Light side of play­ing an icon

In­hab­it­ing the role of strug­gle vet­eran Ahmed Kathrada was a long shot for doc­tor, co­me­dian and now movie star Ri­aad Moosa

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMOVIES - WENDYL MARTIN

opens on Fri­day and is an emo­tionin­duc­ing film.

It is by no means his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate but the film builds a good ten­sion over its two-hour, 26-minute length, sweep­ing from swanky scenes of 1940s Joburg to the town­ship blood­shed of the early 1990s.

The cos­tumes and sets are in­tri­cate and lav­ish. Naomi Har­ris’s Win­nie Man­dela is por­trayed su­per­stylishly on Joburg streets.

Most of the di­a­logue and ac­tion is be­tween Man­dela and Win­nie, who are por­trayed as char­ac­ters with flaws, dent­ing Man­dela’s halo of the com­mon imag­i­na­tion.

South African ac­tors are a lit­tle lower on the bill.

Co­me­dian, doc­tor and now TV show host Ri­aad Moosa is fourth on the bill, play­ing the role of free­dom fighter Ahmed Kathrada, a role Moosa sees as a great re­spon­si­bil­ity.

This is his sec­ond screen act­ing gig fol­low­ing his suc­cess with Ma­te­rial last year as fam­ily fab­ric shop worker Cas­sim Kaif.

“I got this role based on my work in Ma­te­rial. I did not say no to play­ing Kathy, I just de­layed giv­ing Anant a ‘yes’.

“I wasn’t plan­ning on do­ing movies. The role has a lot of pres­sure. I was a co­me­dian,” he says.

The shoot took place over three months start­ing in May last year. In prepa­ra­tion for the role, Moosa met Kathrada. “I spent a lot of time with him and it changed my per­spec­tive. Ev­ery­one knows the story but up un­til that point it was just words on a page.

“I be­gan to un­der­stand the sac­ri­fice. Free­dom is like air, you don’t

NEL­SON Man­dela’s story fi­nally comes to the South African big screen, aim­ing to draw large au­di­ences with its in­ter­na­tional cast­ings.

Anant Singh has done it be­fore with Whoopi Gold­berg in Sara­fina! Now we have Brit Idris Elba as Man­dela, a role that re­quires some ac­cent mod­i­fi­ca­tion, age­ing makeup and a young Madiba swag­ger.

Man­dela: Long Walk to Free­dom no­tice it un­til it starts thin­ning.”

Moosa re­flected on his time with Kathrada, as the older man de­scribed his po­lit­i­cal de­ten­tion as an “un­nat­u­ral so­ci­ety”, a place that left him with­out see­ing a child for 22 years.

Moosa pro­vides much comic relief in the film. Al­though he doesn’t have too many lines, the Kathrada char­ac­ter feels shaped by Moosa’s comedic wit.

“Kathy is soft spo­ken. When he heard that I was play­ing him, he asked, ‘Why Ri­aad? He’s a co­me­dian. What is funny about The Long Walk?’ He was witty and he did ease the ten­sion,” said Moosa.

He also watched videos of Kathrada and thought about how to por­tray him as a young man and then an old man.

Play­ing old Kathrada took five and a half hours of heavy make-up.

“I felt more com­fort­able with the char­ac­ter as an older man be­cause that is how I know him. The makeup adds size, whereas peo­ple nor­mally get frailer and thin­ner.”

Of Elba he says, “He is great. He is re­ally gen­er­ous. He will de­tach some­times but peo­ple re­spect that.”

Moosa had a brief Man­dela magic mo­ment in 2010 at a 46664 It’s No Joke show.

“He has a pres­ence. He was frail. He did not in­ter­act much but he did smile. It’s that in­tan­gi­ble qual­ity of his, when ev­ery­thing stops.” ● You can see Ri­aad Moosa next Sun­day at the fundraiser show Keep­ing You in Stitches 2 at the CTICC at 5pm.

NOW AND THEN: Ri­aad Moosa donned heavy make-up to play Ahmed Kathrada as an older man

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