Abbas had never run before.

One day, he decided to give it a go. And he didn’t do it by half: he became an ultramarathon runner completing races of 50, 75 and 100 kilometres one after the next.

Every morning at 5am, when Mumbai is still cool and calm, Abbas gets up to go running. And that’s just the start of his day. After training, he launches into a 12-hour shift in a jewellery workshop.

“It doesn’t matter if I enjoy my work, I stick with what I know. It’s running that makes me happy”, he says.

Directed by Veena Rao
Music: Joseph Trapanese
Colour Grading: Begonia Colomar
Sound: Pete Karam
Animation: Eric Rothman
Production: Nidhu Ayyagari, Byram Dhalla, Savio D’souza, Yashwant Neti, Guillerma Sanchez, Viraj Savant
Translation: Arnav Sheth, Vivek Iyer
Thank you to Jodie Clifford


Veena Rao |

Veena Rao Filmmaker

“I like making films about the extraordinary in the everyday.”
  • Tell us about yourself, Veena.

I’m a filmmaker based in New York City. I love that film has the ability to allow us to dream and empathize with each other, and can have a real influence on the way we see the world. I like making films about the extraordinary in the everyday.

Mumbai Mornings 01 |
  • How did this film come about?

I planned a trip to visit family in Mumbai and decided I was going to make something while I was there. One night I mentioned to a friend of a friend that I was looking for a film subject. She happened to be on the same running team as Abbas and told me his story.

I showed up at the team’s practice soon after and asked if he would be interested in collaborating on a film. He said yes, and I spent the next few weeks filming him at practices, at home, and at work.

  • It seems like it’s not easy to figure Abbas out…

Abbas struck me as a very thoughtful and caring person. He found not only a sense of peace in running but also a community of good friends when he joined the team. He is much loved by his teammates because of his positivity and dedication to running.

“A good documentary short hooks you in the first couple of minutes.”
  • Your film is imbued with a certain gentleness, but at the same time, we’re caught up in the speed and intense rhythm of Abbas’s daily life. Can you tell us about your approach, both in terms of content and form?

I wanted to make a film about Abbas and the city he now calls home. I chose long, static shots of different areas in Mumbai and a slower edit to reflect the calm and meditative state that Abbas experiences when he runs. I also decided not to include an interview and only use Abbas’s voice over to keep the viewer in the environment.

Mumbai Mornings 02 |
  • What does your film say about India, and Mumbai in particular?

I have a connection to Mumbai through my mother, who grew up there. It was wonderful to experience the city on my own as an adult, and I wanted to make a portrait of it.

I also felt at home in Mumbai as a New Yorker. Both places have this incredible frenetic energy to them and feel so alive. I wanted to show a calmer side of Mumbai, the side that Abbas experiences when he runs in the early mornings.

  • How’s Abbas today?


He is doing well. He got married a few years ago and recently had a son. He still runs regularly.

Mumbai Mornings 03 |
  • What is your view of short documentaries in particular? What’s so special about this genre?

I love short documentaries because they reveal just enough about a place, a person or an event to tell an impactful story that sticks in your mind long after you watch the film. In a short, the filmmaker is forced to figure out what the most powerful aspects of a story are and find a way to frame the film around them. The discipline required to make a short creates something that is focused and has a strong point of view, two ingredients of a good film.

A good documentary short hooks you in the first couple of minutes, makes you feel along the way, and takes you to an unexpected place by the end.

  • Is there a specific film that you liked on 99?

There are so many good ones! One that sticks out is “Tungrus”, a funny and poignant film about a family’s beloved rooster.

  • What do you think of the fact that your film will be subtitled in several languages?

I’m excited that a wider audience will be able to experience Abbas’s story!

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