Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Quotes 2017

I am highlighting 12 best quotes from all interviews I have carried out throughout 2017. 

1) “I do not want to believe in the supernatural but sometimes, I can’t help myself. Recently, there was a demonstration in Jakarta where I lived. A distant relative sent me coconut water to drink. He said if I drink the coconut water, I will be safe from any harm (from the demonstration). I did not believe him. But in the end, I drank it. I would like to believe that I drank the coconut water because it was a hot day and it tasted sweet.” (laughs)

- Eka Kurniawan, Indonesian author, on whether he believes in the power of supernatural (January 11, 2017)


2) "My relationship with God has changed from fear to love. In Brazil, I visited the statue of Christ the Redeemer. There were a handful of tourists taking pictures of Jesus and praying.It was the World Cup season in Brazil at that time and out of the blue, a group of famous footballers visited the place. Suddenly, the tourists’ focus was on the footballers. Everyone was crowding around the footballers. The tourists were cheering and screaming. The atmosphere was almost like a party. Once the footballers left, their attention returned to Jesus. If a similar situation were to happen in Malaysia, you can bet it will become a controversy, and their behaviour will be seen as disrespecting God. Personally, I like to believe in a loving God. I really believe that God understands these people have no malicious intent to disrespect Him. They were just too happy to see their football idols, and a good God will want his followers to be happy.”

Mislina Mustaffa, actress, activist and author,  on her relationship with God  (January 16, 2017)

3) “He (his older brother) was a disruptive force in my family. But my late mother was constantly defending him. I could not understand how my mother chose to love one child more than the others. I always thought my mother never loved me. And I resented her for that.”

Saw Teong Hin, film director,  on his film  You Mean The World to Me that explore his relationship with his mother. ( April 21, 2017)  

4) “When I act in these foreign productions, nobody really knows who I am. I am almost like a newcomer and have to prove myself all over again. That is a good feeling. I want to be out of my comfort zone. I want to be put in a new place where I have to struggle to play a role. I would rather be an anchovy in a big sea, than a big fish in a small pond.” 

Bront Palarae, actor, on accepting offers from Indonesia and Philippines ( June 8. 2017) 

5) "My father woke up at 5am every day, and only stopped working after 7pm. When he got home, he was too tired to spend time with me. I felt neglected. I was angry at him for putting his work first. I did not understand his predicament then. Looking back now, I realised he was working hard to put a roof over our heads, and food on our table. I should have been more grateful." 

Shanjhey  Kumar Perumal, an award winning film director, on his relationship with his father ( June16, 2017) 

6) "What irks me is when a person who has power, wealth and fame migrates to our country,it is perfectly fine and nobody has issue with that. But these refugees have no choice. They have to abandon their homeland. If they continue living in their homeland, they would end up dead.   Frankly speaking, we need to remove the labels we have attached to [people], and look at these refugees as human beings who are fleeing prosecution. And they need our help."

Mahi Ramakrishnan , a journalist on her her documentary  BOU  ( August 9, 2017) 

7) "How can Islam be compromised if you give justice to a mother? Some Muslims feel [that] if they side with the mother, then they are siding with a non Muslim. But just imagine if this were to happen to you ... what would you do? Some [only care] that the daughter has become a Muslim. But she cannot see her mother. It is never easy to grow up without a mother. Kindness has always been the central principle of Islam, and that’s the reason Islam spread fast in the early days. Unfortunately, Islam (in our country) has become dogmatic.”  

Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim,  a lawyer turned politician, on producing the documentary  Dairi Untuk Prasana that focuses the controversial case of  M. Indira Gandhi who has been cruelly separated from her daugther Prasana. ( August 23, 2017) 

8) "If you want to survive in this industry, you must develop a thick skin.You cannot take criticisms to heart and let them break you.Our former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has done a lot for our country, and yet people have not stopped criticising him. You cannot please everyone. My company has survived for more than 30 years in this industry, and that fact alone is enough to tell you that there are people who like the kind of films I make.” 

Datuk Yusof Haslam, a film maker,   on people who thinks he is a mediocre film maker despite his films making tons of money at the box office. (October 31, 2017) 

9) “In Islam, it is said that you won’t smell heaven if you are arrogant. No matter how rich and popular you are, you must remain humble. I pray every day that I will never be arrogant. If you want to do bad things, God will permit you, and if you want to do good things, God will help you." 

 Ramli Sarip, singer cum song writer, on being humble ( November 15, 2017) 

10) “You can find a Malay eating Indian curries and Chinese yong tau foo You can also find a Malay wearing the sari, or the cheongsam.So why can’t we master a beautiful dance form from [another] race?” 

Mohd Yunus Ismail, a dancer, on learning BharataNatyam, the indian classical dance ( December 9, 2017) 


11) “I wanted to be a fisherman. I did not see anything wrong in being a fisherman. Somebody has to provide fishes.The teacher was furious. He wanted me to have a higher ambition, like everyone else in my class. He forced me to rewrite my essay.I just followed what he wanted. Looking back, it is lucky that I did not become a fisherman, because I [discovered] that I do not like the sea very much.”

Chew Kin Wah, Malaysian actor who has been creating waves in the Indonesian film scenes ( Dec 18, 2017)  

12) "There have been three turning points in my life. The first was the death of my father in an accident 20 years ago. The second was the death of my mother from cancer five years ago. And the third was calling off this wedding. It is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. I have done my best for the relationship. I never visualised [that] my relationship would end this way. I’d visualised myself travelling and seeing the world after my marriage, and maybe, even having a baby the following year. I am hurting now, but I am sure the hurt will get less with each passing day. I need time to heal.I know all this [pain] will pass and I will need to move on, and hopefully, to find happiness again.”

