Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nam Ron & Lembu


Today I interview Nam Ron who talks about his latest theatre production. The interview was published in the sun today. Here is the full article 

Headline:  25 Years of Nam Ron 
By Bissme S 

Theatre director Nam Ron will be presenting two of his previous plays – Lembu and Matderihkolaperlih – as a compilation for his latest production under his own banner Ayaq Hangat Entertainment. 
Teater Kompilasi Nam Ron Volume 2: Lembu & Matderihkolaperlih will be a 95- minute performance without an interval taking place at Damansara Performing Arts Centre from Dec 24 to 28.
Nam Ron is keeping his finger crossed this production will also enjoy the same success as last year’s Teater Kompilasi Nam Ron Volume 1: Laut Lebih Indah DariBulan, which stars Sofia Jane, Sharifah Amani , Vanidah Imran and Aqasha. That production also played to full houses in Singapore early this year.
In Volume 2, both Lembu and Matderihkolaperlih have been staged a few times before also to rave reviews. While they have different storylines and settings,they tackle the same themes.
“They talk about politics, Malays and gangsterism,” says Nam Ron, who is sharing directing duties with award winning director Ayam Fared on this production.
Lembu is about a cow which is to be slaughtered for a kenduri (feast) for a politician visiting a village. When the animal goes missing, everyone is soon pointing fingers at each other.
The play only features one actress on stage, Ameera Ramlee, playing 10 different characters who narrate the story.  On the basis of Lembu, the 45-year-old director who is also an actor and scriptwriter, says: “I am exploring how politics can influence and
tear apart a society. Society must learn not to let their different political views break them apart.
“Once the election is over and a leader has been chosen, then society must learn to put their difference aside and work as a team under the new leader.”
Meanwhile, Matderihkolaperlih centres on a politician who is caught for corruption and his connection with gangsters. In the lock-up, he narrates his life story to the audience. It’s a story about being abandoned by his father and a bad childhood with his
factory worker mum. When he fought off some gangsters who were terrorising the kampung folk, he became like a godfather to the villagers.
He then fell in love with a prostitute and have her a brothel to run. But he was soon destroyed by a secret that was revealed. Nam Ron will be playing the part of the politician and is supported by Pekin Ibrahim and actress Sara Ali. He reveals the play came about because he felt he was a “lousy actor”.
“I was extremely shy to face the public. I never managed to get into
the skin of my character.”
So, in 2003, he wrote this script as a monologue to break his shynessand force himself to be a better actor.One could say that he has since passed his test.Nam Ron is also not one who puts a lot of importance on the stage sets.
“I never over-decorate my stage,” he says. 
“I want the focus to be on the story, the characters and the performances.
“When the set is bare, you are asking the audience to visualise the setting in their mind. No two people will think alike. The set will look different in everyone’s mind.
“When you decorate the stage, you are feeding the audience what the set should look like. I do not want to feed my audience. I want to spark their imagination.”
When asked the biggest challenge he faces as a Malaysian theatre artiste, he says: “In the past, it was very difficult to get an audience to watch a theatre play. I have to give free tickets to my performances but I still only managed a small crowd.
“Now, the numbers have grown. People are willing to pay to see a theatre performance. But one must remember the number of theatre performances have grown,too. The public have more choices now. It looks like we are still fighting to get people to fill up our seats.”
Nam Ron is already looking to his next project, this time, in films. He is currently writing the script for the second film he will be directing next year called One. Two. Jaga.
“The film tells you that you can never build a successful country on afoundation of corruption.”
This year marks 25 years Nam Ron has been in the entertainment business.
Looking back on his career, he says: “I was self absorbed,restless and angry. I was not happy with whatever I had achieved.
“Even when people liked my shows, I would find fault in them. When my actors forgot their lines during rehearsals, my temper would fly and I would scold them terribly. Now I am more spiritual. I am calmer. I am more accepting of my failures and my
success, my strengths and my weaknesses.”           


Monday, December 15, 2014

Terbaik Dari Langit

The director  Nik Amir and the actor Bront Palarae talks to theSun excitedly about their latest film Terbaik Dari Langit. Today, theSun published their interview. Here is the full story. 

