Razia Rawoot speaks about “Bhai’s Cafe” & spills the beans on being a Producer

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Razia Rawoot

Razia Rawoot is a well travelled specialist in entertainment who has approximately 28 years of experience in various facets of business, drawing on the expertise and skills of a professional team to accomplish excellent results in all her projects.

She has studied computer programming. Her skills in event planning and management as well as conceptualising advertising campaigns have been a major part of her contribution to the success of her clients.

She is a talented story creator and has spent many years honing her talents and understanding different markets, locally and internationally, developing content designed to maximise appeal and results. Undoubtedly a hands on team player, Razia’s skill lies in the execution and implementation of the creative vision while creating opportunities to empower others.

Razia has recently completed filming of Bhai’s Cafe her first feature film which is set for release in February 2020 and premieres at the 40th Durban International Film Festival, being honoured with the invitation be the closing screening.

She has also produced two seasons of the religious lifestyle magazine television show “Living Ramadaan”, which was broadcast on the Starsat platform. Through her company Razia Bawa Productions she has several television and film projects in development.

Welcome to TV Series Hub. How would you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, my name is Razia. I am a first time film producer based in South Africa and I thoroughly enjoyed my debut experience. I have previously produced lifestyle magazines television shows and commercials for radio.

With 28 years of experience in various fields, how did you finally decide on the entertainment industry?

I have always been attracted to the entertainment industry, I started out as an Event Manager for a Catering company, then when onto Copywriting and producing radio adverts and producing corporate videos. Then went onto television and produced magazine lifestyle shows. Now finally, I have produced a feature film, which is such an achievement. Entertainment I think, has always been a part of me.

How did you go from studying Computer Programming to where you are now?

I studied computer programming after I matriculated, which is very long time ago. At that time, I was very interested in “computer languages” and wanted to be able to write programs that would make life a little easier, but unfortunately, I didn’t complete my studies. To this day I regret not finishing my studies. I was very naughty and didn’t study hard enough, so flunked my first year. As I did not come from a very well off family, I could not afford to carry on with my studies and went to work as a manager in a store instead. While I was working, I did event management part time. When I got married, I started conceptualising and producing radio advertisements. Then I stopped working for a good couple of years due to personal issues. Once that was sorted, I started working again, producing corporate videos and magazine lifestyle shows for television.

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The cast of Bhai’s Cafe behind the scenes.

Your skill-set includes Events Planning & Management and Creating advertisement campaigns. How do these skills come in handy in a South African context?

I’ve always enjoyed combining my creative skills with my ability to co-ordinate logistics. So, with event planning and creating advertising campaign I’m able to do both. Being Cape Town and South Africa based it allows me to assist local businesses and organisations, especially those who can’t afford to use huge Ad agencies and PR firms. My focus has been to give the small business community an opportunity to promote their offering with a professional approach. In this way we travel a journey together and when they are in a position to bigger promotions, they’ve already established their brand in a professional manner. Being small doesn’t mean you can’t have a professional image. It’s a way of educating and empowering others, which I enjoy.

How does everything start for you, what is your creative process and how do you harness it?

Everything has to start with an idea/ seed, that can be developed into a movie, television series or a theatre production. The idea has to resonate with me, excite or intrigue me, get my creative juices flowing. Once I am sure it is a project I want to develop, I get excited and ideas start jumping into my head. I put pen to paper or start typing.  😊 I harness my creativity by going for long drives, to clear the mind, go for long walks to take in my surroundings and acquire strength and ideas from it. I like to keep an open mind, to any possibilities that might arise, and I surround myself with like-minded positive people who will enhance my creative process.

As a producer, what is your role in any production? How does your day look like?

I generally, have the task of overseeing the production of the film, plan and coordinate various aspects of the production. Hiring of staff such as crew and cast. Coordinating the activities of writers, directors, managers, actors, and other personnel throughout the production process. The producer must know how to manage a team, must manage costs and expenses, hire the top talent to join the team, have perspective, remain calm and focus with unwavering professionalism throughout the process. The producer must have great communication skills, be aware of all types of situations and be ready with a solution should a challenge arise. Keeping positive and relying on your skills is how you survive.

My day usually starts very early and it can end up being 12-18 hour day. As producer you have to make sure that everything required for a shoot day has been secured or arranged in advance with various/suppliers parties involved. My job also involves sorting out issues, if they arise. In my experience there always challenges to overcome, so you are always putting out fires during a production.

