Dubai director on making 'Versace Baby' with Mohamed Ramadan
Len Prasad talks to us about working with the popular rapper for the music video shot in Dubai.
What makes work special? For some, it is following their passion, and for others, it is the amount of hard work they put in to achieve their goals. For Len Prasad, a Dubai resident, it was the chance to work with some of his closest friends to make a special music video.
Len, along with his friends Ameel and Munzer, is the man behind Egyptian rapper Mohamed Ramadan’s latest music video Versace Baby that was shot in Dubai. It currently boasts nearly 20 million views.
Born and brought up in Dubai, Len has also been a part of various projects in India, including Trance, a Malayalam psychological thriller by National Award-winning filmmaker Anwar Rasheed.
But, before all the camera magic, Len tried his hands at engineering. He graduated from BITS Pilani, Dubai, shortly after which he left for Mumbai to pursue his filmmaking dreams. In a conversation with City Times, Len talks about his journey, and how Dubai has helped shape his career.
How has Dubai helped you in your career as a director?
A city like Dubai encourages and lifts many people like me. The opportunities given to us are in abundance and it is up to us to pick them up and nurture them with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. The best part of Dubai is that the city is always evolving, and the sole reason for that is the synergy created by different minds from different places.
Having shot videos in other parts of the world, the cinema industry in Dubai is one of a kind and a breath of fresh air. Top-notch production quality and technology paired with ideal shooting destinations make Dubai my proud home. Dubai is the future, a future that I am proud to be a part of.
Dubai has become an ideal location for movie/music shoots. What do you think gives the city an edge in this regard?
Dubai is a city that has all the support of the government, the most iconic backgrounds in the world, the best production houses, the social camaraderie, world-class hotels, and the list goes on. Dubai offers a variety of exciting filming locations that are perfect for all sorts of productions. If it were not for Dubai and the vision of its rulers, none of us would prosper in this industry.
How did you land Versace Baby? What was it like working with Mohamed Ramadan and this project?
Ramadan is one of my favourite artists and I have loved some of his previous work, Ensaay, Ya Habibi, and Bum Bum to name a few. I love his style, his energy and the way he performs. I had worked on a couple of ideas and I wanted to pitch one to him. My friends Rajesh and Samir helped me to get a meeting with him.
While narrating the script for an idea, he told me about his next single Versace Baby and within a week, we began filming it. Everything happened within a very short period of time. The moment I first heard the track, I knew this was going to be a club banger and I had to make sure the video did justice to the song.
Working with Ramadan was a great experience. He is very dedicated and focused. His energy is amazing and he inspired the entire crew. He was graciously willing to give as many shots as required for the perfect take. He never made us feel that we were working with a superstar. He was very cooperative and humble.
This project is even more special for me because I got the chance to work with some of my closest friends; Ameel (DOP) and Munzer (Choreographer) among many others involved in the filmmaking process as well. It felt really good to be able to do a major music video with these people. Versace Baby will always be a special project.
In the Versace Baby music video, which scene was the most difficult to shoot?
Definitely the car sequence, because we shot that in moving traffic during rush hour. The scene was more of a stunt with Mohamed Ramadan performing on top of a moving Rolls Royce. We had to make sure all the other sports cars were aligned along with the main vehicle as well. Ramadan was very supportive and ready to do anything that was needed to get the perfect shot.
It’s not at all easy to perform the stunts that he did, but he made it look very simple. It was an intense experience filming something of this sort in Dubai. It’s my favourite scene from our video as well. A huge thank you goes out to Dubai Police, it would not have happened without their support.
What according to you makes a music video creative and different?
Personally, I enjoy all sorts of music videos, be it storytelling, performance-oriented videos, or even the ones that focus only on visuals. These days you can film or create any video however you want to. There are umpteen ways to present anything. In my opinion, a music video stands out when it has flow and energy throughout the song. The audience shouldn’t be bored and the visuals should keep them engaged.
When I was filming Versace Baby, I wanted to bring in an element of swag and fun at the same time. Keeping that in mind, I used some of Ramadan’s signature moves and added a different treatment unlike any of his other music videos. The magic happens when you have an amazing artist and a great team involved in the filmmaking process.
How was it having Bollywood actress Urvashi Rautela feature in the video?
It was great to have her onboard for Versace Baby. She is very committed and hardworking too. And it was easy to direct her because she is an amazing dancer.
Looking back, if you could modify one thing in the Versace Baby music video, what would it be and why?
To be honest, I am extremely happy and proud of how the video has turned out. At this moment, I don’t think I would want to modify anything in the video. During post-production, I did various different edit versions for the video which I discussed with Ramadan as well. Once the rough edit was ready, I got my team and close friends to watch it and I got their feedback. I tried to gauge their reaction and only the best ones made it to the final cut of the video.
There are a few ideas that I couldn’t execute in this video, so I’ll definitely bring it in some way or the other in my next project. However, I am really content with how our video was received by the audience and it felt wonderful to see the video trending at number one in 14 countries in the first week of release.
What’s next for you? More music videos in Dubai or something different?
For now, I want to take a small break from directing and focus on writing and working on different ideas and concepts. I have been working on some projects for the past few months. I am in talks with some international artists and I am working on collaborations that I can undertake in Dubai as well.
With every video I do, I want to try and do my best to deliver different ideas and concepts. I want to work with different talents based in Dubai and abroad and also learn from them at the same time. My ultimate aim is to direct a feature film and hopefully, I will have the opportunity to fulfill that dream soon.