Hans Isaac, actor, on his broken heart ( December 21, 2017) 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Hans Isaac

Actor Hans Isaac speaks to theSun about his cancelled wedding, the latest progress in his career and his Christmas plans. Read the full interview below 

Headline: Baring His Soul
By Bissme S

WHEN award-winning actor, producer and director Datuk Hans Isaac announced in February that he had found the love of his life, his fans and everyone who knew him were overjoyed.
The wedding was supposed to take place in July. But a month before the event, he announced that
it was postponed. Finally, in October, Hans called off the wedding entirely – and that set tongues wagging.
After much persuasion, Hans agreed to open up about this bitter episode, as well as how he is
moving forward in his life.

* Your marriage did not take place. Why not?

“All I can say [is that] two people need to be committed for a marriage to work, and I believe that was missing.”

*Did you get cold feet?

“I was committed to being married after the engagement. I was ready to be a husband and a father. I needed a wife and a mother for [my children]. I did not need a girlfriend. When I see couples holding hands and having kids, I get envious. [But] I confessed I made the call not to go ahead with the wedding. It is a call that I was forced to make.”

*How is your relationship with your ex now?

“There is no communication between us at this point, but I do wish her the best in her future, and in all her choices that she will be making.”

*Can you describe your emotions at this moment?

“There have been three turning points in my life. [The] first was the death of my father in an accident 20 years ago. The second was the death of my mother from cancer five years ago. And the third
was calling off this wedding. It is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.
“I have done my best for the relationship. I never visualised [that] my relationship would end this way. I’d visualised myself travelling and seeing the world after my marriage, and maybe, even having a baby the following year.
“I am hurting now, but I am sure the hurt will get less with each passing day. I need time to heal.I know all this [pain] will pass and I will need to move on, and hopefully, to find happiness again.”

*How do you intend to heal yourself?

“I have been keeping myself busy. I have been travelling for the last two months.I have been to Bali with my family, and recently to Koh Lipe with friends ... I have been training in the gym four days a week. I have also been playing golf. I started scuba diving again.
“How do I benefit from something negative like this? Well, I put my attention on my health and experience new things in life. In early October, I collapsed, due to stress. It was an eye-opener
for me. I now see life differently. I learned that life can be extremely fragile. I am grateful that I am still able to appreciate life. I want to focus not just on the bigger things in life, but also the smaller things as well.”

*Have you given up on love?

“For now, yes. My heart is shut completely. I am hoping that one day, someone will come into my life and show me what true love is all about.”

*There are rumours that you already have a new girlfriend.

“No. I am single. I am still healing. But so many of my friends and the people I know are trying to set meup with somebody (laughs). It’s hard for me to meet anyone at this point, as I need to be fair and be 100% committed to her. I justcan’t jump from one relationship to another.”

*What about the perception that you are a playboy?

“I am 46, and I’ve only had eight serious relationships. If I was 25 and had eight relationships, then [it’d be] a different story.Have you ever met a playboy who wants to be married?”

*Eight serious relationships, and none resulted in a marriage. Do you think something is wrong with you?

“Maybe. We all have flaws. I am not afraid to look at myself and discuss my flaws. I think I am a good guy. I think my parents have brought me up well. I was not ready to get married before this, but I was committed to this engagement. It was the first time I [went] down on my knees and proposed marriage. It was never easy for me to [do that].”

*What’s next in your career?

“I am planning to have a concert with my buddies – Awie, AC Mizal and Afdlin Shauki – in July where we will be singing and performing funny sketches. I have plans to re-stage Lat: The Musical. The last time I staged it was four years ago. But I need to get Datuk Lat’s permission before doing it.”

*Any updates about your upcoming film project, Sg Rejang?

“I have been working on the project (which centres on the relationship between two tribes) for the last 10 years, and I have not given up on this dream. It is a story I have always wanted to tell. The longer I wait, the better the story becomes.”

*Tell us a little about your Christmas plans.

“I really thought I would be celebrating Christmas as a married man. But that is not happening. Instead, I will have my two siblings, three nephews and one niece to keep me company. Christmas has always been a family affair for me. I always host lunch for my family. The recipes my late mother used to cook will be done by my siblings.And to all theSun readers who celebrate Christmas, I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Chew Kin Wah

Malaysian actor Chew Kin Wah is making waves in the Indonesian film scene, winning one awards after another. I have interviewed him at one of the eatery in Bangsar and the interview was published today in the sun newspaper 

