Monkey Man: Interview with Fight Choreographer Brahim Chab

Making one’s directorial debut with a movie as action-packed as “Monkey Man” is no easy feat, and that’s without even getting into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, budgetary challenges, and plenty of on-set injuries experienced by the movie’s director/leading man.

However, Dev Patel wasn’t about to let any of that slow him down, and after years of tumultuous challenges to get the movie across the finish line, “Monkey Man” finally reached theaters around the world, earning a wildly positive reception as one of the best action movies of 2024.

Of course, accomplishing such a feat requires the services of a fight choreographer who understands the intricacies of crafting enthralling martial arts action like the back of his hand – and for “Monkey Man”, that man was none other than veteran action man, Brahim Chab!

For martial arts fans, Brahim is well-known for his dynamic kicks, tricks, and powerful on-screen energy, having appeared in stupendous fight scenes in such modern martial arts gems as “Man of Tai Chi”, “Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear”, “Dragon Blade”, “Boyka: Undisputed”, “Never Back Down: No Surrender”, and many others. Throughout his career, Brahim has brought his in-depth knowledge of martial arts and fight choreography to craft one powerful action scene after another, and his work on “Monkey Man” decisively delivers some of the best big-screen martial arts combat to be showcased in a Hollywood production in ages!

Brahim sat down recently with KFK to discuss the making of “Monkey Man”, the process of working with Dev Patel to craft the movie’s outstanding action sequences, and also share nuggets on his role as Bloodbath opposite Tiger Shroff in the 2023 Bollywood martial arts epic “Ganapath: A Hero is Born”!

Hi Brahim,

Welcome back to Kung Fu Kingdom! It’s great to connect with you again and we hope you’re keeping well.

Hi Brad, I’m doing very well, thank you!

Monkey Man

Awesome! Well, let’s go ahead and dive right into the making of Dev Patel’s directorial debut “Monkey Man”! How did you come aboard “Monkey Man” as the movie’s fight choreographer?

Well, basically, during the pandemic, there were very few projects going on between March and September of 2020, and Mike Leeder got in touch with me and told me there was this Dev Patel movie that was looking for a fight choreographer. When Mike told me it was Dev Patel, I mainly knew him from movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Hotel Mumbai”, and I knew he’s a very, very solid actor, and then I had a meeting with Dev and then with the producer Erica Lee.

We clicked right away. After that, I got a team together with some other stunt performers in Thailand and did a pre-viz for them in Indonesia, and that was it. It was basically five to six months in Indonesia where we were working through the COVID rules that were in place at the time.

Yes, a lot of movies had to battle through COVID to get finished in the last few years. So, when it comes to the action of “Monkey Man”, Dev Patel is a Taekwondo black belt and former competitive champion in the UK, what can you share about his preparation for the action scenes of “Monkey Man” alongside making his directorial debut with the film?

Well, to be honest, when I got on the project, I had no idea Dev was a black belt in Taekwondo. I just knew he was a very, very gifted actor. So, first he came to train at the training space with us, and for him, it was basically just going through the movements and getting used to the fight choreography.

There are two levels of fight scenes, one is performing the choreography, but then also to tell a story through all these fights, and that was the big thing for Dev. He wanted to tell a story through the fights, he didn’t want to be just violence for the sake of violence. Every punch and kick had to have a meaning, every throw, every aspect of the fight, and to me, that was a real challenge, and Dev was all about that.

He was very, very specific about “I need this to be that way and that to be this way”, and every fight scene was tailored to all of Dev’s needs to tell a story. So, this is why from what you see in the trailer, it looks very violent, but at the same time, when you see the movie, it will tell a story.

As far as Dev preparing, I don’t think he really needed to prepare that much, because he already knew how to sell the hits and sell his reactions to everyone else’s hits. So, in this manner, I was very surprised, to be honest, about how talented he was as a screen fighter. He really embraced all the fighting and most importantly telling a story through the fights.

