in in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals.Ev­ery year,I won more awards—it made me happy.

Why did your sud­den fame de­velop re­cently?

This was my fate.I did not seek fame. Some ac­tors died be­fore they be­come stars, but they died happy as they did what they liked.This is my goal in life.

How do you eval­u­ate your par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Gouna Fes­ti­val?

Or­gan­i­sa­tion, man­age­ment, and se­lected films were all ex­cel­lent. I was happy with the Ital­ian film.The fes­ti­val is a good chance to view in­ter­na­tional cin­ema, ex­change ex­per­tise, which would re­flect on Arab and Egyp­tian cin­ema, and boost co­op­er­a­tion be­tween artists around the world. By time, maybe we can even com­pete with in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals. When will we see you in in­ter­na­tional cin­ema?

I worked in a French film called “Dawn of the World” with an IraqiFrench direc­tor a few years ago.Gharabeeb Soud (Black Grows) was also a dif­fer­ent Arab ex­pe­ri­ence. I am wait­ing for a spe­cial role or an op­por­tu­nity that de­serves the ad­ven­ture. Hitler was pos­i­tively and suc­cess­fully re­ceived, why did you choose it, and was it dif­fi­cult?

Hitler is a new and dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter which at­tracted me be­cause of the con­stant con­flict be­tween good and evil. I love di­ver­sity in my work. The char­ac­ter was dif­fer­ent from my other roles,and it was the first time to play the Up­per Egyp­tian man. Part of the rea­son why I agreed to play it was the pro­ducer: El-Adl Group.

Apart from the char­ac­ter of Hitler, any char­ac­ter per­formed by an artist needs to be stud­ied to un­der­stand its di­men­sions. It also needs prepa­ra­tion and read­ing to learn all its as­pects.We all need to work hard to give the au­di­ence a be­liev­able per­for­mance.

Were you not sur­prised by Hitler’s name, which is al­most non-ex­is­tent in Egypt?

This is wrong in­for­ma­tion. This name does ex­ist in Egypt,but it is rare. Re­cently I met some­one who wanted to take a pic­ture with me. He told me that he loved me very much as the name of the char­ac­ter is the same as his nephew in Up­per Egypt.The name was more com­mon in sev­eral shows fol­low­ing World War II, and be­came a ti­tle for a lot of peo­ple, like Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser, for ex­am­ple.

In the se­ries, it is a de­scrip­tion of the char­ac­ter not just a name. The char­ac­ter por­trays sadism, Nazism, fas­cism and vi­o­lence.

Did you find dif­fi­culty with the Up­per Egypt di­alect?

Of course not. Ev­ery­thing is eas­ier with ef­fort for us as ac­tors, on the level of char­ac­ter, act­ing, or di­alect.As long as you can see and hear the di­alect and fol­low the in­struc­tions, your per­for­mance will be good.I hope au­di­ences liked my per­for­mance.

Af­ter Nesr El-Saeed some peo­ple thought you have Up­per Egyp­tian roots?

I was born in Cairo, my fa­ther was born in­Alexan­dria,and my grand­fa­ther is from Up­per Egypt. I am Egyp­tian, but I con­sider my­self to be a Cairean be­cause I lived my whole life here.

You have been as­so­ci­ated with many works of Mo­hamed Ra­madan. How do you see him?

Mo­hamed Ra­madan is dili­gent and tal­ented. Our re­la­tion­ship is only a busi­ness one,and I en­joy work­ing with him as he is ded­i­cated to his ef­forts. I worked with him four times in to­tal. We al­ways agree and meet, as well as ex­change views that con­cern work.

How do you view the suc­cess of Abu Al Arousa se­ries, and what about its sec­ond part?

I’m pre­par­ing to shoot the sec­ond part this month,for the win­ter sea­son. I ex­pect the sec­ond part of the work to be a great suc­cess.

It is a so­cial work and it is im­por­tant for Egyp­tian fam­i­lies. It deals with is­sues that ev­ery­one suf­fers from, as well as the ro­man­tic sit­u­a­tions wit­nessed by the events.

