Actor Taha al-Mashhadani won the admiration from Iraqi audiences a few years ago following his role as Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Kareem Qassim in "Manawi Pasha".
Renowned Egyptian actress Samiha Ayboub has praised al-Mashhadani, describing him as "Iraq's Ahmed Zaki."
Mawtani met with Taha recently in Baghdad.
Mawtani: Describe your role as Abdul Kareem Qassim.
Al-Mashhadani: I played the character of Kareem, a silent man who was described as a mad man. He was not mad, but he was influenced by what took place in Iraq. He was a university professor, and he only used al-Sayyab's poetry in his speech.
In one of my scenes, I recited some verses of al-Sayyab's poetry: "The sun in my country is more beautiful than any other sun; even darkness there is beautiful, as it embraces Iraq." Afterwards, I noticed all the actors were crying. It was a very difficult character because my scenes featured no dialogue. Rather, they were expressions using movements, looks, and feelings.
Mawtani: What does Abdul Kareem Qassim mean to you?
Al-Mashhadani: He means a lot to me. It was the character that I played in "Manawi Pasha" series, and was the start of my journey to fame. After the series, I became known to Iraqi audiences and media as Abdul Kareem Qassim.
After the success I achieved with this character, I did my best to get past it by playing another role that was as good as Abdul Kareem Qassim. I played the character of Nizar Guevara in "Sanwat al-Nar". He was nicknamed Guevara because the name carried a revolutionary spirit that appeared in the revolution against the dictatorship in 1991 in the form of the Shaaban Intifada. I think the success with this character provided some balance with the character of Qassim.
Mawtani: As for theatre, you starred in "al-Shahid". How did you deal with the play?
Al-Mashhadani: "Al-Shahid" was a tough work of art. We performed the play during the National Festival for the Expatriate Theater in Algeria in 2010, and I had to perform it for more than one hour. My success in this play can be attributed to the great artist and director Aziz Khayoun, who managed to employ my energies in the correct way. This is in addition to the intensive exercises and my love for the theatre. Those who took part in the play and provided their own touches, whether in terms of sound, light, decoration and make-up, also contributed to the success of the play.
Mawtani: What character do you hope to play the most?
Al-Mashhadani: The character of caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz. There are two themes that make the role attractive: the first is his sense of justice, which we are in dire need for in our time now, and the second is the intellectual theme. He was influenced by Imam Ali and other Arab thinkers as well as by Arab literature in the pre-Islam era. He was also influenced by Islamic thought. If I played that character, I would stop working for television.