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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sangeeta Krishnasamy & Deepavali

theSun managed to get the award winning actress Sangeeta Krishnasamy to pose with the dancers Temple of Fine Arts to pose for this exclusive shot. 

The choreographer from the Temple of Fine Arts Shankar Kandasamy has help us in this shoot. A big thanks also goes to the Sunphotograpaher Adib Rawi and Amirul  Syafiq for taking the shots 

By Bissme S

This year has been a good one for actress Sangeeta Krishnasamy. Her performance in the inspirational biopic, Adiwiraku,
earned her two best actress awards – at the Malaysian Film Festival, and the Anugerah Pengkritik Filem Kuala Lumpur.
In Adiwiraku, she plays real-life teacher Cheryl Ann Fernando, who left Kuala Lumpur to teach English in a rural school in
Sungei Petani, Kedah, from 2013 to 2015. The film depicts Cheryl’s efforts to inspire her students to greater heights, and
overcome their fear of speaking English. More exciting roles are in store forSangeeta. She will next be seen in the 13-
episode Malay teledrama series Banteras,playing an officer attached with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
And early next year, Sangeeta will be playing a secret service agent, something along the line of Angelina Jolie’s role in Salt.
“I won’t talk more about this role until I’ve signed the dotted line,” she says. 
“I understand that with the awards come certain expectations.All eyes will be watching me and what I’m
doing next. But I will not allow those expectations to stress me out.
“I am human and I will make mistakes. There will be times when I will choose the wrong projects. Mistakes are important
because they teach lessons so that you do not repeat them.”
Sangeeta has a strong desire to be a scriptwriter and a film director in future. In fact, she is saving up money so she can enrol
in the prestigious New York Film Academy.
“I have always been crazy about films since I was young.” she says. 
“I always turned to films when I have problems. Films are good distractions. They are an excellent way to be
entertained. I love watching art films like Children of Heaven and The Colours of Paradise. Majid Majidi is one of my favourite directors.”
Interestingly, Sangeeta never harboured any dreams to be an actress before she first joined the entertainment industry. In fact, she was working for a college which was located near the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) in Sentul, where from time to time, she would watch plays that were held there.
One day, she stumbled upon a notice in klpac announcing that well-known theatre director Joe Hasham would be conducting a
10-week acting course. She decided to participate.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. 
“The acting course [got rid of] all the inhibitions I never thought I had.”
Her mentor, Joe Hasham, kept pushing her to attend auditions, and she eventually landed a plum role as an unwed mother in the
Tamil series Manippu in 2009. Her  performance got her noticed, and more roles started coming her way.
“I’m Anak Malaysia,” she says. 
“I will act in any [local] film, and in any language. I am even willing to act in a Chinese film if the director is willing teach me the language.”
Asked about her personal life, Sangeeta admits that she’s dating a fellow ‘entertainment personality’. But she adds that right now, marriage is far from her mind. 
“I have a very supportive partner,” she says. 
“Since he is [also] from the entertainment industry, he understands my busy routine, and I can always talk to him whenever I face problems in my career.”
Asked her plans for the Festival of Lights (which falls tomorrow), Sangeeta says this year, she intends to spend more time with
her family.
She adds: “In the last few years, I have grandmother, Madam Alagammal, who passed away in 2006. 
“She had a strong personality,” Sangeeta recalls. 
“She would ensure that we had our new festive dresses, and that we looked good for Deepavali. She taught me how to cook.
“She always brought our family together.
“Deepavali is a time for us to [celebrate] the triumph of good over evil, and for us to find opportunities to help others.”
With Deepavali just round the corner, we ask if Sangeeta is willing to do a photo shoot together with dancers from the Temple of Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur to wish all theSun readers of the Hindu faith a happy Deepavali. 

Special thanks to Sangeeta as well as The Temple of Fine Arts and its dancers – Purnima Segaran, Harshini Sukumaran, Shonabushani Velusamay and Ananga Manjari – for making this photo shoot possible.

*Stylist & Make-up for Sangeeta: Krishan Bahdur
*Outfit for Sangeeta: Ardana Haran
*Choreographer: Shankar Kandasamy from The Temple of Fine Arts
* Photographers: Adib Rawi Yahya and Amirul Syafiq Din  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Today theSun run two stories on the Malay movie Tombiruo, based on best seller novel with the same name . The first story centers on the film production while the second story focuses on the author. 


