Monday, April 24, 2017

Hans Isaac & Gabby

This one to one interview with Hans Isaac  took place after few weeks he announced that he is getting married. theSun had published the interview today.  Read the full story here  

Headline : New Beginning 
By Bissme 

EXCITEMENT is written all over his face whenever producer, director, and actor Hans Isaac talks about his upcoming wedding on July 29. His bride-to-be is 28-year-old Aileen Gabriella Robinson, affectionately known as Gabby, who is a former dancer and beauty queen (Miss Tourism International 2011), and who currently does emcee duty for corporate events. In this exclusive interview, Hans, 45, talks about his two loves – his Gabby, and his career.

*Was your relationship love at first sight?  

I do not believe in love at first sight. How can you love someone at first sight when you have not met her before? You do not know her character. You have to take time to know people. We have been friends for six years. Our turning point was last year when we realised we were still single, and decided to take our friendship to another level.   

*What do you like and dislike about Gabby? 

Money is not everything to her, and I find that refreshing. She does not define a person through wealth. She also knows how to pamper me and accepts my strength and my weaknesses. What I dislike about her ... well, she loves to procrastinate.  

Gives us a sneak preview of your wedding plans. 

I had wanted my parents to be a big part of my wedding. [But since] they have passed away, I will include elements of them in my wedding. 
For my church wedding, I will be wearing barong (traditional Filipino attire) because my mother was Filipino. After the church wedding, there will be a lunch reception for family members and close friends. The food will feature Indian cuisine (his dad was Indian-Eurasian). 
At night, the wedding reception will have more of a European atmosphere, and that comes from Gabby’s side. At the reception, [local music legend] Micheal Verappan, with his 40-piece band, will entertain the guests. 
I’m also getting [English actor singer] Stephen Rahman Hughes to fly in for my wedding and perhaps perform a duet with [singer] Jaclyn Victor. 

Are you getting married because you are getting older and facing pressure to tie the knot?  (Laughs) 

If I had not found the right woman, I would not be getting married. I will never commit myself to the wrong person. I am not the type who gives in to pressure. 

*You once said that if you had gotten married earlier, you would be a divorcee by now.  

I was too wrapped up in my career. I was filming every day. My career would have interfered with my marriage. Then, I had to take care of my mother who was suffering from cancer. I wanted to spend my time looking after her (she passed away three years ago). Now, I’m ready to settle down.

*What’s next in your career?  

I [will be playing] a commander in Police Evo 2. I have never played a military role before. Also, I will be producing a free motivational tour all over Malaysia in August and September. There will be 10 comedians who will perform comedy sketches and give motivational talks to members of the public.  I am also planning to direct an epic film entitled Rejang (a reference to the Rejang river in Sarawak), focusing on the Iban and Dayak communities. This [is] my dream project. 

*What change would you like to see in the local film industry? 

[For] our cinemas [to show] 60% Malaysian films and 40% foreign films. South Korea has done that, and it has boosted its film industry.” 

*You also founded Tall Order Productions, which among other things, stages musical theatre shows. What is the concept behind the shows? 

[They] are mostly about underdogs achieving success. For example, Lat the Musical is about a kampung boy who goes on to become an international cartoonist; Cuci the Musical is about four window cleaners who want to wash the windows of Petronas Twin Towers; Supermokh the Musical is a biopic about a young boy who becomes a famous footballer. I wanted to motivate Malaysians so that they can achieve any dream if they put their minds to it. 

Hans also revealed that he has already planned his next musical, which will be about a “prominent sports personality”. He kept mum about the individual’s identity, but it might very well be our local badminton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei. Fans will just have to wait and see 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Saw Teong Hin

Malaysian director Saw Teong Hin speaks to theSun about his latest film You Mean The World to Me that highlights his relationship with  his mother  