Headline: Making The Nation Proud
By Bissme S

IPOH-BORN Chew Kin Wah has become the latest Malaysian actor to achieve commercial success in the Indonesian film industry. Last month, the 52-year-old won the best supporting actor award at Indonesia’s Festival Filem Tempo 2017 (FFT 2017) in Jakarta, for his performance inCek Toko Sebelah.
He also took the best supporting actor award at the 2017 Indonesian Box Office Movie Awards (Iboma) in March for the same role as a widowed father who runs a wholesale shop.
In this comedy drama, the widowed father decides to leave the business to his son, Erwin (played by Ernest Prakasa who also directed the film), after a heart attack scare.
But Erwin has his own ambitions and wants nothing to do with his father’s business. Disappointed, the father sells off the business but eventually, Erwin goes all out to buy it back again. This is the second Indonesian film Chew has starred in. His first was Upi Avianto’s 2015 My Stupid Boss.
At a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur, Chew  opened up about his career and where his ambitions will take him next. Though born in Ipoh, Chew grew up in Kuala Lumpur from the age of eight. He was brought up by two women – his late single mother who ran a canteen, and his late grandmother, a sarong-wearing Nyonya wannabe, who spoiled him.
“I grew up in a household of strong women, and in a gangster neighbourhood,” he says. 
“All the gangsters wanted me because I could speak better English than them.”
At the age of 19, Chew discovered acting. He noticed an audition for a play in an English daily. He entered and was selected to appear in the Five Arts Centre theatre production of Kee Thuan Chye’s seminal 1984, Here & Now. The rest, as they say, ishistory. Now, more exciting roles in Indonesia seem to be coming his way.
Chew has just completed shooting Terbang Menembus Langit, a biopic directed by Fajar Nurgros, which centres on poor boy Onggy Winata (Dion Wiyoko), who achieves fame and success through a multilevel marketing and business venture. Chew plays the father who inspires Onggy to greater heights.
There is also talk that he might appear in a film based on a book by late Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer. One wonders if Chew has any desire to base himself in Jakarta permanently?
The actor, whose Muslim name is Anuar Chew Abdullah, says: “Indonesia has given me an alternate source of income. The lifestyle in Indonesia could suit me. But my life is here. I have my wife, my son, my friends, and three dogs here.”
In fact, Chew will next be seen playing a villain in a local TV series, Banteras, under director Ghaz Abu Bakar, which highlights the life of an anticorruption officer.
When asked the difference between working here and in Indonesia, I expect a polite, diplomatic answer from the actor. But Chew surprises me with a blunt and honest reply. He states that the Indonesians take their craft far more seriously than Malaysians.
“When you go for rehearsals, everyone is there, including the big names,” he says. 
“Scripts are given to you way in advance. The production houses prepare the wardrobe for you.
“Here ... you will find the big names missing during rehearsals. They are too busy launching some shops or products somewhere in Kuala Lumpur. Scripts are sometimes given to you only a few hours before the shoot, and you have to bring your own wardrobe.”
Chew used to get frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude here but now, he’s learned to make the best out of the situation. 
He also notes a disturbing ‘trend’ happening now, where a production house hires an actor under false pretenses.
He says: “They will pay you for a telemovie [job]. But later, you find [it] is not a telemovie. It is being screened in the cinemas, and the actor has lost out [in terms of income]. It is a scam.”
Interestingly, Chew never had any ambitions to be an
actor when he was young.He remembers that when he was nine, his teacher had asked the class to write an essay about their ambition.
“I wanted to be a fisherman,” says Chew. 
“I did not see anything wrong in being a fisherman.Somebody has to provide fishes.The teacher was 
furious. He wanted me to have a higher ambition, like everyone else in my class. He forced me to rewrite my essay.
“I just followed what he wanted. Looking back, it is lucky that I did not become a fisherman, because I [discovered] that I do not like the sea very much.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bront Palarae & The Intern

Malaysian actor Bront Palarae has signed deal with a production house in China and  will be directing a Mandarin language thriller called The Intern next year for international market. Read the full story here

Headline: In Greener Pastures 
By Bissme S 

AWARD-WINNING actor Bront Palarae, 39, has just signed a memorandum of understanding under his production house Pixel Play with Kunming Heng Ming Media Co Ltd (KHMM), a film production house based in Yunnan, China. They plan to work together to produce films, television shows and documentaries, with their first project being a Mandarin-language thriller
called The Intern. Bront, whose real name is Nasrul Suhaimin Saiffuddin, will be helming this project.
The story centres on a young graduate who becomes an intern at an advertising agency. On her first day, she is bullied and forced to work alone, late into the night. A blackout occurs and the intern finds herself trapped in the office with all the doors locked.
Slowly, she realises that someone else is inside with her, and that this person means to harm her. She spends the whole
night in terror in the dark, finding ways to keep herself safe.During a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur, Bront shares some details of his new project.
“We are trying to get a famous name to play the intern, as we want to sell the film all over China and internationally,” says Bront, who held auditions for actresses from Hong Kong, China, and Korea.
At the moment, they are in talks with a certain actress, but Bront is keeping mum on any further details until the deal hasbeen signed. Bront, who wrote the first draft for the script, says the film will be set over a period of 24 hours, with over 90% of scenes taking place in an office.
“I am planning to build the office set from scratch, so I can better control the environment when I am shooting the film,” he adds.
This will be Bront’s second time in the director’s chair. His first attempt was for the anthology film Kolumpo in 2013. Over the last
few years, this versatile actor has been spreading his wings across the region, acting in Indonesian films such as Headshot,
My Stupid Boss, and the recent hit horror flick Pengabdi Setan, which has been distributedto more than 30 countries, including
New Zealand, the United States and Australia.
“I still can’t believe that my face will be [on] a big screen in 30 countries,” says Bront, who plays a father to four children in the film.
His performance earned him a nomination for best supporting actor at the Festival Film Tempo 2017 in Jakarta. However, Bront lost out to another Malaysian actor, Chew Kin Wah, who won for  his performance in the comedy drama film, Cek Toko Sebelah.
Bront says in jest: “[Chew] won because he is older than me. I am still young and I have many more chances to win.”
But the actor quickly adds: “Frankly speaking, I love him like a brother. He is the one who recommended me for Belukar  (for which Bront won the Malaysia Film Festival’s best actor award in 2010).
“[Chew] is a very talented actor who is underappreciated and  underutilised. I think [Malaysia is] going to lose him to the
Indonesian film industry. There, he gets better pay and better scripts.”
Bront himself is also more than happy to seek roles further afield. He recently completed shooting a Philippine horror film called Daddy’s Home. That film is directed by award-winning Malaysian filmmaker Bradley Liew, who is based in Manila, and produced by Philippine producer Bianca Balbuena. It will likely open in cinemas here early next year.
However, Bront is still making films in Malaysia. He is starring as a corrupt police officer in the crime film, What Comes Around, which will begin shooting next year under director Zahir Omar. And his Pixel Play is putting the finishing touches on the film
1, 2, Jaga, which has been in production for three years.
The film, which is  directed by Namron, deals with the hot-button issues of police corruption and illegal immigration, and stars Rosdeen Suboh, Zahril Adzim, Ameriul Affendi, Vanida Imran, and Azman Hassan.
His production team worked closely with the PDRM (Polis Diraja Malaysia) to get certain police procedures done as authentic as possible for the film.
“Our aim is to discuss the issues of corruption and immigration,” he says.
“Whenever we have problems [in our society], we always take the easy way out and blame immigrants for them.”
He adds: “We are not pointing fingers at any one [person] or any institution. It is a story that needs to be told.”
Bront is famously choosy about his roles and the films he makes. But he always puts his passion first, before money.
“As an actor, I would rather play a normal role in a great film than a great role in a bad film,” he says.
“I had experiences where people tell me that I was great in the film, but the film sucked. I just do not know how to react to that kind of statement.”
But how long can he resist the lure of big buck commercial roles?
Bront mentions his 18-month old daughter Adeena, whom he has with wife Rozi Isma, as a possible turning point. 
He says: “I should think of her future, too. I should not let her be a victim of my passion. Eventually, I need to find a balance between
passion and finance.” 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Crossing Borders

