‘It was a total washout’
says. “But I hadn’t done pre-production work on the project, which is essential and ended up extending our schedule by another three months. This made the budget go haywire.
“Then we couldn’t complete the Farsi version because there were some problems with official permission for the Iranian cast, who had to leave after shooting a substantial portion of the film.” So that had to be junked.
But finally, in 2006, two versions, Eqaab (in Arabic) and Wapisi (in Urdu) were released. “Concerned with the creative side of the film, I neglected to conduct a proper market research before the release,” Majid says. “Only about 5 to 10 per cent of the Emirati population – around 20,000 – watched movies in cinemas. If I was lucky that would be the number of people who would come to see my film. That’s just not enough to sustain a production that cost around Dh3 million.”
The case with the Urdu version was not very different. Majid lost almost all of the Dh7 million he put into the two versions, but he has no regrets. “I am glad I got my gift – my films – that I had wanted for myself, but that was about all,” he says.
He then took a hiatus from film-making to launch furniture and interior accessories franchises Living Zone and Bombay in the UAE. This gave him not only time to shore up his finances, but also to contemplate his next movie move. “If you have the spark of creativity, you can’t be satisfied by being a businessman,” says Majid, who lives in Dubai with his wife Shirin and has three daughters and grandchildren.
“That fire had to be assuaged, and even though I’d burnt my fingers with my first project financially, it was a creatively satisfying experience and I knew I had to make films.” The second time around Majid decided to concentrate on a subject much closer home – the life of Bedouins. “The Arabian Sands, a book based on the British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger’s account of his travels across the Empty Quarter chronicling the life of the Bedouins, was another work that had always fascinated me,’’ he says.
“So I decided to get into film-making once again. And this time, it had the added advantage of appealing to the English-speaking as well as Arabic audiences.”
The budget was smaller – Dh3.5 million – partly because the film was mostly set in the desert and needed only a small cast and camels. “But I learnt that shooting with animals can be even more precarious than working with people!” laughs Majid.
He managed to complete the film on schedule. But commercially The Arabian Sands, which was released in 2008, proved to be a bigger flop than Eqaab. It ran for barely a few days in cinemas. “It was a total washout. I lost all the money I’d invested and it made me think that I could not make a commercially successful film,” says Majid. “It made me sit and ponder: what do people want to see in a film? Is it comedy, drama, grandeur…?”
Majid set about analysing what it was that Emirati audiences liked to see on screen. He
Majid is pinning his hopes on Bani Adam being a hit with Emirati film fans