Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Interchange & Dain Said

The film director Dain Said speaks to theSun about his next film Interchange. Here is the full article 

Headline: A Mystic Connection 
By Bissme S 

Dain Said was kind enough to show me some scenes from his
latest film, Interchange, which opens in cinemas at the end of the year. I believe Interchange is going to be an exciting film.
Dain first shot to stardom in 2007 when he directed Dukun,
a film loosely based on the life of the infamous Mona Fandey
who committed a gruesome murder. Unfortunately, Dukun
was never released here by the producers.
Putting this devastating incident behind him, in 2011, Dain went on to direct Bunohan, a thriller drama about an intense relationship among three brothers and their ailing father.
Bunohan paid off handsomely with the movie gaining screen
time at several prestigious international film festivals. It also earned Dain a number of accolades, including best director and best picture, at the 25th Malaysian Film Festival.
Now, everyone is eagerly awaiting his next film, Interchange. Made with a budget of RM3.5 million, Interchange centres on forensic photographer Adam (played by Iedil Putra), who becomes psychologically traumatised after having to photograph endless pictures of the dead.
Adam locks himself in his condominium and soon develops a habit of secretly taking pictures of his neighbours.
The beautiful Iva (played by award-winning Indonesian
actress Prisia Nasution), who has just moved into the
neighbourhood, catches him photographing her. Instead of
getting angry, she befriends him and becomes his lover.
Adam soon learns that loving Iva can be dangerous, and he
gets dragged into a world filled with blood and gore.
There is no doubt that featuring tortured souls on the big screen is not a new thing for Dain. Is the director a tortured soul like his characters?
Laughing, Dain said: “I seemed to possess some of
those characteristics when I was young. Most people would
like to believe that I am an extrovert. But I can also be an
introvert. When I was young, I loved reading stories featuring
characters [fraught] with  intense angst. This kind of characters was far more interesting [compared to other characters].”
Interchange also stars another award-winning Indonesian actor Nicholas Saputra. The inclusion of these two Indonesian stars has led to some people insinuating that Dain does not have faith in Malaysian talents.
The director brushes this accusations aside. “One of the best things about our industry is our amazing actors,” he said.
“They can do their scenes in just one take. I have never doubted their talent.”
He explained that the plot features a tribal community from Borneo that speaks in an Indonesian dialect and hence, using Indonesian actors makes perfect sense.
The first time he met Prisia was in 2012, at the Asian Film
Festival in Macau. They became good friends instantly and
had always wanted to work together.
As for Nicholas, Dain has always been a big fan of his body of work, and felt it would be a wonderful challenge to direct this talented actor, who is known to be very picky about
his film roles.
Dain has played with mystic elements in all his previous
films, and he does the same in Interchange.
“There has always been mystic elements in my culture. Korean filmmakers have always taken a western genre, and injected their own culture into it. I am doing the same thing here.”
The inspiration for the film’s English title came when he was in Bangkok, doing the final editing for Bunohan.
He was staying at a residence right in the heart of the city, with
many tall condominiums in front of him and he could clearly see what was going on within the neighbours’ homes.
That sparked him to write the story for Interchange.
“This movie is about change,” Dain said. 
“Every character goes through some kind of transformation.”
Dain’s ambition to be a filmmaker started from his childhood.
“I grew up playing in the beaches of the East Coast,” said Dain who was born in Tumpat, Kelantan.
His caretakers took him to traditional theatre performances such as wayang kulit, menora and mak yong, held on the beach.
At age seven, he followed his parents to live in Egypt and
England but the sweet memories of those stories on the beaches
of his homeland have always stayed with him.
“After 26 years abroad, I knew I wanted to come home
and tell Malaysian stories,” he said

