Gangster tale Mayfair, the fourth film by award-winning director Sara Blecher (Ayanda, Dis Ek Anna, Otelo Burning) opened to rave reviews this past weekend. This comes after several sold-out screenings in London.
Mayfair tells the story of prodigal son Zaid Randera (Ronak Patani) who returns home to Mayfair in Johannesburg, where his overbearing father Aziz (Rajesh Gopie) – a thriving import-exporter and occasional money launderer and loan shark – is facing death threats. Zaid has been unfairly dismissed from his job as an aid worker, and on his return he finds himself living in the shadow of his father and his dodgy dealings. When a murderous rival gang threatens the family’s business, Zaid is forced back into the life he’d hoped to leave behind.
Channel24’s Rozanne Els wrote, “The elements of this story are greatly compelling, and Sara Blecher methodically pulls each of these closer together to eventually become a tight and gripping conclusion.” She called the film “a much richer blend of themes than what any genre classification…can completely encompass”. She praised Ronak Patani, the British actor who plays Zaid. “With genuine commitment, [he takes] the character’s perception of himself as a compassionate, well-intentioned man who is nothing like his father to one of disgust, and resigned to his inevitable fate.”
Mayfair follows on from the recent success of Indian stories set in South Africa, including Material, Keeping up with the Kandasamys and Broken Promises.
South Africa Indian community site Indian Spice, said, “Blecher delivers a taut, fine-tuned thriller that is guaranteed to keep you on tenterhooks.”
Notably, BBC News visited the bustling suburb of Mayfair, and did a video interview with Blecher, who said that the film reveals a part of Johannesburg seldom seen on screen, and shines a light on a community often side-lined by mainstream popular culture.
In the role of Aziz is Rajesh Gopie, a well-known South African Indian actor, comedian, writer and voice artist who has appeared in such television series as Generations and Zero Tolerance, and is best known for his role in South Africa’s highest grossing film of 2017, Keeping up with the Kandasamys, a comedy that tells the story of a long-standing rivalry between two families, the Kandasamys and the Naidoos.
Shady businessman and long-standing rival of the Randera family Jalaal is played by Jack Devnarain, who has performed in numerous TV and film productions, including the heist thriller 31 Million Reasons. Devnarain describes his character as “a puppet-master dealing in money, power and blood”.
Movie news and reviews site Screen Anarchy praised the film, noting that the crime drama is part of “the current wave of high end South African films”, and that Mayfair looks at the Muslim-Indian communities of Johannesburg through “a tale of conflicted loyalties and escalating violence”.
“The film explores similar themes to the current Saif Ali Khan headed thriller Sacred Games, the first Indian Netflix Original web series, which has proved to be a game changer in the Indian entertainment scene,” says Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution. “The show received a huge thumbs-up from audiences and shot the lights out in India. It explores themes to those at the heart of Mayfair including corruption, crime and the dark underworld that exists in almost every urban setting.”