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All Geared Up

‘Khiladi’ and ‘Race’ fame director-duo Abbas - Mustan are back with their new flick ‘Machine’ after a break of two years with Kiara Advani and debutant Mustafa Burmawala as lead.

Team Machine in conversation with team Box Office India, talk about how Abbas-Mustan came to cast Kiara and Mustafa and how far they have lived upto their role.

BOI: Of the two of you, who decided to cast Mustafa in the film?

Abbas: Zainul, who is our younger brother and also editor Hussain Burmawalla's son, was the one who suggested to us that we cast Mustafa. We have never auditioned anyone for any of the films we have done in the past but since we required a newcomer for this one, we took auditions. That's when he suggested that we cast him in this film.

Mustafa: I was an assistant director on this film. Since I was involved right from the writing process, I was well-versed in the film's content but I had no idea I would be doing this film.

Mustan: (Cuts in) Once the script was locked and we moved to the other aspects of pre-production…he was only into direction.

Mustafa: We worked on the script for four to five months and locked the script only after that.We decided to start casting only after the final script was ready, which is how we always work. After the script was complete, we decided on casting a newcomer as I wanted someone who didn't come with the baggage of having done various roles previously. The character demanded a new face and a multi-layered personality. We took this call collectively, including the writers and the direction department, but we never once thought of casting Mustafa for the part.

One night, after one of the pre-production sessions, we went back home and that is when Zainul, who also is an assistant director on this film, suggested that we cast Mustafa. He made a fair case for this, saying we wanted a new face for the role anyway. So, all of us brothers Abbas, Hussain and I, together discussed the possibility of casting Mustafa as the main protagonist and unanimously decided to give him a chance.
We knew that during the reading sessions, Mustafa used to enact the scenes while reading the script. So, when he was doing the final reading, he had no idea he was being auditioned. Everyone on the sets knew except him. When he did his final reading with the enactment, we told him he was doing this film.

Mustafa: (Cuts in) So I was auditioned without me knowing it!

Abbas: We have never auditioned any of the actors we have launched, and there have been so many, but we took his audition. We had confidence in him but we still wanted him to audition. We wanted the team to know we were giving him a fair chance and that he was not doing this film because he is my son. So we sent him out with his team and asked him to shoot for a few scenes and show us the audition clips as a show reel.

Mustafa: Obviously, I could act in front of them but a major concern was how I would look on screen. So I made a show reel of 50 minutes that included me acting, dancing, enacting a few film scenes and lots of action. My show reel convinced them that I can do it. After that, I still went to the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi and spent six months there under the guidance of N K Sharma, who polished my skills as an actor. As soon as I came back, we started the shoot.

BOI: Have you always wanted to be an actor?

Mustafa: No, never. I always wanted to be a director. When I started dabbling in direction, I learnt that a good director should be able to enact any scene to demonstrate what he wants from the actor and exactly how he wants the actor to do the scene.

As an assistant director, I used to act out scenes while reading out the script whenever I used to approach actors. But they didn't have a clue that I wanted to be an actor and neither did I back then! Two years ago, I got into acting and now here I am.

Abbas: He assisted us in Race 2, Players and Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon.

BOI: And how was Kiara cast in this film?

Mustan: We wanted someone who was beautiful, innocent and also a good performer. When Mustafa's photo shoot took place with Dabboo Ratnani, we discussed the kind of heroine we wanted to cast with him. When he heard the description, he recommended Kiara Advani for the film; well, he was the first one to recommend her to us. Then our costume designer Vikram Fadnis also suggested her name. There was one more person who had suggested her and so we thought we should meet her.

Abbas: When we met her, the first thing we noticed was her confidence. Kiara did ask us to take a look at her work. During that time, M S Dhoni: The Untold Story hadn't yet released and so she wanted us to watch Fugly but we refused.

Mustan: (Cuts in) Yes, we told her we were not interested in watching the film. We said everyone was all praise for her and that they must have a reason. After meeting her for the first time, we grew confident that she was the right choice. Thankfully, their chemistry was outstanding and and that's when we were completely convinced that our film would do great.