I am happy with my role in this se­ries, be­cause it re­vived my per­for­mance af­ter I was lim­ited to the evil char­ac­ter roles, which au­di­ences now be­lieve so much.

I took off the evil man­tle, and in its place wore a new man­tle in this se­ries. I did not ex­pect the pub­lic to ac­cept my role as a good and sim­ple man, suf­fer­ing like mil­lions of Egyp­tians try­ing to live their daily lives.

Why did you refuse to par­tic­i­pate in the White House se­ries?

The sched­ule con­flicted with the sec­ond part of “Abu Al Arousa”, and also be­cause the two se­ries are con­sid­ered long so­cial se­ries, and will be play­ing at the same time, so I could not work in both of them. In 2013, I ap­peared in sev­eral works at once, but I de­cided not to re­peat that again.

Why did you ap­pear in ad­ver­tise­ment?

Of course, it was ben­e­fi­cial. For me, it was a chance to rap.There is also the fi­nan­cial side, as well as work­ing with new di­rec­tors and ex­plor­ing more char­ac­ters.

What char­ac­ter do you think is clos­est to the real you?

This is a dif­fi­cult ques­tion, be­cause I leave my mark on all my char­ac­ters. Ev­ery char­ac­ter I rep­re­sent is part of my per­son­al­ity.

If we went to your pri­mary home, theatre, what does it mean to you?

Theatre is my first teacher, which gave me the drive to work in cin­ema and tele­vi­sion drama.

How do you see our the­atres now?

I am un­sat­is­fied about the cur­rent con­di­tion. I hope it im­proves. We should not leave this to artists, as they see the qual­ity of the theatre through the au­di­ence. When a new play ap­pears, and peo­ple go watch it, some talk about the re­vival of theatre in the play, which is un­re­al­is­tic.

If this is the real theatre, I hope it never re­cov­ers.Theatre has left Egypt 30 years ago. We should fol­low the theatre abroad and learn the tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies it uses, and how it im­pacts peo­ple and we should try to im­i­tate it here. Who is re­spon­si­ble for the theatre’s de­cline?

The theatre cri­sis is pri­mar­ily the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the state, not the pro­duc­ers,be­cause the pro­ducer in the end is only look­ing to profit.They call this weekly play theatre,as au­di­ences at­tend and pro­duc­ers ben­e­fit. But real theatre needs a fu­ture vi­sion in its form and im­pact on re­al­ity and as an eco­nomic sub­ject that can ben­e­fit the state. But I do not know what they want.

Have you been sad­dened by your work in ex­per­i­men­tal theatre for years get­ting fa­mous?

I did not feel sad at par­tic­i­pat­ing in ex­per­i­men­tal theatre at all, as I learned a lot. I still work in theatre. Most re­cently, I par­tic­i­pated in a play called “Last Sup­per” with direc­tor Ahmed At­tar, and it was shown at the theatre of the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity in down­town,Italy,France,Ger­many,Sin­ga­pore, and Bel­gium. I will soon travel to par­tic­i­pate in an­other play.A real ac­tor never stops learn­ing and awaits a role that can give him an Os­car.

Why have you writ­ten any films af­ter El-Shawq?

I wrote mini scripts and trained in writ­ing then wrote this film. I took it to many work­shops and acted in the film. I did con­sider try­ing this again, but, hon­estly, I am a lazy per­son. Even though I have good ideas, my time does not let me fol­low through with them, which is just an ex­cuse to jus­tify my lazi­ness.

Have you left pol­i­tics for­ever?

I think so.Af­ter two times in prison, dur­ing which I was tor­tured in the era of Mubarak, I de­cided to leave. Com­bin­ing pol­i­tics and art is very dif­fi­cult. How­ever, I still fol­low po­lit­i­cal events and have my own point of view. Pol­i­tics, to me, is a duty, not love.

MY HIGH­EST GOAL IN LIFE IS TO DO WHAT I LOVE

MO­HAMED RA­MADAN IS DILI­GENT AND GIFTED, AND OUR RE­LA­TION­SHIP IS ONLY BUSI­NESS

Ac­tor Sayed Ragab

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