Inspired by history
spoke to family, friends, Emiratis he met at film screenings and quizzed them about what they were looking for in a film.
“My new film, which I have scripted Bani Adam (meaning human being, in Arabic) has many elements of life that Emiratis find interesting,” says Majid. “So we have endurance horse races, which are very popular; ghostly apparitions ( djinns) that according to our society lead people astray; the popular Emirati sentiment of helping our family and friends; the close bonds two friends share but how one woman who both love comes between them... It took me some time to incorporate such disparate elements into a coherent story, but Bani Adam is proof that it can be done.”
There is comedy, drama, action, “a little bit of everything for everybody,” says Majid, who took the film to the Gulf Film Festival in April. “The audience generally liked it but suggested some changes,” he says. “I took the audience’s opinion to heart. A few viewers suggested that it could a bit shorter, so I edited a few minutes of film where they suggested it lagged.”
At two hours and 10 minutes, Bani Adam is a long film, but Majid feels it is justified. “You have to build a story, you can’t just rush through the plot,” he says. “It is a dramatic film about the guilt of a man who committed a crime when he was young, and the doubts people put in his mind about a woman he loves, and about his closest friend. There is a comic vein running throughout so you are not engulfed by the tragic elements in the story. Entertainment is guaranteed, no boredom!” Majid is already looking ahead to his next creative venture, a process that takes time. How does he get his ideas? “I am a loner and a traveller,” he smiles. “I travel alone when on my creative pursuits. I was travelling in many parts of India and the UAE when I was writing Bani Adam. It gives me insights into human nature, and situations that I can use in my stories.”
He’s always looking for backdrops and locations too. His passion for historic Bastakiya in Dubai is still as it was when he was growing up there, as is his love of the desert. “I grew up playing and swimming in the Dubai Creek; can you imagine that now?!” he laughs.
He moved to Bombay (now Mumbai), when he was six. “I used to enjoy watching Bollywood movies when I was kid there,’’ he says. “I guess my passion for movies was born there.
“In those days Emirati families had business connections in India or Pakistan, and ours was in Bombay,” he says. “So from a local school here I went to an English medium school in Bandra, Mumbai. I lived there with my folks until I was 13.”
Majid often relates stories about his life in India to his grandchildren – such as going to watch Hindi movies with friends and family, eating the famous street food of Mumbai and taking in the sights and sounds of the city.
“Sometimes I feel the fight to makes movies here isn’t worth it,” he says. “But it’s my passion for film that drives me.”
What he finds even more exhausting is fighting the taboo that films are associated with in Emirati society. “My family still does not approve of my interest in film,” he says. “They may see my films but they will never discuss them with me or approve of them.”
Majid’s passion now is to see how he can break new ground in creating an audience for Emirati films. “There are a lot of talented film-makers here, but where are the audience, and the cinemas to exhibit?” he asks. “I am lucky I was able to release my films, but I know many of them face an uphill task to even release their films because there is still no big audience to watch them. The only way is to make great films that will find their own audience.”