Headline: A Family Affair

LOCAL director Saw Teong Hin’s latest film, You Mean the World to Me, is something very close to his heart. It is based on his family, especially his contentious relationship with his mother. In addition, it is the first Malaysian-made Hokkien movie.
You Mean the World to Me centres on Sunny, a filmmaker who returns to his hometown in Penang to shoot a new film. Playing Sunny is Malaysian actor Federick Lee, while Singaporean actress Neo Swee Lin plays his mother.
Others in the cast include John Tan, Yeo Yann Yann and Tan Ai Suan, while Penang boy Gregg Koay takes on his first film role playing the young Sunny.
Saw, who was named best director at the 18th Malaysia Film Festival for his work on 2004’s Puteri Gunung Ledang, says: “I have [had] some success in my film career, [but none] of the work I was doing was truly reflective of me. I wanted to do something meaningful for myself.” 
So, Saw set out to write a script that featured more of his ‘voice’, including characters based upon himself, his siblings, and his mother. Saw was the youngest of six children. His mother came from a rich family, and she married his father, who was wealthy in his own right. However, the family soon fell on hard times.
“[Going] from having money, to not having money, must have been hard on her,” he said.
To make matters worse, one of his older brothers suffered from psychological issues.
“He was a disruptive force in my family,” Saw remembers.
“But my late mother was constantly defending him.” 
There were plans to commit his brother to an institution where he could get help. But his mother would not accept the suggestion.
“I could not understand how my mother chose to love one child more than the others,” he says.
“I always thought my mother never loved me. And I resented her for that.”
Saw insists that he has no intention of painting his late mother as a villain in the movie. He says, in his youth, he let his resentment rule him, adding: “I did not put myself in her shoes, and I just judged her. When you have resentment, you have no compassion.
“I was not good to her when she was alive. But over the years, [maturity] allowed me to see my mother in a totally different light.  I made this movie because I wanted to highlight her sacrifices, and to make a public apology for all the wrong I had done to her.”
Saw admits that he took some creative liberty, adding doses of fiction into the otherwise autobiographical story.
“For example, I had five siblings but in the movie, my lead character only has an older brother and sister,” he says.
Saw admits that directing the film brought on several challenges. He had designed the set to look like his childhood home. When he arrived to shoot the movie, it brought back all the raw emotions surrounding his past, but Saw managed to hold himself together and continue working. He also faced opposition from his siblings.
“Most Asians do not like talking about the ugliness and the flaws in their family.”
Thankfully, his siblings managed to put aside their reservations and trusted him to tell their story fairly. Saw wrote the script in 2010, but securing financing for the film turned out to be an arduous task. Some said they would only invest in the project if he changed the language spoken to Mandarin. “Language is an important element in understanding a person’s personality and character,” Saw says. “Every language is structured differently. If you are a native Hokkien speaker, your nuances will be different from a Mandarin speaker. I can’t really imagine my characters speaking Mandarin. It was a very personal script to me and I was not ready to make that change.” 
 In 2014, he presented the work as a stage play, which received rave reviews. The success of the play helped open doors for him to get funds to turn the play into a feature film. Saw also managed to rope in international cinematographer Christopher Doyle (who worked on Wong Kar Fai’s In the Mood for Love and Zhang Yimou’s Hero). He also got Taiwanese singer Zhao Chuan to sing the movie’s theme song.
“When you watch the film, you will realise that I love my family, and I am proud of where I came from,” he says.
“I am hoping my audience will walk away feeling grateful for their family, and their parents. Your parents had to put aside their dreams, [in order] to put food on the table for you.”

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

M.Hany Hisham

Today theSun published my interview with the author M Hany Hisham who wrote his first novel. Read the full story here:

Headline: Journey Of A Lifetime 
By Bissme S

TRAVELLING can be a wonderful balm for a wounded heart. M. Hany Hisham captures this situation perfectly in his debut novel Antara Langit, Bumi Dan Dua Hati. 
His story centres on a Malaysian woman named Illyani Izhar who embarks on a journey across Europe. Some of the countries she visits include Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 
However, Illyani is no mere adventurer. All of this is just a screen for the turmoil in her life. As a teenager, Illyana lost her mother to cancer, and since then, her relationship with her father has deteriorated. 
She is also sexually harassed at work, and develops a phobia of men. But instead of running from her problems, Illyani began her journey intending to sort out the mess in her life. 
During our interview, it became clear that Hany and his heroine share some similarities. 
“Most authors draw inspiration from their own lives, and I am no different,” he admits. 
Just as Illyani lost her mother to cancer, Hany lost his own father to the disease. 
“I was only 14 when my father passed away,” recalls the 38-year-old author, who was born and raised in Kuala Terengganu. 
“A young boy needs a father figure in his life. But I [was] lucky [to be] the seventh of nine children, and my older siblings helped me cope with my father’s death.” 
Another similarity between Hany and Illyani is that Hany loves travelling, too. 
“I [have] wanted to see the world since I was a young boy,” he says. 
Sadly, he came from a poor family and did not have the money to travel. 
“I used to be jealous of my cousins who could easily visit Kuala Lumpur,” he remembers. 
“When one of my older brothers got a job in Kuala Lumpur, I visited him and could stay in his apartment.” 
While his brother was busy working, Hany made his own plans to explore the cosmopolitan city by himself. 
And when another of his brothers got a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom, Hany kept all the pictures that his brother sent from the country. 
“I made a vow to visit the United Kingdom one day,” he says. 
Years later, once Hany started a career as an engineer in the oil and gas company, he was finally able to fulfil his longtime dream of travelling. 
The first place he visited was Bali, Indonesia. To date, he has visited 25 countries. 
“The beauty of the world is difficult to ignore,” he says. 
Hany said, however, that travelling is not always pleasant and beautiful. “Sometimes, you feel lonely and vulnerable when you are travelling,” he says. 
“You will miss your family and your friends very much. The only person you can depend on is yourself. 
“[While travelling], you get the chance to re-examine your relationship with everyone, including God. Sometimes, you will come across some people who will try to cheat you, and that makes you feel intimidated.” 
Travelling also turned him into a storyteller. He started a blog to record what he saw while visiting these foreign countries. 
“I wanted to capture my emotions in words, and write about the experiences I [could not find] in my own country,” he says. 
In 2015, as the oil and gas industry was going through some challenging times, Hany decided to take a chance at becoming a fulltime author. 
“I always had an active imagination when I was a kid,” he says. 
“I always wanted to tell stories. I have always wanted to be an author.” 
Instead of writing a travelogue, Hany decided to blend fact with fiction and hence, Antara Langit, Bumi Dan Dua Hati was born. All the travel ancedotes in the novel were based on his own experiences. 
“I want my novel to be inspirational, and spread the message of hope and [promise of] a better tomorrow to the readers,” he says. He is already working on his second novel, and readers can expect travel to be an important elements in his new novel as well. 
“You are never the same person after you’ve returned from your trips,” he says. 
“Travelling changes your view of the world.”  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Gadis Jalan Burmah

Sharifah Aleysha, Farah Rani and Ashraf Zain talks  to theSun about theatre production  Gadis Jalan Burmah. The interview was published today.