Terbaik Di Langit in the sun newspaper
Headline: About Frienship 

By Bissme S 

Last year, Nik Amir Mustapha created waves with his first feature film,KIL, which went on to win four awards at this year’s Malaysian Film Festival last month.The 29-year-old walked away with best script and best director while KIL grabbed best film and the film’s leading actress, Cristina Suzanne, got the mostpromising actress award.
Fresh from his triumphs, the director is now ready with his second feature film, Terbaik Dari Langit, that explores the theme of friendship. The film will open in cinemas on Christmas Day.
The story centers on four close friends – Berg, Ijam, Toyu and Ali – who studied in the  same boarding school. After graduation, each went his separate way to find his own fortune.
Years later, Berg has become an eccentric filmmaker who loves making bizarre films while Ijam is a celebrity actor who will be marrying his fiancée and rich man’s daughter, Zelda.
Meanwhile, Toyu has sacrificed his dream of becoming a visual artist to teach and Ali, who did not complete his studies, is now a struggling businessman. When Berg decides to make a movie about a UFO sighting, he convinces his former school mates to take a journey with him across the country in his attempt to capture an image of an UFO.
They also manage to recruit a budding actress who calls herself Sofia Jane. Bront Palarae takes the lead role of Berg with Ledil Putra as Ijam, Amerul Affendi as Toyu, Megat Sharizal as Ali and Naidya Nisaa as Sofia Jane.
Others in the cast are Sharifah Amani, Siti Saleha and Mamat Khalid.On this second film, 
Nik Amir said: “I’m exploring the theme of staying true to yourself. There is a lot of pressure to conform to society’s ideals and forget about what you want.
“My character Berg is a walking example of this. Everyone wants him to make the kind of film that is commercial and viable. But he is adamant about sticking to his principles and following his heart. He does not want to be a conformist.”
At a recent press screening of the film, many of us were rather impressed with the end product. There are many interesting symbolisms in the film.The scenes with Berg hallucinating between the real and reel world were interesting and captivating. A plus point for the film is the superb chemistry among the five
leads and kudos to Bront for his fantastic performance as the eccentric Berg.
"In my career as an actor over 12 years, I would say that this is the best script I have read,” said Bront, a best actor award winner for his role in Belukar in 2010.
The script is written by actorscriptwriter Redza Minhat, whoplayed the lead role in Nik Amir’s KIL.
“The characters are well developed,” Bront added. 
“One can see a lot of work has gone into the script. I turned down another movie offer just to work in this film and I have no regrets.” 
Bront admits he is not a big fan of his character. 
“I would not like to be in the same room with Berg because he is far too eccentric for me,” he says with a laugh.
But there are some qualities he admires in Berg. 
“He has a good heart. Berg appreciates his friends. Since he was orphaned and was raised by his grandfather, he regards his friends as his family. His dedication to his friends is something I admire.”
Bront also has the highest praise and respect for the director. 
“You feel safe acting under [Nik Amir] as you know he has your back. He takes a good care of his actors. He helps them to explore their characters.” 
When asked about his favourite scenes in the film, Bront points to the ones involving Amerul. 
“He really executed his scenes brilliantly. He is really very good but underrated as an actor in this country.He needs more exposure.”
Bront has his first attempt at directing in last year’s feature film, Kolumpo, together with Rozi Izma and Sheikh Munasar.
Currently, he is writing the script for his second film called Sabotage, which he hopes to direct as well. The Chinese film is set from the Japanese Occupation to theEmergency period and is about how the government recruited some ethnic Chinese to infiltrate and spy on the Malayan Communist Party. The film will start shooting
sometime next year. 


A scene from the film

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Soffi Jikan, Marco Polo & Lelaki Harapan Dunia


Today I interviewed Soffi Jikan, the Malaysian actor who spoke about his latest role in the film he proud of, Lelaki Harapan Dunia. He also spoke about working Hollywood TV series that focuses on the world traveller Marco Polo as well as directing a film about golden bridge. Here is the fill article.  

Headline:Passion for Movies & Music 
By Bissme S

Excitment  is written all over his face when Soffi Jikan (below) talks  about his role in the film, Lelaki Harapan Dunia, which will open in  cinemas on Nov 27. 
“In my 20 years as an actor, I believe I have given my finest performance in this film,” says the 44-year-old actor who is also into singing and directing now. 
What motivated him to give his best performance is the fact that he was working with a good director and a good script with a solid role. He plays a mentally-unstable outcast. 
“(Director) Liew Seng Tat is not a tyrant on the set where everyone is forced to listen to his instructions only,” says Soffi. 
“He’s open-minded and always willing to accept suggestions from his actors. I have enjoyed working with him so much that I have agreed to act in his next film.” 
Lelaki Harapan Dunia has been shown at some of the international film festivals around the globe such as Locarno in Switzerland, Toronto and Vancouver (Canada), Nara (Japan), Busan (Korea) and Kolkata (India). 
Next month, it will be making its rounds at two more festivals – the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and the Singapore International Film Festival. Soffi is not surprised the film is making an impact overseas. 
“While making this film, I had a gut feeling that this is a good film that will appeal to foreign and domestic audiences. 
“After 20 years in the business, you [tend to] develop a good instinct whether the film you are working on is going to be a hit or a flop. There is a lot of humour  in this film and the movie is a social satire of our society.” 
Lelaki Harapan Dunia highlights an ancient Malay tradition called ‘angkat rumah’. In the olden days, whenever a villager wanted to move his house, he would literally carry the entire house to a new location with the help of his neighbours. 
This film centres on Pak Awang who wants to give a house to his daughter as a wedding gift. Unable to afford a new one, he comes up with the idea of restoring an abandoned old 
house he found in the jungle. The villagers agree to help him carry the house from the jungle to the village. Unknown to them, an illegal immigrant has been hiding in the house. 
When a villager mistakes the black shadow he sees in the house as the infamous Orang Minyak, it causes panic in the village and creates several hilarious situations. Others in the cast include Wan Hanafi Su, Harun Salim Bachik, Jalil Hamid and Azhan Rani. 
Soffi’s journey to becoming an actor was a strange one. This anak Terengganu was working in his father’s construction company where his duties ranged from clearing rubbish to demonishing old buildings. 
Three days after his father died, he decided to make a drastic change in life. He took up a diploma in directing in Akademi Filem Malaysia. But he is better-known for his acting chops, playing a series of supporting but memorable roles in such films as Paloh, 
Estet, KL Gangster (in which he won a best supporting actor award in the 2011 
Malaysia Film Festival), Bunohan andZombi Kampung Pisang.
He also recently starred in the Hollywood-produced TV series Marco Polo which tells of the relationship between the famous Italian merchant traveller and China Emperor Kublai Khan. Produced by The Weinstein Company, the 10-episode series is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on Dec 12. It stars Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong, Joan Chen, Olivia Cheng and Remy Hii. 
Soffi cherished the experience working with actors from different regions such as Australia and Canada. It was also rumoured that he was paid RM1 million for his role. However, he’s not willing to confirm or deny the rumour. 
“All I can say is that I have given a performance that’s worth more than RM1 million,” he says with a laugh. 
This year, Soffi has also finally gone into producing and directing. He is making his directorial debut with Gangster Rock that touches on the world of rock and roll. 
And this multi-talented artiste is adding another milestone to that – realising an early ambition to be a rocker.
He recently cut his first album, Kasi Sengat, which features seven songs, and is planning to use the songs as the soundtrack for Gangster Rock. 
He says he first dreamt about being a rock star but “I was young and not confident that I could be a rocker”. That dream has never been forgotten and now, he has finally made it come true. 
In between, he is also writing the script for his next film, Kota Emas, which is loosely based on the legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang. The folklore is about the Sultan of  Malacca who falls madly in love with the princess of Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir) and agrees to fulfil three conditions, one of which is to build a golden bridge from Malacca to the mountain.
“You have to see the film if you want to know if there is any truth to the existence of this golden bridge,” says Soffi.






Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lejen Press & I am Lejen


Today I interviewed Aisa Linglug who left his well paid job as engineer to start a business he is passionate about.  Here is the full story 

Headline: A Lejen in the Making 
By Bissme S

In July 2011, Aisa Linglug started a publication company called Lejen Press with his friend, Shahrul Naim.In the span of three years, Lejen Press has grown to become a key player in publishing alternative Malay fiction.
So far, Lejen Press has published over 50 titles and given more than 40 writers a chance to see their work in print. The publishing company also owns a bookshop in Subang Jaya called I am Lejen that carries its books as well as alternative Malay fiction
published by other Malaysian independent publishers such as Fixi, Selut Press, Merpati Jingga, Sang Frued Press, Dubook Press and others.
Aisa’s foray into publishing is quite unusual. Two months before he got married, he quit his well-paid job as an engineer to start Lejen Press.
“Most men about to get married would not leave their stable job,” says the 31-year-old Aisa (real name Aisamuddin Asri).
“I am lucky that I have a fiancée (now, his wife) who understood my passion and fully supported me. I believe the risks I took had given me the extra push to make Lejen Press a success story.”
But he could not find the courage to tell his mother about what he had done.
“I know my mother would not approve of my decision [and] I do not blame [her].
Every mother wants their children to have a stable career and a stable income. My mother is no different.”
But he finally told his mother the truth the following year when he held an official launch of five titles under Lejen Press – Hero, Heroin, Kontrol Histeria, Angus Himself and Pompang Pompang – at I am Lejen.Seeing the number of people who had turned up at
the launch and the long line outside his shop, his mother was confident he was on the right track and finally gave her blessing to Aisa to pursue what his heart desires.
“I started Lejen Press because I wanted to add colour to the Malay fiction scene,”Aisa explains. 
“We want to give something different in terms of content and language.”
The books under the Lejen Press label deal with bold and risqué themes, and use simpler language to tell their stories. As a result, a lot of youngsters are attracted to the books.
“A manager from one bookstore once told me that a skin-head youngster entered his shop and bought several books by Lejen Press,” Aisa says. 
“He thought youngsters like him do not read! He said in his 10 years as a manager of the bookstore, he has never seen a skin-head ever buying a book before.
“That was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received about my books.
In some ways, Lejen Press is encouraging youngsters to read.”
Yet, there are some who feel that the books he published do not have any moral message. Aisa disagrees, citing Azwar Kamaruzaman’s book Babi (Pig), which has come under
criticism because of its title.
“People who read the book will understand why the title was used in the first place,” he says. 
“The story is about an illegitimate child. His friends ostracised him and bullied him. His friends called him Babi because Babi is something to be scorned at in the Malay community. I think it was apt to use Babi as the title. The book has a lot of messages. It tells people not to be judgmental and accept people for who they are.”
He was also accused of promoting the bastardisation of the Malay language.
“We give our writers more freedom to express their stories in the way they want and in the words that they are more comfortable with. We do not want to cramp their style of writing.
“You must understand that every artform goes through some kind of evolution. Look at music which has gone through different phases through the decades.
“Like music, writing and language also go through some kind of evolution [over time].”
Aisa says in the past, he used to be rather defensive when “silly” criticisms are thrown at Lejen Press but these days, he does not waste his time arguing with his critics any more 
“They have an option not to like the books I publish,” he says. 
He recalls a lecturer who once bought a book from his shop but wanted a refund an hour later. 
“I did not argue with him,” he says. 
“I just refunded his money. I [might have] lost a sale but I think the lecturer lost more than I did. “He lost a chance to experience a different form of writing. Any experience will enrich your life. Indirectly, he lost a chance to enrich his.”

Aisa in his boutique bookshop I am Lejen...




Monday, November 10, 2014

Dayang Nurfaizah


Yesterday theSun carries a review on Dayang Nurfaizah's concert in Dewan Filharmonic Petronas. Here is full article.  

Headline: An Evening With Dayang 
By Bissme S

I remebered meeting the sultry Dayang Nurfaizah when she first burst into the music scene 15 years ago with her self-titled debut album. She impressed me with her powerful voice. 
But she was extremely shy then. Whenever she performed, she would avoid eye contact with her audience and her interaction with them was kept to the minimum. 
But at her recent concert held at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP), entitled Dayang Nurfaizah:A Celebration of 15 Years in Music, I was amazed by her transformation. 
Dayang has metamorphosised from a shy ‘pupa’ into a beautiful butterfly.No longer shy, the singer was flirting with members of the audience with her endearing smile and witty remarks. Her rapport with them has improved tremendously. Generally, those who attend concerts at the DFP remain quietly seated and are extremely 
polite even as they applaud.Sometimes, I feel attending a concert at DFP is like having tea with the Queen. You haveto be on your best behaviour. But Dayang managed to find ways to make her audience loosen up, relax and cast off their inhibitions. 
A few in the crowd even stood up to dance while some who remained seated were seen moving in sync with the beat of the music. One or two even called out her name, boosting 
the singer’s morale no doubt. Such outbursts have rarely been seen at DFP. 
Like wine, Dayang’s voice has also acquired more depth and versatility with age. The singer, who has nine albums to her credit and won more than 10 awards to date, demonstrated great control in the presentation of her songs. As with singers in most concerts, Dayang also offered a medley of her hits such as Berserah Kasih, Sekali Lagi and Coretan Cinta. 
There were many memorable moments for fans to savour. One of my favourites was when Dayang sang Di Pintu Syurga. It was supposed to be the last song before returning with  Seandainya Masih Anda Cinta as the encore. She delivered both songs with so much passion. Throughout the evening, she appeared ravishing in her three attire changes. 
The moment she appeared on stage in her silver glittering gown designed by Micheal Ong and looking like a glamorous star from a James Bond film, she practically took the audience’s breath away. 
Rizalman’s all-white gown made her appear like an angel on stage while his second piece for Dayang – a white top matched with a printed floral skirt – added a touch of class.
The 10-piece music ensemble under the direction of music director Jenny Chin did an excellent job in complementing the singer. I must say musician John Thomas stood out with his ability to create excitement with his drums. 
After the concert, Dayang made it a point to meet some of her fans and to sign some autographs. She even shared a few minutes with the journalists attending the concert. 
“I have been in the music industry for the last 15 years and in all that time, it has been my dream to perform a solo concert,” says Dayang who hails from Kuching. 
“I am so happy that finally my dream has become a reality.” 
One of the biggest challenges she faced in this concert was to present her songs in new and exciting renditions. 
“With new arrangements, my songs sound fresh,” she says. 
“When something sounds fresh, the audience will enjoy these songs better.” 
She complimented Chin and the musicians on a job well done in making the concert a success.I am sure everyone who left the auditorium that night agreed – the concert was indeed a success. 


