Hiren Kotwani (BOMBAY TIMES; March 17, 2017)

You can't miss these men in white. Well known for their slick thrillers, director jodi Abbas-Mustan have kick-started several careers in Bollywood. Akshay Kumar's first commercial success was Khiladi. Shah Rukh Khan established himself as an anti-hero in Baazigar and Priyanka Chopra played her first negative role in Aitraaz. Shilpa Shetty, Preity Zinta and Arbaaz Khan were their discoveries too. After over three decades in showbiz, the filmmakers are now ready to launch an actor from their home turf, quite literally. Abbas' son Mustafa, after assisting on three films, debuts with Machine. The filmmakers met us for a conversation. Excerpts:

You both started your journey in Bollywood as a director duo with Agnikaal, along with your brother Hussain Burmawala as the editor of your films. What makes the three of you tick as a team?
MUSTAN: Our parents came from joint families. They advised us to always be together. Even we don't want to ever detach as brothers. We have a strong emotional attachment with one another and that continues as we live together as one big happy family.
ABBAS: We can't live without each other. We grew up together, so we are more like buddies. We never ever hide anything from each other. We learnt editing together and while the two of us became directors, Hussain followed his calling of editing film. We don't consider ourselves as three, but one.

But creatively, there would be disagreements, right?
MUSTAN: We work together as a team. Hussain is equally involved in the writing part. When we work on a subject with our writers, we're joined by our assistants as we believe that even they (assistants) should be well-versed in all departments of filmmaking.
ABBAS: Any differences of opinion are resolved by discussion and reasoning. We go with what works best for the film. We never have ego issues with each other. But as directors, we take the final call.

You are also known as Bollywood's Men In White. What's this fascination with dressing in crisp whites, always?
MUSTAN: Coincidentally, during our school days our uniforms were either white or off-white. It was never conscientious, but Abbas bhai used to always wear white first, I followed suit. Later, Hussain bhai followed. Since we live together and wear white, it's natural that our clothes get mixed up. So our clothes are marked by our first name initials - A, M and H. Even our kids have seen us like this since the time they were born, so they are used to it. The only time we wear other colours are when we are shooting in places where the weather is cold. We're too focused on work to go looking for warm clothes in white. We have a tailor who has been making our clothes for years and the best part is that we don't have to worry about what to wear the next day.

There were reports that you were keen to make a thriller called Machine with Amitabh Bachchan leading the cast.
ABBAS: We had shared a script with Amitabh Bachchan, but it was another subject and it's not called Machine. We will continue going to him with scripts till he agrees. Who wouldn't want to work with him? After all, he's an icon of Indian cinema.

Abbas, your son Mustafa was assisting on your last few films. What made you think that Machine was the right launch pad for him?
MUSTAN: When we completed writing Machine, we were looking to cast a newcomer as the script required a fresh face without any image whatsoever. And it was Hussain's son Zainul, who suggested we consider Mustafa. Until then, we hadn't considered him for the role. We asked him if he shared this view with Mustafa. He's been involved in the scripting of Machine from the start. In fact, back in 2012, we got him to do a small role in Players, for a scene featuring Sonam Kapoor. We needed an Indian guy and didn't get anyone, so we made him do the part.
ABBAS: After a week of mulling over, we asked Mustafa to give us a narration, complete with enactment of the characters. He even gave us a tape of his audition, where he enacted a variety of scenes. Only after we saw him perform, we decided that he would be able to justify the character.

Though you made a sequel of only one of your many hits, Race, reports have been rife about a sequel to Humraaz. Also, didn't you think of making more in the Khiladi series, after the first one which released in 1992?
MUSTAN: For us to make another Khiladi, we have to get the right subject. The sequel for Humraaz is currently being scripted. It has to be in a similar zone and justify the title. The casting will be difficult, but first, we have to lock the script that excites us enough to make it.

There have been too many speculations about the third instalment of Race - right from Salman Khan starring in it to someone else directing it...
ABBAS: Producer Ramesh Taurani is the right person to answer all questions about Race 3. Even we have been reading and hearing a lot of things, but we have never asked him. The script of the third instalment of Race has to be a couple of notches above the first two, only then it deserves to be made.