Seven dancers will be on stage, performing to Baharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form. None of the dancers are Indian. Read this interview where three dancers talk about learning a dance form that is not from their culture.   

Headline: Dancing To An Indian Beat  
By Bissme S

Seven dancers from the Akademi Seni Budaya & Warisan Kebangsaa (Aswara) will be presenting a Bharatanatyam performance depicting episodes from the famous Ramayana at Lambang Sari, Istana Budaya, from this Friday to Sunday.
This classical Indian dance form is one of the mandatory dances taught to Aswara students for the past 10 years. However, what makes this performance unique is that al seven dancers are not Indians.
The dancers – Kimberly Yap, Mohd Imran Syafiq, Ng Xin Ying, Khairi Mokthar, Norbaizura Abdul Ghani, Christine Chew,and Mohd Yunus Ismail – have all successfully completed theirArangetram (graduation ceremony) under the guidance of well-known dancer Shankar Kandasamy from The Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur.
Their 80-minute crosscultural dance performance called Crossing Borders has been staged a few times in Kuala Lumpur and even in India, in conjunction with the 2014 International Music and Dance Festival.
Mohd Yunus, who is also the dean of the dance faculty at Aswara, says: “The audience and
media from India were happy to see [people of] different races performing [the Bharatanatyam].”
The first time Mohd Yunus caught a Bharatanatyam performance was when he was 15, during a talent show at his school.
“I was not captivated by the dance form then,” he recalls.
But when he came to Aswara and it was mandatory to learn the Bharatanatyam, his dance master
Shankar opened his eyes to the beauty of this dance form and encouraged him to master it.
Like Mohd Yunus, fellow lecturers and dancers Norbaizura and Ng also first discovered the beauty of Bharatanatyam at Aswara.
“It is not an easy dance to master,” Norbaizura says. 
“You have to move every part of your body, and you must get your facial expressions right.”
Ng says initially, she wanted to master contemporary dance, and to just pass the Bharatanatyam.
However, she slowly began to become more interested in it.
“I got [inspired by] both of them (Yunus and Norbaizura) who are my seniors,” says Ng.
“What makes me like this dance form is that you’re required to have strong stamina and good body coordination. It pushes your limits.”
Some have praised them for performing this difficult dance form but there are others who
believe they are ‘bastardising’ it, since they are not Indians.
“I will never get angry with any comments thrown at me,”says Mohd Yunus. 
“I will listen to them and I will try to improve on my dancing skills. [Criticism] is normal if you are an artiste. It is when you do not get criticism that you should be worried.”
The dancers also see nothing wrong with them learning and performing dances from different
Mohd Yunus explains: “You can find a Malay eating Indian curries and Chinese yong tau foo.
You can also find a Malay wearing the sari, or the cheongsam.So why can’t we master a beautiful dance form from [another] race?” 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


I have interviewed the Queen of Rock Ella and the interview was published today ... 

