Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Joko Anwar & Pengabdi Setan


Today theSun published my interview with the Indonesian film maker Joko Anwar who is making a horror film, Pengabdi Setan, with the Malaysian actor Bront Palarae in the lead role.  Read the full story below
 

Headline: For Love of a Classic Horror 
By Bissme S
 

As a young boy, award-winning Indonesian  filmmaker Joko Anwar loved to watch movies. He often visited a dilapidated cinema called Remaja Theatre in his  hometown of Medan, Indonesia. The cinema was well known for screening horror and martial arts films.
“Sometimes, I purchased a ticket, and other times, I just peeked through the vents,” says Joko, 41, in an interview with theSun.
One film that left a lasting impression on Joko was director Sisworo Gautama Putra’s Pengabdi Setan, an iconic Indonesian horror film released in 1980.The film tells the tale of a recently widowed man and his two  teenaged  children who  notice eerie  incidents happening in their home.
Pengabdi Setan terrified audiences in  Indonesia when it first came out, and was even shown in the United States and Japan. It remains a cult hit internationally even today.
Joko says: “I first watched Pengabdi Setan when I was six. I held on to my seat so tightly. When I came out of the cinema, it was still bright, and I was hoping the night would never come.”
Now, 27 years later, Joko is remaking this iconic horror film. His version of Pengabdi Setan was shot over the course of 18 days in April, and will play in Indonesian cinemas at the end of the year.
The remake is the  culmination of a dream for Joko, as the original film remains one of the strongest memories he has of going to the cinema.
“The [original] film still gives me the chills,” he says.
“I  always wanted to make films that have a similar impact on the audience.”
For the past 10 years, Joko has been negotiating with Rapi Films – the company that owns the rights to the original Pengabdi Setan – to give him permission for the remake. When he finally got the green light earlier this year, it was a moment of pure joy for the filmmaker. Joko is  retaining the original film’s  basic plot, its eerie atmosphere, and the religious undertone.
“I’m trying to keeping as many elements of the original film as possible,” he adds. 
However, Joko is also bringing in a few surprises to the remake. But for now, he does not want to reveal too much.  
“When you’ve  finished watching it, you will understand the connection between the original and the remake,” he says.
Joko has picked award-winning Malaysian actor Bront  Palarae to play the lead  character of the grieving widower. One wonders if the casting choice is a marketing strategy to get Malaysian audiences to watch his remake.
“I never choose my actors for marketing purposes,” he says.
“That is not the way I make my films. I choose my actors because they fit my characters.” 
The rest of the cast comprises Indonesian actors Tara Basro Dimas Aditya, Endy Arfian, Nasar Anuz, Egy Fedly, Ayu Laksmi, Elly D. Luthan, Arswendi Bening Swara, M. Adhiyat, Fachri Albar, and Asmara Abigail.
Most of the shoot took place around a house in  Pengalengan, West Java.
“We scouted for months looking for the right location,” Joko says.
“Initially, we wanted to find one in Jakarta because the  production cost would be cheaper, as we had a limited budget.”
But when the crew saw the house in  Pengalengan, they immediately fell in love with it.   
“The place was already atmospheric, and the roomsstrangely fit my imagination,” he says.
In addition, the weather during the shoot was chilly, which added to the haunting mood.The film is a  career milestone for Joko, who originally studied  aerospace engineering at the prestigious Institut Teknologi Bandung because his family could not afford to send him to a film school.
After graduating, he became a journalist at The Jakarta Post, and later became a film critic. In 2005, he directed his first feature film, the romantic comedy Janji Joni which became a box-office hit.
Since then, many of his films have achieved critical acclaim at international film festivals. Joko has also gone in front of the camera, to try his hand at acting.
“I decided to act so that I can understand how it feels to be directed,” he says. 
“It really helped me [to] direct my actors. How to make them comfortable in a scene, to know what’s the best environment for an actor to be able to slip into character, and so on.”
When asked what is his biggest challenge as an Indonesian film director, Joko says: “To be able to stay on track [making] films that I want. It’s very easy to be hired [for] films that you are not passionate about."




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Shanjhey Kumar Perumal


 
 Sunday will be Father's Day. theSun got the award winning film maker Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, to describe his relationship with his father and his new born son.

Headline: A Son's Lasting Gratitude
By Bissme S

Filmmaker Shanjhey  Kumar Perumal’s debut film, Jagat, was somewhat inspired by his own relationship with his father, Perumal Annamalai, 68. The film, written by the 37-year-old centres on a boy who tries to find a suitable role model among the three men in his life – his labourer father and his two uncles. His father has very little time for him, while one uncle is a gangster, and the other, aformer drug addict.
Jagat created history when it became the first non-Bahasa Malaysia film to grab the best film award at the 28th Malaysian Film Festival in 2016. Shanjhey also walked away with the best new director award. Jagat went on to take five more awards at the 2016 Kuala Lumpur Film Critics Awards.
On March 31 this year, Shanjhey became a first-time father with the birth of his son. That life-changing experience allowed him to understand his own dad better.
It also affords him new insights into the bittersweet relationship he has had with his father from young.But he admits with a laugh: “I find my father to be a more loving grandfather than a father.” 
Shanjhey is the eldest among three children. “When I was a kid, my relationship with my father was warm and sweet.”
He remembers playfully wrestling with his father on many occasions, and his dad reading bedtime stories to him.
“My father was the first person who told me about the Malaccan warrior Hang Tuah,” he says.
He believes his father’s storytelling inspired him to tell his own stories through films. But their relationship changed when Shanjhey entered his teenage years.
“There was bitterness in our relationship,” recalls Shanjhey of that period of time growing up in Parit Buntar, Perak. 
“At one point, I even stopped talking to him.”
His father was a general worker and gardener at Shanjhey’s high school.Perumal also sold ice kacang and newspapers to earn extra money. Shanjhey would often help his father at the stall and to deliver newspapers.
“My father woke up at 5am every day, and only stopped working after 7pm,” he says.
“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.”  
Instead, the teenaged Shanjhey turned rebellious. He remembers an incident where one of his classmates made fun of his father. He got so angry that he attacked his classmate. Fortunately, his father
intervened and stopped the fight.
“I was protecting my father’s honour and he was not grateful,” recalls Shanjhey.
“Instead, he slapped me in front of my classmates, and I felt embarrassed. I was so furious at him after that.”
Things got worse when Shanjhey entered Form Six. His father forced him to stay with his uncle, who lived miles away from their hometown. 
“I was angry at my father for separating me from my friends,” he says.
Only much later did Shanjhey realise that whatever his father did, it was done with the best intentions in mind.
From then on, he concentrated on his studies and eventually, graduated with a Communication degree in Film and Broadcasting from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.
“My father shaped me to be the person I am today,” he says.
“If he was not strict with me, I would have ended up as a bad hat.”
One thing Shanjhey really admires about his father is that Perumal never stopped him from pursuing his dream of becoming a filmmaker.
“He understood my passion for the arts and he wanted me to be happy,” he says. 
Speaking on his own experience with fatherhood, Shanjhey says he was extremely nervous on the day his son, Arrievan, was born. 
“There were some complications, and I was worried for the safety of my wife and my son. My son had to spend a day in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).”
Fortunately, both mother and baby turned out fine afterwards.  As a father, Shanjhey hopes to teach his son to respect others, to never be afraid to say sorry, and to never forget to say thank you. 
He is also aware that his son might be a rebel during his teenage years, just as he was.
“Sometimes, [being a] rebel is a good thing,” he says.
Shanjhey is also aware that whatever path he takes, it will influence his son.
“So I must be careful with my choices,” he says.
But at the end of the day, he adds: “The important thing is, I want to give him the freedom to be who he is and who he wants to be.”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Namron




