In an exclusive interview with Aakanksha Naval-Shetye, director Mustafa Raj talks about being married to the South star Priya Mani and also about the challenges of being new in the industry. He also reveals his Dubai connect!
Was it easy to navigate through the industry considering you are married to an established actress, the South star Priya Mani?
Well in the start no one knew that I am married to the beautiful and successful actress Priya Mani. To a large extent, it is natural that you would be known by the more famous partner. But I have no qualms. I am proud to be her husband. Priya is a brilliant actor. Whatever she has achieved it’s through sheer hard-work and honesty she brings in to her work. But being married to a famous superstar, I don’t think it matters and no one cares or judges you on your partner’s laurels. You have to make your own way in the industry.
If you were to direct Priya Mani in a film, what genre and what kind of role would you want to see her in?
Well it would be a privilege to direct her. I would love to direct her in a slapstick comedy or a sitcom. She has good comic timing, so I would love to direct her in the same.
Did you always want to make movies?
Yes, I was bitten by the film bug since my teenage years. I finished my filmmaking from New York Film Academy (NY) and then knocked every door to get known. Later I made documentaries on social issues, started writing stories and screenplay to be in the groove of cinema. I have grown up on watching Hindi cinema from Yash Chopra ji, Prakash Mehra Ji and Manmohan Desai ji. I loved their cinema and format of story-telling. Simple human stories with correct emotions. Later it was Imtiaz Ali, Ali Abbas Zafar, Sanjay Bansali Sir. I have also been a big fan of Mr Boney Kapoor’s cinema. Boney Sir as a producer has been a trend-setter in Indian cinema he brings in impossible to the screen watching Mr India (India’s first super Hero), Company (Underworld film), Judaai, Wanted, No Entry… I love the way he gets into detailing of the process and his passion for films.
What aspect of filmmaking excites you the most?
Story-telling from different perspectives that touches human lives. That’s what fascinates me about cinema.
What inspired you for Switch starring Vikrant Massey?
This idea came from the producer-actor Naren Kumar. So we worked on the subject and elaborated it. I did the screenplay for the entire movie even though the story idea was his.
How easy or challenging was the experience of being a first-time director?
Well when you are new in the industry, no one takes you seriously and on the set everyone has a point of view to tell you what to do and how to do it. But then you have to stick to your conviction. That’s how Switch happened.
What are you working on next?
Well I have written a screenplay for a real life court drama. I am also working on a new show for an OTT platform ELEVEN (11).
Tell us about your strong Dubai connect?
Dubai is home. I have been there since more than a decade. I was there since a student and then started up a production house there. It gives you everything you need to have a good stable life. Professionally also you get to explore all sides of the world.