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How Riaad Moosa’s ’New Material’ was resuscitated

Riaad Moosa plays Cassim Kaif in ’New Material’. Picture: Supplied

Riaad Moosa plays Cassim Kaif in ’New Material’. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 20, 2021


Riaad Moosa is a household name in Mzansi.

For over two decades, the doctor-turned-stand-up has been tickling the funny bone. And he has done so sans the use of any profanities.

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His jokes are kept clean and family-friendly and he is a bona fide riot on stage. Aside from gracing many local and international stages, he has gotten his 5-minutes of fame, so to speak, on the big and small screen.

Despite his clout in the industry, where he sits up there with the best, he has no airs and graces.

Earlier in the week, I caught up with Moosa to chat about “New Material”, the sequel to his 2012 hit “Material”.

Having interviewed him several times over the years, I can honestly say he is truly one of the most genuine and unassuming personalities you will meet.

And he was ready to dive right into it, too. What caught me off guard, though, was how darn funny he was without even trying to be so.

“I originally finished the first draft of the script in January 2016. I wrote it over three months and then I gave it to the professionals: Craig Freimond and Robbie Thorpe. And then they basically changed everything,” he said, with a deadpan voice.

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Moosa continued: “I don’t know why I wrote it. There were parallels with my experiences as a stand-up comedian and I just had this idea.

“Generally, that is what I do. I express it in whatever format. Same as ’Material’, I didn’t even think there was going to be a film. (Back then) Ronnie Apteker just came to me and said, ‘Riaad, you are a doctor and comedian, you should write a script …”

And that’s, literally, how his film journey started.

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“I had no conceptualisation of what being an entertainer would look like. I basically followed the process organically, and it is very similar to what transpired with this film,” he explained.

While I tactfully asked about the fine-tuning of his screenplay, he was having none of it, and pointed out that I shouldn’t worry about sparing his feelings.

Joey Rasdien, Schalk Bezuidenhout and Riaad Moosa in a scene from the comedy drama. Picture: Supplied

He laughed: “It (the screenplay) was resuscitated. I read a screenplay for dummies book and after that, I wrote my first version. It took three years to fix it. It’s like rehabilitation.”

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In the first movie, his character Cassim Kaif struggled as an aspirant comedian torn between his traditional Muslim father’s expectations and pursuing his dream.

The character mirrored some of his real-life moments, and while he had no expectations for “Material”, it ended up walking away with five Golden Horn awards at the Saftas.

Despite a several-year gap between the first and second movie, Moosa remains very self-conscious when it comes to watching himself on the big screen.

In “New Material”, Cassim struggles to get decent gigs and, given his family responsibility, he finds himself having to choose between loyalty to his close friend and manager Yusuf (Joey Rasdien), who has secured them some pretty dodge shows, and accepting a career-defining opportunity.

And Schalk Bezuidenhout joins the mayhem as Hedrick.

The storytelling is much more layered than in the first film. There’s obviously the comedy, but it is underpinned by poignant scenes too.

And Rajesh Gopie plays Shabir, a local business owner and sponsor of Cassim’s comedy roadshow.

The only problem is that Shabir, aside from also being the head of the local gang of thugs, is also a celebrity wannabe.

As such, his absurd demands not only becomes a thorn in Cassim’s side, it derails his entire set.

Moosa added: “I can’t even watch the first one. I feel so self-conscious when I watch myself on screen. I feel the same way about ’New Material’. In this movie, we try and bring more physical comedy. The tone is different; slightly more playful and fast paced.

“The themes are personal ambition versus family responsibility versus friendship, and Cassim is almost drawn into the dark side of the entertainment industry.”

There are some tear-jerking moments towards the end, but mum’s the word for now.

The comedian added: “Rajesh is such an experienced actor, he gave me a lot of tips. I really enjoyed myself with Rajesh.

“We also came up with a lot of cool ad-libs like ‘shut your ma’s sheepshead’.

“I’m hoping that we get the balance between comedy and drama, because it’s been such an emotional time and we can release that energy with laughs.”

“New Material” opens at cinemas nationwide on November 26.

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