One of the things that is striking about Michael Lieber is his unassuming demeanour. The British actor wears his stardom pretty lightly.
He has come a long way from performing magic tricks and entertaining people on the streets as a youngman. Clearly, fate had other plans for him. As it happened, he went on to do his studies at The Oxford School of Drama. His charisma slowly extended from theatre to the big screen.
But what could be a colossal leap for him is the role of Professor Littlewood, the mathematician, that he inhabits in Camphor Cinema’s Ramanujan. An excited Michael says, “Initially, I did not know what to make of it. I knew it is a wonderful film. But never heard of that man (Ramanujan) before. It was a brilliance experience not only because I learnt about Ramanujan but also about Indian culture and Indian cinema.”
“It was the first time I played someone who really existed. It was a responsibility. I read Professor GH Hardy’s ‘A Mathematician’s Apology’ and Littlewood’s ‘A Mathematician’s Miscellany’. It was great to go back in time, in 1940. The sets were so beautiful, it was incredible,” he remembers.
By his own admission, Professor Littlewood had little in common with him. “He was very different from myself, he was a very powerful human being.” And how did the actor get under the skin of the character? He says, “There’s a certain way you hold yourself — how you hold a cup of tea. And Littlewood was a ladies’ man. My first entry has me wearing a tuxedo with two beautiful women in my arms. It was fantastic,” he says. The actor, not too long ago in the past, was nominated for the ‘Golden Skull Award’, which he won for his portrayal of a mental patient in ‘How to Hide a City’. Then there were the plays, including ‘Before Nell’.
But the actor’s journey was not always smooth. “I am a dyslexic. But now, I have got rid of it. As a young lad, it was tough. But I always liked the feeling of making something and presenting it to people. I’ve been acting for 10 years, dabbled with everything –– tragedy, comedy. I’m making a living from acting,” he pauses and adds, “I see a lot of actors struggling. I am lucky to be a professional actor.”
Michael has an unabashed love for films and he is candid about it. “I am a film buff but I still do the stage occasionally. I have a lot of acting experience on stage. But that doesn’t mean anything as there is no documentation of it. But if I had done 50 films, it could have made a difference. My passion lies in film-making and acting in films,” he says.
“I like to play sinister characters, it’s very appealing to me. The bad guy can play what he wants, in a whole range of ways. But for the leading man, the audience has to like him. I think it’s harder to play the good guy,” he informs.
All said and done, India is certainly on his list of places to visit.
“The premiere of Ramanujan is going to be held by the end of the year and I’ll definitely be bugging the producers to have me. I’d love to go to India,” he adds. Meanwhile, he is mopping up more applauses.