A scene from the homegrown drama, "Bhai’s Cafe". Picture: Supplied
A scene from the homegrown drama, "Bhai’s Cafe". Picture: Supplied

Gentrification and family at the heart of 'Bhai's Cafe'

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published May 17, 2020

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Following "Griekwastad", "Bhai’s Cafe" is the next homegrown movie to premiere on DStv Box Office in the lockdown. 

The romantic comedy drama is directed by Maynard Kraak with Razia Rawoot and hubby Mehboob Bawa wearing the hat of producer and executive producer, respectively.

Bawa is also one of the film’s leads - he plays Maganbhai Patel.

Of course, making this movie was no easy feat. Mehboob admitted: “I’ve always considered myself an all-rounder when it comes to film and entertainment and I often wear different hats. While my first love is acting, I relish the role of producer as well.  

"I have been a line-producer on Bollywood films that have been shot in Cape Town and other parts of South Africa. 

"I also co-wrote the story with my wife, Razia, who is the producer of the film. I acted as the executive producer and together we set about raising the finance for the film, working with the director on the government funding applications and developing the look and feel of the film, from casting to production and then post production. 

“It was a challenge juggling all the aspects and when we started production, Razia took over as a producer totally as I was acting and Maynard was directing. But I felt it was important to oversee all aspects as the film is a very personal one for Razia and me. I enjoyed the experience thoroughly. It’s our first film; our baby.”    

Mehboob Bawa as Maganbhai Patel with Rehane Abrahams, who plays his wife, in a scene from "Bhai’s Cafe". Picture: Supplied

Shedding light on his character, he offered: “He is the head of the family, although his wife Mary handles most of the important affairs. 

"Together, Maganbhai and Mary own and run Bhai’s Cafe, an institution in the community. But the popularity of this cafe can only go to one man, Maganbhai Patel. Always ready with a joke, story or anecdote, most people frequent the shop only to chat to him as he has the latest juicy tidbit making its rounds.”

A family man and unofficial mayor of the community, he shares a close bond with everyone. But with times being tough, the arrival of a property developer with an enticing offer leaves Maganbhai at a crossroad.

Bawa can’t stop singing the praises of the cast they bagged on this project, which includes Siv Ngesi as Patrick, the property developer's son, and Suraya Rose Santos as Rashmi (Maganbhai’s daughter).

Bawa added: “The amazing aspect of our cast, especially those who played family members, was that we bonded and gelled on set as a family, which made the relationships all the more realistic. Many audience members remarked on how we looked like a real family.”

He added: “For most of the lead roles we had a shortlist of three, just in case someone wasn’t able to make it. But we ended up with our first choice in every role. 

"The chemistry between Siv Ngesi and Suraya Rose Santos was electric and palpable in the casting studio. 

"They hit it off immediately and this added further to the realism. Both had to learn Bollywood dance moves and Siv had to sing in Hindi. He tackled the role with aplomb and really pulled it off beautifully. 

"Our choreographer, Ahneesh Valodia, who is wheelchair bound as a result of muscular dystrophy, and dialect coach, Asmina Alekar, who also sings in the film, were truly impressed with Siv’s commitment and professionalism. We were truly blessed with the cast that signed on and was chosen.”

Between the load shedding and the lockdown due to Covid-19, "Bhai’s Cafe" wasn’t able to enjoy a decent run at movie houses.

On the takeaways of the film, Bawa commented: “The film is indicative of the time we live in and is a realistic portrayal of relationships that exist currently. 

"While it may be true that some families and the older generation may still be conservative, most people are quite open to embracing people from all walks of life into their family via relationships their children may have with others. 

"The beauty of Bhai’s Cafe, which has been noticed by many, is that our Indian family has no issue with the fact that the property developer’s son who is romancing their daughter is black. The issue is that he’s trying to buy their business. 

"Maganbhai himself married a coloured woman, who is shown great respect in the community and by her father in law.”

*"Bhai’s Cafe" premieres on DStv Box Office on May 20.

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