Headline: An Emotional Roller Coaster 
By Bissme

You will be laughing, crying and smiling. You will also be angry. At times, you feel like you are in love; then next moment are facing heartbreak. 
Welcome to the world of Kartini Shuib, a 42-year-old former air stewardess, and the subject of the one-woman stage play Gadis Jalan Burmah. The play is renowned for running the audience through the gamut of emotions. 
Written by actor and writer Redza Minhat, the comedy drama show was first performed in 2006 with Soefira Jaafar playing Kartini under the direction of David Lim. 
Two years later, it was restaged with Sherry Al-Hadad in the role and Megat Shahriza directing.  Now, the 90-minute play is staged for the third time from this Thursday to Sunday at Kotak (Five Arts Centre Studio) in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. 
Directed by Ashraf Zain, it will feature actress Farah Rani as Kartini. The play opens with Kartini in her kitchen, baking her own birthday cake. As she makes the cake, she recites a monologue about her life. 
Everyone is telling her that it is about time she settles down, and she contemplates going on a date with Kassim Rahman, an insurance salesman whom her mother has chosen for her. She also recalls some of the relationships she has had, including with a pilot, a  veterinarian, and an American expat. 
When asked why he chose this play to restage yet again, Ashraf, who is also a freelance  actor and scriptwriter, said: “The script was written 10 years ago but the issues are still relevant today. 
“Kartini is a free-spirited person and she is determined to live her life the way she wants. Of course, her journey is not an easy one. There is always pressure from society [to] c onform, and if you are  different, you’re punished.”  
Ashraf also laments the fact that there are few scripts out there which highlight strong female c haracters like Gadis Jalan Burmah. 
For Farah, the role of Kartini is just the latest in a line of memorable stage roles she played, including Melur in Parah, and Maznah in  Nadirah. 
For her, Gadis Jalan Burmah is a well constructed one woman play. 
“The audience will see [Kartini’s] strength and her vulnerability,” says Farah, adding that good stories like this always stand the test of time. 
“I am glad we are re-staging this production, because we are exposing the play to a new  generation of audience who has not seen the work.”     
Besides playing Kartini, Farah will be playing 20 other minor characters in the play, including Kartini’s m other, aunties and her boyfriends. 
“This is the most difficult thing I have done in my career,” the actress says. 
“If I can pull this off, I will be very pleased with myself.” 
The show is being produced by Sharifah Aleysha, who was drawn to the project by the story’s strong feminist angle. 
“I’m one person who does not enjoy it when a man writes about a woman,” says the actress, who recently had success with her play Tiga, which she directed and wrote. 
"When a man writes about a female character, she is either a slut or a nun. She is either too good or too bad. Most of them do not choose to write about women [who come in] shades of grey.” 
Previously, the only male writer whom she feels has done  justice to female characters is director and playwright  Namron. Now, she has found similar traits in Gadis Jalan Burmah’s writer Redza. 
Sharifah points out that Kartini is not portrayed as strong all the time, as the character also suffers from self doubts over her choices.  “I get annoyed with Kartini when she goes through such doubts,” she says. 
“But you cannot be strong all the time. A woman has to embrace all her emotions.”  
What strikes Sharifah most about the play is the loneliness that Kartini feels in her journey to be true to herself. 
“She can’t see eye-to-eye with her mother, her relatives, her friends and her ex boyfriends, and sometimes, that can make you feel lonely."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amy Search

The Malaysian iconic rock singer Amy Search talks to theSun his business venture.  Read the full story here 

 Headline : More Labels to His Name 
By Bissme S
MALAYSIAN rock icon Amy Search will be strutting his stuff to a different tune come April 2 – and the singer is all excited about the upcoming event. Amy, whose real name is Suhaimi Abdul Rahman, will be taking to the catwalk at the Asia Islamic Fashion Week event at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. “This will not be my first time walking the runway,” says Amy who hails from Johor Baru.
In the past, renowned Malaysian designers had used this legendary icon to promote their clothes. But this event will be different for him as it will be the first time Amy will be showcasing his own label and wearing his own designs.
Four years ago, the singer took his first steps into the fashion world after noticing that vendors at the local night markets were selling replicas of the high songkoks that he used to wear in his concerts, and calling them Amy Search Songkok. That inspired him to start his own line of songkoks. Last year, he took an even bigger step by producing a series of jubahs which sold like hot cakes. 
“It was not only the men who were wearing my jubahs,” Amy recalls.
“Even the women were wearing them! My jubah has become a popular [unisex] fashion wear. It was great to see people wearing the designs I had created.”
For the coming event on April 2, Amy will be showcasing seven different designs of menswear under his label, General Products by Amy Search.
“I have always had a passion for fashion and music,” explains Amy on his latest venture.
Now that he has realised his passion for music, he is happy to see his passion for fashion turning into reality with the launch of his clothing label. As he draws a lot of inspiration from Islamic design elements, Amy feels that the Asia Islamic Fashion Week (from March 30 to April 2) is the perfect platform to unveil his designs.
Some critics have accused him of putting too much emphasis on Arab elements in his designs to the detriment of  Malay culture. But Amy insists he has not forgotten his Malay roots. In fact, he is planning to come out with a series of baju Melayus for the coming Hari Raya. 
Asked if he is worried over the possibility of his designs being copied and sold at cheaper prices, Amy says: “Piracy happens in any business. You cannot avoid it. But I know my diehard fans and supporters will only buy my designs. Even those days when my albums were being pirated, many of my fans supported me and bought my original albums.”
Amy also has plans to turn another of his passions into a business. His love for coffee has pushed him to come out with his own brand called Phewiiit, which will be launched at the end of the year.
He has other business ventures in the pipeline as well, but will only reveal them “when the time is right”.
As for his music career, he admits it has taken a backseat in his life at the moment.
“I will perform whenever I am called upon to do so,” he adds.
But you cannot deny [that] the music industry is not as glorious as it was in the olden days. This is not only happening in Malaysia but everywhere. Even some big recording companies overseas are selling their assets, closing down and merging.”
As a result, Amy says singers have to venture into other businesses to survive. Next year, the singer will be birthday and he has expressed a desire to come out with an autobiography to mark his 35 years in the music industry.
“When I first started my career in the music industry, I never thought I will last this long,” he adds.
When asked the secret to his still youthful looks and spirit, Amy replies with a laugh: “I mix with younger people.”  
Actually, it might have a lot to do with his philosophy: “You are never too old to live your life to the fullest.” Amy lives it, taking up skydiving and scuba diving recently, and climbing Mount Kinabalu last year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Al Jafree & Oscar Wilde

