Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ridhwan Saidi & Babyrina

Today theSun published a story where I wrote about author Ridhwan Saidi who wrote a crime thriller titled Babyrina  that supposedly revolved around Malaysian woman named Babyrina who started a website where she posted risque picture of herself. His most impressive quote in the interview : If I write a story about goodness, my novel will not sound sincere. I am keen to explore chaos, brutality and violence. I’m curious to know what goes on in the mind of a serial killer. Obsession and perversion are strong energy.”  

Below is the full article. 

Headline : The Online Link 

Author Ridhwan Saidi first heard about the mysterious internet ‘sensation’ Babyrina in his younger days.It was 1996 and this ‘mythical’star was said to have started a website where  she had posted risque pictures of herself. At that time, the internet was at its infancy and Babyrina was said to be studying in the United States.The story goes that when Babyrina wanted  to come to Malaysia in 2001, she was allegedly turned back. According to some sources, she went on to the United Kingdom instead, and soon, disappeared from the public radar and was never heard of again. 
Piqued by her story, Ridhwan decided to write a crime thriller about a serial killer who arranged his dead victims in the same poses that Babyrina had purportedly appeared on her
website. He then decided to name this novel after her.
“I chose to name my novel after her as she is an enigmaticand mysterious character,” says the 29-year-old local boy. 
“Till today, we are not certain if there is any truth to her story. Some said Babyrina might not even be a Malaysian. They claimed she could be a Latin American.
“Now, we do not hear any more stories about her. She has completely disappeared. That made her  even more enigmatic and mysterious.”
Ridhwan said his novel is not a biography on Babyrina. He also denied claims of naming his book after this risque ‘artiste’ to sell more copies of his novel. 
“The young generation of Malaysians today do not know who she is,” he says. “So the title will not help to boost the sale of my book.
“In the past, some of my books have titles such as Stereo Genmai and Mautopia which can be a little avant-garde and people find difficulty in relating to them. So this time around, I decided to use a simpler title.”
He believes Babyrina had more to offer than just her pretty face and her sexy poses. He said he stumbled upon an ‘interview’ where Babyrina purportedly answered queries from her fans and he 
found her answers carry a sense of humour.
Ridhwan also added a scene where Babyrina has a conversation with one of the characters in the novel. But of course, spilling the beans on this particular scene will only spoil the readers’
fun. There are also many turns and twists in the novel that will keep readers turning the page. 
Ridhwan likes to dabble in dark themes and characters such as serial killers, porn stars, incest, violent murders and eccentric personalities in his books. He released his first novel,
Cekik – a suspense thriller about a gory murder case – in 2011.
After Cekik, he started his own publication firm, Moka Mocha Ink, where he published his own works as well as those of other writers. Babyrina is his fifth work of fiction.
“Writers like to explore what is good and what is bad,” he explains
about his penchant for writing crime thrillers.
“If I write a story about goodness, my novel will not sound sincere. I am keen to explore chaos, brutality and violence. I’m curious to know what goes on in the mind of a serial killer. Obsession and perversion are strong energy.”
Surprisingly, Ridhwan had no desire to be an author when young. He was more attracted to images than words. He dabbled in photography and directed a few shorts. Like everyone who makes short films, he also harbours dreams of directing a feature film.
Still, he feels he is too young now to direct a feature film. “I will only direct my first feature film when I am 40 or 50. I want to collect more life experience before sitting in the director’s chair.”
Meanwhile, his next project will see him writing a fiction novel for Fixi, the publishing house that gave him his first break by publishing Cekik.
The novel is due sometime next year. Since it will be called Brazil, Fixi will be sponsoring him for a trip to that country to watch the Fifa World Cup from June 12 to July 12. He will only start on the book after his return.