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Siti Nurhaliza's Concert

Headline: Siti At Her Best 
By Bissme S

It was  indeed a concert to remember. That is the best way to describe the performance Datuk Siti Nurhaliza delivered at Kuala Lumpur’s Stadium Negara last Saturday with her two-hour concert entitled Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and Friends.
However, things started off on a worrying note. For an artiste of
Siti’s reputation and renown, the opening act was tame, lame and
The concert kicked off with a young girl dancing confusingly onstage. The dancer was supposed to represent Siti as
a young girl who dreamt of becoming an entertainer. However, I think the concept didn’t work out as intended. Instead of enchanting everyone, this act made the crowd restless. We couldn’t wait for the dancing to stop and the music to begin.
Thankfully, Siti soon appeared and saved the day, with her
opening song Aku Cinta Padamu. From that point on, the concert
was a rollercoaster ride of pure entertainment, as the singer had
the crowd of over 7,000 eating out of the palm of her hand.
Siti performed more than 20 songs, in celebration of her 20
years in the music industry. She also invited well known singers
from both Malaysia and Indonesia to join her on stage for some
memorable duets.
Many of her fans were waiting anxiously for her collaboration
with Anggun, the renowned Paris based Indonesian singer.
Anggun had flown in to Kuala Lumpur just hours before the
concert. Hence, they barely had any time for rehearsals. Yet, they
managed to give a remarkeable performance.
Their first duet was on Anggun’s iconic hit, Snow on the Sahara. Then, they sung one of Siti’s popular songs, Bukan Cinta Biasa, which had the crowd cheering wildly and enthusiastically.
Sometimes, when you have a duet with two skilled singers,
things can go terribly wrong. They may try to upstage one
other. Thankfully, that did not happen here. Anggun and Siti
complemented each other perfectly. It was just two good friends having a good time on stage.
At an earlier press conference, Anggun told the media that
she was glad to be a part of the concert. 
“I am here because I am her fan and her friend,” she said.
Besides inviting some of the region’s most talented singers to join her on stage, Siti also proved her mastery in creating a spectacular show.
She performed her first set of songs unplugged, then brought on
a live band to accompany her for her next set, and then finished the
final half of the show backed up by a full orchestra.
For me personally, the best duet of the night was when Siti sang her hit Biarlah Rahsia with Indonesian singer Afghan. The combination of his raspy voice and her powerful vocals provided a unique and interesting flavour for the evening.
The other memorable duet was when Siti performed her other
hit, Bagaikan Sakti with singersongwriter Faizal Tahir. She sang
the original version of the song with the legendary M Nasir. Here,
Faizal managed to put his own personality into the song.
The other singers who participated in Siti’s concert included local artistes Joe Flizzow, SonaOne, Hafiz Suip, and Jacyln Victor, as well as Cakra Khan from Indonesia.
During Siti’s costume changes, the large screen in the stadium
would show pre- recorded interviews of Siti’s family, friends,
work colleagues, and teachers sharing personal stories  about her. The best moment came courtesy of her mother Siti Salmah Bachik, who sportingly hummed the tune of her daughter’s first hit, Cindai.
One of the highlights of the night was when Siti fulfilled her dream of performing with the late Whitney Houston, singing a duet
on one of Houston’s unreleased songs, Memories.
Houston’s image appeared on the screen, and her pre-recorded
vocals merged with Siti’s live singing.
Adam Kidron, CEO of Yonder Music, the organiser for Siti’s
concert, later said: “When I met Siti, I asked who were her
favourite singers. She cited P. Ramlee, Celine Dion and Whitney
Houston. Then, I remembered [Memories which] was never
featured in any of her albums.”
Siti was extremely happy and grateful that her concert went
smoothly. “Tonight, I can sleep with a smile,” she said.
No doubt, most of her die-hard fans at the concert went to bed
with smiles on their faces, too.

Eka Kurniawan & Man Booker Prize

I carried an interview Indonesia author Eka Kurniawan whose book Man Tiger has been nominated for the prestigious 2016 Man Booker International awards.  The interview was published in theSun today.  Here is the full story....

