Mohamed Amien Rady: A Singular Mind

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Sun, 22 Nov 2020 - 06:19 GMT

Whether you agree with him or not, there is no doubt that he is “different” in his thoughts, ideas and the themes he chooses for his work. Egyptian scriptwriter Mohamed Amien Rady, whose work is known to stir controversy, doesn’t intend at all to create a fuzz; he simply seeks to deliver his ideas and to write what he is truly convinced of.

Rady’s first television series Niran Sadeeka (Friendly Fire) aired in 2013, followed by El-Sabaa Wasaya (The Seven Commandments) in 2014, Men Dahr Ragel in 2015, El Ahd (The Promise) in 2015, and most recently Mamlaket Iblis (Kingdom of the Devil) in 2020.  We chat with the 38-year-old scriptwriter about his work, the way he handles criticism and why he believes streaming is the future.

Mohamed Amien Rady doesn’t care about criticism because he is stubborn, arrogant and strongly believes in what he is doing. Which of the above is true?

Mohamed Amien Rady pays the greatest attention to criticism (he laughs) because criticism is the compass that guides me to the right path if I am moving in the wrong direction; and it helps me develop. [I’m talking about] real criticism, not the shallow opinions that criticize and insult me personally instead of my work. I don’t care about such destructive opinions. I read all the real critique about my work, and even share some negative critique if I see them as objective because at the end this is the critics’ opinion.  

Your plots are often influenced by Sufism. Are you personally influenced by it as well?

I can’t say that I am a Sufi but I am concerned with the real Sufism which is divine love, more than I am influenced by it. I hope that I could be a Sufi; according to my perception about Sufism, Niran Sadeka is a Sufi series despite the fact that it did not include anything about sheikhs or shrines. Sufism in my point of view is something greater than being limited to shrines or sheikhs.

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What inspired you to write each of your series?

Each series has its own inspiration, whether it appeared suddenly or had been inside me for years and something triggered it to come out. When the Egyptian police put a stork under arrest because a device was found attached to its feathers, this piece of news provided me with some sort of inspiration to Mamlaket Iblis. When former [chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service] Omar Suleiman died and some believed that he was still alive, this gave me the idea of El-Sabaa Wasaya.

Weren’t you worried about the screening of Mamlaket Iblis on Shahid’s digital platform as a wide range of audience would not be able to watch it?

On the contrary, I wasn’t worried at all because in 2016, when the Egyptian and Arab digital platforms had not yet been launched, I wrote a post on my Facebook account that watching series and movies via internet was coming, and that the future would witness that. And since then, I had been trying to write something to be streamed on YouTube but there was no budget. 

When Tarek El Ganainy, the producer, told me that Mamlaket Iblis would be screened on Shahid, I was very enthusiastic and supportive of this idea. Even when part one was screened on MBC Masr, I didn’t promote it on my social media platforms because I wrote it from the beginning to be screened on a digital platform and I was so loyal to this idea. 

What were the master scenes in Mamlaket Iblis? And what was the most difficult character that you wrote in the plot? 

That’s something subjective. There are master scenes in the series in general and at the same time some scenes are the master ones for me—such as the scenes that feature songs. So in part one the scene when they sang to each other after killing Fathy Iblis with its dances is a master scene, or in other words a very important master sequence; also the scene that featured the song El-Hend Om El-Agayeb, the cartoon scene. . . . They are all important sequences; and when he faced the family and said ‘if the enmity between you was 100 times more you wouldn’t have laughed like that,’ this scene along with their reply is considered a master scene, as is that of the alley people revolting to get rid of Boudy. 

In part two, the master scenes were first the scene of burning the dwarfs, the sequence of killing Ellinor, the scene of Nour burning the kids three times, and the scene when we discovered that Iblis can’t be burned, and definitely the ending scene or the ending sequence.

The most difficult characters [to write] in Mamlaket Iblis are Fathy Iblis, Elkhawaga and Ghoreyba because they are the characters that were subjected to radical changes compared to their beginning. I am convinced that radical change in people or characters happens only in very rare cases, especially when it happens in a very short period of time and this was the case of Elkhawaga and Ghoreyba’s characters, which witnessed positive change in a short period of time. Elkhawaga used to deeply love Azhar; and Fathy is an example of the most important principle that I wanted to present in the series, which is that all of us go through situations where others see us in a way that is completely different from who we really are. Most probably, they see us as evil while we are the opposite, so that’s why these characters were difficult to write.  

While writing the script, do you see certain actors or actresses in your characters? If yes, who are these actors and actresses that were in your mind while writing Mamlaket Iblis?

Not always, it is rare to imagine certain actors or actresses in my characters, only in Mamlaket Iblis Sabry Fawaz was in my mind while writing Fathy’s character. But in general, I hate to limit my imagination to a certain actor or actress when I’m writing. I prefer completing the character then starting to choose the suitable actor or actress along with the director and the producer.    

The final say for choosing the cast is for the director but do you interfere? 

Unlike what most people think, it is not a debate or fight between the director, scriptwriter and the producer. If it is a fight or debate, the project will not be completed. At the end of the day, a respectable director will not agree on a suggestion that he is not totally convinced of, so if there is no chemistry between the director, the scriptwriter and the producer there will be a huge problem. The three of them help each other in choosing the cast and discuss this issue together in complete harmony, but it is possible that after these discussions, the director may not be convinced by certain suggestions from the scriptwriter or  the producer so in this case the final say is for the director but with no hard feelings from the side of the scriptwriter or the producer. It is not a matter of interference but we consult each other. 

You always want people to continuously use their minds and be fully attentive while watching your work. To what extent is this true? 

Yeah this is true. I want the audience to use their minds and to be completely attentive. Is this something wrong? (he laughs). I think this is something good.

Will we ever see your name on a romance, action, comedy or historical drama? Or are you too loyal to your genre, which is usually full of puzzles and mysteries? 

I think that people have in their minds that my work is full of puzzles and mysteries even before watching it, because for example I see Mamlaket Iblis is far simpler than El-Ahed series. While writing, I don’t intentionally write a certain genre, I usually set a certain idea and start writing it with the genre suitable for it, even if I write romance or action I will write them with the style that is suitable for the idea. 

Of course I can write romance, comedy, historical, and as for action my movie Men Daher Ragel was an action project. I am loyal to writing in general and I hope I am good at it. I have some projects that have not yet been produced, whether series or movies, which are completely different from the genres I wrote before.

Some see that the events of your series contain political and economic references and projections. To what extent is this true?

There is a theory that says that the role of the writer comes to an end after his story is transferred to a movie or a series, so one of the audience may see a political reference that I didn’t mean or a projection that I truly meant. And if people have different points of view pertaining to the same series or movie, this means that it is a rich one.

Do you believe that the writer must experience everything he writes about?

There are certain things that you have to experience before writing about, but other times art presents to you the truth to the extent that will make you live the experience you are writing about as if you experienced it in reality; and you later realize that this was the reality, but in general when you experience something you can write about it better.

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