Dayang in her first attire


Dayang in her second attire making her look like an angel

Rizalman created the third and final attire that Dayang wore for her concert

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mamu Vies & Dog Pound


Today theSun published my interview with Mamu Vies who spoke about his debut Dog Pound that has hit the book shelves recently. The interview took place in Chawan Bangsar and his fiancee, the famous novelist Nadia Khan was also present at the interview and she  contributed a few words to the interview. Here is the full article.   

Headline: A Tale Worth Telling  
By Bissme S 

The Violent world of underground boxing formed the main plot for Muhammad Fahmi’s Dog Pound, his English fiction that recently hit the bookshelves. The author, who writes under the pen-name of Mamu Vies, explains that the boxing element in his debut novel is an allegory of how all of us are fighting for survival in life.
On his personal battles in his own life, Mamu says: “I am constantly fighting to make a living as an artiste. I have failed in so many things. But I always find myself coming back and doing artistic stuff. I feel alive when I am doing artistic stuff.”
Published by Fixi Novo, Dog Pound centres on Azroy, a risingstar in the underground boxing circuit, who finds himself in hot soup after he kills his opponent in the boxing ring. On the run from the law, he soon learns that he has been framed and that there are powerful forces involved.
Mamu himself has taken some lessons in kickboxing in the past and his experience proves invaluable in writing this novel.
“Some of my friends and I had sparring sessions after our kickboxing lessons,” recalls the 27-year-old full-time writer.
“But, honestly speaking, the sparring sessions I have watched and participated in are not as violent and gory as I have portrayed in my book. I have magnified my experiences some 200%!”
Mamu believes it is essential that writers today write books that are fast-paced and can be read in a few sittings to rival what the internet or smartphones and Facebook have to offer.
“People are spending more time online than on books,” he says. 
“Today, there are many more things out there that can distract you from books. I like to be a part of the movement that brings people back to reading.”
Writing this novel has been a personal achievement of sorts for this writer.
“I am one of those people who will start something and if I cannot make sense of the thing I am doing, I will not complete the task,” says Mamu who was born and raised in the Klang Valley.
“It took me three years to complete the novel. I really believe this novel is something that I really care about because I have completed it.”
Currently, writing any more novels has to take a back seat as he is busy writing three film scripts with his fiancée, Nadia Khan, who is also a novelist and writes in both the national language and English.
Some couples do not like the idea of working together. But not these two creative minds.
Nadia says Mamu is more attracted to the way a writer writes his prose while she goes for the way a writer writes the dialogue. 
“I think we complement each other [in this way].”
Is Mamu jealous of his more famous, and popular, girlfriend who has two bestselling Malay novels under her name – her debut novel Kelabu and second novel Gantung?
“If I’m successful, I want her to be happy for me and the same goes with me. I am really proud of her achievements,” says Mamu who reveals that they hope to get married next year.
“Nothing much intimidates him,” adds Nadia who states that they are very open when it comes to making criticisms or giving compliments to each other’s work.
“I will always encourage Nadia to be fiercer with her criticism on my work. I will keep asking her where are her claws,” says Mamu with a laugh.
Asked which he likes better – writing scripts or novels, Mamu admits to preferring the latter. He says with a smile: “I am a control freak. In [publisher] Amir Muhammad’s words: with a book, you deal with lesser idiots; it is only between you, your publisher and your readers.”
In some ways, he admits writing allows a writer to play god to his/her characters. 
“I like playing god,” he says. “But I would not be an intrusive god who throws out lightning or swallows up my characters.”
He also adds that whenever he writes, he makes it a point to never judge his characters.
“I believe that if you judge your characters right away, there will be a lot of self censoring and your characters will be bland and you will not get the full story.
“When your characters are bland, then it will not be a story worth telling.”
Interestingly, Mamu had wanted to be a cartoonist.
“Creating worlds and telling stories have always appealed to me,” he says. “[But now] instead of drawing, I am creating my worlds and stories with words.”
He hints that, one day, he might still be able to fulfil that dream where he gets to tell his stories through pictures.
Mamu Vies with his fiancee Nadia Khan
Mamu with his book Dog Pound

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hadi M Nor & Family Values


On last Wednesday, theSun published an interview I did with the writer  Hadi M Nor who has just churned out his second fiction work, an English novel called Family Values.  Hadi is also the son of the famous Malaysian cartoonist Datuk Mohammd Nor Khalid, better known as Lat. Below is the full interview

