While making his BAFTA-nominated film Mogul Mowgli, director Bassam Tariq learned the value of being honest with himself and his team every step of the way.
“I’ve had a few years before Mogul Mowgli where things kind of went south for me with a few projects, so I learned very quickly that the reason why they went south was when I was trying to act smarter than I am. So, learning to just be very honest with everybody in the team is the key,” Tariq told MovieMaker’s Micah Khan in a video interview, which you can watch above.
Mogul Mowgli stars Sound of Metal star Riz Ahmed as Zed, a British Pakistani rapper who falls ill just as he is about to embark on his first world tour. It’s Tariq’s debut narrative feature film, following his first documentary film These Birds Walk, about a runaway boy and humanitarian efforts in Pakistan, and his short film, Ghosts of Sugar Land, which is currently streaming on Netflix.
Tariq says that being open to trying new ideas — and scrapping ones that didn’t work — helped him find his groove faster.
“We were constantly evolving the language of the camera,” he says. “We had very clear ideas, and then as the time was going through, it was like, ‘Wait a second — we need to throw out some of those choices that we’re making because the performance that Riz [Ahmed] was giving doesn’t reflect the camera.”
Another way that Tariq — who is also directing Marvel’s upcoming Blade remake — was able to navigate the project was by staying humble.
“Not holding anything back, not trying to [say], like, ‘And I have another trick up my sleeve!’ It’s like no, no, no, everything is clear and honest. And what that means is admitting you don’t fucking know anything.”
One of the most challenging aspects of shooting Mogul Mowgli, Tariq says, was making solitary shots interesting.
“A lot of the film is literally shot in a hospital,” he says. “I’m not gonna lie, it’s super scary. Because like, if you’ve seen These Birds Walk or my other work, like I [think there are] more locations in Ghosts of Sugar Land, a short that I did, then there are in Mogul Mowgli, you know what I mean? And that was scary. Like that’s really, really scary to me as someone that enjoys running and gunning. I’ve made a film where the character is literally in a chair. I was like, how do we keep him active? And that was a question that Riz and I dealt with every day.”
The other most challenging aspect was being open to collaborating with actors.
“Being honest and bringing [Ahmed] on board as a very close collaborator was very new to me, because I always thought, like, you separate yourself from the actor and it looks weak for you to ask for help. And I think particularly as South Asians, man, you know, we want to be nice. We want to be liked, to get opportunities like this. It’s super weird, super hard to even believe this happened, you know?” he says. “It’s one of those things. So, you have to get over it, and you have to realize that you’re not here to win a popularity contest… you have to make people feel safe taking risks and empowering them.”
Watch the full interview above.
Mogul Mowgli is now showing in select theaters in the U.S. Main Image: Mogul Mowgli director Bassam Tariq. Photo Credit: Ryan Lash.