 Namron speaks to theSun about his role in Mencari Rahmat which is adaptation of Oscar Wilde's famous play The Importance of Being Earnest as well as directing a movie One Two Jaga that deals with corruption.

Headline: Unmasking The  Lies

Director  Al Jafree Md Yusop’s latest project Mencari Rahmat will be premièring at The Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival (KKIFF) which runs from July 7 to 16. This indie film is a Malay adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s famous play The Importance of Being Earnest and set in a local context.  
This dark comedy centres on successful businessman Razak Abdullah who has to look after his niece Ratna. Razak has a wild, party-loving side. But he hides it from Ratna. Whenever he heads to the big city for some fun, he tells Ratna he is going to see his troublesome younger brother Rahmat. In reality, Rahmat does not exist. Inadvertably, Razak’s charade is exposed.
Taking on the role of Razak is Shahili Abdan or better known as Namron. Others in the cast include Amerul Affendi, Adibah Noor, Sharifah Amani, Fauziah Nawi and Nadiah Aqilah.
Explaining his reason for accepting the role, the 48-year-old Namron says: “I love the fact that the director has taken the trouble to interpret a well-known western work in a Malay context. We
should experiment with the way we tell stories.”
This is something close to the heart of this actor-director. In 2003, for his first attempt at directing a film, Namron did a a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which
he entitled Gedebe. The film deals with the power struggle between two best friends where one eventually is killed. 

The other reason Namron signed on for Mencari Rahmat is that the story takes place mostly in two houses. He says that goes to show that director Al Jafree wants to put the whole focus on the story
and performances to hook the audience.
“The actors have to rise to the challenge to churn out a convincing performance,” says Namron
"And as an actor, I like to be challenged.” 
Going into more details about his character Razak, Namron says: “All of us have a mask, and It is up
to us whether we want to wear it or not. In Razak’s case, he chooses to wear his mask because he is afraid of people judging him. If we live our lives like Razak, then we are not being true to ourselves. I do not think I will be good friends with someone like Razak.”
Wilde’s play is full of sarcasm and witty humour – elements that might not appeal to the average Malay film goer who generally prefers slapstick comedies.
“We should be adopting a totally different marketing strategy for Mencari Rahmat from the usual way we promote a typical Malay comedy,” says Namron, adding that they will try to lure in audiences who love to see subtle comedies.   
If everything goes well, Mencari Rahmat will hit the big screen here by the end of the year.Currently, Namron is busy directing his new film, One Two Jaga, where he bravely tackles the sensitive issue of corruption.
The story centres on two crooked authorities  who harass and take bribes from illegal immigrants. The film stars Rosdeen Suboh, Zahril Adzim, Ameriul Affendi, Vanida Imran and Azman Hassan.
Namron has sent the script to Bukit Aman to be vetted before shooting began. After making a few changes, he got the green light to shoot but the film might yet be banned by the censorship board.
If that happened, it won’t be the first for Namron as his earlier films, such as Gaduh, which deals with racial tension in a school, and Jalan Pintas, about an unemployed graduate resorting to crime,
were banned too.
“I am not purposely stirring up controversy here,” he says of his latest project.
“All of us have heard stories like this from immigrants. I am just highlighting what I have heard in a film.I am a firm believer that a filmmaker should push the boundaries and discuss sensitive topics with an open mind. Not discussing certain issues is like sweeping rubbish under the carpet.”
He points out that most people mistakenly think that corruption is not a dangerous crime because nobody gets killed. 

“Corruption can be deadly. It can kill people’s hopes.”
He also stresses his film does not entirely paint the authorities in a negative light.
“I am sympathetic towards them too,” he says.
“I am trying to show what forces someone to go down the wrong path and take bribes. My film is more about humanity than corruption.” 
With Namron at the helm, expect One Two Jaga to stir up some interesting discourse. The director also plans to bring the film to international film festivals and markets overseas.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bront Palarae





Today theSun published my interview with Malaysian actor Bront Palarae  who talks about the latest happening in his career. He is  is acting Indonesian horror movie as well as a Philippines thriller.   

