“Sound of Metal” is a showcase for Ruben’s unraveling and Riz Ahmed’s immersive performance, which film critics have hailed as worthy of an Academy Award.

In a crucial scene from indie drama Sound of Metal, drummer Ruben Stone, played by Riz Ahmed, breaks down in the isolation of the rooms washed-out white walls, struggling to cope with the silence that has followed his sudden hearing impairment.
Its a showcase of Rubens unraveling and Ahmeds immersive performance, which film critics have hailed as worthy of an Academy Award. It would make Ahmed the first actor of Pakistani descent to be nominated in the lead actor category.
Ahmed, whose credits include films like Nightcrawler and Venom, was the breakout star of HBOs The Night Of. In 2017, he became the first South Asian actor to win an Emmy for his leading role in the miniseries.
Its always encouraging and I dont take it for granted at all, Ahmed told NBC Asian America, adding that he also doesnt want to get caught up in labels or firsts, which he said can sometimes be distracting.
The 37-year-old actor said that his journey has led him to a moment of realization that he wants to play characters that pique his creative curiosity not only with regard to race and identity but also related to other diverse, lesser-known experiences.
Sound of Metal is a journey of Rubens self-discovery as he battles sudden deafness and struggles to maintain sobriety. The movie also stars Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci.
Directed by Darius Marder, it will get a limited theatrical release on Friday before its streaming premiere on Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 4.
The film puts the spotlight on Rubens spiraling emotions as he deals with the heartbreak of losing his hearing, his music and his girlfriend.
Ahmed said that the role was challenging but it forced him to push himself. The best way to approach it was from a personal place, he said.
The role is unlike Ahmeds previous works from earlier this year, which directly confront identity issues like exploring multicultural identity. He said that he doesnt want to second guess what is expected of him as a British Pakistani, knowing that the Muslim community is not a monolith and there are multiple ways to address representation.
Riz Ahmed in “Sound of Metal.”Amazon Studios
But I do also think of whats going to stretch my culture and if I can rearrange peoples mental furniture enough to incrementally make a little contribution towards stretching their perception of that culture.
He did tackle this through Mogul Mowgli, a film he co-wrote and stars in as a rapper suffering from an autoimmune disease who visits Pakistan to reconnect with his roots and family. It was released in the U.K. in October.
Ahmed who also goes by his rapper name Riz MC and is part of the musical duo Swet Shop Boys also released his first solo album, The Long Goodbye, in March, in which he mulls over breaking up with England.
Ive spent 15 or so years in this industry, and Ive had to become good at wearing masks and making molds for myself. Its what actors do, Ahmed said. I grew up between cultures and classes, and I now know that I can contribute by taking that mask off and bringing my element and my truth, especially if its one thats not seen or heard much before.
For Sound of Metal, which first premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, Ahmed spent months learning how to play the drums and use American Sign Language. He also had to tap into intense feelings to live out Rubens trauma on the screen.
Now that his efforts have paid off, Ahmed doesnt want to let the Oscar buzz engulf him. He said that after recently listening to a talk between Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, he connected with what she said in it, “that when you start believing your own publicity, youll be finished as an artist.”
While the Oscar chatter looms over his performance in Sound of Metal, Ahmed is relieved to have survived yet another movie. Im just going to focus on whats next and how I can continue to develop for myself and my culture, he said.