Film director takes aim at Bollywood, from Dubai

Filming wrapped up this week for the movie filmed entirely in the UAE that promises fast cars, dare-devil stunts and high-octane chases amid sanddunes and mountains.
Director Mustafa Raj, centre, talks with his crew during the shooting of the movie Switchh, in Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National
Director Mustafa Raj, centre, talks with his crew during the shooting of the movie Switchh, in Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // A Dubai film company’s first attempt to break into Bollywood promises moviegoers fast cars, daredevil stunts and high-octane chases amid sanddunes and mountains, as well as the traditional love story and dance routines.

Filming wrapped up this week for Switchh, which was shot entirely in the UAE. The extra ‘h’ in the title is deliberate. Bollywood titles often have extra letters because of a belief in numerology and the luck and prosperity these additions will bring.

Showcasing home-grown talent, Switchh, which is scheduled for release by October, is among several Bollywood-style films the Nine Hopes Production House aims to release over the next few years.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed because this is the first time we’re making a movie,” said Jiten Varia, 28, who has moved away from his family’s real estate and jewellery business to invest in films.

“We want our movies to be seen by locals and expats and we want the world to discover the Middle East through our movies.”

The team has filmed a car going up in flames in the desert and near collisions between a two-seater aircraft and snazzy sports cars over the past 45 days at locations in Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai.

Pegged as an action movie about friendship, love and betrayal, the plot revolves around three con artists who use their charm to dupe wealthy victims out of cash.

With such a focus on on-screen action, the film’s actors were thrilled to get behind the wheel of their dream cars.

“I moved from a Lamborghini to a Porsche Panamera to a Ferrari and then a Mercedes SLS,” said Naren Kumar, 28, a lead actor from Dubai. “In one scene I drive my car towards a plane about to take off and the plane takes off right above my Porsche. It has been a brilliant experience.”

The film plots the change in his character’s personality as he tackles difficult issues.

“It’s about how he sets out to achieve his dreams,” Kumar said. “There is also a twist to the story when he gets cornered. It’s almost the same with me because like most Indians, since childhood, I’ve always watched movies and cricket and wanted to see myself on the big screen.”

Actress Tanvi Vyas is hoping she will be able to crack Bollywood at the first attempt with Switchh, after previously starring in Tamil and Telugu-language southern Indian films.

“I’m crazy about cars and although I didn’t get to drive the Ferrari, I drove a Porsche really fast because I’m angry in that scene,” said Tanvi, who plays an heiress the thieves attempt to deceive.

“The first time I came to Dubai, years ago, I kept saying, ‘Oh my god, look at the cars’. And now I got to drive one; that was a major high point for me.”

Made on a budget of Dh7 million, the Hindi-English film features five song-and-dance numbers. Shooting in the Emirates was one of the director’s main ambitions.

“I have an emotional connection to the UAE because I studied here; I started my dream in the UAE and it’s like I’ve completed a full circle because now I’ve made my first Hindi feature film here,” said Mustafa Raj, 33, a former student at the New York Film Academy, Abu Dhabi.

“Dubai is the best location to shoot an action movie because there are such good roads,” he said. “We also shot racing scenes in the nearby Margham desert area and used the airstrip in Ras Al Khaimah for action scenes with high-end muscle cars.”

Popular landmarksfeature too, with the Burj Khalifa in the opening shot while throughout the film there are scenes at Dubai Mall, Dubai Creek, the Marina and also neighbourhoods in the busy Bur Dubai area.

Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM


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