Headline : King  of the Literary Jungle
By Bissme S

EKA KURNIAWAN, considered one of the most exciting, edgy writers in Indonesia, recently saw his book Man Tiger selected for the prestigious 2016 Man Booker International awards, with industry peers calling him the first Indonesian author to be nominated. The winner of the award will be announced on May 16.
 Man Tiger is a 2015 published translation of Eka’s original 2004 novel Lelaki Harimau, his second book after his landmark debut, 2002’s Cantik Itu Luka. He has since published Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas (2014), and his latest book, O (2016).
In an email interview with theSun, Eka  recalled how he found out about the nomination. He says: “Some of my friends texted me the good news. But I didn’t get it. While waiting for my car to be serviced, I realised my mobile phone was full of missed calls and messages. Many of them were from journalists. I spent the whole day answering their questions.”
Eka  is extremely grateful that people thought his work was good enough to be nominated. Most of the time, he tries not think about the many accolades he has received for his books over the years.
Man Tiger begins with a young man named Margio, who violently murders Anwar Sadat, the richest man in a village. The story continues in flashbacks, where the readers learn that Margio hates his father for abusing his mother. He always had the desire to kill his father, but never found the courage to carry it out. The novel also blends in supernatural elements, where Margio believes a female white tiger is living inside him.
The inspiration for this story came when Eka heard about a violent murder that took place in his hometown years ago. He wanted to write a fictional novel about the murder, but eventually abandoned the idea.
“Then, a friend told me that he found a tiger in his bedroom,” he says.
“I do not know whether my friend was telling me the truth or if he was pulling my leg. Oddly enough, his confession got us talking about the stories of mystical white tigers we used to hear about as kids.”
It was then that Eka decided to revive his abandoned story, and blended it with the supernatural element of a white tiger.
When asked if he still believes in supernatural elements, he says: “If I believe in the supernatural, I have to prove that it exists, and I cannot do that. If I don’t believe in supernatural, I still have to prove it does not exist and I can’t do that, either. I am a skeptic but at the same time I love mystery in everything.”
He says his grandmother was the first person to expose him to the art of storytelling. She loved to narrate legends, fairy tales and the history of the village to him.
Another person who played an important role in his love for storytelling was a distant relative, an old lady who lived alone. Almost every evening, he and the other children would gather at her porch, where she told them magical tales.
His father, a tailor and a part-time English teacher, also played a role in instilling the love for stories in him. He would bring back books for Eka to read. From an ardent reader, Eka slowly progressed to becoming a writer.
One of the changes he loves to see taking place in Indonesian literature is an increase in Indonesian readership.
“Indonesia has a big population, but only a tiny percentage of readers,” he says.
“We need to build more libraries around the archipelago.”
When asked if stories should have messages that can change the society for the better, Eka answers: “Consciously or unconsciously, a writer always has messages in the stories. But the writer must understand that readers may interpret these message differently [from the original intent]. The readers may not see things the same way [as the writer]. The writer has no control over how his readers would interpret his stories.”
But Eka strong believes a story should not become a sermon.
“Once a story becomes a sermon, the story is no longer interesting.”

Side bar 

2016 Man Book Prize Nominees
1)A General Theory of Oblivion
Author: José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola)
Translator: Daniel Hahn

2) The Story of the Lost Child
Author: Elena Ferrante (Italy)
Translator: Ann Goldstein

3) The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang (South Korea)
Translator: Deborah Smith

4) Mend the Living
Author: Maylis de Kerangal (France)
Translator: Jessica Moore
 5) Man Tiger
Author: Eka Kurniawan ( Indonesia)
Translator: Labodalih Sembiring

6)The Four Books
Author: Yan Lianke (China)  
Translator: Carlos Rojas

7) Tram 83
Author: Fiston Mwanza Mujila(Democratic Republic of Congo/ Austria)
Translator: Roland Glasser

8) A Cup of Rage
Author: Raduan Nassar (Brazil)
Translator: Stefan Tobler

9) Ladivine
Author: Marie N. Diaye (France)
Translator: Jordan Stump

10) Death By Water
Author : Kenzaburo Oe (Japan)
Translator: Deborah Boliner Boem

11)White Hunger
Author : Aki Ollikainen ( Finland)
Translator: Emily Jeremiah & Fleur Jeremiah

12) A Strangeness in My Mind
Author: Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)
Translator: Ekin Oklap

13) A Whole Life
Author: Robert Seethaler ( Austria)
Translator: Charlotte Collins

Eka... churning out another masterpiece

Lelaki Harimau translated into English ....