Headline : Thriving On Challenges 
By Bissme S

Director Sisworo Gautama Putra’s Pengabdi Setan produced in 1980, is  an iconic Indonesian horror  film that went on to be 
screened in Japan and the United States.  In April this year, award-winning director Joko Anwar  (Pintu Terlarang & A Copy of 
My Mind) shot a remake of this classic, which is slated for  release in Indonesian cinemas at the end of the year. 
Playing the lead in Joko’s version of Pengabdi Setan is  award-winning Malaysian actor-director-producer Bront Palarae. In an exclusive interview with  theSun, the 38-year-old  actor says: “Pengabdi Setan has  been Joko’s favourite film since childhood. He always wanted to remake the film.”
Bront says that he is honoured to be part of the project which is  so close to Joko’s heart, adding  that the director had kept the 
iconic elements from the old film, and brought in some new changes to the remake.
“You will get a sense of deja vu  and some freshness from the  film,” he says, adding that the  movie is about a man trying to 
keep his family from the brink of  destruction. 
Bront first met Joko in late 2014 when the director saw his  performance as an eccentric filmmaker in  Terbaik Dari Langit, 
which later won him the best actor award at the 2015 Asean  International Film Festival &  Awards. 
Joko praised the film on  Twitter, which led to an invite to meet with Terbaik Dari Langit’s cast and crew. “That was my first 
time meeting him,” says Bront.
Before long, Joko offered Bront a role in HBO Asia’s Halfworlds, a landmark English-language supernatural-themed 
TV series. Pengabdi Setan is their second project together. 
Bront takes on the role of father-of-four Bahri Suwono, who has just buried his wife. When strange, eerie incidents 
start happening in his house, Bahri suspects someone has been  dabbling in black magic and now, he spirits are haunting his 
children. 
“You feel like you are  watching an Agatha Christie whodunit,” says Bront, who had to learn Bahasa Indonesia to play 
the role.   
While waiting for  Pengabdi  Setan to premiere, the actor is not  sitting on his laurels. Next week, Bront will be 
leaving for the Philippines to shoot another chilling horror film,  Daddy’s Home. 
He plays a man who returns home after a few months working  onboard a ship. But his wife and  teenage son soon realise he is not 
the same person. The film will be directed by award-winning Malaysian filmmaker Bradley Liew, who is 
based in Manila, and produced by award-winning Philippine producer Bianca Balbuena. 
The two had previously worked together on the film, Singing in Graveyards. For Daddy’s Home, Bront has to learn Tagalog to get into the skin of his character.  Asked why he is going for roles in foreign films, Bront explains: “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.”     
As for local productions, the actor has just completed shooting Safari Mall, a comedy directed by Jordan Suleiman, about a group of people trapped in a shopping mall which is suddenly attacked by aliens.
Bront says he will be playing himself in this film. “Sometimes, as an actor, we impersonate others and mock them. Here, the 
audience will see Bront Palarae mocking Bront Palarae.”  
Next year, Bront goes behindthe camera to direct his second film, Dawn Raid: The Hands that Rattled the Queen
, based on a true story about the Guthrie Group, a British trading firm which controlled the Malaysian rubber plantations. 
In 1981, a group of Malaysian businessmen took control of the company through the stock exchange, with the aim of 
returning the plantations back to local ownership. 
“We are not doing a pure business film,” Bront explains. 
“We are approaching it like a heist film. Through this film, we want to say that it is cool to serve your nation again.”

Monday, May 29, 2017

OlaBola The Musical & Rise of the legend

This story was published in theSun on Monday May 29....theSun highlighted two productions  - one is a musical theater and the other is a biopic -  that deals with Malaysian sports and Olympics. Read  the full story here

 Headline: Firing Up The Malaysian Spirit

FOOTBALL fans the world over are looking forward to the Fifa World Cup next year. This international football tournament will be held in Russia from June 14 to July 15, 2018. 

While this sporting fever will be sweeping the world, Malaysians will be presented with two ‘hot’ local productions that deal with Malaysian sporting triumphs.
The first is a musical theatre production based on director Chiu Keng Guan’s 2016 movie, OlaBola, about the exploits of the Malaysian national football team that qualified for the 1980 Olympics. Award-winning actress producer Tiara Jacquelina will be making her directorial debut in this musical.
The second production is a biopic by director Teng Bee on local badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei, who is a triple Olympic medallist and an acknowledged world singles badminton champion. Both productions will be premiering next February. Below is a quick comparison between the two productions. 

OLABOLA THE MUSICAL 



Venue: 
The musical will be staged at the national theatre Istana Budaya from Feb 22 to March 22, 2018.  

Director: 

Tiara Jacquelina has been producing entertaining musical theatre productions such as Puteri Gunung Ledang the Musical and P. Ramlee the Musical. In OlaBola the Musical, she will be directing for the first time. 

The story: 

The musical is based on Chiu Keng Guan’s 2016 football film of the same name, which referenced the 1980 Malaysian national football team and how its multiracial players overcome their differences to qualify for the Olympics.

How the idea came about: 

Tiara loved the film and its theme of dedication, hard work, perseverance and unity. She says at that time, Malaysia did not have the tallest building like the Petronas Twin Towers, or the national car like the Proton Saga, but we were daring enough to dream about entering the Olympics. She hopes her musical will help capture that psyche.

Her challenge: 

Tiara wants the audience to forget they are watching a musical production. She wants them to exprience OlaBola the Musical experience as if they are watching an exciting football game.

Budget: 

Tiara refused to divulge the amount but hinted that the musical could be the most expensive that she has ever produced.

Additional information: 

Some of the people involved in the project include acclaimed music director Saiful Ridzuan, and awardwinning set designer Raja Malek.
Tiara intends to include rap and hip-hop tunes in the musical. Composer Mia Palencia will be composing the score, with additional music provided by rapper Altimet. Actress, director and comedian Shamaine Othman will be cowriting the script.
OlaBola the Musical will be the first show at Istana Budaya after it has completed its current renovation.
The cast of the OlaBola film have been invited to audition for the musical. The production is hoping that the success of the film, which collected more than RM16 million at the box office, as well as next year’s World Cup will attract Malaysians to watch the musical.
Chiu is happy his film is being turned into musical and is keen to watch it.
------------------------------

RISE OF THE LEGEND 


Screening: 


Opening in cinemas on Chinese New Year day, Feb 16, 2018.

Director: 

Teng Bee is known for triad film Kepong Gangster and the sequel Kepong Gangster 2. This will be his fourth film.

The story: 

This biopic of national badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei will focus on his life from the age of 10 to 17, with two child actors set to portray Lee at that age. The audience will see how Lee became a badminton champion.  

How the idea came about: 

Teng says they wanted to tell the story of how Lee who grew up in poverty could still manage to achieve his dreams despite these obstacles. The director hopes the film will inspire the youth out there that whatever challenges they might face in life, they can overcome them, just like Lee.

His challenge: 

The difficulty of finding two child actors who could play badminton as well as act. So far, over 2,000 children have audtitioned for the role, including young actors from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

Budget: 

RM6 million has been set aside for the film.

Additional information: 

 The production house had wanted to make the film three years ago. But it only got the green light from the badminton player late last year.
Teng had an intimate interview with Lee before writing the script. He also read the finished script to Lee in order to make sure that he got the details correct.
The film also looks at Lee’s relationship with another badminton great, Datuk Misbun Sidek, who was his mentor. The producer is hoping to sign on a well-known Malay actor to play Misbun, most likely award-winning Rosyam Nor. 