BOI: Kiara, when there were so many people who had so strongly recommended you to Abbas-Mustan, did you feel any pressure to live up to their expectations?

Kiara Advani (KA): I was very excited to go and meet them. When I got a call for the meeting, I couldn't believe it as I had grown up watching their films. That's when I felt I wanted to do this film. In commercial cinema, Abbas sir and Mustan sir are only the directors who not only present their women beautifully but the women are always given very strong, powerful roles in their films. Like sir said, their films are always entertaining but they are also performance heavy as well. They bring out that in all their actors. I feel very blessed and grateful to Abbas sir and Mustan sir.

Abbas: It's was nothing like that, everyone recommended her and that's why we cast her. We felt there had to be something about her if not one or two but three people had recommended her for the film. And we never audition our actors, not even Kiara.

BOI: Mustafa, what was your reaction when you learnt you would be the lead actor in this film?

Mustafa: In the back of my mind, I guess I was wishing I could do this film because the character is very layered and mysterious and the script was so strong. I thought that if I was given the chance, I would love to do this film. Naturally, I was shocked when I got to know that I was doing this film but I was also excited.

Mustan: When we told Mustafa he was doing this film, he had already been wondering what it would be like if he had been given the role but, of course, he didn't say that.

Mustafa: I couldn't say 'please cast me for the film', right? So, yeah, that's how I was told.

Abbas: If he had said he wanted the part, we wouldn't have believed him. But after confirmation too, we asked him to prove himself and show us what he was capable of.

Mustan: Finally, that Friday will arrive and one needs the perfect casting for that.

Abbas: Also, on the sets, they performed very well. It wasn't like 'ki humara ghar ka beta hai'. We had confidence in him and he proved that we had taken the right decision.

KA: A day before we went on the sets, I suggested to Mustafa that we rehearse but when we went on the sets, he was transformed. I was amazed at his performance. In fact, I thought I need to pull up my socks. We had this competition thing going between us.

Mustafa: So, when I used to watch her performance, I used to think she is so good that I have to up my game. We both buckled up to perform better and better.

KA: We wanted to push the envelope, which is good for the film, and I never once felt he was doing a film for the first time. He was effortless in front of the camera.

Mustan: One day, they arrived on the sets fully prepared, without any brief, and told us they wanted to demonstrate a romantic scene. Abbas said if they are so confident, let's take the final shot. That one take took us completely by surprise. Their chemistry was amazing and we have used that shot as it is.

BOI: During the shoot, did your fatherly instinct ever take over your directorial instincts?

Mustafa: That never happened on the sets. We never had a father-son or uncle-nephew relationship on the sets or during the entire making of the film. They treated me as a professional actor, so I used to meet them on the sets, including when we went to Georgia for 60 days. I never once stepped into their rooms and I received no special treatment.

BOI: As a professional actor, did you get a signing amount?

Mustafa: (Laughs) I earned more as an AD. I didn't get anything for this film.

Mustan: I agree, as an AD, he used to earn more. Here, we didn't even bother asking him what he was expecting or whether he was expecting anything at all! (Laughs).

Mustafa: (Cuts in) Tu film karle aake bus.

Abbas: No, actually we had forgotten about that. Now that you have reminded us, we will have to pay him something. Actually even for the agreement… we made all our team members sign agreements and our accountant said, 'Mustafa hero hai picture ka ek agreement toh hona chahiye'.

Mustan: When doing satellite deals and music deals, the actors' consent is required. That's why we had to draw up this one contract for him.

KA: I was pampered more (Laughs).

Mustafa: Yes, she was pampered more than I was.

BOI: You have launched many superstars in Bollywood. What kind of pressure was Mustafa under as this is his debut film?

Mustafa: When you come from a family that makes films, the pressure is obviously very high as you have to live up to that name. You don't have to give 100 per cent; you have to give 200 per cent. And that is what I have done in this film. You have to maintain your family's reputation.

Mustan:: Sometimes, when you are shooting a scene, you do homework, you work out a story board, and you do all your preparations. However, there were two – three scenes when we categorically told Mustafa that an actor's skill is proved when he does that scene in one take.We told him to be prepared to get that scene right in one take because we didn't want to compromise.
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