 Al Jafree Md Yusop talks to theSun about his experience of turning the famous play The Importance Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde into a Malay film. Here is the full story  

Headline: Al Jafree on Being Earnest 
By Bissme S

The first time Al Jafree Md Yusop  read Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was at the age of 15. He was immediately attracted to the material in this Irish playwright’s play, one of Wilde’s most witty and sarcastic  works.
“That was the first time I realised that you can be critical and funny at the same time,” he says, adding that some of these great  comedies have the ability “to make us laugh about ourselves without us realising it”.
Although Wilde wrote the play over a hundred years ago and it was first staged in 1895, it’s still relevant today, Al Jafree adds.
The scriptwriter then decided to translate Wilde’s play into into Bahasa Malaysia. However, it was only in 1991 that he was able to start work on the translation.
“[Wilde’s] play has a dry sense of humour,” says the scriptwriter-director.
“Everyone kept insisting that I would not be able to capture this essence in Bahasa  Malaysia.
But I wanted to prove that Wilde’s work can be adapted into the Malay culture, in the Malay language, and in a  Malay atmosphere.”
It took another 10 years before actor-director Adlin Aman Ramlie presented Al Jafree’s Bahasa Malaysia version of The Importance of Being Earnest on stage. The 2001 play received rave reviews and standing ovations.
Now, 16 years later, Al Jafree sees another of his dream finally coming true – a film version of the Wilde play based on his translated script.
“I wanted my script to reach a bigger audience, and I thought a film would be the apt medium to do that.”
This time, Al Jafree is the one helming the film, Mencari Rahmat which will likely open in cinemas at the end of the year. The film also marks his d├ębut as a feature film director. In the past, he has only directed TV dramas. 
Mencari Rahmat centres on successful businessman Razak, the adopted son of a rich couple who died in a car crash, leaving him to look after his adoptive parents’ only granddaughter, his niece Ratna.
However, Razak is also a hard-partying ladies man, which he has kept hidden from Ratna. Whenever Razak needs to visit the big city for some wild party fun, he tells Ratna that he is going to see his troublesome younger brother Rahmat. In reality, Rahmat does not exist.
However, one lie leads to another, and Razak’s charade slowly gets exposed, culminating in a hilarious case of mistaken identity.
Playing Razak is veteran actor Namron.  Others in the cast include Amerul  Affendi, Nadia Aqilah,  Sharifah Amani, Fauziah Nawi, and  Azman Hassan.
As to the relevance of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in these modern times, Al Jafree says: “There is a saying that a man is born free but everywhere he goes, he is in chains. The play captures this saying aptly. There are a lot of things we don’t do because we are afraid society will judge us. Society is the worst prison known to mankind.”
Al Jafree cites the example of unwed mothers who kill their infants the moment they are born.
“The mothers kill their children not because they do not love their babies,” he says.
“[They] kill them because they are afraid  society will judge them  harshly.”   
While the Bahasa  Malaysia version of this play performed on stage was a smashing success, it might not work on screen. 
Al Jafree is willing to take the risk, adding: “When a young filmmaker named George Lucas wanted to film his space opera Star Wars, not many peoplewere keen [on it].  In the end, he managed to
make the film with a modest budget. Now look at how Star Wars has grown.
“The same  scepticism was shown to Steven Spielberg when he wanted to make Jawsand to Francis Ford  Coppolla who  wanted to make The Godfather
“Their films are now iconic in Hollywood. We need a certain kind of courage if we want to make  positive changes in the  Malaysian film industry.” 
Al Jafree also points to directors like the late Akira Kurosawa who had adapted well-known plays like William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear into  Japanese films. He adds that it is about time the  Malaysian film industry follow suit

