Aziz Beishenaliev: Russia Taught Me Where My Homeland Is

Aziz Beishenaliev, Prague 2006, Photo Janyl Jusubjan Interview with Film Star based in Moscow

Аziz Beishenaliev: Moscow Taught me Where is My Homeland

Torokul Doorov: Aziz, it’s a pleasure to have you here with us. Your father, Bolot Beishenaliev (the People’s Actor of Kyrgyz Republic) was well-known, but I have read about you only recently.

Aziz Beishenaliev: First of all, I would like to say thanks. It was a pleasure to see fellow countrymen here in Prague, to where I have come to work. Regarding the fact that not everyone knows me: it is quite normal because I have come to the film industry relatively recently. So far I haven’t had big projects where I could have main roles. One project I liked was an American/ Kazakh joint-project called “Kochevnik” (Nomad). It took two years to film it in Kazakhstan. My first work in MossFilm studio was Aleksander Proshkin’s “Trio,” (2003). My very first film was the Uzbek “Byuyuk Amir Temur,” (Great Amir Timur) which was filmed 10 years ago. That was the time when I had just finished studying at the Russian acting school in the name of Gorky in Tashkent.And there was a film that I really loved. A low-budget but very interesting. The director was Talant Acrankulov, a famous artist and production designer. The film “Raiskie pticy” (Heavenly Birds) was his first experience as a film-maker. Gazis Nasyrov was his screenwriter from Almaty.

TD: This must be a new film?

Aziz Beishenaliev: Yes, we filmed it two years ago. The shooting was very difficult and it ended only recently – in April. The first screening took place at the Film Forum in Moscow, literally after a couple of days after the shooting ended. Now, as far as I know, the master editing is finished. Gulnara Abikeeva, a famous film critic from Almaty, liked the film and said that she will use any means to promote this film at European festivals. I watched it in black and white, and enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed it not because I was in it. On the contrary, my very participation in the picture frightens me terribly. Usually I’m scared of watching films where I act, but this one I enjoyed.

TD: How did you get into the film industry?

Aziz Beishenaliev: As I mentioned before, my debut in film was 10 years ago, when I was 25. After that I didn’t play in films for 5 years because my family moved to Moscow. Back then it was a difficult time for the industry in general, and especially in Central Asia. It’s also understandable that our move to Moscow was basically immigration, and acting was not a priority. I do not know how the people from MossFilm found me. For “Trio” they just called me at work and asked: “Are you such and such?” “Yes.” “Come.” And I went. Then they started inviting me for different roles.

TD: Do you get invitations for Kyrgyz films?

Aziz Beishenaliev: Literally last week I received a call from Genadiy Bazarov and got invited for two weeks in mid August. But I had to decline. I stress the word “decline” because we haven’t finished a film from the last year in Moscow. The film, “Paragraph 78,” is planned for the second half of August – just at the time when I was called for. We have serious filming planned in Sevastopol involving military technology. The last two scenes of the films will be shot and that is why we had to turn down the offer.

TD: How is it with the Japanese?

Aziz Beishenaliev: Nothing special really. I was chosen for a role after going successfully through the casting auditions. It was not really the Japanese only. It was a joint-venture. Vsevolod Shelovskii, a famous Russian actor and director, in junction with TV channel “Xaikoda” planned to film 12 episode detective series. The main heroes are a Japanese police inspector, his young female colleague from Russia, and a Russian teacher at the Police Academy in Hokaido. These three friends, all throughout the 12 episodes, dig out gruesome crimes. The main role was given to Erik Zholzhaksynov, who is a very good actor. We are concurrently working in a Kazakh film called “Mech Makambeta” (Makambet’s Sword). Erik is playing the character Istaya, leader of the uprising that took place in the beginning of the 19th century.

Janyl Jusubjan: You are currently playing in a Kazakh film directed by Kazakh wel-known film maker Satybaldy (Saken aga) Narymbetov. You have the role of the famous Mustafa Chokai (Mustafa Shokai in Kazakh). How did you get this role?

Aziz Beishenaliev: It was two years ago when we were finishing up “Kochevnik” (Nomad). Saken aga came up to me at the scene. I did not know him at all back then. He had seen my pictures before and told me he will try me for the role of Mustafa. After a couple of days he let me read the script, one of the versions that we had back then. After having read the script I was astonished because I knew nothing about this page of Central Asian history. I had enough time to find a lot of information on the Internet about this man and about his life. The material I found was very contradictory. The most interesting ones were those published in the last 15 years. Thanks god, we started this work last year because in my opinion, this is a very big deal in Central Asia.

JJ: Do you think that with this film the Kazakhs are a bit manipulating with history?