Headline: All for telling tales
By Bissme S

“Sometimes your family is your curse,” says young published writer Hadi M Nor.
“You are stuck with them. You can’t choose your family. You have to love them, no matter what.”
This family theme forms the basis for Hadi’s latest work fiction, appropriately titled family values, published under Fixi Novo. This is the 23- year –old second published book but his first English novel. 
Family Values tells a story of a young married man Aizat who sells land that he inherited from his late father. But sicnce then he is beset by weird voice and is tortured emotionally, physically and mentally.
Suddenly his rich uncle Tan Sri Aliyas gets touch with him even though they have not been in contact for many years. Uncle Aliyas finally reveals the family dark secret – a legacy that involves black magic and racial elements. Though a dark tale, Hadi has given it a touch of humour, making the story more intriguing and compelling. During a one to one interview with theSun, Hadi displays that sense of humour we find in his book in the questions posed to him.
“I like stories about family,” says the freelance translator who is currently pursuing a two year degree in journalism in the United Kingdom.
“I believe in my story, I am always exploring situations where you cannot get out easily.”
As for the lead character Aizat in Family Values, he admits not liking him at all
“I would not hang out with him if he were real person. He is a trust-fund baby. He is a spoilt-brat. I hate him and it’s easy to torture him,” he says with a big laugh.
Asked about the message he wants to impart in his novel, Hadi says: “If I tell you the messages in my novel, then I am just  spoiling your fun in reading the novel.
“When you get to the end of my story, you will know what is it that I am trying to tell you. Half way through the novel, the readers will notice that my story takes on a totally different direction.”
For someone who already has two published works in his name – his first  work of fiction is a collection of short  stories entitled Sepucuk Pistol Di Dalam  Laci which was published by Sang Freud  Press two years – Hadi says he still does  not know what he wants to do in life.
“But I love writing. I think writing is the tool I use to communicate with people. I love telling stories. I see myself more as a storyteller than a writer. I believe calling yourself a storyteller is more profound.”
Hadi started his own blog called Frust Tapi Malas at the age of 15, where he wrote about life and the people around him. Later, he started writing short stories. It was his sense of humour that attracted people to his blog.
“Whatever happened to me, just happened,” says Hadi.
“I never planned anything. My father always told me that I should not rush into being a published writer ... You must be older and have experienced life before becoming a published writer.”
Hadi’s father is speaking from experience. He is none other than Malaysia’s well-known cartoonist Datuk Mohammd Nor Khalid or better known as Lat. Hadi is the youngest of four siblings.
The young author professes:  “Professionally, I do not like to be linked to my father. People always jump to the conclusion that whatever success I have achieved is a result of being his son. Some even believe that doors were opened to me because I am Lat’s son.
“In fact, my siblings and I have always tried to work hard in whatever we do. We do not use his name to get favours. But personally, I am so lucky to have him as my father. He is a cool dad.
“He inspired me to be a storyteller. He encouraged me to read. He even taught me swimming by giving me a book on swimming!”
Hadi does not hide the fact that Lat didn’t like his first novel and that he would probably hate his second one, too.
“My dad likes stories that are positive and culturally-inclined but my books are dark. But I don’t mind that he dislikes my books. Everyone has different tastes and preferences.”
Hadi believes that all writers should be open to any kind of criticism. He says: “People are spending money to buy your book and taking time to read it, therefore they have the right to make comments. You have to respect their opinions.”
At the young age 23, Hadi has two books published


Thursday, October 2, 2014

SOEKARNO & RAAM PUNJABI



Recently actor Ario Bayu and producer Raam Punjabi from Indonesia were in town to promote their film called Soekarno which currently showing in Malaysian cinemas. 
Soekarno is a biopic film on Indonesia’s first president Kusno Sosrodihardjo who is better known as Soekarno who liberated his country from colonial masters.   
theSun interviewed  Raam Punjabi and Ario Bayu  about the movie and the story was published in the sun newspaper , today. Here is the full interview.   

Headline: Ode To Soekarno 
By Bissme S

Raam  Punjabi has put his heart and soul into his latest film project, Soekarno, that is currently screening in the local cinemas. This historical film, about Indonesia’s first president Kusno Sosrodihardjo who is better known as Soekarno, took two years to complete and was produced at the cost of US$2.5 million (RM8.2 million) – making it the most expensive Indonesian film ever made. Soekarno bagged the awards for best picture and best director (for Hanung Bramantyo) at the recent Bandung Film Festival.
“This movie is my legacy to the new generation of Indonesians,” says the 71- year-old Raam, who is a key player in the Indonesian film scene and runs his own
production house, Multivision Plus, in Jakarta.
“I have admired Soekarno since I was nine years old. He has successfully united us as Indonesians. He was the one who came out with the vision of Satu Negara, Satu Bangsa and Satu Bahasa (One Country, One Race and One Language).Not many leaders could have united a nation as he had done.”
The film followed the life of Soekarno from his childhood days till the day he declared independence for Indonesia on Aug 17, 1945. Raam remembers meeting Soekarno for the first time in his birthplace of Surabaya when he was 13 years old.The then president was in the city to give a speech during one of the Indonesian elections. 
“I found him to be a charismatic leader,” says Raam.
Playing Soekarno is Indonesia’s leading man Ario Bayu. Others in the cast include Lukman Sardi, Maudy Koesnaedi and Tika Bravani.
The film attracted controversy when one of Soekarno’s daughters, Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, voiced her displeasure with Hanung for selecting Ario to play her father. She had wanted another Indonesian actor, Anjasmara, for the role.
But Raam feels Ario has done justice playing the first president, adding that Soekarno’s other children and relatives have seen the film and are happy with the end result.
Ario’s family had actually migrated to New Zealand when he was eight. Then, at 19, he returned to Jakarta to pursue an acting career. Last year, he was involved in the Hollywood action film, Java Heat, playing opposite Kellan Lutz and Oscar nominee Mickey  Rourke. He has also appeared in the Australian- Singaporean television drama series,
Serangoon Road, acting opposite Hollywood actress Joan Chen.
The 29-year-old actor was not amused when some people thought the controversy was a marketing ploy to attract people to watch the film. 
“I do not think we need that kind of controversy,” he says.  
To get into character, Ario read books, watched videos and interviewed three historians on Soekarno. 
“The way I approach my role is by asking myself what I would have done if I was in Soekarno’s shoes,”he says.
Since tackling the difficult role of Soekarno, Ario has decided to take a break from acting. 
Raam discloses that he hopes the younger generation of Indonesians will learn more about  the man who had liberated their country from this movie.
“At the young age of 19, Soekarno already thought about politics and doing good for his  people and his nation,” he says.
“I hope this movie will inspire the youth of today to follow in his footsteps instead of idling away their time or becoming involved in drugs or alcohol. They should use their time wisely. I want to create more Soekarnos among our youth.”
That was one of the reasons why Raam was willing to sink so much money into the movie. 
“The budget for this is 10 times more than the budget in my other movies," he says 
“There are two aspects to moviemaking. One is to make money and the other is to get satisfaction. I would say Soekarno falls into the second category.
“I cannot say for sure if I will make money from this movie. But I enjoyed making this film. Of course, I cannot go on making movies without expecting money in return.”
Soekarno has also been selected by the Indonesian government for consideration in the foreign film category for next year’s Oscars.
Raam is extremely grateful to the government. 
“I cannot say for sure if my film will get into the top five nominations," he says 
“But what I know for sure is this film will expose the world to my country, Indonesia, and my first president, Soekarno.”

