New Material takes Cassim and his stand-up show on the roadWatch all of it now
New Material is the long-awaited follow up to Material, a coming-of-age comedy drama about Cassim, a young man who wants to become a stand-up comic when his father, Ebrahim, intends for him to take over the family’s material business.
The film stars real-life South African comedian Riaad Moosa, who plays opposite seasoned veteran Vincent Ebrahim, who you may recognise as the father from The Kumars at No. 42. Together their on-screen chemistry and collective talent bristle as Material’s slow-burning tension mounts with Cassim navigating the Joburg comedy underground and going against his father’s wishes. Material is a case of art reflecting life based on Moosa’s personal journey, which has become an intrinsic part of his comedy as he too faced pressure to become a doctor over a stand up.
At its heart, the original is a father-son story
Changing names and taking pages from Moosa’s life story, writer-director Craig Freimond (Beyond the River) crafted a script that finds a good balance between heartwarming comedy and touching drama. While essentially a family story about traditions, patriarchy and the precarious nature of father-son relationships, Material is centred on Cassim and Ebrahim.
Moosa’s instant likability makes him a breezy comedian, a caring doctor and a natural when it comes to acting. Given a chance to shine, his on-screen sparring with Ebrahim led to both winning SAFTAs for their roles in Material. Moosa’s slice-of-his-own-life role and Ebrahim’s career-best supporting performance are the backbone of this emotionally complex, entertaining and feel-good South African comedy drama.
New Material honours the original but adds extra layers to the fabric of the story
It may have taken a few years to find the right story and angle for a sequel, but it’s been worth the wait with New Material. The clever title shows this isn’t a classic rinse-and-repeat kind of sequel but a passion project to honour the original and push the story forward with nuance.
On the surface, New Material may seem like a fun comedy road trip movie but it’s so much more. There are many layers to the sequel, mining Cassim’s new life chapter as a rising star with a few biographical elements and embroidering the events from the first installation to ground the story. Material was centred on the emotive father-son dynamic, which remains an active ingredient, but the sequel now gives equal focus on his friendship with buddy-turned-manager, Yusuf.
Joey Rasdien (Barakat) reprises his role as Cassim’s best friend, Yusuf, taking his energy and comedic flair up a notch with much more screen time in New Material. Leveraging their bromance for better or worse, the friendship serves up a great deal of comedic situations as Cassim’s break-out tour hits a few snags and budgetary constraints. From an uncooperative Little Miss Sunshine touring combi to an overbearing chicken sponsor, there’s rarely a dull moment.
Cranking it up to 11 is the prolific Schalk Bezuidenhout, who plays back seat warmer Hendrick, using one of the many names on his birth certificate to keep it real as an opening act and secret weapon. Rajesh Gopie’s pure conviction helps realise the shady Shabir as a nightmare client while it’s good to see Carishma Basday, Zakeeya Patel and Denise Newman reprise their roles from Material.
Exploring the tensions between work, family, passion and pressure
New Material is thematically rich, offering some valuable life lessons without skimping on entertainment value. Shifting between home and life on the road, New Material explores the tension between work and family as Cassim tries to manage expectations around his career as a comedian without losing sight of his responsibilities as a devoted husband, father and son. The balancing act sees him trying to figure out love, kids, family and comedy as the demands of the tour and pressure back home play out.
New Material also serves as a window into the life, customs and values of a Muslim family and heritage of a Johannesburg community. Touching on faith, family values and forced resettlement, the film’s title alludes to the comedy and the fabric’s many threads – each of which could have been a spin-off for a standalone film. Material gave an intimate account of a Muslim Indian enclave in Fordsburg, Johannesburg and the sequel continues this element through Ebrahim’s contemplative and nostalgic turn.
Look out for short, sharp cameos from SA’s best comics
It’s quite amazing how much story Craig Freimond manages to pack into the space of 94 minutes. Sustaining the best elements from the original, the accomplished filmmaker manages to craft something equally moving and amusing to satisfy fans without simply doing more of the same. With the story’s new focus, it’s wonderful to revisit Cassim’s life and find out what happened to all the lovable supporting characters years down the line. Spotting many fellow real-life comedians in short, sharp cameos adds another fun dimension in a film that’s constantly amusing, upbeat and even silly at times.
New Material is a labour of love that dexterously weaves together many story strands to create a tapestry that is entertaining, endearing and enduring. Paying its respects to the powerful emotional core of Material, it ventures out in a new direction, capturing the essence of Moosa’s good-natured and homegrown stand up material. A quick-paced comedy drama with an adventurous spirit and a twinkle in the eye, it’s the kind of movie that’s worth watching again.