Footnote: Babyrina, priced at RM20, will be launched at KL Alternative Bookfest (KLAB) and Arts For Grabs this Saturday at The Annexe Gallery, Central Market, in Kuala Lumpur. Ridhwan will be present for a book signing at noon

The author 

The cover of the book

Monday, March 10, 2014

Norhayati Kaprawi & Ulama Perempuan

I think it was in 2010 I have watched a captivating documentary called Aku Siapa.  That was my first time meeting the documentary maker Norhayati Kaprawi. I must say she is an interesting personality.  Three years later , recently,  Norhayati has presented another interesting documentary called  Ulama Perempuan. I managed to interview her . The article appeared in the today 

Here is the full article 
Suggested Headline : Advocating Gender Equality 

WHILE some may believe that women can never play the role of a leader in religious matters, documentary filmmaker Norhayati Kaprawi, 47, in her latest work, Ulama Perempuan (Female Ulama), shows that is not the case, at least in Indonesia.The Malaysian director, in her 50-minute documentary released late last year, looks at the work of female Islamic scholars in Indonesia 
and presents a more compassionate and humane face to her religion. In several private screenings held at selected venues, Ulama Perempuan (above) received rave reviews and ignited some healthy debates.Norhayati is an activist who advocates ‘gender justice’ in Islam. Her other wellknown works include Mencari Kartika – about a Muslim woman who was sentenced to six lashes of the cane for consuming alcohol and Aku Siapa – about the issue of wearing a veil in Malaysia. Norhayati (far right) talks about her latest work and the public response to it in an exclusive interview with theSun. 

*What motivated you to make Ulama Perempuan?

Many Malaysians have been to Indonesia but not many really understand [the way] Islam is practised over there with its rich history and vibrant discourse on religious issues that are
ongoing. Some accuse Muslims in Indonesia of being too liberal, and that carries a negative connotation… It insinuates that they are less pious. And that Islam practised there is not as pure as it’s in Malaysia.
I find that to be far from the truth. Many Indonesians are open minded and adopt a more moderate and humane approach in religious matters. They also have a more indepth knowledge and 
understanding of their religion and … a rich religious tradition that respects diversity.No doubt that there are extremists and radicals in Indonesia, but the country also has progressive Islamic scholars who challenge those radical and extremist groups. I was also amazed at the extent of their advocacy of gender issues and women’s rights … even in their rural areas. I thought Malaysians should know about it and reflect on why we have not progressed as much in raising gender awareness here.

*What is your aim in making this documentary?

I hope that viewers, especially women, will feel empowered and inspired by the strong, loving and good-natured religious women figures featured in the documentary. I believe the audience 
will have a better awareness of gender issues and a better understanding that Islam does not condone gender discrimination. Many forms of discrimination or injustices done in the name of 
Islam are in fact due to a person’s interpretations that regard women as inferior to men.

* Name some of your favourite scenes?

A particular scene that moved a lot of people while some even shed tears is when they watched a female ulama give a sex worker a motherly embrace, without any judgment whatsoever.My own 
favourite is the one of a little girl who volunteered to come forward to recite a Quranic verse in front of hundreds of people in their national mosque in Jakarta.The ustaz treated her gently  and with full respect although by Malaysian standard, the little girl may not have been considered to be properly attired for the mosque.
That experience will surely empower the little girl, at least to be more comfortable in public speaking and addressing a large audience or perhaps even take a leadership role as she gets older.

* What kind of responses have you received for Ulama Perempuan?

University students and members of Islamic organisations said they have a much better understanding of women’s issues after watching the documentary.It also inspires them to adopt a more compassionate and humane approach in their work with the community.A non-Muslim lecturer told me that while she has never been comfortable to be among Muslims before, the documentary made her realise that Islam is a good religion after all ….”

* Most of your documentaries touch on your religion. Why?

I try to put forward a perspective,information or argument that are rarely highlighted in the mainstream media. I hope my documentaries can encourage Malaysians not to adopt a simplistic
approach to Islam and just blindly follow the things said by [other people]. They should be critical and appreciate the complexities of the many issues facing our society today. The most  important thing is that justice and equality should be upheld always.

* What is your next project?

I have recently launched a short animation on the history of monogamy based on the Quran.I havedone a documentary on Kuda Kepang (a traditional dance form) from my hometown of Batu Pahat in Johor. I hope to produce a longer version of it.