The film will also highlight Lee’s first meeting with the love of his life, fellow national badminton player and now wife Datin Wong Mew Choo. The film will feature dialogue in Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Bahasa Malaysia and English.
The filmmakers are also hoping to release the film internationally, particularly in countries were Lee is wellknown. Lee may likely make a cameo appearance in the film itself.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nurul Izzah & Wan Azizah ( Mother's Day)


For mother's day I interviewed Nurul Izzah who talks about her mother Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. The story was uploaded in theSun website. Below is the full story  


Headline: Wan Azizah - A Pillar of Strength 
By Bissme S


DATUK Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, 65, is the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Selangor state legislative assembly member for Kajang.But there is a side of Wan Azizah that has not been explored. She is also a mother to six children, and a grandmother to nine grandchildren.
To celebrate Mother's day which falls May 14, we examine Dr Wan Azizah as a mother and a grandmother through the eyes of her eldest daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar.
“My mother had faced so many trail and tribulations in her life,” says Nurul, who is a member of Parliment for Lembah Pantai.
“But my mother is a spiritual person. She relies on God for strength and support."
Born on Dec 3, 1952, in Singapore, Wan Azizah received her early education in Alor Setar and Seremban. Then, Wan Azizah studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where she was awarded a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology, and later graduated as a qualified ophthalmologist.
Nurul remembers in the early years when she was a student, and her mother was busy working in the government hospital, her mother would sit with Nurul and helped Nurul to complete her home work.
“My mother always made time for me and my home work, no matter how busy she was,” says Nurul.
Wan Azizah never expected to be a politician, but fate had something different in store for her.Nurul honestly admitted that when she was younger, she was resentful that her mother was spending so much time in politics.
“I missed having my mum on my side,” says the 36-year old Nurul.
"But as I got older, I understand her motivation and her sacrifice better. She wants a better future for her children, her grandchildren, and for every young Malaysian out there. You can only achieve this dream if you are busy eradicating the society ills. She is very focus of her responsibility and her role .”
Politics keeps Wan Azizah busy but she never neglects her family.
“Her parents are still alive, and she is a doting daughter,” says Nurul.
“She always there when her parents need her. [The same] goes with her children. ”
Once a week, Wan Azizah makes a point to have all her children and her grandchildren under one roof, and to have a good family bonding session. They talk about everything under the sun, as well as enjoy delicious food.
“My mother bakes well, and loves baking bread,” Nurul says.
“She has a great sense of humour and she always makes us laugh. She could have her own stand up comedy show. ”
Nurul reveals that her mother is very good at winning the hearts of her grandchildren when they are at their worst behaviour.
"She [manages] to persuade her grandchildren to end their tantrums, and she uses a lot of psychology to achieve this goal," Nurul says.
When asked how Nurul and her siblings will celebrate Mother's Day, Nurul says: "My mother is a homebody. She prefers to stay at home. It is very rare for you to get her out for a dinner. We can’t even get something expensive for her. She loves to embrace the simple things in life.”
Nurul also believes that one should not treat their mother well just on Mother's Day, and "be ungrateful" to them for the other 364 days.
“In fact every day is supposed to Mother's Day,” says Nurul.
“One should always appreciate one's mother. There is a Malay saying that 'syurga itu di bawah telapak kaki ibu' (Paradise is under your mother’s feet)."
Nurul herself is a mother of two - Safiyah, 10 and Raja Harith, eight - and being a mother has made her appreciate her own mum more.
“When you hold a life in your hand for the first time, you will realise all the sacrifices your mother goes through,” she says.
When asked what kind lessons she wants to impart to her children, she says: “I want them to be exposed to different culture and respect them. I want them to understand the world is not made for one race.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Joe Hasham & Betrayal

 Today theSun published my interview director Joe  Hasham and actress Stephanie van Driesen on working Harold Pinter famous work Betrayal

Headline: An Act of Betrayal
By Bissme S

THE CHEMISTRY among actors Razif Hashim, Stephanie van Driesen and Omar Ali is amazing to watch. You can feel the tension in the air. 
Even their director, Joe Hasham, looks satisfied with what his actors have created on stage at the rehearsal for Betrayal. The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat’s latest production will open at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) this Friday and runs till June 4. 
Written by Nobel Prizewinning British playwright Harold Pinter in 1978, Betrayal centres around three characters – a publisher named Robert, his wife Emma, and Robert’s best friend Jerry, who’s also a literary agent and art gallery owner. 
For seven years, Jerry and Emma have been having an affair behind Robert’s back. But secrets do not remain hidden forever, and Robert soon learns about the affair. 
What is interesting about this play is that it is not told in chronological order, and the audience learns the history of the affair in bits and pieces. Creatively, the first scene of the play begins with Jerry learning that Emma has confessed their affair to Robert, and an angry Jerry feels awkward and frightened to face Robert. The last scene in the play is when the affair first blossomed between Jerry and Emma. 
 The play was a huge success when it was first staged in 1978, and the following year, it received the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for best new play from The Society of London Theatre. “Everyone in this play is betraying someone,” says Joe. 
 “In some ways, they are even betraying themselves. They lie to themselves.” 
He adds that the idea of betrayal is still relevant in our society today. When asked if he himself had ever experienced a romantic betrayal, Joe says: “I have been lucky in that sense. But of course, you can never escape from people betraying you. The way I handle betrayal is that I’ll forgive, but I will never forget.”  
Joe is also breaking new ground with this production, by presenting it in two languages. There will be five performances in Bahasa Malaysia, and seven in English. 
When asked why he is presenting the play in two languages, Joe laughs before replying: “It is a stroke of madness on my part. We believe the Malay-speaking audience deserve a play like Betrayal.”
In this particular production, Omar is playing Robert, while van Dreisen plays his wife Emma, and Razif is Jerry. Both language versions will be performed by the same cast. Omar had also taken on the task of translating Pinter’s work into Bahasa Malaysia. 