By Bissme S

I LOVE to see Nor Zila Aminuddin, better known as Ella, laugh. The Malaysian queen of rock has one of those child-like laughs that instantly brightens up a room. And Ella’s laughter rings out often throughout our recent interview. The singer has every
reason to be happy. This has been a great year for the 51-year old rocker.
Ella was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian in May, as well as
the most recognised brand in leading performance artiste of the year at the Asean Outstanding Business Award in October.
And this weekend, she will be the star of her solo concerts with the 90-member Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO)
led by conductor Ahmad Muriz Che Rose at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP).
While this is Ella’s second time performing on the DFP stage – her first was in 2013 where she was one of the featured artistes for the MPO Rocks concert – this time, things will be quite different. The two two-hour-long concerts will focus solely on Ella
and highlight her 30-year journey in the music industry, hence, the concerts’ theme, A Rock Queen’s Journey.
“Be prepared to hear some noise in DFP, and it is going to get loud,” says Ahmad Muriz, who is obviously a great admirer of Ella.
The conductor adds that the most challenging part for Ella’s concert was selecting the songs,
“because she has so many hits”.
Ella picked the final 16 songs that she will be performing. They include a medley of her hits and tracks like Pengemis
Cinta, Pedih, Nuri, Rindu, Layar Impian, Dua Insan Bercinta, Sembilu, Gemilang, as well as her latest hit, Ku Sedia.
“I am surprised I had so many hits,” she says, adding that she has to be selective with the list
because “not all songs will sound better with an orchestra”.
The songs were given new arrangements by well-known composers such as Jenny Chin, Luqman Aziz, Leonard Yeap, and Ahmad Muriz himself. Ella has heard the new arrangements and she loves them. She says MPO has earlier suggested a
Japanese conductor for her concerts but she asked for a local conductor instead.
“I believe in local talents and I am happy that I have stuck to my decision.”
When asked if she feels any pressure doing this  concert, Ella laughingly replies: “I do not have any pressure,
because I’ve passed all that pressure to my musicians and my composer.”
On a more serious note, she says: “Pressure is a normal thing for people like us. Fans always have high expectations
whenever you put on a concert. I believe in giving my best and hope my best is enough for my fans.”
Ella’s concerts have always been fun affairs, and there is concern that a formal venue like DFP can put a damper on that
fun as her fans are expected to be on their best behaviour.
“There are no restrictions on my concert,” she insists. 
“If fans want to clap their hands and sing along with me, they can. I want them to have fun.”
It’s a dream of every local singer to be able to perform at this prestigious venue, which can seat a crowd of 920.
And Ella is indeed living that dream, a far cry from that young girl who initially wanted to grow up to be a secretary. Ella started her singing career performing at nightclubs and lounges. In 1981, she was approached to be the lead singer of a rock band, The Boys, and they then became known as Ella and The Boys. They achieved stardom when they took part in the Battle of Bands in 1985. After four albums, Ella left to strike out a solo career in 1989.
To date, she has cut 12  studio albums and performed in countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, China, Russia and the United States. One of the highlights in her career has to be when she sang the Bahasa Malaysia version of the official song for the 16th Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur – Standing in the Eyes of the World – in 1998.
In 2001, Malaysian Book of Records listed her as the first Malaysian singer to record a full album in the US. The album, Ella
USA, sold more than 300,000 copies.
In 2012, Ella married pilot Azhar Ghazali. Theirs is a marriage made in heaven.
“He understands my busy schedule, so if I do not have time to cook, he does not get angry.”
And Ella says she really loves cooking for her husband.
“In the morning, I serve him scrambled eggs; in the afternoon, I serve him omelette; and at night, I serve him telur rebus
(boiled eggs).”
I laugh. So does Ella, and the room seems the brighter for it. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Joko Anwar

I interviewed the award winning director from Indonesia Joko Anwar. He talks about his hit film, a horror flick Pengabdi Setan and his dream project  called Coming Home To Punish Mother . The interview was published today in theSun

Headline: A Master of Horror 
By Bissme S

HIS FILMS can be creepy, dark and bleak but award-winning Indonesian film director Joko Anwar  is far from that. He is cheerful, playful, witty, funny and love watching frivolous comedies such as Legally Blonde and Clueless.
“If I ever remake Legally Blonde, I will not change a single frame,” said Joko during a recent interview.
The director was in Kuala Lumpur, together with his two main leads, Tara Basro and Dimas Aditya, and producer Sunil G. Samtani, to promote his latest film, Pengabdi Setan  which opened in cinemas here yesterday.
Though this is another of Joko’s trademark horror films, Pengabdi Setan is actually a remake of director Sisworo Gautama Putra’s iconic 1980 Indonesian horror film of the same name. The story
centres on four siblings who begin to experience eerie incidents in their home after the death of their mother.
Joko has been an ardent fan of that classic film from young and had wanted to remake the film way back
in 2005. He spent the next 10 years chasing production house Rapi Films for permission to do the remake.
When he heard the production house wanted a different director for the remake, Joko said: “When I first heard the news, I was heart broken. I cried.”
But fate has the last say and Joko’s dream was realised. He said when he gotthe green light, he wrote the screenplay in four days.
Pengabdi Setan became a huge hit when it was first released in Indonesia, selling over four million tickets and getting rave reviews. It went on to win seven awards at the 2017 Indonesian Film Festival Awards.
The rights to the film have been sold to over 30 countries including New Zealand, Australia and the US. Malaysia is the first country to screen Pengabdi Setan after Indonesia.
Dissecting the success of the film, Joko said: “It tells a story of how a family should stick together through rough times, and that storyline is something that the audience can relate to.”
Another factor is the fantastic performance of lead actress Tara as Rini, the protective older sister.
“Tara is smart, talented and fragile, said Joko. 
“Fragility is a great quality in an actor. When you are fragile, you will be able to [portray] your
emotions better.”
Joko’s previous films such as Pintu Terlarang and A Copy of My Mind were screened at many international film festivals and received critical acclaim from international media such as Time Magazine and The Hollywood Reporter but they were never commercially successful. In some ways, Pengabdi Setan has made him more appealing to the mainstream audience.
“To tell you honestly, whenever I direct a film, I always go for the money,” he said with a laugh. 
“I wanted my films to be commercially successful and accessible to my audience. But people
kept saying my films are arthouse films.”
He added that he never puts labels on his films and he refuses to let others put a label on him. Besides Tara and Dimas, the film also stars Endy Arfian, Nasar Annuz, M. Adhiyat, Ayu Laksmi and Malaysian award-winning actor Bront Palarae.
Despite some of the big names in the cast, Joko said all of them went through an intensive audition, with about 40 actors auditioning for each character.
“Auditions are good for me and my actors because they let us know if we are a right [fit] to make a film together,” he explained.
 “I do not want them to feel that they are not right for the character half way through my shoot ...”
There had been occasions when the actors he wanted for his films refused to undergo his audition process, and he had to make a different choice. But Joko said he is perfectly fine with that. 
“I always believe if something happened and you have to make a change, it is always a blessing.”
As to whether he believes in the world of supernatural which he so often portrays in his film, Joko laughingly said: “I believe in UFOs more. I believe I have been abducted at least once and I have the
scars to prove it!”
But he turned serious when asked about the hardest thing being a filmmaker in Indonesia: “To stay on track and make the films you are passionate about [even though] you need money to survive and
there are tempting offers to sway you from making the films you are passionate about.” 
So far he has found courage to resist the temptation. His secret? 
“My happiness comes from small things,” he said.
There are reports that he is working on a sequel to Pengabdi Setan.But Joko refused to comment on that. Instead, he spoke about his new dream project – a semi-autobiographical film to be called Coming Home to Punish Mother.
He revealed that the story starts with a mother telling her son that he should be grateful to her because she has been keeping secrets from him. If he ever knew the secrets, he will not be a happy man.This angers the son because he is not a happy man, and he, too, has been hidingsecrets from his mother. To punish her, hedecides to unload all his secrets on her.
That sounded like Joko might be playing out some hidden resentment towards his late mother.To that, the director laughingly replied:“You have to watch the film – and I love my mother very much!”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tommy & Shaun Tam