The producer Raam Punjabi presents his movie Soekarno

Ario Bayu as Soekarno in the scene of the movie

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sanif Olek & Sayang Disayang


The Singapore Film Commission has nominated Sanif Olek’s Sayang Disayang for consideration in the Foreign Language category of the 2015 Academy Awards (Oscars). Today, theSun published  my interview with Singapore based film maker Sanif Olek who talks about his film. 

Headline : Malay Movie For Oscars 
By Bissme S

Singapore filmmaker Sanif Olek is on cloud nine. The Singapore Film Commission has recently nominated his first feature film, Sayang Disayang, for next year’s Academy Awards’ consideration in the Foreign Language category. This Malay language film, which highlights various Malay cultural nuances, centres on a bitter, old man named Pak Harun, who dislikes his live-in nurse, Murni. But Murni goes all out to win the heart of the old man, including cooking his favourite dish, sambal goreng, the same way his late wife used to cook it. Playing Pak Harun is well-known Malaysian actordirector- producer-writerand- sports commentator Datuk Rahim Razali, 75, while acclaimed Singaporean stage actress-director-and-educator Aidli Mosbit plays Murni.
Sanif, who has won several awards for his television works in Singapore, started working on Sayang Disayang in 2009 but only completes the film last year due to a lack of funding. The 44-year-old filmmaker shares his thoughts on his first feature film effort.

*Have Singaporeans seen the film and what was their reaction?

The film premiered during the 2014 Southeast Asian Film Festival in singapore in May. Subsequently, it has a limited, general release during [Singapore’s] national day period in August. I’m pleased to say that the screenings were well attended by Singaporeans of all races. For many, it was an eye opener into the various Malay cultural nuances beyond the superficial traditional dances and songs that many are familiar with at typical Malay cultural showcases and exhibitions.

*Why do you think the Commission picked a Malay film like yours to represent Singapore in the Oscars?

I find Singaporeans are maturing and willing to embrace the diverse voices that make up the Singapore narrative. I recall at one point, not too long ago, that Singapore’s identity was regularly and only represented by the voice of the majority group. As a result, many non-Asians often get the impression that Singapore is not from Southeast Asia.There are many ethnicities that make up Singapore and now, these various ethnicities want their voices to be heard and film is one of the outlets where this can happen.
Technically, Singapore is located at the heart of the Nusantara (Malay Archipelago) and it would be foolish not to ‘exploit’ what this diverse region has to offer.
My desire in the film was to showcase the rich cultural heritage that the Nusantara has to offer, [and] not just on a superficial level.I also notice that many Malay language films from this region are national-centric and only focus on their respective markets [while] Chinese and Indian films do not necessarily make this distinction.
It’s [also] very hard to name a Nusantara cinematic icon that can stand among the Chinese and Indian cinematic icons, who are familiar to international cinema audiences, such as Bruce Lee, Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Rajinikanth, etc.”

*Malay food plays a prominent role in your film.

I have always been fascinated by how the dishes from the Nusantara are traditionally prepared. The preparation for many of these signature dishes – sambal belacan, assam pedas, sambal goreng – are passed down from one generation to the next, usually from mothers to daughters. No two women are similar, therefore, their cooking process depends on their respective personal traits and instincts. As result, no two assam pedas dishes have the same flavour even though these dishes mighthave the same ingredients.
There is an old Malay saying that states the the kitchen is the root to the family tree and being able to feed the household keeps the family intact.

*Why a Malaysian for the lead?

When I was writing this film, I already had Rahim as the main protagonist. I have watched many of his films and I am amazed by his charisma. I know he is very selective about his film projects. When he agreed to act in my debut film, it really boosted my morale as a filmmaker.

*Who are the directors you admire and why?

Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige for their great narrative vision when it comes to cinematic mise-en-scene’ [visual theme]. When I was in film school, I had a hard time  differentiating between television and cinema. I remembered watching Raise the Red Lantern and I had a clear idea what this rather elusive cinematic mise-enscene
concept is all about.
Lars Hallstrom, for his intelligent treatment of the melodrama in his films, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, for the way he craft his subjects by the actor’s physical form and further exploiting the hyper realism through camera work and wardrobe.
Luc Besson, for his skill of mixing popcorn and art. His films can appeal to the lowest denominator yet remain stylish and sophisticated.
Also Terence Malick as he can sustain a narrative without dialogue with just his gorgeous visuals.