Joe adds that it has never been done before, where the same cast perform the same play in two different languages. He admits this method of presenting a play would not be easy, and the rehearsal process had been tough for the cast.   
“I always choose projects that are good for my actors and myself,” he says. 
“If my actors and I cannot be challenged, there is no point to do the play.”  
Joe advises audiences to catch the play in both languages as they will probably find a noticeably different nuance in each production. Van Driesen readily admits that Bahasa Malaysia is not her first language. 
“I speak Malay like an orang putih,” jokes the Dutch-Eurasian actress who has won best performance in a supporting role in a musical theatre at the 9th Boh Cameronian Arts Awards in  2012 for her role as Betty in The Secret Life of Nora.  
Van Driesen has been working hard on her accent, adding that according to her cast members and director, she has come a long way. 
Speaking of her character, she says: “Emma struggles with what she wants. She obviously is not in control of her destiny.”  
Van Driesen finds Robert to be a man with a lot of insecurities, but he knows how to manipulate his wife and floors her completely, while Jerry is a romantic poet who knows how to make Emma feel attractive. 
“She tries to have the best of both worlds, but it never works when you try to do that,” says van Driesen. 
“She lets her heart [lead] her, and it cuts her instead. There is a part of me that wishes Emma would make a choice between the two men. She needs to be honest with what she wants.”  
---------
Footnote: Betrayal will be staged in English on May 19, 24, 26, 28 and 31, as well as on June 2 and 4, while the Bahasa Malaysia version is on May 20, 25, 27, as well as June 1 and 3. For more, visit klpac’s website 
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Datuk Lee Chong Wei


I spoke to film’s producer Josiah Chieng and director Teng Bee who is keen making biopic movie on our famous national badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei 

Headline: Legend In Reel Life 
By Bissme S

NATIONAL badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei has made Malaysia proud with his achievements on the international badminton courts. 
He is currently ranked No.1 in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) ranking for men’s singles, has won the silver medal for three consecutive Olympic Games for the sport and also captured the All England title for the fourth time this year. 
The story of his meteoric rise from bench warmer to world’s top badminton men’s singles player will be soon be depicted in the two-hour film, Rise of the Legend, produced by CB Pictures in association with Mahu Pictures. 
Shooting of this RM6 million biopic will likely take place in July with a release date tentatively set for 2018. In an interview with the film’s producer Josiah Chieng and director Teng Bee at a recent event to announce the sponsorship of Hwa Tai Industries Bhd for the movie, Chieng says: “I have produced 17 films and I’m proud with some of the works that I had done. But I’m eager to produce a film that will truly represent Malaysia.” 
Chieng adds that Lee’s life is the perfect subject to feature because every Malaysian can relate to his success. The film will focus on the early years of the badminton player’s life, from age 10 when he first learnt to pick up the game from his father to when he was drafted into the national squad at age 17. 
“We want the audience to see how Lee first started out pursuing his passion and dream to be a badminton champion,” says Chieng. “Lee did not have a rosy childhood. He grew up in poverty. Yet he managed to achieve his dream despite the obstacles he faced. 
“We want to tell people, especially the youth out there that whatever challenges you face in life, you must overcome them, just like Lee Chong Wei. 
“We want this film to be educational and motivational, and to inspire everyone to reach for [his/her] dreams.” 
The production house is currently carrying out auditions to find two children to portray a young Lee, first from ages 10 to 13, and then from ages 13 to 17. More than 2,000 candidates turned up for the audition, including some from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and China. 
At the time of writing, the production house has yet to finalise the lead actors. Director Teng explains: “Some can act well and others can play badminton well,” but adds they are looking for two who can do both well. 
Teng, whose most recent acclaim is the triad film Kepong Gangster, says once he finds the right candidates, he will put them through an intensive acting workshop before they face the cameras, to help them give a more convincing performance. 
Rise of the Legend is Teng’s fourth feature film. He adds that Chieng and he had wanted to make the film three years ago. 
“We wanted to work closely with Lee on the film,” he says. 
“But Lee was not free [then]. He was concentrating on the Olympic Games at the time.” 
It was only late last year that they finally got the green light from Lee to go ahead with the project. The director had an intimate interview with Lee before writing the script. Once the script was ready, he read it to Lee. 
“The last thing I want is to present an inaccurate film about the badminton legend,” Teng says, adding that they are still fine-tuning the script. 
The film will highlight Lee’s relationship with his former coach, Misbun Sidek, who first discovered him. The production team is currently in talks with a well known local actor to play Misbun who was himself one of Malaysia’s greatest badminton players. 
Rise of the Legend will also touch upon how Lee met national women’s singles player Wong Mew Choo, who later became his wife, and with whom he now has two children. 
There are plans to shoot the film at Lee’s hometown in Bagan Serai, Perak, to add authenticity to the film. The film will be mainly in Mandarin with some Hokkien (Lee’s native dialect), Cantonese, Bahasa Malaysia and English thrown in as well. 
If everything goes according to plans, Rise of the Legend will be screening in cinemas sometime during the next Chinese New Year. There are also plans to bring the film to international markets seeing that badminton fans around the world already know of Lee.


the director
the producer

Monday, April 24, 2017

Hans Isaac & Gabby




This one to one interview with Hans Isaac  took place after few weeks he announced that he is getting married. theSun had published the interview today.  Read the full story here  

Headline : New Beginning 
By Bissme 


EXCITEMENT is written all over his face whenever producer, director, and actor Hans Isaac talks about his upcoming wedding on July 29. His bride-to-be is 28-year-old Aileen Gabriella Robinson, affectionately known as Gabby, who is a former dancer and beauty queen (Miss Tourism International 2011), and who currently does emcee duty for corporate events. In this exclusive interview, Hans, 45, talks about his two loves – his Gabby, and his career.

*Was your relationship love at first sight?  

I do not believe in love at first sight. How can you love someone at first sight when you have not met her before? You do not know her character. You have to take time to know people. We have been friends for six years. Our turning point was last year when we realised we were still single, and decided to take our friendship to another level.   

*What do you like and dislike about Gabby? 

Money is not everything to her, and I find that refreshing. She does not define a person through wealth. She also knows how to pamper me and accepts my strength and my weaknesses. What I dislike about her ... well, she loves to procrastinate.  

Gives us a sneak preview of your wedding plans. 

I had wanted my parents to be a big part of my wedding. [But since] they have passed away, I will include elements of them in my wedding. 
For my church wedding, I will be wearing barong (traditional Filipino attire) because my mother was Filipino. After the church wedding, there will be a lunch reception for family members and close friends. The food will feature Indian cuisine (his dad was Indian-Eurasian). 
At night, the wedding reception will have more of a European atmosphere, and that comes from Gabby’s side. At the reception, [local music legend] Micheal Verappan, with his 40-piece band, will entertain the guests. 
I’m also getting [English actor singer] Stephen Rahman Hughes to fly in for my wedding and perhaps perform a duet with [singer] Jaclyn Victor. 