theSun publishes my interview with Tommy Tam better known as Ti Lung and his son Shaun who have appeared in the Malaysian made movie The Kid from Big Apple 2: Before We Forget.  

Headline : The Apple of His Eyes 
By Bissme S

Opening  in cinemas today, The Kid from Big Apple 2: Before We Forget will definitely make the audience shed a tear or two.
Hong Kong actor Tommy Tam, better known as Ti Lung, returns as the grandfather in this sequel to the award-winning film, to give another moving performance as a man who is slowly losing his memories of everyone he loves, including his favourite
The film, by award-winning director Jess Teong, also sees Malaysian rising stars Sarah Tan and Jason Tan reprising their
roles as the granddaughter and her friend, as well as two new faces – Malaysian actress Debbie Goh and Hong Kong rising star
Shaun Tam.
Shaun, 37, who plays a man who regrets abandoning his pregnant girlfriend, is in fact Ti Lung’s son. Ti Lung, 71, was in Kuala Lumpur recently together with his wife of 42 years, former beauty queen and actress Ta  Man Ming, as well as Shaun for
the gala premiere of the film.
At an earlier press conference, the veteran actor states: “It is a challenge to play someone [suffering from dementia that]
you have never played before.I have to learn to walk slowly. I have to learn to talk slowly, too.”
The moment the actor received the script for the sequel, he asked his doctor for the symptoms for dementia. Then he used what his doctor told him to get under the skin of his character.
When asked what motivated a well-known Hong Kong actor like him to accept a role in a Malaysian-made production, Ti
Lung explains: “In my career, most of the time, I have always played strong, driven characters – either as an emperor, a gangster or a soldier.
“In this movie, my character is just the opposite. He’s suffering from dementia and his condition is deteriorating.”
While the film deals with issues of ageing, Ti Lung, despite his age, looks fit and his mind is still sharp. “Only my joints are
painful,” he says, pointing to his legs. Nobody can escape ageing,”
he adds. “But to maintain your health, you must not smoke or drink and you must be less aggressive. You need to
[appreciate] what you have in your life.” 
Ti Lung started his acting career in 1969 at the age of 22, playing a minor role in the Hong Kong film, Return of the OneArmed
Swordsman. Recognising his talent, the film’s director Chang Cheh did not waste any time in giving Ti Lung the lead role in his next production, Dead End. That film eventually led to more roles in such well-known films as The Blood Brothers, The
Duel, The Sentimental Swordsman and A Better Tomorrow.
However, Ti Lung attributes the biggest achievement in his life as being able to give a proper
education to his only son.
“I came from a poor family,” says Ti Lung. “I had to work [from the age of] 12. I started working as a delivery boy. I would deliver newspapers, milk and groceries. I could only attend night school.
“I know knowledge is important in life. That’s why I was determined my son will not suffer the same fate as me.”
Shaun went on to obtain a degree in advertising from a Canadian university. But in the end, he decided to
follow in his father’s footsteps and became an actor.
Ti Lung says: “Initially, I was not happy with my son’s decision to be an actor. You have to work long hours and you cannot see
your wife and your children very much. You will miss them.I did not want my son to go through what I had gone through.
I wanted a better life for him. But now, I have accepted his decision.”
Ti Lung admits that in the early years, he and his son went through some conflicts where they rarely spoke to each other.
Over time, they have reconciled and their relationship has since improved.
“I understand now that I cannot force him to live the life I want him to live,” says Ti Lung.
“I have to let him do what makes him happy.”
To Shaun, his father is the perfect role model who always puts his family first. He recalls how when he was in
his teens, he used to get beaten up in school because his classmates thought beating up a ‘gangster’s son’ would be cool.
“Immediately, my father stopped taking on gangster roles,” Shaun says. 
“He did not want me to be traumatised any more.”
But when it comes to his craft, Shaun says his father puts his whole heart into it. 
“He will memorise his dialogue and never come to the set late.”
Since becoming a father himself to a two-year-old daughter and a two-month-old son, Shaun says it makes him
appreciate his father even more.
“My father is a warm-hearted man,” he says.
 “He is not good at communicating his feelings. But his grandchildren always bring out the best smiles from him.”
As for The Kid from Big Apple 2: Before We Forget, Shaun says he loves the film because it emphasises on “traditional family
values and people connecting with people”.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ramli Sarip

Today theSun published my interview with  the iconic singer and song writer Ramli Sarip. 

