Mustafa: "What I want is to play different characters"

​Mustafa Burmawalla made his debut with Machine in 2017 and since then, it seems as though he has been quiet. Even with his short film, The Last Meal, we do not see much of him on screen. When we caught up with him, we found out he has been working on himself, reading scripts, and looking for different characters to get into. Here’s Armin’s chat with Mustafa:

Armin: So I was saying that short films have gained a lot of momentum in the last four or five years, I'd say. Especially being in the era of the digital medium, so to speak. What was it about The Last Meal that initially attracted you, especially given your 2017 Machine. But short films, you know come with a certain flavor. They come with a smaller crew. They come with, you know, but budgetary constraints. Given that I've been on a lot of sets of short films, they're absolutely fantastic. But what was it that drew you to The Last Meal?

Mustafa: The thing is that when I heard the script of The Last Meal, I really enjoyed the whole part, especially given there is a climax where there's a message which had me sold on the film. So this film is about basically a relationship between a mother and her son. So the son is going on a mission and the mother knows that he might not come back after that. So they're having the last meal. The mom is cooking his favourite meal and they're having a conversation in between. So it's an emotional story between a mother and a son which everyone connects to - be it from India or anywhere. People connect with their mother the most. Especially boys. I’m also a Mama’s Boy. So for me, it was suddenly a very nice connection, especially working with Zarina Wahab.

Armin: Speaking about portraying a mother-son relationship on-screen because sometimes it can be, it can be off-putting if it's one way or the other. Sometimes an adult son can be very pampered, which can be off-putting. And sometimes the adults can be very distant from the mom. So how do you react? How did you strike that balance note? Obviously, being a mama's boy yourself in real life, how did you strike that balance on screen?

Mustafa: Honestly speaking, it was not very difficult, because when I started working, as in when I gave my first shot with Zarina Wahab, it was very easy for me and for her as well because she treated me like her own son. So for her also, it was very quick. And especially, you know, in the film, there are so many scenes where you know, everyone is connected with the scenes with their parents. So you have such memories with your parents of you having food, having a conversation, especially, you know, on the dining table. So for me, it was very easy and it just came out so naturally. So, you know, I was so glad that it happened that way. 

Armin: You know, it's an interesting journey that you've had. You know, you took some time after Machine. What were you thinking? What was going through your head? What did you want to do next? 

Mustafa: There were a lot of things and the thing is post Machine, I heard a lot of scripts. I read a lot of scripts. There was nothing very good that I wanted to play or I wanted to do. It was out and out commercial films. And I especially wanted to play characters, which was the most important thing for me. So when I came across this film, I immediately wanted to do it – but it took a while to get into the character, the skin of the character, the preparations, what I went through, It took me a month to get into it. Just for three days of shoot. So, you know, I was really happy that I got this concept. This was one character that I always wanted to play. It was on the list from all the other characters. And I'm glad it happened and it was a 20-minute film. 

Armin: You talk about preparation and, you know, a lot of people seem to think that it's a short film. It's 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. So there cannot be a lot of preparation, but there's blocking that happens, there are workshops that happen. I tend to believe that short films have some of the best character development because you have to show the character developing in a very short time frame so you don't have time to waste time, so to speak. What was that preparation like for you? What did you do?

Mustafa: The thing is, it's very challenging for an actor. I mean, especially when, you know, you're a selfish actor like I am, in terms of, you know, doing different kind of roles and different kind of characters. So the thing is that you want to explore yourself right,  so it doesn't matter if it's a feature and not a short film. But once you are in the character, no matter how much time it takes, be it 10 days, be it 5 days, be it a month. You have to be truthful to yourself and the character and you just have to portray it in the right way. And the audiences, they will connect with you. So the thing is, even when I was doing Machine, it took me almost the same time to get into character. This one was a bit different, a bit difficult because I had to go somewhere, I had to stay there for 10 days and talk to people, stay with them. I had conversations with them, how they talk, how they walk, how they eat food, the vocab was kind of difficult. So it was quite nice, it was quite challenging for me also and the thing is, you know, I love doing that. I love doing characters that are completely different. The preparation was actually a lot of fun for me.

Armin: It's been it's been a journey, so to speak. I know. Two years, Three years doesn't sound like a lot. But you have been doing quite a bit over the last several years. But we've really only come to see you as an audience for the last two years or so. When you see yourself, when you look back and you look forward, How do you want audiences to look at you and how do you want them to react when they see you on screen? What do you want the audience to take away from you?

Mustafa: So the thing is, ever since Machine released, I have been working on myself, polishing my skills. That's most of the time. I’ve also been doing workshops, theatre, that I've been doing that for a while now. So the thing is that honestly, I am not thinking about what the audience wants to see me as. It's very important what I want and what I want is to entertain them. To give them the truth that comes out from the character. What I want is to play different characters. What I want are things that are very challenging for me. You know, we like to do it again and again. That is the only thing that I'm looking forward to right now. Playing different characters, whether it’s a short film or a web series or a feature-length film. I don't want to do just one genre.

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Armin Sethi

Bollywood Film Fame Canada has been a source of original content consisting of real conversations, reviews, and news of everything film, music, and entertainment for 15 years.

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