No doubt, when Pirro Milkani was looking for an actor for the lead role in his autobiographic al movie “The Sadness of Mrs. Schneider”, Nik Xhelilaj was the one who was etched in his mind because there is something in his eyes his peers do not have. His pitched-black eyes and his staring look can make everyone think that he has a lot to give. If one is in luck, he is picked up because it means you are noticed among the others. But little have remained from the memories of those five past years. Simply the experience and some memories. At the beginning, it was rumoured that Nik Xhelilaj was selected because he had lived in Czechoslovakia and because he spoke Czech language fluently. But, he simply laughs when he hears such talks denying to have been in this country before the movie was shot. He had traveled to Czechoslovakia only one week before the shooting. Out of hobby, he pronounced the first sentences in Czech. Then, Milkani took it all to heart and asked Nik to perform in Czech.
“I can not do the same thing today,” – he recalls. To him, it seems impossible. But he has no longer that shyness he reflected in “The Sadness of Mrs. Schneider” which generally came from inside as the lady who performed Mrs. Schneider succeeded in conveying to him the power of a well-known actress. “This kind of shyness came natural to me,” says Nik appreciating it after all for qualifying him for the role. Such timidity became one with the leading role empowering it with more human power and spirit.
His curriculum vitae includes some movies. What strikes among them is “Alive”, a production of Artan Minarolli, where Nik took part in its rehearsals quite by chance. Rehearsals were being held for months for this movie but Nik hadn’t applied for rehearsing. Until one day, he did…..And Nik was selected. He is thankful to the luck for being chosen for the leading role because such opportunities teach you a lot. The directors pay a great heed to the lead role and to the actor, as well. Lately he took part in a performance staged in Durrës, titled “Tango”, a production of the new director, Deriada Dervishi. He also participated in the Festival of Category A in Moscow with his movie “Der Albanier” (The Albanian), an Albanian-German co-production (backed by German money.) A nice feeling overwhelms Nik when he thinks of this movie. He felt comfortable in this role, better than in the theatre, a genre where he thinks only the real actors can play. Those, who find themselves on the stage by chance, are doomed to fail.
Since long, he has overcome his timidity from the camera. He is familiar with it now. He does not feel comfortable when he is interviewed or invited in shows. Speaking about himself is not his strongest weapon. Moreover, he admits that he is not so well in promoting himself while others really take a good use of that.
Nik has not studied filming. He likes to speak of his education. Son of two military parents, Nik, encouraged by his father, completed six months of military studies in Turkey when he was only 14.
“But I deserted,” – he says with a beam on his face explaining that just rancour lingered from that time. They are proud of his career, of the way he is empowering himself professionally. He says that he was lucky enough to learn from the best actors of the Academy of Fine Arts. “My favourite actors were my professors,” – he says. Among them, he mentions one – the most distinguished – Sulejman Pitarka. He has been a student of the great actors, Timo Flloko and Niko Kanxheri while Ndricim Xhepa has been his professor of artistic speech. All are on his mind for the way they taught him, for their simplicity and understanding. In this way, he started to assess the human being inside himself: to see Nik as a human and not as an actor. “Because, – he adds, – the camera is very interesting; different from the theatre, it brings your truths out. Actors play on the stage while it is the camera which leaves you no way to escape. Camera scrutinises you and one reveals everything about himself. If you are a good person, the camera “discovers” that. The same goes if you are foxy or a bad person. The camera discovers all.”
Though he feels the others’ eyes on him, he still thinks he is not famous. He likes to live in a traditional way. He does not prefer to join the artistic circles or the clubs of well-known actors for as long as he does not feel to be part of them. He says he continues to be friends with those who have followed him in different moments of his life.
Before I interviewed him, my colleagues made me aware that he was very cocky and a difficult person to be interviewed. But the way Nik Xhelilaj makes the communication easy comes natural to him. He hates the gossips about him. Often he is misunderstood as many people judge him from the appearance. In his view, the only thing that causes misunderstanding is the fact that he chooses his friends or the people he greets. In fact, this means to be sincere with himself. “Alive” is the movie which has remained for long in the minds of the people. A woman approaches Nik asking for an autograph. She says she wants for her son who cried a lot at the end of the movie. May be she wants this autograph to convince her son that his favourite actor is alive. Nik laughs remembering the first time he gave an autograph. He was so confused that instead of writing “To Nertila, from Nik” wrote, “To Nik, from Nertila.”