“Monkey Man” had also received some media impressions of being “John Wick in Mumbai”. Did you look to the “John Wick” franchise as a template in designing the movie’s fight scenes?

No, not at all. Nowadays, you put a guy in a suit and people immediately connect that to “John Wick”, but we weren’t trying to do “John Wick”, we’re trying to do something completely different. John Wick has his own universe and his own storyline, but this is something more dramatic and the violence that Dev brings in the movie was…let’s say kind of necessary.

Some of the fights have a Jackie Chan flavor where he uses the props around him, so a lot of it is like Jackie Chan mixed with “The Raid”. The style of John Wick is basically Sambo, Judo, and Jiu-Jitsu, and we didn’t have a lot of that in the movie, but I would say it’s his own unique style. It’s basically a style I’ve kind of been bringing myself for a few years now, but because I’ve been doing a lot of smaller scale movies, I never really had the chance to work on a bigger budget movie where I could show my stuff, but with “Monkey Man”, you get to see what I can do with a little bit more time and budget!

Yes, that comes across loud and clear in the movie! “Monkey Man” also features Dev Patel’s character wearing a gorilla mask as he steps into the ring for a fight. What can you share about the movie’s title and how that relates to Mr. Patel’s protagonist in the film?

Well, we have some underground fight club action in the movie, and he wears the mask when he’s competing in the fight club. But, the whole “Monkey Man” title, it’s kind of based on a Hindu figure called Hanuman, so the monkey mask is connected to that.

So, what were some of your favorite action scenes in “Monkey Man” as the movie’s fight choreographer?

(Laughs) Well, there are a lot of fight scenes in the movie, and they’re all different. It’s a non-stop action movie, and my team, Dev Patel, and the producers, all put everything into it during the COVID pandemic. I can tell you that it’s great to see the reactions of people liking it so much, because the movie was actually supposed to come out in 2022 on Netflix. But then, that didn’t end up happening, but it got a cinema release because they had some kind of preview of it, and people really loved it. So, there are a lot of fight scenes in the movie, and I think it pleases every action fan.

Yeah, the action in “Monkey Man” is definitely something else! So, how was working on “Monkey Man” as a fight choreographer different for you compared to other projects you’ve been a part of?

I think it’s because on this one, I’m getting not only a very, very talented actor, but also more time, and also a bigger stunt team. I had a pre-viz cameraman who I could tell how to shoot all the fights, and he edited them as well, and then I had probably ten Indonesian stunt guys and stunt coordinators with me.

So, I would say I had more resources to do the movie and I had more time. Some of my previous work as a fight coordinator, I would get on smaller films but I would have more limited time. Like, for example, on “Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge”, I was being told that the movie was not a “Tekken” movie, so I was designing fights for a non-“Tekken” movie, and then out of nowhere, it becomes “Tekken”! Then everyone who saw it thought “Oh, the fight coordinator didn’t do his job”, but they don’t know the behind-the-scenes stuff with the producers.

So, on “Monkey Man”, I had more resources, and then I also had a very, very talented actor and also director with Dev, and we knew what we wanted, which is to tell a story through the fights, and be sure that we have moments that are memorable.

One that you see in the trailer is when Dev put the guy’s face on the stove and broke a bottle on his face, and then the flame bursts up, that kind of moment, people remember those kinds of little moments, so we wanted to make sure we had moments like that. But like I said, time and resources are what you need, and that’s why you can’t compare movies like “John Wick”, which are like mega-movies, they have a lot of time, resources, endless days of shooting and they can do reshoots, you need that to have a very successful movie.

Is there any talk of “Monkey Man 2” behind-the-scenes, and if so, would you be interested in returning as fight choreographer?

Of course, man! If there was talk of returning for “Monkey Man 2” as a fight choreographer, I’d take it instantly, of course, because I’ve gotten to know the director and main actor already, so yes, of course. But, as of right now, I haven’t heard anything about a “Monkey Man 2”, but if there is, they can call me again!