Aziz Beishenaliev: No, it seems unlikely. I read not only the screenplay but also memoirs of Marina Yakovlena Gorina-Chokai, Mustafa’s wife. And as I said, I read a lot of information on the internet. No, I don’t think that they are mending history. Of course every Kazakh will feel complemented being of the same nationality. However, Mustafa himself did not plan to divide Turkestan into five different nations. He used to say that Turkestan is our common home; we have to be together no matter what. Kazakhs are not manipulating history. They are shedding light on what we did not know before. For example: mother-in-law is Kazakh. She is a real patriot of the Kazakh history. But when I ask her about Mustafa Chokai, she knew nothing except that in school the teachers called him a traitor. There are a lot of things that have been said in our (Soviet) schools. Unfortunately, not everything they said turned out to be true.

TD: How is playing Mustafa Chokai?

Aziz Beishenaliev: I’m not sure. When an actor is posed such a question he either finds it difficult to answer or just gives prefabricated answers. A good friend, who happens to be a very talented actor, once told me that a single person contains everything: treachery, goodwill, bravery and cowardice. It’s important to remember this and to project the one needed for acting. I tried to remember these words when working. Of course I know that my life experience is incomparable to that of Mustafa Chokai. I have to remember my own experiences, my own emotions and my feelings whenever it’s pertinent to the screenplay. I do not know how genuine these feelings will be perceived by the audience – I do not know if I will be convincing – I do not know the end result. There is a saying in the film industry: “The screen will show it all.” I don’t know what will be at the end.

TD: Who do you feel you are? An actor related to which country?

Aziz Beishenaliev: I was born in Bishkek, back then when the city was called Frunze. My father is Kyrgyz. My mother, although she has “Uzbek” written in her passport, has Turkmen, Tatar and Bashkyr blood. My wife is Kazakh and my kids are half Kazakh.

TD: And you live in Moscow…

Aziz Beishenaliev: I’ve been living in Moscow for the past 9 years. Before that I lived in Tashkent. I finished school in Bystrovka, Kyrgyzstan, and lived in Karshy, Uzbekstan. I have also lived in Chardzhou in Turkmenistan. Life in Moscow has shown me that we have to remember where our roots are. I consider all of Central Asia as my homeland.There is no feeling of “I was born in Bishkek and that’s why this is my homeland.” What about my early childhood in Turkmenistan? What about my adolescence in Uzbekistan, my school years in Bystrovka, my student life in Tashkent, my relatives in Kazakhstan on my wife’s lineage?

JJ: Does Aziz the ‘Central Asian’ speak any Central Asian language?

Aziz Beishenaliev: He speaks very little of them. I understand Uzbek, Kazakh and Kyrgyz.

JJ: Your wife is Kazakh. How many children do you have? Why did you move to Russia?

Aziz Beishenaliev: My wife and I moved from Tashkent 10 years ago when the filming industry deteriorated drastically in Central Asia and especially in Tashkent. Basically, we did not see an evolution in our career life there. In Moscow we had to survive. Our son was 9 years old. The first couple of years we worked where we could find any job. Our oldest son, Ilias, has finished 9th grade of secondary school this year and has been accepted to the Moscow Film School. He wants to be an operator. Our youngest son, Seitek Bolot, was born one year after my father passed away. He will be 4 this September.

JJ: He has two names?

Aziz Beishenaliev: Yes. My wife and I decided that if it’s a boy, his name will be Seitek. My mother told me that when I was born, she wanted to call me Seitek. At that time my father was being filmed in “Poklonis’ognyu” (Bow to the fire) as Chairman Aziz. That’s when his friends told him: “You got a great role, call your son Aziz.” Just before my younger son’s birth, I called Tursun eje (my father’s second wife) to tell her that we are fine and that we were expecting a boy soon. She was very delighted and asked: “Will you give him your father’s name?” I answered, “No. We have already chosen a name,” and it seemed as though she was a bit disappointed. For this very reason we had a discussion and decided to give him two names, Seitek Bolot. Our oldest son remembers his grandfather. Seitek was born after his death. Of course he will hear a lot about my father; we will show him pictures and his films. However, this will never substitute real life experience. Hence we decided to close the gap between grandfather and grandson at least on a subconscious level.

JJ: What kind of father did you have? Did you learn a lot from him?

Aziz Beishenaliev: My parents divorced when I was two years old and I have practically not known him until I was 19. I saw him three times once in a while, but this didn’t really give me anything. I was 19 when he returned from Moscow to Bishkek. That is when I met him and we actually became friends.

JJ: So you forgave him?

Aziz Beishenaliev: What do you mean? I had nothing to blame him for. My parents got divorced and that’s all. Nobody can judge this situation except for my father and mother. I do not want to look for the guilty. It just happened.

TD: You started acting at the age of 25, but you say that you met your father a few times. How did you become an actor? Did genes have any play in this?