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rizal Hallim & Lurking Woods

Malaysian director Rizal Halim has just directed an Australian suspense thriller, Lurking Woods  and he speaks to theSun about his experience. The story was published in theSun today. Read the full the story here 

Headline: A Dream Come True 
By Bissme S

Malaysian director Rizal Halim has just  directed his first feature film, an Australian suspense thriller movie titled Lurking Woods.
Opening in cinemas here on April 6, the RM1.2 million movie follows a group of six  university students who are  seeing each other again after a year apart. They then decide to spend a weekend in a cabin in the woods. Unknown to them, a masked man has been spying on them from the moment they arrive. One by one, the friends are slowly killed off.The movie stars Daniel Berenger, Hope Devaney, Troy Coward, Dominique Shenton, Kyle James Sargon, Chloe Brown and Michael Rainone. 
Rizal promises plenty of twists and turns in the movie to keep the audience in suspense.
“I use the rustic landscape of Australia to add an air of eeriness to the scene,” says this actor-turned-director.
“The landscape is one of the attractions in the film.”    
He also believes that since the movie is in English, he has an easier access to worldwide distribution. Rizal, who was born in Batu Gajah in Perak, attributed his interests in the arts to his parents.
“My mother was a teacher and she started a theatre club in the school where she was teaching and I was a student there,” he recalls.
The theatre club went on to compete in several performing arts competitions and he believes that was where he caught the acting bug. His late father, who was also a teacher, loved photography. 
“I remembered he had many cameras,” says Rizal, adding that his father’s interest sparked a similar passion in him for photography as well as using the camera to tell stories.
Rizal went on to act in several Malaysian films and television productions. He even had a chance to appear in Hollywood movies such as Beyond Rangoon and Anna &  the King. Over the years, he started writing film scripts and taking short courses in film
In the meantime, to support his passion, he took on other jobs such as a temporary teacher, a bank employee, a deejay in shopping malls and even as a manager of two cinemas.
“I was watching a lot of movies when I was managing the cinemas,” he recalls with a laugh.
“I remember watching Jurassic Park 76 times! As time passed, I realised that I did not want to just watch movies, I wanted to make them.”   
In 2014, he co-directed with M. Jamil on the Malaysian cult movie, Dia.Then, he worked as a director of photography for the short film, Still Life,about a forced marriage.The short was shown at the Cannes Film Festival the same year.
His friend, Malaysian-born Rod Manikam who has a production house in Australia, heard of his small success at Cannes and wanted to watch the short. 
“I met Rod for the first time 10 years ago when we were acting in a Malaysian Chinese-language film called Hired Killers,” says Rizal.
“We both played policemen and became friends after that.” 
Rod was impressed with Still Life and the next thing Rizal knew, the two of them were in discussion to make a film together, which led to Lurking Woods.
Rizal is already working on his second film, again set in Australia, called Tainted Getaway.It also has an Australian cast. This romantic action film centres on a Russian girl who comes to the Australian city of Perth to suprise her boyfriend working there. She gets a rude shock when she learns that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. At the same time, a prison convict who is on the run after escaping from the police, takes the girl as a hostage. Slowly, a romance develops between the hostage and e kidnapper.
Things seem to be going well for Rizal but he admits: “My road to success has not been an easy one. There were a lot of disappointments, failures and obstacles. But you can’t let them break you. They are supposed to make you strong.”

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