In a South African context, what challenges do you face as a producer compared to other countries where the industry has been there for long?

The challenges we face are that funding for local films is not easy to secure. The government has grants in place, but your script/film idea has to have merit, needs to be able to make financial sense to an investor or the government entity. We have lots of international production companies that come shoot in South Africa and the crew gets paid pretty well. This makes it very difficult for a local producer to secure crew and cast at an acceptable local rate.

You have your own production company – Razia Bawa Productions – how did it all begin?

The company was formed in 2015 when we decided to make our first feature film. We formed the company in my name because the government were looking to invest and empower woman, especially woman of colour. The name, Razia Bawa Productions, has my first name and the surname of my husband. We did all our previous productions through my husband’s company, Mehboob Bawa Productions.

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Razia Rawoot with her co-workers.

What has been your aim when it comes to creating new films?

We want to create and tell stories that are universally appealing. To have a story that anyone can relate to, no matter where in the universe you are.

To tell stories that has important subject matter but to tell it in light-hearted entertaining way.

What is your passion?

When you enjoy every single effort, you make to finish your job to the best of your ability, then you have found your passion, no matter the job. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of producing the feature film, it developed me into being a ‘better me’ and also excited and encouraged me into doing the job to the best of my ability, so no complaining on the job, just enjoying.  I also have a great passion for cooking. I love to try out new recipes and create wonderful desserts. I think my best ideas come when I am in the kitchen creating delicious food for the family.

Do you welcome submissions? How does one get their work produced by your company?

Yes, we do welcome submissions. Prospective film makers or writers need to pitch their ideas or concepts us means of a treatment which needs to be sent to us. We will then evaluate and provide feedback. Thereafter if we feel there is merit in the project, we will discuss further options with them and guide accordingly.

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The cast of Bhai’s Cafe at the premiere of the film.

Your latest project – Bhai’s Cafe was released on Theatres recently. How has the reaction been from fans and critics?

The film was very well received by one and all. We had audiences from different walks of life and from as young as six to eighty years old and they all come out of the theatre smiling and happy. Whoever we interacted with about the film, gave us similar responses, that they thoroughly enjoyed the film, that they could relate to one or most of the core themes in the film and that they loved the film.

What message do you think the movie is giving to its audience?

The film focusses on four key themes:

  1. Gentrification,
  2. The importance of community,
  3. Family relationships and
  4. Romance with a Bollywood angle

Based on the response from audiences at festival screenings as well as through the general release, audiences have embraced all individual themes in the film. We do not wish to dictate a message for the viewer but are merely presenting these themes in order for them to take from it an experience applicable to them.

The film is a Bollywood film made in South Africa – for a lack of better words. How did the idea come to existence?

The film is a South African film with a Bollywood influence. The idea started as a sitcom in 2005 but as with broadcasters here, I am sure overseas as well, they wanted to own our Intellectual property which we were not prepared to relinquish. The idea for Bhai’s Cafe the sitcom comes from our travels abroad. Wherever we travelled we encountered a corner cafe which was owned by a family, whether it was brothers, cousins or just a normal family. The idea for the film came much later, 2015, when our director and co-producer, Maynard Kraak told us to make the film.

Bhai’s Cafe closed the Durban Film Festival last year, how was the feeling after such an accomplishment?

It was and still is a wonderful indescribable feeling. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and achievement. We were honoured to have our film close the DIFF festival.

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The cast of Bhai’s Cafe.

What new projects are you working on? What should fans be excited about next?

I am currently busy with a South African, Canadian co-production, called Shaidan. We are in pre-production and start our shoot the first week of March 2020.

After such an accomplishment, what is your next aim?

The aim is and always has been to continue making films, to empower others in the film industry. We are but a small Company, but we want to create the opportunities for those who seek them and those who hasn’t had a chance to work in this industry because of the colour of their skin or lack of experience.

Thank you for joining us, with someone with such vast experience, what advice would you give to our readers?

Over the years I gained a lot of knowledge in the various career paths that I followed. It taught me that no matter how hard you try you might still fail but that failure was a lesson in itself for me. Getting back up is what you should focus on, always look for the positive in any negative situation. Always do the best you can in anything that you tackle. Experience aside. My message is, live your passion, follow your dreams. Be happy with yourself and with what you are doing. And remember, be good to yourself and be good to others.