Nurlan Alimzhanov: My Way into the Cinema

AlimzhanovASTANA – Nurlan Alimzhanov, who played the role of Nursultan Nazarbayev in the epic, “The Way of the Leader,” is one of seven recipients of the Zhas Tulpar award established by the Nur Otan party in honour of the eponymous youth movement of the 1960s.

When asked what he felt playing the title role in the film, Alimzhanov answered that he felt an enormous responsibility.

“Even trying to do my best in this part, of course, I was well aware that I could not repeat exactly the childhood and youth of the protagonist. That’s why in the film about the President of Kazakhstan, I worked from my own childhood and adolescence,” Alimzhanov said. “When I played in ‘The Sky of My Childhood’ and ‘The Way of the Leader,’ the protagonist did not know what fortune would send him. Therefore, at all meetings with the audience, I say that my character is a brave boy, one of the people. And if he was different from others, it was because of his thirst for knowledge and determination. I felt that if I initially set my mind to play the President, the image would not be true. In addition, the working lad I played in the film had no idea of ever becoming the head of state, so I, too, climbed step-by-step to the heights he reached. To do this, I talked to his friends and read everything that I could find on him, especially memories of the President and his classmates. … For me, playing in this film was interesting and emotional. I saw with my own eyes how hard-won was the bread of the metallurgists. The future President of Kazakhstan worked at the furnace for nine years. To create realism, I myself punched the tap hole in the furnace that carries the melted steel. The furnace temperature reaches 2,000 degrees, and every misstep or move can cost you life. In the 1950s and 1960s metallurgists did it manually. Now this process is automated, but steel-melting has not become safer from that. After difficult shots, I embraced the workers with whom I stood at the furnace as close relatives. They really helped me get the feel of the role. I did not hesitate to ask them questions, and they were happy to advise me. If I could, I would raise monuments to these people in their lifetime.”

Do you have any fear of becoming known for just one role?

I just want what’s best for the picture. I have played in a dozen films, and mostly in lead roles. To perform well, an actor has to work a lot, travel, read, meet different people. My first film was The Sin of Sholpan made by Bolat Sharipov on the novel of Magzhan Zhumabayev. I played Azimbay, a villain. Then Sergei Bodrov and Gulshad Omarova made ​​a film “Baksy” where I also played a major role, and again a baddy.

I became famous for the role of one of the brothers in the popular movie of Akan Satayev “Agaiyndar”. Also I was engaged in the psychological melodrama “Sacrifice” made by Beijing director Hong Fu. My character Salser, a collective image, is one of those Kazakhs who once moved to China.

How did you become an actor?

I had dreamed of this profession since childhood. I was especially impressed by the performance of “A Marriage Proposal” staged on the play written by my father in the Kokshetau oblast (region) drama theatre. I graduated from the Faculty of Music, Drama at the Zhurgenov Film Academy. As a second year student, I worked at the Kazakh Youth Theatre where I was invited by Kazakhstan People’s Artist Tlektes Meiramov who gave me the role of Tulegen in “Kyz Zhibek.” Then I began to act in the cinema. Until recently, I sang and composed music; I even put an album out recently. But one day I got tired of being torn between theatre, TV and cinema, and I thought I should finally decide on one thing. I chose cinema.

What is ahead? What films can we expect to see you in?

As the proverb says, it’s a poor soldier who never wants to become a general, and every actor dreams of playing Hamlet. In Kazakhstan, there are a lot of good directors and many more unperformed historical figures. I cherish the dream of playing of one of them. I dream of and respond to roles that will touch people’s hearts. And although no one has offered me such a role, I’m preparing internally to embody onscreen, for example, Abylai Khan and leaders of the Alash movement. And if there is romance in it, even better.

You speak impeccable Kazakh…

This comes from my father who is very good in it. He instilled in me a taste for books that make you think. I love to reread Mukhtar Auezov, especially his ‘Abai,’ works by Gabit Musrepov, Sabit Mukanov and, of course, my father, Bayangali Alimzhanov. I also like Gogol and Dostoevsky. Recently, I read ‘Secrets of the Subconscious’ by Sinelnikov; that impressed me greatly. Also, I love books and films about Genghis Khan. The book by English historian and traveller John Maine, “The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan: 21 Lessons From History’s Most Successful Conqueror,” telling the secrets of success of the great commander, has become like a reference for me.

Can you tell us about your family?

I live in Astana with my wife Zhansaya who is an actress. We have two sons and a daughter. My eldest son, a first-grade student, is, according to our tradition, the ‘son’ of his grandma and grandpa. My parents live with us.