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Mustafa Burmawalla: Got to live up to my family name

Mustafa, son of Abbas Burmawalla of the Men-In-White Abbas-Mustan fame, admits to pressure before acting debut

Mustafa

I never wanted to become an actor; I wanted to be a director,” says Mustafa, son of Abbas Burmawalla, one half of the filmmaker duo Abbas-Mustan. The 29-year-old will be launched by his father and uncle in Machine, which releases next month.

How did the acting bug  bite him? “I went to New York to do a filmmaking course. When I returned, I started assisting them [Abbas-Mustan]. I would animatedly act out scenes on set. I understood my potential rather late in life. I haven't done an acting course, but I knew I needed to learn everything before I got down to work. I went to NK Sharma, a renowned play director in Delhi, to learn acting for six months. My body language improved, my confidence soared.”

Playing a 'layered character' in Machine was nothing short of a challenge for Mustafa, who put in 10 hours a day for several months to work on his dance skills. “The toughest part was action. I would wake up at 3.30 am, start working out by 4 am — do a mix of gymnastics and mixed martial arts, and reach the set by 6. After pack-up at night, I would practice dance. During the 70 days of shoot, I gave my all to the film.”

The debutant confesses to have won over his father and uncle with a 10-minute show reel on 20 hours of his life. “They were impressed by the hard work I put in. There is tremendous pressure on me because people have huge expectations from me and I've got to live up to the family name.”

He admits there were ample creative differences between him and the filmmaker duo. “Those who say having a parent on set makes things easy, I'd say it was exactly the opposite for me. Those who talk about nepotism in the industry must know there's a flip side to it too. Gaining access is easy, but the stakes are higher.

We need to work just as hard [as non-star kids] to keep getting work.”


Mustafa with Abbas-Mustan. Pics/Shadab Khan

Ask him his favourite Abbas-Mustan film and he seems lost. “I can't name one, but I really enjoyed Baazigar (1993) and Khiladi (1992). I was petrified of Arbaaz Khan after watching Daraar (1996). I didn't go to school for a few days after that,” he says, laughing out loud.

When we ask him about his father and uncle's obsession with white clothes, he says, “I have tried adding a dash of colour to
their wardrobe. It's scary when I open their closet; it's all white. But that's a shade of their personality now. I often joke, 'Aap aaj kya pehnogey? White shirt?'.”

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