By Bissme S

Legendary rocker and songwriter Ramli Sarip (right) is making a special appearance at the Konsert Tanah Airku, taking place at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) this Friday and Saturday at 8.30pm.
The concert is a collaboration between the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia, with Ramli invited to showcase his hits such as Kamelia, Teratai, Kau Yang Satu, and Syair Laila Majnun.
“It is always nice when you are invited to perform with [younger] musicians,” says the rock icon.
“You can share your knowledge with them, and they can share their knowledge with you. I am also eager to see how these youngsters will interpret my songs.”
Even at 65, Ramli still has fans who are eager to see him perform,while his songs continue to entice a whole new generation.
Surprisingly, Ramli says that growing up, he never had any strong ambitions to be a musician.
“I remember loving sports, and was a good athlete in school,”says Ramli. 
“I loved to rear fish and collect butterflies.You should always have a hobby, especially when you retire.If you do not have a hobby, you
will die fast.These days, my hobby is reading books.”
In 1969, the then-17-year-old Ramli started the rock band Sweet Charity, with him as lead singer. After releasing seven albums, he left the band to pursue a solo career in 1986.
To date, he has released 12 solo albums, and counts among his many hits such songs as Nyanyian Serambi, Panah Beracun, Bahasa Terindah, Perjalanan Hidup, Doa Buat Kekasih and Sejuta Wajah.
“Sometimes, you need to write 50 songs just to get one hit,” he says. 
“As a singer, you need a collection of songs under your belt ... If you only have one or two hit songs in your career, how are you going to have a two-hour concert?”
When asked the secret behind this success, he says: “I never dreamt of becoming famous when I started my music career 48 years ago.
“I did not have the‘ commercial’ voice or commercial’ face that the mainstream music scene was looking for.
“But God has been kind to me. He wanted me to be famous, and nothing can stop God from making this a reality.All my success comes from God and I am grateful to Him.”
He also attributes his success to getting his late parents’ blessing in pursuing his music career.His father was a foreman who taught religious classes part-time, and his mother was a housewife.
“I always tell young people to respect their mother and father, and to always get their blessing in whatever they do,” he says.
“If you do not get your parents’ blessing, then you [will] not get blessings from God.”
His career was not without challenges, however. When Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) imposed a ban on male artistes with long hair in 1993, Ramli was one of the few singers who refused to cut their hair.As a result, he was slapped with a television appearance that lasted several years.
“I was not being a rebel,” he explains. 
“I was 40 years old, and I should not be forced to cut my hair.Even in my teenage years, I did not like cutting my hair short.”
His late mother was worried that he would not earn enough to survive, and subtly tried to persuade him to cut his hair.
“I told my mother not to worry about my bread and butter, and to just pray for me. If she prayed for me, then God would listen.”
It appears her prayers worked. The ban could have easily ended his career. But it did not. Ramli went on to become the legendary singer and songwriter that he is today. Despite his huge success, he remains humble.
“In Islam, it is said that you won’t smell heaven if you are arrogant,” he says.
“No matter how rich and popular you are, you must remain humble.I pray every day that I will never be arrogant. If you want to do bad things, God will permit you, and if you want to do goodthings, God will help you. “
Next year, he plans to produce his 13th solo album to mark his 50th year in the music industry. He also reveals that he plans to release his autobiography soon after that.
“Now, I am busy jotting down [details of] my journey in the music industry, and the inspirations behind some of the songs I have written,” he says.
“I hope I can complete my [book] in time.” 
For a colourful personality, with such a long and prolific career, his life story should make for an interesting read. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Yusof Haslam

Today theSun interviews Yusof Haslam after winning the life time achievement award at the recent Malaysian film Festival.  

Headline : A Life In Films 
By Bissme S

DIRECTOR and producer Datuk Yusof Haslam was recently honoured with the Anugerah Karyawan Sepanjang Zaman award at the 29th Malaysian Film Festival. But he would be the first to
state that his road to success was not an easy one.
“I came from a poor family and I stayed in a squatter house,” Yusof, 63, remembers.
His father was a lorry driver while his mother was a housewife. He was the fourth among seven children in the family. As a child, Yusof loved watching Hollywood cowboy films and Bollywood films. He wanted to be a famous actor,just like his idol, the dashing Bollywood star Shashi Kapoor. Unfortunately, his father was not supportive of his career choice.
“I was not angry at my father,”Yusof recalls. 
“I understand his motivation for [opposing] my acting ambition. He believed the Malaysian film industry was in the doldrums and a career in films was not a bright choice. He wanted me to choose a more stable career.”
Yusof then took up a job as a bus conductor. But he did not completely abandon his acting ambition. Without his father’s knowledge, he secretly went for auditions.
Initially, he started as an extra in films. Then in 1975, at age 19, his luck turned and he landed his first leading role, in the dramatic film Permintaan Terakhir.
“Actors these days are very lucky,” he says. 
“They can make enough money by just working on films and television series. In my time, there were not enough films and television series being made. What was worse was our payment which was small compared to what actors are getting today.”
He adds that acting was only a part-time job for many actors then who had to find day jobs to support themselves and their families.
After almost a decade of acting, Yusof won his first Malaysian Film Festival award – for best supporting actor in 1984 for his performance as a crime boss in the comedy Mekanik.
A year later, he set up Skop Productions to produce his own movies, a company he still runs to this day. Yusof went on to direct and produce a police TV series called Remang-Remang Kota Raya as the first project under Skop.
In 1991, Yusof directed his first feature film, Bayangan Maut, which he also produced and starred in. The film, which also starred Noorkumalasari, Ella, and Faisal Hussein, was a box-office success, collecting (at the time) a record RM1 million.Since then, Yusof has directed a dozen other films, many of which were also box-office hits.
At one point in his successful directing career, Yusof wasdubbed the “director with the Midas touch'. Most of his best-known projects have been films or TV series revolving around
policemen, including Remang Remang Kota Raya, Roda-Roda Kota Raya, and Gerak Khas.
When asked why, Yusof says: “My other childhood ambition was to be a police inspector.”
To some degree, directing police stories or starring as a police inspector was his way of reliving his childhood ambition. Despite some of his films being huge box-office hits, there are critics who consider him as merely a mediocre filmmaker.
“If you want to survive in this industry, you must develop a thick skin,” says Yusof. 
“You cannot take criticisms to heart and let them break you.Our former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir [Mohamad] has done a lot for our country, and yet people have not stopped criticising him.
“You cannot please everyone. My company has survived for more than 30 years in this industry, and that fact alone is enough to tell you that there arepeople who like the kind of films I make.”
Currently, two of Yusof’s sons – Syamsul and Syafiq – have followed in his footsteps and become film directors. 
“I never showed any special favours to my sons,” he says.
“They started from the bottom, working as [one of the] crew.
“I wanted them to have some experience in the technical side,before they sit in the director’s chair.”
Yusof admits that sometimes, he and his sons do not see eyeto-eye during the film making process. He recalls one time when Syamsul wanted to make KL Gangster without any strong female lead.
“His poster did not have female faces,” Yusof says. 
“I’m from the old school. I always thought [that] to make a successful film, you need to have a strong female lead and you need to have a female face on your film posters.
“I am proud to say that my son [proved] me wrong. The critics and the audience loved the film.”
His sons have achieved their own measure of success. Syamsul has won the Malaysian Film Festival best director award twice – in 2010 for Evolusi KL Drift 2 and in 2011 forKL Gangster.
He also won best director for Munafik at the 57th Asia PacificFilm Festival (APFF) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Syafiq, on the other hand, has been pushing the envelope with story ideas, film techniques and special effects with his films such as Villa Nabila and Desolasi. It appears the apples do not fall far from the tree.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jess Teong

