MEHBOOB BAWA and his wife, RAZIA, are about to make a dream come true when their film, ‘Bhai’s Café’ will close the 40th Durban International Film Festival on the July 27 July before it goes on to a national South African big screen release on Valentine’s Day in 2020. RAFIEK MAMMON spoke to them about this significant milestone.
Tell us about the film?
‘Bhai’s Café’ is a proudly Cape Town production. The film is set in the Mother City and showcases various locations including an actual corner cafe in Wynberg. Produced by Cape Town based Razia Rawoot and Maynard Kraak of Razia Bawa Productions and West Five Films, with a screenplay by Darron Meyer and Aaron Naidoo, from a story by Rawoot and Executive Producer/Actor, Mehboob Bawa, ‘Bhai’s Café’ centres on a café, the cornerstone of the Wynberg community in Cape Town. The café comes under threat from a ruthless property developer, as Bhai’s daughter, Rashmi, is swept off her feet, in true Bollywood fashion, by Patrick, the son of the property magnate. At the same time, Bhai and his family rally the community to square off with the property developer to stave off the bulldozers and save the café.
Why should people see the film?
It’s a fun, romantic, family comedy with a fair bit of drama and some Bollywood inspired song sequences thrown in for good measure. Anyone who ever grew up in a family that owned a corner café or shopped at a corner café will relate to this film. We tell a story that contains elements with which many people will be familiar: a corner café location, a love story, the importance of family and sense of community and above all upholding values.
How is it “different” to other films in this genre?
I don’t think I’ve seen a film which is similar to ours. Yes, there are familiar elements, but the story is original, because in many ways it is inspired by Mehboob’s life growing up in a corner café. Many of the characters are based on people he knew and are composites of those who surrounded him in the family café. The gentrification angle is very much a hot topic currently and in discussion with international actor Danny Glover, he told us it’s on the rise again globally. He was very intrigued by our cinematic approach, infusing songs and a Bollywood element to the film.
If it were to be compared to Bollywood fare, what would you say?
‘Bhai’s Café’ is not a Bollywood film, but definitely homage to the Bollywood genre. We have songs in the film, which is a mix of Hindi/Urdu and English and some of these songs are sung by our actors and picturised on them. We do have the essential elements which any entertaining film, including Bollywood would have: love, drama, family, a social perspective and good humour. I was taught that there is an audience for any film and I truly believe that all audiences will relate to our characters and enjoy the film.
Tell us about the actors?
Actor/Comedian, Siv Ngesi plays Patrick, the love interest, who is incidentally a fan of Bollywood movies and music, and participates in multiple dance sequences and even sings in Hindi. Rashmi is played by rising talent Suraya Rose Santos. Mehboob Bawa (a 30 year veteran of film, television and radio) and Rehane Abrahams (who recently won a Best Performance Fleur Du Cap for her role in ‘Womb of Fire’) play Rashmi’s parents Magan Bhai and Mary, and Patrick’s father and owner of the property development company is played by Thabo Bopape. Others in the cast include Fahruq Valley-Omar, Elodie Venece, Rameez Nordien, Stavros Cassapis, Khalil Kathrada and Carishma Basday.
Any other interesting facts about Bhai’s Café?
It was important that we empowered people through the filmmaking process and to that end we worked with FILM SA on a skills development programme giving opportunities to young crew members. We also employed a large contingent of female crew members. In fact, women headed up important departments and their crew were female. Our choreographer, Ahneesh Valodia, was stricken with multiple sclerosis, when he was very young which put an end to a promising dance career. However, he still runs the Indian dance school, Taare, in Cape Town and he choreographed some amazing Bollywood dance scenes from his wheelchair. We also have Bollywood singer Asmina Aleker, who now resides in Cape Town, and South Africa’s pop opera sensation, Selim Kagee, performing an English/Hindi duet for the first time together.
* Watch this space for ‘Bhai’s Café’ screening dates and times.