“Mogul Mowgli” is one hell of a film with what might be Riz Ahmed’s best performance of his career. The fact that it marks the narrative feature debut for filmmaker Bassam Tariq is incredibly impressive. And on this episode of The Playlist Podcast, Tariq joins the show to talk about everything that went into the creation of his acclaimed drama, “Mogul Mowgli.”
For those unaware, “Mogul Mowgli,” is co-written by Tariq alongside Riz Ahmed, who also stars in the film. The feature tells the story of an up-and-coming rapper that finds himself on the verge of what is likely going to be the biggest tour of his life. However, those plans get thrown into chaos when he finds himself in a hospital suffering from an autoimmune disease that prevents him from doing simple things such as walking. Yes, admittedly, this does sound a lot like another recent Riz Ahmed movie, “Sound of Metal.” However, don’t let the synopsis fool you. What Tariq and Ahmed bring in “Mogul Mowgli” is a very different beast. This film also dives deep into what it means to be a Pakistani artist in hip-hop, and what is expected of you from your family and community.
As mentioned, in the film, Ahmed plays a hip-hop artist, but according to Tariq, even though the actor is a really talented rapper off-screen, he was apprehensive about portraying one in the film.
“This dude is just a lyricist. He’s just a poet who just happened to become famous as a really strong actor. But he’s actually a poet, right?” said Tariq. “So, I pushed hard. I was like, ‘You’re gonna have to be a rapper in this.’”
Though music does play an important role in the film, much of the drama and what the director calls the “acid-trip horror” aspects of “Mogul Mowgli” come from Ahmed’s character’s Pakistani background. And though a lot of the imagery and peeks into the Muslim culture might be new to many viewers, Tariq hopes that the biggest takeaway for viewers of his film is just how art can expand hearts.
“The power of cinema—to me—is just to expand hearts, you know what I mean?” he explained. “Anytime I go see something, I just want my heart fucking expanded. I wanna learn something. You know, if we can just expand hearts…the best of art does that for me. And that’s what I look to art for.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Tariq takes that viewpoint into his next feature, the upcoming Marvel Studios superhero film, “Blade.” A reboot of the late-’90s, early-’00s vampire franchise, Tariq is directing the film that will introduce the character, played by Mahershala Ali, into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the filmmaker is excited, and a bit shocked, by the idea of moving into the realm of blockbuster filmmaking.
“I didn’t think [‘Blade’] was going to happen, just to be very honest,” Tariq said. “I’m honored and it’s a privilege, but I’m here in service of Stacy Osei-Kuffour, who is the incredible writer that is writing the film…She’s just a phenomenal presence and a juggernaut in her own right. And for Mahershala [Ali]. For me, it’s really just working in their service.”
He added, “[Marvel] takes big swings, you know?…I can’t say anything about it, but I’m just so excited for what we’re doing.”
While he has to remain tight-lipped about what people can expect with “Blade,” he does want to stress that his superhero film will put character first.
“Character is very important for me. I don’t think of genre, I think of character,” he teased. “It’s not so boxed in as people imagine it to be [working with Marvel Studios]. It’s quite exciting. And I think the reality is there is no ‘Blade’ canon, you know? If you ever read the comics, they’re always changing…Unfortunately, the [comic book series] never lasted that long.”
“Blade” doesn’t have an official release date, as of now. However, you can watch “Mogul Mowgli” in theaters on September 3. Our full discussion is below:
As always, The Playlist Podcast is part of The Playlist Podcast Network—which includes Be Reel, Deep Focus, The Fourth Wall, and more—and can be heard on iTunes, AnchorFM, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and now on Spotify. You can stream the podcast via the AnchorFM embed below or up top to listen on this page. Follow us on iTunes, and you’ll get this podcast as well as our other shows regularly. Be sure to subscribe and drop us a comment or a rating, as we appreciate it. Thank you for listening.