The film maker Sanif Olek 
A scene from Sayang Disayang

Rahim Razali plays bitter widower in Sayang Disayang


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Afdlin Shauki & Sandakan Tears



Today theSun runs an interview Afdlin Shauki, a Malaysian film maker who will be co directing with an award winning Hollywood director Roger Christian on his next film Sandakan Tears.  Read the full story below 

Headline: Afdlin's Sweat & Tears 
By BissmeS

Putting Malaysia on the  world map is Afdlin Shauki’s next big dream. The 43-year-old producer- director-actor hopes to achieve this dream with the next film that he will be producing – Sandakan Tears. He will be co-directing this film with Hollywood director Roger Christian. The latter’s directing credits include Nostradamus (1994) starring Julia Ormond and F. Murray Abraham; Masterminds(1997) starring Patrick Stewart; and Battlefield Earth (2000) with John Travolta and Forest Whitaker.
Christian’s work as an art director and production designer was highly regarded. He won an Oscar for the set decoration for Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977) and received a nomination for an Academy Award for his art direction of Ridley Scott’s Alien(1979). 
“Since I started my career 15 I had a dream of making a Malaysian movie that could break into the international cinemas, or even get a nomination for the Oscars,” says Afdlin, the award-winning film director. 
“I am so happy that this dream is slowly becoming a reality. For the last two years, I have not directed any film as I have to focus on Sandakan Tears.” 
Afdlin says movies from other Asian countries such as Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand are slowly gaining global recognition and winning international awards. 
He cited Anthony Chen from Singapore, who won an award at Cannes Film festival for ILO ILO last year. 
“It is time for Malaysian films to broaden their horizons and appeal to a wider audience,” he says. 
The shooting for Sandakan Tears will start early next year and if all goes well, Afdlin hopes to premiere Sandakan Tears at Cannes Film Festival in 2016. Currently, a pool of scriptwriters from Hollywood are working on the script and the first draft is almost completed. 
Afdlin says that one of the scriptwriters has had the experience of working with Martin Scorsese on the Oscar winning film Goodfellas. Sandakan Tears is based on a historical event called the Sandakan Death Marches. It occurred during World War II, when Australian and British soldiers were captured by the Japanese and shipped to war camps in Sandakan (Sabah).
The prisoners were tortured and given little food or medical care. There were a series of forced 
marches from Sandakan to Ranau that caused the death of more than 2,000 prisoners of war. 
“It was one of the darkest periods in our history which has not been explored on films. The movie tells of the evils of war. It’s so relevant because there are so many wars taking place in the world today.”
Afdlin admitted Christian had offered Oscar nominated actor Hugh Jackman a lead role in Sandakan Tears. Many sceptics, however, do not foresee the X-Men star taking up the offer. 
“Two years ago, when I first talked about Sandakan Tears and the desire to hire a Hollywood director to make this film, everyone was sceptical,” Afdlin says. 
“Now, that dream is becoming a reality. You will never know ... 
Jackman might just say yes as the movie touches on his history, too. 
“He is from Australia and the movie touches on the plight of Australian soldiers who had suffered in the war. He could well say yes due to sentimental or patriotic reasons. Nothing is  impossible.” 
Even if Jackman declines, Afdlin will not give up on enlisting another Hollywood star. 
“We need at least one or two names from Hollywood to pull in the crowd,” he says. 
Some critics are not happy with Afdlin using Hollywood talents as crowd puller for Sandakan Tears. 
“It is not that I don’t have faith in Malaysian talents,” Afdlin says. 
“The crew is Malaysian, including myself, on the set who will watch the Hollywood talents in action. We will learn from them. There will be an exchange of knowledge between Malaysian and 
Hollywood talents.” 
He pointed out that an Indonesian movie, The Raid, had gained successful international followings as a result of having used Hollywood stunts in the production. 
“They (Indonesia) were not afraid to ask for Hollywood’s help, so why should we?” he asks. 
True to his excitement in making films, Afdlin also talks about his role in the Berjaya Youth Short Film Competition. 
“I have been involved in the Berjaya Youth Short Film competition since it began four years ago,” he says. “And I have seen many good stories being told in this contest.” 
This short film contest offers a platform for youths from the ages of 18 to 25 to express their creativity by producing positive and inspiring stories through short films.
This year, the contest offers four themes – Culture, Eco, Inspiration and Youth. The contestants are expected to make a five-minute film based on one of these themes and submit their entries before Sept 24. The top three winners, including that for the People Choice award will be announced at the end of the year. 
Afdlin hints that the winner of this contest would also have a chance to be on the set of Sandakan Tears and learn about filmmaking from the Hollywood honchos. More on the Berjaya Youth Short Film contest can be obtained from Berjayayouth website.


Roger Christian- the director from Hollywood
Afdlin  spent two years on the film.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Baha Zain & Fauziah Nawi

Today theSun run an interview the award winning actress Fauziah Nawi and national Laureate Datuk Baha Zain. Fauziah who is also a director will translating  poems from the National Laureate Baha Zain into a stage production called Topeng Topeng. Read the full story here 