Aziz Beishenaliev: I don’t know what influenced me. At first I studied at the Tashkent University in the Russian Philology department. I left from the first year despite liking the subject very much. I just understood that I don’t want a professional career in this sphere. Then I got accepted to the Tashkent institute of Eastern Studies in the Chinese Philology department. I liked it very much but left on the third year, it was not for me either. Then one day, by chance, I saw an ad for auditions in a studio at the Russian theater in the name of Gorkiy in Tashkent. I went there and to my surprise, got accepted. It was so easy that it made me uneasy. I rationalized that I did not deserve the victory. My mentor was Viktor Alexandrovich Verjbickiy, who has been a famous Moscow actor for a while now. Our course master was Vladimir Mixailovich Shapiro, creative director and Georgiy Tolstonogov’s student. It all worked out by itself.

JJ: Did your father’s name help in any way?

Aziz Beishenaliev: I don’t think so. I tried to hide by any means the fact that I was related to Bolot Beishenaliev. And no one really thought of the connection, until we started our lessons on stage speech. The lessons we conducted by Lola Agzamovna Hodjaeva, who in her own time had Leonidov and Sobinova as her mentors. Sobinova is an immortal old woman, may god give her happiness, health and a long life. I was late to Lola Agzamovna’s first class. I opened the door and asked, “Excuse me, may I come in?” She turned around to me and said, “Are you Beishenaliev?” I said, “Yes.” To which she answered, “My goodness! I have taught your father as well!” That’s when everyone found out.

TD: There are very few good films being made in Moscow. How are you surviving?

Aziz Beishenaliev: There are a lot of different strange and good pictures being filmed in Moscow. In my opinion the quality of films in general has been improving over the last years. I’m not trying to praise my fellow colleagues in the industry. I think the viewer is becoming more demanding. I’m forced to act those roles which I’m offered. Sometimes after reading the script I apologize and decline the role.

TD: How high is your salary, if it’s not a secret?

Aziz Beishenaliev: It really depends. In “Mustafa Chokai” for example, I was offered my one month’s salary back in Moscow. But I did not raise the issue because I was very grateful that Saken aga chose me for the role. He had a great pool of actors but he chose me for some reason. Furthermore, before the shooting began and before even talking about my salary I read a lot about Mustafa and came to understand that this is not the right topic, not the right film on which to raise your financial or moral capital. It is simply sacred.

TD: How big is the budget of the film?

Aziz Beishenaliev: I don’t know. If I were involved with such questions, I would have to be the producer. And I really have bad memory for numbers.

JJ: But you have a good memory for names. What did Genadiy Bazarov offer you?

Aziz Beishenaliev: Bazarov did not talk with me personally. The former director of the acting department in Kyrgyzfilm film studio called me here (to Prague) and told me that there was an interesting role for me. The budget may be small but I would it would be a great pleasure to work for Kyrgyzfilm again because it’s a film studio with which I have a special relationship. Unfortunately it is impossible to organize. From the 17th to the 28th we are working on aircraft carriers and helicopters.

JJ: What does your wife do?

Aziz Beishenaliev: Right now she is dreaming about sending our youngest son to kindergarten so she can finally work. She really shouldn’t stay at home. She has three educations: one in music, one in the philosophical faculty of the Tashkent University, and one unfinished directorial education at the Ilhom theater in Tashkent. Of course we dreamed that she would become a director because she has a talent for it. She does act as my personal home director and critic. When I come home after a shoot and tell her what happened and after listening carefully she answers, “Listen, it should have been like this and like that.” Then we start an argument, at the end she turns out to be right. Or for example: I bring the script before the filming, read it and tell her what’s what. We discuss the character and she can really place the dots on all the is. After discussing them with her, it becomes clearer.

JJ: Does she dream of being the wife of a famous Hollywood star?

Aziz Beishenaliev: She dreams of being the wife of a man who can take care of his family and raise his children. She is very happy with such a man.

JJ: Your wife is Kazakh. Kyrgyz and Kazakh are very close to each other. Lately we have been having immigration problems. How do you feel living among Kazakhs?

Aziz Beishenaliev: I feel at home among the Kazakh. I also feel at home among the Kyrgyz. I think that the friction between the Kyrgyz and the Kazakh is a typical part of neighbor-neighbor relationship. In Russia they have jokes about the Ukrainians, the French don’t always love the Germans, and vice versa. Kazakhstan is richer now and there are a lot of migrants over there. But I don’t think there are any nations closer to the Kyrgyz than the Kazakh and vice versa. I hope that my wife and I are a good example for this harmony. By Janyl Jusubjan and Torokul Doorov

Prague, 2006

Translation by Jambulat Chytyrbaev

copy from www.kultur-multur.org