Are you getting married because you are getting older and facing pressure to tie the knot?  (Laughs) 

If I had not found the right woman, I would not be getting married. I will never commit myself to the wrong person. I am not the type who gives in to pressure. 

*You once said that if you had gotten married earlier, you would be a divorcee by now.  

I was too wrapped up in my career. I was filming every day. My career would have interfered with my marriage. Then, I had to take care of my mother who was suffering from cancer. I wanted to spend my time looking after her (she passed away three years ago). Now, I’m ready to settle down.

*What’s next in your career?  

I [will be playing] a commander in Police Evo 2. I have never played a military role before. Also, I will be producing a free motivational tour all over Malaysia in August and September. There will be 10 comedians who will perform comedy sketches and give motivational talks to members of the public.  I am also planning to direct an epic film entitled Rejang (a reference to the Rejang river in Sarawak), focusing on the Iban and Dayak communities. This [is] my dream project. 

*What change would you like to see in the local film industry? 

[For] our cinemas [to show] 60% Malaysian films and 40% foreign films. South Korea has done that, and it has boosted its film industry.” 

*You also founded Tall Order Productions, which among other things, stages musical theatre shows. What is the concept behind the shows? 

[They] are mostly about underdogs achieving success. For example, Lat the Musical is about a kampung boy who goes on to become an international cartoonist; Cuci the Musical is about four window cleaners who want to wash the windows of Petronas Twin Towers; Supermokh the Musical is a biopic about a young boy who becomes a famous footballer. I wanted to motivate Malaysians so that they can achieve any dream if they put their minds to it. 

Hans also revealed that he has already planned his next musical, which will be about a “prominent sports personality”. He kept mum about the individual’s identity, but it might very well be our local badminton hero Datuk Lee Chong Wei. Fans will just have to wait and see 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Saw Teong Hin




Malaysian director Saw Teong Hin speaks to theSun about his latest film You Mean The World to Me that highlights his relationship with  his mother  

Headline: A Family Affair

LOCAL director Saw Teong Hin’s latest film, You Mean the World to Me, is something very close to his heart. It is based on his family, especially his contentious relationship with his mother. In addition, it is the first Malaysian-made Hokkien movie.
You Mean the World to Me centres on Sunny, a filmmaker who returns to his hometown in Penang to shoot a new film. Playing Sunny is Malaysian actor Federick Lee, while Singaporean actress Neo Swee Lin plays his mother.
Others in the cast include John Tan, Yeo Yann Yann and Tan Ai Suan, while Penang boy Gregg Koay takes on his first film role playing the young Sunny.
Saw, who was named best director at the 18th Malaysia Film Festival for his work on 2004’s Puteri Gunung Ledang, says: “I have [had] some success in my film career, [but none] of the work I was doing was truly reflective of me. I wanted to do something meaningful for myself.” 
So, Saw set out to write a script that featured more of his ‘voice’, including characters based upon himself, his siblings, and his mother. Saw was the youngest of six children. His mother came from a rich family, and she married his father, who was wealthy in his own right. However, the family soon fell on hard times.
“[Going] from having money, to not having money, must have been hard on her,” he said.
To make matters worse, one of his older brothers suffered from psychological issues.
“He was a disruptive force in my family,” Saw remembers.
“But my late mother was constantly defending him.” 
There were plans to commit his brother to an institution where he could get help. But his mother would not accept the suggestion.
“I could not understand how my mother chose to love one child more than the others,” he says.
“I always thought my mother never loved me. And I resented her for that.”
Saw insists that he has no intention of painting his late mother as a villain in the movie. He says, in his youth, he let his resentment rule him, adding: “I did not put myself in her shoes, and I just judged her. When you have resentment, you have no compassion.
“I was not good to her when she was alive. But over the years, [maturity] allowed me to see my mother in a totally different light.  I made this movie because I wanted to highlight her sacrifices, and to make a public apology for all the wrong I had done to her.”
Saw admits that he took some creative liberty, adding doses of fiction into the otherwise autobiographical story.
“For example, I had five siblings but in the movie, my lead character only has an older brother and sister,” he says.
Saw admits that directing the film brought on several challenges. He had designed the set to look like his childhood home. When he arrived to shoot the movie, it brought back all the raw emotions surrounding his past, but Saw managed to hold himself together and continue working. He also faced opposition from his siblings.
“Most Asians do not like talking about the ugliness and the flaws in their family.”
Thankfully, his siblings managed to put aside their reservations and trusted him to tell their story fairly. Saw wrote the script in 2010, but securing financing for the film turned out to be an arduous task. Some said they would only invest in the project if he changed the language spoken to Mandarin. “Language is an important element in understanding a person’s personality and character,” Saw says. “Every language is structured differently. If you are a native Hokkien speaker, your nuances will be different from a Mandarin speaker. I can’t really imagine my characters speaking Mandarin. It was a very personal script to me and I was not ready to make that change.” 
 In 2014, he presented the work as a stage play, which received rave reviews. The success of the play helped open doors for him to get funds to turn the play into a feature film. Saw also managed to rope in international cinematographer Christopher Doyle (who worked on Wong Kar Fai’s In the Mood for Love and Zhang Yimou’s Hero). He also got Taiwanese singer Zhao Chuan to sing the movie’s theme song.
“When you watch the film, you will realise that I love my family, and I am proud of where I came from,” he says.
“I am hoping my audience will walk away feeling grateful for their family, and their parents. Your parents had to put aside their dreams, [in order] to put food on the table for you.”

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

M.Hany Hisham


Today theSun published my interview with the author M Hany Hisham who wrote his first novel. Read the full story here:

Headline: Journey Of A Lifetime 
By Bissme S

TRAVELLING can be a wonderful balm for a wounded heart. M. Hany Hisham captures this situation perfectly in his debut novel Antara Langit, Bumi Dan Dua Hati. 
His story centres on a Malaysian woman named Illyani Izhar who embarks on a journey across Europe. Some of the countries she visits include Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 
However, Illyani is no mere adventurer. All of this is just a screen for the turmoil in her life. As a teenager, Illyana lost her mother to cancer, and since then, her relationship with her father has deteriorated. 
She is also sexually harassed at work, and develops a phobia of men. But instead of running from her problems, Illyani began her journey intending to sort out the mess in her life. 
During our interview, it became clear that Hany and his heroine share some similarities. 
“Most authors draw inspiration from their own lives, and I am no different,” he admits. 
Just as Illyani lost her mother to cancer, Hany lost his own father to the disease. 
“I was only 14 when my father passed away,” recalls the 38-year-old author, who was born and raised in Kuala Terengganu. 
“A young boy needs a father figure in his life. But I [was] lucky [to be] the seventh of nine children, and my older siblings helped me cope with my father’s death.” 
Another similarity between Hany and Illyani is that Hany loves travelling, too. 
“I [have] wanted to see the world since I was a young boy,” he says. 
Sadly, he came from a poor family and did not have the money to travel. 
“I used to be jealous of my cousins who could easily visit Kuala Lumpur,” he remembers. 
“When one of my older brothers got a job in Kuala Lumpur, I visited him and could stay in his apartment.” 
While his brother was busy working, Hany made his own plans to explore the cosmopolitan city by himself. 
And when another of his brothers got a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom, Hany kept all the pictures that his brother sent from the country. 
“I made a vow to visit the United Kingdom one day,” he says. 
Years later, once Hany started a career as an engineer in the oil and gas company, he was finally able to fulfil his longtime dream of travelling. 
The first place he visited was Bali, Indonesia. To date, he has visited 25 countries. 
“The beauty of the world is difficult to ignore,” he says. 
Hany said, however, that travelling is not always pleasant and beautiful. “Sometimes, you feel lonely and vulnerable when you are travelling,” he says. 
“You will miss your family and your friends very much. The only person you can depend on is yourself. 
“[While travelling], you get the chance to re-examine your relationship with everyone, including God. Sometimes, you will come across some people who will try to cheat you, and that makes you feel intimidated.” 
Travelling also turned him into a storyteller. He started a blog to record what he saw while visiting these foreign countries. 
“I wanted to capture my emotions in words, and write about the experiences I [could not find] in my own country,” he says. 
In 2015, as the oil and gas industry was going through some challenging times, Hany decided to take a chance at becoming a fulltime author. 
“I always had an active imagination when I was a kid,” he says. 
“I always wanted to tell stories. I have always wanted to be an author.” 
Instead of writing a travelogue, Hany decided to blend fact with fiction and hence, Antara Langit, Bumi Dan Dua Hati was born. All the travel ancedotes in the novel were based on his own experiences. 
“I want my novel to be inspirational, and spread the message of hope and [promise of] a better tomorrow to the readers,” he says. He is already working on his second novel, and readers can expect travel to be an important elements in his new novel as well. 
“You are never the same person after you’ve returned from your trips,” he says. 
“Travelling changes your view of the world.”  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Gadis Jalan Burmah

Sharifah Aleysha, Farah Rani and Ashraf Zain talks  to theSun about theatre production  Gadis Jalan Burmah. The interview was published today.

Headline: An Emotional Roller Coaster 
By Bissme

You will be laughing, crying and smiling. You will also be angry. At times, you feel like you are in love; then next moment are facing heartbreak. 
Welcome to the world of Kartini Shuib, a 42-year-old former air stewardess, and the subject of the one-woman stage play Gadis Jalan Burmah. The play is renowned for running the audience through the gamut of emotions. 
Written by actor and writer Redza Minhat, the comedy drama show was first performed in 2006 with Soefira Jaafar playing Kartini under the direction of David Lim. 
Two years later, it was restaged with Sherry Al-Hadad in the role and Megat Shahriza directing.  Now, the 90-minute play is staged for the third time from this Thursday to Sunday at Kotak (Five Arts Centre Studio) in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. 
Directed by Ashraf Zain, it will feature actress Farah Rani as Kartini. The play opens with Kartini in her kitchen, baking her own birthday cake. As she makes the cake, she recites a monologue about her life. 
Everyone is telling her that it is about time she settles down, and she contemplates going on a date with Kassim Rahman, an insurance salesman whom her mother has chosen for her. She also recalls some of the relationships she has had, including with a pilot, a  veterinarian, and an American expat. 
When asked why he chose this play to restage yet again, Ashraf, who is also a freelance  actor and scriptwriter, said: “The script was written 10 years ago but the issues are still relevant today. 
“Kartini is a free-spirited person and she is determined to live her life the way she wants. Of course, her journey is not an easy one. There is always pressure from society [to] c onform, and if you are  different, you’re punished.”  
Ashraf also laments the fact that there are few scripts out there which highlight strong female c haracters like Gadis Jalan Burmah. 
For Farah, the role of Kartini is just the latest in a line of memorable stage roles she played, including Melur in Parah, and Maznah in  Nadirah. 
For her, Gadis Jalan Burmah is a well constructed one woman play. 
“The audience will see [Kartini’s] strength and her vulnerability,” says Farah, adding that good stories like this always stand the test of time. 
“I am glad we are re-staging this production, because we are exposing the play to a new  generation of audience who has not seen the work.”     
Besides playing Kartini, Farah will be playing 20 other minor characters in the play, including Kartini’s m other, aunties and her boyfriends. 
“This is the most difficult thing I have done in my career,” the actress says. 
“If I can pull this off, I will be very pleased with myself.” 
The show is being produced by Sharifah Aleysha, who was drawn to the project by the story’s strong feminist angle. 
“I’m one person who does not enjoy it when a man writes about a woman,” says the actress, who recently had success with her play Tiga, which she directed and wrote. 
"When a man writes about a female character, she is either a slut or a nun. She is either too good or too bad. Most of them do not choose to write about women [who come in] shades of grey.” 
Previously, the only male writer whom she feels has done  justice to female characters is director and playwright  Namron. Now, she has found similar traits in Gadis Jalan Burmah’s writer Redza. 
Sharifah points out that Kartini is not portrayed as strong all the time, as the character also suffers from self doubts over her choices.  “I get annoyed with Kartini when she goes through such doubts,” she says. 
“But you cannot be strong all the time. A woman has to embrace all her emotions.”  
What strikes Sharifah most about the play is the loneliness that Kartini feels in her journey to be true to herself. 
“She can’t see eye-to-eye with her mother, her relatives, her friends and her ex boyfriends, and sometimes, that can make you feel lonely."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amy Search

The Malaysian iconic rock singer Amy Search talks to theSun his business venture.  Read the full story here 