Headline: A Clash of Two Worlds 
By Bissme S

Film production house Astro Shaw recently held a special screening of its latest film, Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba, for the media and selected guests. The RM6 million action flick, which opens in cinemas tomorrow, was favourably received by the
guests who were especially impressed by the special effects, cinematography, the fight sequences, and touching emotional
Adapted from a bestselling Malay novel by Ramlee Awang Murshid  the story centres on a man named Tombiruo, who lives in the forest with his adopted father Pondoluo. Tombiruo, who wears a wooden mask to hide his disfigured face, has a strong connection with the forest, and is considered its protector, complete with magical powers.
When a logging company gets the job to clear a part of the forest for the building of a dam, the company sends in some hired thugs to drive away the local aboriginal community who opposes the project. Tombiruo and his father try to help the villagers, and in the struggle, Pondoluo is killed. The thugs escape, leaving a devastated Tombiruo swearing revenge upon them.
Playing Tombiruo is Zul Ariffin (Evolusi KL Drift 2, J Revolusi). Others in the cast include Farid
Kamil, Nabila Huda, Faizal Hussein, Hasnul Rahmat, and Michael Chen. Helming the film are not one but
two directors – Australian filmmaker Seth Larney and local actor-director Nasir Jani as associate director.
Larney is also a writer and visual effects supervisor who has worked on such Hollywood productions as Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, as well as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. At the Tombiruo screening, the film’s executive producers Najwa
Abu Bakar and Zainir Aminullah dismissed the notion that hiring a foreign director is a sign that Astro lacks faith in local directors.
“We wanted to elevate the Malaysian film industry by pairing  a very good local director (in Nasir) with a very good foreign director (in Larney),” said Najwa, who is also head of Astro Shaw. 
“[Larney] learns from Nasir, and Nasir learns from [Larney].”
Besides the sharing of knowledge, Najwa believes this move is an excellent marketing strategy for Tombiruo. She explained: “Astro has created box-office hits such as The Journey, Ola Bola, and Polis Evo. But these films have a difficult time
penetrating the overseas market.We want Tombiruo to travel [far].”
Both Najwa and Zainir said that discussions are already underway to distribute Tombirou internationally. Zainir, who is also the chief executive officer of production house Ideate Media, feels that  Larney’s experience with effects heavy
films would help Tombiruo appeal to a global audience.
“We are looking at markets where our movies have not gone before,” he added.
Interestingly, both directors were not present for the press conference after the screening of Tombirou. There were rumours of tension between Larney and Nasir, and I could not help but speculate there might be some truth to them. Then again, I could be wrong. Perhaps, both directors were just too shy to meet the Malaysian press.
Actor Farid – who plays forest ranger Amiruddin in Tombiruo – insisted there was no clash of opinions between the two directors
on the set, and the film shoot was smooth sailing.
“Seth and Nasir have different tasks in the film,” he explains. “Seth looked into special effects, while
Nasir made sure the film did not lose its Malay identity. We should be grateful that we had two
directors on the set.”
He also applauded Astro’s move to encourage a collaboration between a foreign director and a Malaysian director.
“Our football team imports foreign players to become better,” Farid said. 
“We are doing the same thing here. We are just raising the standard of our films.”
Chen, who plays the film’s antagonist, agreed.
“When I got the role, I did not know the film would have two directors,” said Chen, who is also a film producer and active in the Malaysian theatre scene.
At the start, he was worried that the film might face some rough patches. But he was wrong.
“I never had a better experience on a film set, and [it] was awesome,” he says. 
“Both directors were in sync and in harmony.”


Headline: A Writer's Dream  
By Bissme S

About  10 years ago, author Ramlee Awang Murshid mstarted a film production company, Layar Sunan, hoping to adapt his novels into films. Tomorrow, the 50-year-old’s dream will come true. The film adaptation of his best-selling novel Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba will be released in cinemas.The film is produced by Astro Shaw, with the cooperation of Layar Sunan.
“This could be the first time that a novelist has turned into a film producer,” says Ramlee, a native of Papar, Sabah.
Asked why he chose this unique route, he says: “There are those who have not read my novels and are not aware of my existence. I [had hoped] this production company would change [that].
“Maybe, after watching the film version of my novels, they will be tempted to pick up my books and read them.”
Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba tells the tale of a man who is the protector of both the forest and the local aboriginal community. The book follows Tombiruo’s fierce battle with a logging company that is trying to destroy the forest. The novel has two sequels, Tombiruo: Semangat Hutan and Tombiruo Terakhir. 
“There was a lot of illegal logging taking place in my  hometown (in Sabah), and these novels deal with that issue,” he
“We should not abuse our environment, because nature can strike back.”
Asked if the film would be a faithful adaptation of the novel, Ramlee diplomatically replies: “It is impossible to translate
everything from the novel to the screen.You cannot compress a few hundred pages into a two-hour movie. Some parts you have to
[leave out] so the film will make a better impact. Sacrifices have to be made.”
However, Ramlee says he is happy the film has managed to capture the essence of his novel, which was written in 1998. Next year, Ramlee plans to release the series’ fourth instalment, Tombiruo Legasi. To date, Ramlee has written 35 novels, beginning with a thriller about revenge and murder titled Igauan Maut, in 1995.
At the time, he says, Malay readers were more keen to read romance novels, and his horror novels did not get a good response.
“Some bookshops refused to carry my titles,” Ramlee recalls.
But over the years, readers began to expand their interest, and his novels started selling like hotcakes. One reason for this change, says Ramlee, is because “too many romance novels were flooding the market”.
He adds:“Readers were getting tired of them. They were looking for something different. If you eat chicken every day, you will get bored with chicken.”
Asked about his inspirations, Ramlee cites his father – a prison officer – as the one who sparked his desire to be a storyteller.
“He would tell me what took place in the prison, [including] stories of criminals, in the most suspenseful manner,” says
“There was a period where he even handled the last meals the prisoners had before they were hanged.”
One of the stories that Ramlee remembers vividly is about a prisoner who was extremely depressed when he learnt his
sentence was ending.
“He had spent his whole life in the prison, and the prison had become his home,” Ramlee recalls.
“He did not want his freedom. A month after his release, he committed a robbery so he would be sent back to prison.”
Another story that has an impact on Ramlee is about a murderer who was sentenced to
“A few minutes before [his sentence was to be carried out], the prison office received a call that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was
visiting Sabah, and no hanging was supposed to take place [that day].”
One month later, the prisoner was facing the hangman again. Ramlee says: “A few minutes before [it was to take place], the
prison office received another call that the Agong had pardoned everyone who was supposed to be hanged that day. The prisoner
escaped death twice!”
Ramlee has written about many interesting subjects, that one wonders if the next step is for him to write an autobiography.
“I have tried to write a book about my life. But my story never got completed. To write about yourself is the
most difficult thing to do. You have to true to yourself and that is not easy.”
He adds with a laugh: “I have done some naughty things in my life.”