So, who are some other big name martial artists you’d love to see come aboard a possible “Monkey Man 2”?

I don’t know, maybe they could do a crossover of “Monkey Man” with “John Wick”! That would be nice!

Ganapath: A Hero is Born

Yes, that sounds amazing. Moving ahead now to a movie that came out in late 2023, how did you come aboard the Bollywood martial arts film “Ganapath: A Hero is Born” in the role of Guddu’s final opponent and feared MMA fighter, Bloodbath?

I got on “Ganapath” thanks to Tim Man, who was the action director of the movie. We shot the movie at the end of 2021, in London, actually. We shot there for maybe about eight weeks, although unfortunately, a lot of the stuff we did actually got cut.

I had more fights in the movie, including a fight with Mark Strange and another with Lee Charles, but they got cut and they only showed a little bit of it in the beginning of the movie. Also, my fight with Tiger Shroff actually was originally around fourteen minutes, but they wanted to cut it down to about eight minutes.

Wow, the fight scenes in “Ganapath” are really amazing, but hopefully, we get to see those deleted scenes, too. On that note, you also previously worked with Tiger Shroff in his 2019 movie “War”. What can you share about the experience of making that action-packed Bollywood hit with Tiger?

On “War”, it was really good, man. I was part of a one-take fight scene in the movie, and we shot that for maybe a week or something like that. Tiger is very, very down to Earth, and it’s like you’re working with a friend, and since I knew him already from “War”, it was very easy to do the fight scene with him on “Ganapath”.

It was very smooth and we shot that whole fight scene in “Ganapath” in about eight days, and fourteen minutes of footage in eight days, that’s pretty solid. So, yeah, he’s easy to work with and a very down to Earth guy. He loves to workout, he loves to train, he’s a workout addict and a very, very nice guy.

Yes, Tiger brings a lot of charisma and martial arts skill to movies like “Ganapath”. Speaking of that, your character in “Ganapath”, Bloodbath, bears a rather striking resemblance to the character Sagat from the “Street Fighter” franchise. Was this an intentional choice?

(Laughs) I don’t think so. At first, he had another look without the blood, and just a shaved head and a couple of scars. I really got in good shape on that movie, I was like 82kg [180 lbs.] and ripped as hell. Then, the whole thing with the blood and the look, I would say it was not intentional, but in the end, yes, when I look at some of the pictures, he does kind of look like Sagat. I like the look I had for Bloodbath, so in the end, it worked out, he looks quite vicious.

And going right off of that, your fight scene with Tiger in “Ganapath” is incredible. What can you share about the overall experience of making such a phenomenal martial arts showdown with Tiger Shroff on “Ganapath”?

Well, first of all, it was very cold, because we shot the movie in London between November and December. Then, the make-up that I was wearing took two-and-a-half hours to get done. I also had to wear a jacket in between takes, but that was the only time I could put it on, because the make-up would stick to the jacket. And we still had to put make-up and blood all over my body again and again, and at the end of the day, just wash it off.

We did the fight scene in a ring, so that was good for all the jumping and choreography, because you’re fighting barefoot, so it was easier to perform everything. A lot of takes, a lot of hard work, and then, in the morning, going to the gym before going to shoot, so it was a lot of hard work, but when you do this kind of movie, the downside is that the producers or the director might decide to cut some parts out of the movie that were very hard work.

I also worked on “John Wick: Chapter 4”, and I did about a week of work on that movie, one acting scene and one fight scene, and it all unfortunately got cut from the final cut of the movie. These MMA movies are a lot of hard work, like with “Boyka: Undisputed 4”, but with that movie, thankfully, everything made it to the final cut.

The fight scenes in “Ganapath” actually have a very Boyka feel to them with Tim’s fight choreography, and you guys did a phenomenal job with it.

Yeah, that was basically why Tim got the job on “Ganapath” as action director, because they wanted an “Undisputed 4” kind of style, and Tim did a great job with the fights. Tim is probably one of the best, if not the best action director I know, and he can do wonders with very, very limited resources.

