Majid Abdul Razak maintains a cool facade, but underneath the calmness lies a bubbling anxiety and excitement. “You know how it is,” he says in his measured sonorous tones as befits a leading man. “There is excitement when a film is about to be released, and wherever in the world you are, the producers, the directors, the actors, everybody connected with the film will be excited on the eve of the release. And I too am very excited.”
Actually Majid is excited four times over: he’s the producer, director, writer and actor of Bani Adam, the 11th full-length Emirati feature film to be made in the UAE. And having made three of those 11 films, he’s responsible for more than a quarter of the national output. Not bad for a man who isn’t qualified in the craft.
“I was never a film-maker. I had no experience or knowledge of the craft,” he confesses. “It was Alexandre Dumas’ French classic The Count ofMonte Cristo that got me interested in films.
“I was 13 when I first read the English translation and it changed my life,” he says. “I was fascinated by it, and even now I have a copy, which I reread often. It is so profound and covers a vast array of subjects, but above all it is so entertaining.
“The film versions of the novel give the impression the book is all fluff, a swashbuckler filled with sword fights. The book is actually about the tragedies that befall humans.
“It was my dream, even at that young age, to do something with the story. I didn’t know what it would be, only that I was so consumed with the story that I had to express it in some creative manner.” The story stayed with him as he grew up, and even after he started his bbespokek furnituref i bbusiness,i MMajidjid AbdulAbd l RRazak k Furniture, in Dubai when he was 24 using savings from a job in a bank.
Majid mirrored his hero from the book Edmond Dantès in his single-minded pursuit of his goal. After making the business a success, he sold it 25 years later, and decided to reward himself for all the hard work by making a film based on his favourite story.
“Most people would have bought a yacht or a villa,” he says. “I didn’t have any such desires. I just wanted to bring the story alive on screen.” Majid enrolled in a film-making course, but didn’t feel it was practical enough so quit halfway through. He decided to go ahead and make the film anyway. A man with a big vision, he decided to make three versions for three countries – the UAE, Iran and Pakistan – with three different casts and in three different languages, but shot in the same location.
Majid didn’t stop to think about his inexperience. “If I did I wouldn’t have ever got into film-making,” he smiles. “Someone with experience wouldn’t have undertaken such a huge project. But I had reasons for doing three versions: one was that the UAE market was not big enough to sustain a film commercially. That’s why I decided to target three markets with one film.
“We started shooting the three films in 2004. I played the lead in all three, speaking in Urdu, Farsi and Arabic. It wasn’t easy, and I am no actor. But there were some highlights – the Arabic version had a climax scene shot on top of the Burj Al Arab.”
The shoot wasn’t without hiccups. “I wanted to complete the films in three months,” Majid