 Headline : More Labels to His Name 
By Bissme S
 
MALAYSIAN rock icon Amy Search will be strutting his stuff to a different tune come April 2 – and the singer is all excited about the upcoming event. Amy, whose real name is Suhaimi Abdul Rahman, will be taking to the catwalk at the Asia Islamic Fashion Week event at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. “This will not be my first time walking the runway,” says Amy who hails from Johor Baru.
In the past, renowned Malaysian designers had used this legendary icon to promote their clothes. But this event will be different for him as it will be the first time Amy will be showcasing his own label and wearing his own designs.
Four years ago, the singer took his first steps into the fashion world after noticing that vendors at the local night markets were selling replicas of the high songkoks that he used to wear in his concerts, and calling them Amy Search Songkok. That inspired him to start his own line of songkoks. Last year, he took an even bigger step by producing a series of jubahs which sold like hot cakes. 
“It was not only the men who were wearing my jubahs,” Amy recalls.
“Even the women were wearing them! My jubah has become a popular [unisex] fashion wear. It was great to see people wearing the designs I had created.”
For the coming event on April 2, Amy will be showcasing seven different designs of menswear under his label, General Products by Amy Search.
“I have always had a passion for fashion and music,” explains Amy on his latest venture.
Now that he has realised his passion for music, he is happy to see his passion for fashion turning into reality with the launch of his clothing label. As he draws a lot of inspiration from Islamic design elements, Amy feels that the Asia Islamic Fashion Week (from March 30 to April 2) is the perfect platform to unveil his designs.
Some critics have accused him of putting too much emphasis on Arab elements in his designs to the detriment of  Malay culture. But Amy insists he has not forgotten his Malay roots. In fact, he is planning to come out with a series of baju Melayus for the coming Hari Raya. 
Asked if he is worried over the possibility of his designs being copied and sold at cheaper prices, Amy says: “Piracy happens in any business. You cannot avoid it. But I know my diehard fans and supporters will only buy my designs. Even those days when my albums were being pirated, many of my fans supported me and bought my original albums.”
Amy also has plans to turn another of his passions into a business. His love for coffee has pushed him to come out with his own brand called Phewiiit, which will be launched at the end of the year.
He has other business ventures in the pipeline as well, but will only reveal them “when the time is right”.
As for his music career, he admits it has taken a backseat in his life at the moment.
“I will perform whenever I am called upon to do so,” he adds.
But you cannot deny [that] the music industry is not as glorious as it was in the olden days. This is not only happening in Malaysia but everywhere. Even some big recording companies overseas are selling their assets, closing down and merging.”
As a result, Amy says singers have to venture into other businesses to survive. Next year, the singer will be birthday and he has expressed a desire to come out with an autobiography to mark his 35 years in the music industry.
“When I first started my career in the music industry, I never thought I will last this long,” he adds.
When asked the secret to his still youthful looks and spirit, Amy replies with a laugh: “I mix with younger people.”  
Actually, it might have a lot to do with his philosophy: “You are never too old to live your life to the fullest.” Amy lives it, taking up skydiving and scuba diving recently, and climbing Mount Kinabalu last year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Al Jafree & Oscar Wilde



 Al Jafree Md Yusop talks to theSun about his experience of turning the famous play The Importance Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde into a Malay film. Here is the full story  

Headline: Al Jafree on Being Earnest 
By Bissme S

The first time Al Jafree Md Yusop  read Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was at the age of 15. He was immediately attracted to the material in this Irish playwright’s play, one of Wilde’s most witty and sarcastic  works.
“That was the first time I realised that you can be critical and funny at the same time,” he says, adding that some of these great  comedies have the ability “to make us laugh about ourselves without us realising it”.
Although Wilde wrote the play over a hundred years ago and it was first staged in 1895, it’s still relevant today, Al Jafree adds.
The scriptwriter then decided to translate Wilde’s play into into Bahasa Malaysia. However, it was only in 1991 that he was able to start work on the translation.
“[Wilde’s] play has a dry sense of humour,” says the scriptwriter-director.
“Everyone kept insisting that I would not be able to capture this essence in Bahasa  Malaysia.
But I wanted to prove that Wilde’s work can be adapted into the Malay culture, in the Malay language, and in a  Malay atmosphere.”
It took another 10 years before actor-director Adlin Aman Ramlie presented Al Jafree’s Bahasa Malaysia version of The Importance of Being Earnest on stage. The 2001 play received rave reviews and standing ovations.
Now, 16 years later, Al Jafree sees another of his dream finally coming true – a film version of the Wilde play based on his translated script.
“I wanted my script to reach a bigger audience, and I thought a film would be the apt medium to do that.”
This time, Al Jafree is the one helming the film, Mencari Rahmat which will likely open in cinemas at the end of the year. The film also marks his début as a feature film director. In the past, he has only directed TV dramas. 
Mencari Rahmat centres on successful businessman Razak, the adopted son of a rich couple who died in a car crash, leaving him to look after his adoptive parents’ only granddaughter, his niece Ratna.
However, Razak is also a hard-partying ladies man, which he has kept hidden from Ratna. Whenever Razak needs to visit the big city for some wild party fun, he tells Ratna that he is going to see his troublesome younger brother Rahmat. In reality, Rahmat does not exist.
However, one lie leads to another, and Razak’s charade slowly gets exposed, culminating in a hilarious case of mistaken identity.
Playing Razak is veteran actor Namron.  Others in the cast include Amerul  Affendi, Nadia Aqilah,  Sharifah Amani, Fauziah Nawi, and  Azman Hassan.
As to the relevance of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in these modern times, Al Jafree says: “There is a saying that a man is born free but everywhere he goes, he is in chains. The play captures this saying aptly. There are a lot of things we don’t do because we are afraid society will judge us. Society is the worst prison known to mankind.”
Al Jafree cites the example of unwed mothers who kill their infants the moment they are born.
“The mothers kill their children not because they do not love their babies,” he says.
“[They] kill them because they are afraid  society will judge them  harshly.”   
While the Bahasa  Malaysia version of this play performed on stage was a smashing success, it might not work on screen. 
Al Jafree is willing to take the risk, adding: “When a young filmmaker named George Lucas wanted to film his space opera Star Wars, not many peoplewere keen [on it].  In the end, he managed to
make the film with a modest budget. Now look at how Star Wars has grown.
“The same  scepticism was shown to Steven Spielberg when he wanted to make Jawsand to Francis Ford  Coppolla who  wanted to make The Godfather
“Their films are now iconic in Hollywood. We need a certain kind of courage if we want to make  positive changes in the  Malaysian film industry.” 
Al Jafree also points to directors like the late Akira Kurosawa who had adapted well-known plays like William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear into  Japanese films. He adds that it is about time the  Malaysian film industry follow suit