Team Machine – lead pair Mustafa and Kiara Advani, along with producer-director-duo Abbas-Mustan – in conversation with Team Box Office India
BOI: Of the two of you, who decided to cast Mustafa in the film?
Abbas: Zainul, who is our younger brother and also editor Hussain Burmawalla’s son, was the one who suggested to us that we cast Mustafa. We have never auditioned anyone for any of the films we have done in the past but since we required a newcomer for this one, we took auditions. That’s when he suggested that we cast him in this film.
Mustafa: I was an assistant director on this film. Since I was involved right from the writing process, I was well-versed in the film’s content but I had no idea I would be doing this film.
Mustan: (Cuts in) Once the script was locked and we moved to the other aspects of pre-production…he was only into direction.
Mustafa: We worked on the script for four to five months and locked the script only after that.
Mustan: (Cuts in) We decided to start casting only after the final script was ready, which is how we always work. After the script was complete, we decided on casting a newcomer as I wanted someone who didn’t come with the baggage of having done various roles previously. The character demanded a new face and a multi-layered personality. We took this call collectively, including the writers and the direction department, but we never once thought of casting Mustafa for the part.
One night, after one of the pre-production sessions, we went back home and that is when Zainul, who also is an assistant director on this film, suggested that we cast Mustafa. He made a fair case for this, saying we wanted a new face for the role anyway. So, all of us brothers Abbas, Hussain and I, together discussed the possibility of casting Mustafa as the main protagonist and unanimously decided to give him a chance.
We knew that during the reading sessions, Mustafa used to enact the scenes while reading the script. So, when he was doing the final reading, he had no idea he was being auditioned. Everyone on the sets knew except him. When he did his final reading with the enactment, we told him he was doing this film.
Mustafa: (Cuts in) So I was auditioned without me knowing it!
Abbas: We have never auditioned any of the actors we have launched, and there have been so many, but we took his audition. We had confidence in him but we still wanted him to audition. We wanted the team to know we were giving him a fair chance and that he was not doing this film because he is my son. So we sent him out with his team and asked him to shoot for a few scenes and show us the audition clips as a show reel.
Mustafa: Obviously, I could act in front of them but a major concern was how I would look on screen. So I made a show reel of 50 minutes that included me acting, dancing, enacting a few film scenes and lots of action. My show reel convinced them that I can do it. After that, I still went to the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi and spent six months there under the guidance of N K Sharma, who polished my skills as an actor. As soon as I came back, we started the shoot.
Mustafa: No, never; I always wanted to be a director. When I started dabbling in direction, I learnt that a good director should be able to enact any scene to demonstrate what he wants from the actor and exactly how he wants the actor to do the scene.
As an assistant director, I used to act out scenes while reading out the script whenever I used to approach actors. But they didn’t have a clue that I wanted to be an actor and neither did I back then! Two years ago, I got into acting and now here I am.
Abbas: He assisted us in Race 2, Players and Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon.
BOI: And how was Kiara cast in this film?
Mustan: We wanted someone who was beautiful, innocent and also a good performer. When Mustafa’s photo shoot took place with Dabboo Ratnani, we discussed the kind of heroine we wanted to cast with him. When he heard the description, he recommended Kiara Advani for the film; well, he was the first one to recommend her to us. Then our costume designer Vikram Fadnis also suggested her name. There was one more person who had suggested her and so we thought we should meet her.
Abbas: When we met her, the first thing we noticed was her confidence. Kiara did ask us to take a look at her work. During that time, M S Dhoni: The Untold Story hadn’t yet released and so she wanted us to watch Fugly but we refused.
Mustan: (Cuts in) Yes, we told her we were not interested in watching the film. We said everyone was all praise for her and that they must have a reason. After meeting her for the first time, we grew confident that she was the right choice. Thankfully, their chemistry was outstanding and and that’s when we were completely convinced that our film would do great.