‘It was a to­tal washout’

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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

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