I have interviewed film maker Jess Teong who had directed the Malaysian movie The Kid from the Big Apple that had grabbed four awards  - for best actor, best supporting actress, best newcomer, and best writing – at the 7th Macau International Movie Festival. Read the full story here 


Story with more enticing bite

By Bissme S 

TWO years ago, Jess Teong made her debut as a film director with The Kid from the Big Apple, for which she also wrote the screenplay.
The film, which was shot and produced entirely in ­Malaysia, portrayed the ­relationship ­between a Western–raised ­granddaughter and her traditional grandfather.
It was a roaring success, ­earning RM6 million at the ­Malaysian box office, and over RM1.3 million in Singapore.
The film won four awards – for best actor, best supporting actress, best newcomer, and best writing – at the 7th Macau ­International Movie Festival.
It also won another two awards – for best child actor and the Special Jury award – at the 28th Malaysian Film Festival.
Now, Teong is ready to release its sequel, The Kid From Big Apple 2: Before We Forget, which will open in cinemas on Nov 16.
Award–winning Hong Kong actor Ti Lung and Malaysian child actress Sarah Tan Qin Lin reprise their roles as the grandfather and granddaughter respectively.
Others in the cast ­include Debbie Goh, Jason Tan, and Leena Lim.
Shooting began last ­November around Kuala Lumpur, with ­filming lasting 22 days.
At a recent interview, Teong admits that she is aware of the people’s expectations in this sequel.
“Even if I were to direct a film that has nothing to do with my first film, people will still make a ­comparison between [them],” says Teong, who is also the managing director of production ­company Three Pictures Sdn Bhd.
“You just ­cannot stop people from making ­comparisons. But I do not feel any pressure.
“I’m the type who will just do my job once I put my mind to it. And I will not allow people’s opinions to influence me.”
Teong says recently, she held a ­preview screening of the sequel for ­selected viewers who told her they “loved it”.
She ­emphasises that both films are very ­different, with the sequel having a far more complex plot.
“My two films are like my two daughters and they will never be the same. My first film is my younger daughter who is cute and cheeky. My second film is my elder daughter who is quiet and ­beautiful.
“All I can say [is that] my two daughters have inherited good DNA from their mother.”
Teong also reveals that the sequel centres around a new ­development with the ­grandfather.
In the first film, he is seen as a strong, solid individual. In the ­sequel, he has been diagnosed with dementia.
“Even heroes get old one day,” says Teong.
She wants to address the issue of dementia among older folks, and what role children can play to help their elderly parents cope with the problem.
Teong also has the full support of her two lead actors.
“Ti Lung is picky about his roles,” Teong says. “Initially, he was reluctant to do the sequel.
“But once he read the script, he loved it. In fact, he liked his character far better in the sequel.
“It took him a month to say yes to my first film. For the sequel, it just took him 24 hours to come on board.”
The audience will also see some changes in Sarah, who plays the granddaughter.
She was only 10 years old in the first film, but now, she is a teenager.
In the sequel, her ­character tries to mend her relationship with her ­estranged father. Will she ­succeed?
“Well, you have to watch the film,” says Teong.
She says that Sarah cried upon reading the script. “She was so sad to learn that her character’s grandfather has dementia and has forgotten about her.”
When asked what kind of ­director she is, Teong says: “I am a very fussy one. But I never shout and quarrel with my cast and crew on the set.
“As I am making a ­positive film, I must have positive ­energy on the set. You cannot have ­positive energy if you are ­shouting and quarrelling.
“I warned my crew never to utter four–letter words on the set, since we had child ­actors around.
“In fact, there was a lot of laughter on my set.”
When asked about her ­filmmaking ­philosophy, Teong says: “I want my films to have strong content.
“A film with a good story is like a tree with strong roots and ... when a tree has strong roots, it will bear healthy fruits.”
Teong finds a lot of films today rely too much on special effects and big names in the cast, but ­forget about having a good script.
“Content is king, and you must never forget that,” she says with a smile.