Norhayati says Islam does not condone gender discrimination. 
A scene from her documentary Ulama Perempuan

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Women Inspiring Women

Tomorrow we celebrating International Women's Day and theSun published this article today    

Headline : Inspiring Women 
By Bissme S 

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, a day where we celebrate women who play an important role in enriching all our lives. To mark this occasion, theSun asked 12 Malaysian personalities, who are celebrities in their own right, about the particular lady who has inspired each one of them. It is a story of women inspiring women. 

*Nisah Haron(author)

“The lateTan Sri Aishah Ghani, the first Malaysian woman senator. Readingher book, Ibu Melayu  Mengelilingi Dunia – Dari Rumah ke London, I learnt that she had to leave behind her husband and  three small children to pursue her studies in London.As a woman, wife and mother, I understand  that it must have been difficult. That was her sacrifice to obtain her dream. Her book has  inspired me to write my own travelogue, Kembara Sastera Nisah Haron, when I did a backpacking  trip to the UK and Ireland in 2011.”
*Marina Mahathir (activist and columnist)

“It’s Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, my mother. Her father sent her off to study medicine in Singapore and she was one of the few Malay women there. She really slogged through it, failed her first year and had to repeat it. She also failed in her final year and had to repeat once again. So, she took two years longer than everyone else.Still, that discipline and perseverance  served her well because she became the second Malay woman doctor in the country then. I remember one time whenshe was on TV, she talked about how unhappy she was about bad that was for the  first wives. She does not shy away from defending what she believes in.”

*Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman (film producer)

“For me, it’s Oprah Winfrey. Her talk show is so inspiring and she’s helped so many people through her shows. Early in her career, Oprah faced discrimination as an African-American  hosting her own show. But she has not allowed her critics to get to her.In future, I would like to work towards having my own talk show just like her.”

*SalamiahHassan (singer)

“It’s Tina Turner for me. The singer has gone through terrible tragedies, including physical abuse. But her spirit was not broken.Of course, I am always envious of her beautiful legs and
wish mine was like hers!”
*Noor Suraya (author)

“I chose Cut Nyak Dien. She is an Aceh freedom fighter who’s fought against the Dutch.In her struggle for freedom, she went blind and almost starved to death. She’s from an aristocratic family but she sacrificed her comfortable life for the sake of the people and for the land she loved so much.”
*Vanidah Imran (actress)

“Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, the governor of Bank Negara Malaysia. People say if you want to succeed in a man’s world, you have to be one of the boys. But Zeti has retained her femininity
and still wears the baju kurung to work.I always tell my daughter Maryam, who is 10, to study  hard and be as intelligent as my idol.”

*Fauziah Nawi (film director and actress) 

“Salmiah Sidek, my late mother. My late father worked in an optical company and his wage was not enough to support his five children. So my mother sold cakes as she wanted her children to  live comfortably. She was always the last to go to bed and always the first to get up.”

*Norhayati Kaprawi (documentary maker)

“Sharifah Zuriah Al Jeffry, a visual artist and my neighbour. She is so positive and full of zest. She keeps telling me that there is always something new to learn every day, so never stop  learning. I was shocked when she told me that she only learnt how to do the batik in her 60s and  she continues to sell her batik scarves till this day.”


*Mislina Mustaffa (actress and activist)

"Linda Andre is my idol. She was a stranger until I met her last year and now we have become friends. She is 72 and is an Indonesian Chinese who is a British citizen. She did not let her old age and her diabetic condition stop her from travelling and seeing the world.”
*Adibah Noor (singer)

“For me, it’s Norlia Abdul Majid, my mother. As a child, she was treated as a scapegoat. As a mother, she has gone through hell and back just to put food on the table for her four children and then to get them educated – so that her children could live comfortable lives.”

*Shuhaimi Baba (film director)

“J.K. Rowling. Her journey to success was not an easy one. Her book (Harry Porter) was rejected numerous times. But she did not let go of her dream. Her perseverance was so inspiring. She  teaches us to hold on to our dreams and to never give up.”
* Melinda Looi (fashion designer)

“My late grandmother. My motherwas struggling to bring up six children while running her tailoring business. There were times when we couldn’t even afford to pay for the basics.So, my  grandma would help by selling flowers and sugarcane that she had planted.I really admire her strong personality, and often think of her whenever I am faced with challenges in my own life.”