I think in the coming years, if you give the right material to Tim, I think he can bring something that can really, really rival a lot of the stuff that other action directors do these days. He’s one of the most talented and knowledgeable action directors working today.

Oh yeah, Tim’s worked his magic on some of the best martial arts films of the 21st century. So, what would you say have been some of your most memorable moments in working with Tiger so far?

On “War”, I would say that triple kick that he does on me. Every time I see Tiger, I know there’s going to be a triple kick! So, I would say the triple kick on “War”, then I would also say that every time we got to the set, I was always trying to keep up with him, because he’s in such good shape, so while I was trying to keep up with him, it was kind of like a healthy competition of who’s got the biggest biceps, but I think it helped me in that department. Tiger is in crazy f***king shape! So, I had to work hard to be in good shape with him. So, it was a very down to Earth and peaceful shoot.

Is Tiger a spiritual person, would you say?

Yes, I would say so. He’s very down to Earth, like I said, and he’s very similar to Scott Adkins. He’s also very down to Earth, and you get on a movie with him and he’s always trying to help you get your next job. Like, we recently worked together on “Skyline: Warpath”, and he was telling the director, Liam O’Donnell, “Okay, next time, you should hire Brahim for this and this”, and Tiger is very similar, he’s always trying to help you or make you feel comfortable working on the movie.

Scott Adkins and Tiger Shroff in a movie or fight scene together would be incredible – somebody make it happen!

Yeah, probably in the future!

So, did you and Tiger share any tips or tricks when it comes to martial arts moves?

Not really, because we kind of do the same things, in terms of tricking and things like that, so we had a lot of mutual respect.

We know Tiger is an amazing dancer, but in your opinion, who has the most versatile moves – you or him?

(Laughs) Oh, in that department man, definitely Tiger Shroff! Tiger wins by knock-out, round one!

(Both laugh) So, how is working on a Bollywood martial arts film like “Ganapath” different from other countries you’ve worked in like Thailand and the U.S.?

Well, I was working with Tim Man, and when I work with him, it’s like I’m working with my big brother, basically, so it’s not stressful, Tim knows what I can do. He knows how far he can push me, so it wasn’t really too different, because it was like working with family.

When you work with people like Tiger and Tim and people who understand how to do good action, it doesn’t really feel like working, it feels like you’re having a great time. So, it was a very smooth shoot, and credit to Tim for that, because he pre-vized everything in Sweden before going to England, so all we had to do was basically rehearse the fights at the hotel, and then boom, we shot it all, and only with one camera most of the time.

So, it was the same as everywhere else, it all depends on who you work with. Sometimes, you get to work with people who make it a little bit harder, and other times, you’re lucky and you get to work with your friends, and Tim is my friend, so it was like working with my big brother basically.

So cool! Well, as we sign off, Brahim, who are some other Bollywood action stars you’d love to work with in the future?

I think maybe Vidyut Jammwal, he’s one of the guys I’d like to work with. He’s very similar to Tiger, so I’d like to do a fight scene with him or maybe coordinate one of his films.

That sounds super incredible, hopefully we see that in the future. Thank you so much for your time today, Brahim. Best of luck following the success of “Monkey Man” and all your upcoming 2024 action projects!

Thank you Brad, and great to speak to Kung Fu Kingdom again!



“Monkey Man” comes to home release on 8h July, pre-order your 4K Ultra HD version from Amazon!

Have you seen “Monkey Man”? What are your thoughts on Dev Patel’s directorial debut and the movie’s top flight fight scenes orchestrated by Brahim? Let us know in the comments below; Like, share and join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter & Instagram! Time to GO BANANAS AGAIN in the KINGDOM of FU, with these top fight scene listicles, exclusive interviews, BE LIKE HANUMAN in KFK gear and subscribe for more DEITY LEVEL-FU on YouTube!

Brad Curran

From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

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