A screwball comedy sequel was the talk of UAE cinemas this weeken
Emiratis flock to see local comedy Edhay in Thailand
The UAE’s first comedy film franchise could be in the making with the success of Edhay in Thailand.
The screwball comedy, starring Emirati actor Ahmed Saleh, has received an enthusiastic response in cinemas across the GCC, particular in Abu Dhabi with packed sessions over the last weekend’s Eid Al Adha break.
The film marks the second instalment of a pair of films featuring the bumbling character Edhay (Saleh) and his sidekicks; the dim-witted Habban (Abduyla Bo Hajouz) and the cantankerous elderly Egyptian Hosny (played by screen veteran Hassan Hosny).
Buoyed by the Gulf-wide success of last year’s Edhay in Abu Dhabi, part two is a bigger and slightly more polished affair with the comedic capers moving from suburban streets of the capital to the busy and smoggy streets of Bangkok.
This time around, Edhay joins his uncle Obeid as he travels to the Thai capital for a medical check-up.
Meanwhile, the wily Hosny found himself a job as a bottom rung football agent who came to Thailand to organise a training camp for a Sudanese club run by Derdelie (Rabie Taha).
Before long, a kidnapping ensues, a suitcase of cash is misplaced and Edhay has entered a Muay Thai tournament.
To say the film is nonsensical is actually a compliment.
The charm here is not so much in the plot but in the banter, which is essentially a showcase of the comedic styles of the various Arab nations represented in the film.
The trademark dry sarcasm of Emirati comedy is channelled to fun effect by Saleh and Bo Hajouz. The veteran, Hosny, is almost a caricature of a grumpy Egyptian uncle – he is shouty, endlessly emotional and quick to administer a blistering tongue lashing; while the Sudanese comic stalwart Rabie Taha is full of the laid-back colloquialisms unique to his homeland’s humour.
It all makes for a vibrant stew that gets occasionally spoiled when the film tries to shoe horn dodgy montages to accelerate the plot.
Speaking to the press from the gala opening last week at Abu Dhabi’s Emirate Palace, Saleh said the anticipation surrounding the film is an indicator of a greater confidence sweeping the local film industry.
“It really pleases me to say that it is flourishing,” he said. “Two years ago people would show an Emirati film and would be almost embarrassed by it. The producers would be scared by the reaction. I feel we have got a lot of self-confidence now. When Edhay in Abu Dhabi came out last year the film stayed in cinemas for two months.”
Rakan, the writer and director of both films, said Edhay in Thailand was completed at the fraction of the price of other Emirati productions.
“Emirati cinema has always been present but it has taken either the path of Hollywood or Bollywood,” he told Erem News. “Some simplicity, I find, is the best way to reach the people.”
But that concept is relative.
In an interview with his homeland’s leading television breakfast show, Sabahat Sudaniya, Taha said Edhay in Thailand was the biggest production he ever been part of.
“It was just a brilliant time and real milestone for me. We stayed in an area called Nana Square and that whole area is just ridiculous. I have never seen anything like it,” he recalled.
“It was a very smooth production. There was a team of 25 people and every day we would start at 7.30am. By that time, you need to have learnt your lines and you are ready to go.”
Taha, a comedy theatre actor and star of the Sudanese version of Candid Camera, used a fair amount of improvisation to nail Derdelie. “When I got the script I found that it was written in an Emirati style,” he said.
“I flipped it around and did it in a Sudanese way. I made the character a typical ‘zoul Sudani’ [Sudanese guy].”
But Taha believes his addition to the film is a testament to the cultural ties shared by both Sudan and the UAE.
“Our culture and arts is known there because Sudanese people have been living there for decades,” he said. “You even find some Emiratis now using the word ‘zoul’ in their conversations.”
While there have been no official announcement of another instalment, Taha said more are planned in the series.
“There is talks that another one could be shot in Europe,” he said. “So perhaps there will be an Edhay in Spain.”
Edhay in Thailand is screening in UAE cinemas