Headline: Stripping off the Mask 
By Bissme S

Publishing house Institute Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia (ITBM) and theatre company Stefani Events are presenting a play, entitled Topeng Topeng (Masks) from Sept 8 to 12 at 8.30pm, at Dewan Wisma ITBM in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur. 
Directed by veteran theatre actress Fauziah Nawi, the 60 minute production is a translationof more than 30 poems from last year’s national laureate Datuk Baha Zain.Fauziah, 60, has previously translated works by other renowned poets into plays. They include the late national laureate Usman Awang and Indonesia’s W.S. Rendra.
“It is never easy to turn something on paper into a visual art form,” says Fauziah. “You have to read the text many times. You have to understand the motivations of the writer to pen such poems in the first place.”
Fauziah says the play talks  about the masks human beings  wear to hide their true identity and intention. 
“The play also looks at how human beings relate to each other and that people today do not see the importance of tolerance.For everyone to co-exist  peacefully, tolerance is a must.” 
This is not the first time Fauziah is staging Topeng Topeng.She brought it to the stage six years ago, in 2008. This time around, she intends to take a totally different approach for the production.The earlier play took place in a bistro with several characters playing out the meaning behind the poems. This latest version, however, offers a more surrealistic atmosphere where the audience will see the poet going through various emotions. 
“The poet in the play is Baha Zain and we are looking at where he gets his inspiration for his poems,” explains Fauziah. 
Playing the poet is experienced actor Azman Hassan. Others in the cast include Sabera Shaik, Farah Ahmad, Chi Adzim and Mohd Nor Hafiz. 
“What I find interesting is that Baha Zain wrote these poems in 1970s, but even after 40 years, the topics that he tackles are not outdated,” says Fauziah. 
“Today’s generation can still relate to what he brought out in his poems.” 
Those issues range from prostitution to hypocrisy in society.Of all the poet’s poems, Fauziah cites her favourite as Rayuan Wanita Asia which depicts the frustration of an old prostitute in Vietnam. 
“I like the poem so much that I will be portraying the prostitute on stage with fellow actor Sabera Shaik,” she says. 
The 75-year-old national laureate was present at a recent sneak preview of the production. Baha Zain, whose real name is Baharuddin Zainal, was impressed with what he saw.
“I have always given my readers the freedom to interpret my work in any way they may want,” he says. 
“If you have a thousand readers reading your work, you are likely to have thousands of interpretations of your work. You cannot control how someone interprets your work. 
“Fauziah is a director and an artiste. She has taken the effort to interpret my work and I must respect her interpretation.” 
Baha Zain wrote Topeng Topeng when he was studying and staying in Indonesia between 1970 and 1971. 
“I found that the mask is a common feature in Indonesian culture,” he says. 
“Later, I discovered that it is not only Indonesian artistes who use mask in their performances. 
“From Britain to Japan, their artistes too have used masks in their performances.” 
This observation forms the basis of his poem, Topeng Topeng. 
“The poem is about the gap between reality and fiction, and the gap between the truth and the lie,” says the writer. 
“Some of us wear a mask in the name of duty. When I go home, I am no longer a writer. I am just a husband and a father. When you are at home, you wear one mask and when you are at work, you wear a different one. I think, in the end, everyone wears a mask.”
A sneak preview of Topeng Topeng 

Baha Zain & Fauziah Nawi ... The Poet & The Director

















Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BIOPIC on SALOMA


Today we run a story on film maker Melissa Saila who did a biopic on her aunt, the famous legendary singer  Saloma for the small screen. Here is the full story  

Headline : Saloma Remembered 
By Bissme S

Award winning actress Melissa Saila has just produced and directed a biopic for the small screen that is close to her heart. It focuses on the life of her aunt, the late Saloma, the famous singer- actress extraordinare Saloma who was also the wife to the legendary to the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee.  
Saloma will be aired on Astro First ( Channel 480) tomorrow in two parts. This biopic has been a long time coming for Saloma's sister Mariani Ismail, a well known actress in the 60s. It was  Mariani who inspired her daugther Melissa to direct this biopic.
“I have been waiting for more than 30 years since the death of my sister for someone to do a decent tribute in her memory,” says the 81-year old Mariani Ismail. 
“I am disappointed no one has done that earlier." 
Tired of waiting, Mariani asked her daugther to do something so that Saloma's life story would be made known to all Malaysians. 
"My sister has contributed immensely to the entertainment industry and till today people are still enjoying her song. I do not want Saloma to be forgotten." 
The two part series begin in 1941 when Saloma was aged six and ends in 1983 with the actress's death at the age 51.  Playing the younger Saloma is Puteri Balqish while Nabila Huda takes 
over as the older Saloma. Among the cast are Tony Eusof (as Ramlee), Sazzy Falak (as Mariani), 
Sharifah Amani (as Siput Sarawak) and Hasnul Rahmat (as Pak Ismail). 
Mariani has seen the biopic and is clearly happy  with what her daughter  has presented. Some scenes brought back fond memories  and tears to her eyes. 
“It was difficult for me to cope with my  sister’s death,” recalls 
Mariani. 
“For 20 years after my sister’s death, I refused to listen to any of her songs or watch any of her movies. I did not want anything that reminded me of her as it would  make me sad.” 
Mariani’s favourite scene in the biopic shows Saloma at  age seven and  herself at age nine when their parents had divorced. The two girls were staying with their father in Tanjung Karang, Selangor. 
“Saloma missed our mother who was staying in Singapore very much,” Mariani says. 
“She was crying for our mum almost every day. I could no longer stand to see tears in my sister’s eyes.“So one morning, I took Saloma to the market in Tanjung Karang and manage to hitch a ride to Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. Then, we walked to the railway station and sneaked into a train that was going to Singapore. Our mother was shocked to see us standing at her front door.” 
For Melissa, 42, who started her own production house Kus Semangat Aktor Sdn Bhd in 2007, her favourite scenes are those of Saloma struggling to continue living after the death of her beloved husband,Ramlee. 
“He was the love of his life and she was not the same person after his death,"says Melissa 
"She has lost the will to live." 
Melissa was only 11 when her famous aunt died. She remembers Saloma as an introvert,reserved and shy and such contrast to her mother Mariani, who is an extrovert and outspoken. Melissa's husband Megat Fauzi Isa, 51, is one of the producer and co wrote the script. He is mindful of the fact that doing a biopic on legend like Saloma will likely draw many comments      
"We cannot satisfy everyone,"he says. 
"And they must understand it is impossible for us to feature everything that took place in her life in a three hour biopic. With such a time constraint, we had to choose what we want to feature.”
He adds that they chose to highlight Saloma the person first rather than the singer or actress. 
“Viewers will always be [more] interested about the human side of any famous personality.”
Shooting for the biopic took 33 days to complete and about 90% of it was done in Penang with the rest in Kuala Lumpur. The biggest challenge Melissa had to face was portraying a bygone period in which she was not even born yet.
“In that sense, I’m lucky to have my mother to fill me in on how that era looked like,” says Melisa. 
“She was my adviser.”

A scene from Saloma - Tony Eusoff plays PRamlee and Nabilah Huda plays Saloma
A scene from Saloma - It tells a great love story between Saloma & PRamlee 
A scene from Saloma --- This is when Saloma at her height of fame
Melissa (in red) with her mother Mariani and her husband Megat