Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mislina Mustaffa : Homeless By Choice

Recently I interviewed the actress Mislina Mustaffa where she talks about her interesting project Homeless By Choice.  The article was printed in theSun on April 25, 2012. 

By Bissme S
FRENCH author and feminist Simone de Beauvoir once said that 85% of a woman’s daily life is spent cleaning the dirt that keeps coming back.This remark influenced local actress Mislina Mustaffa to embark on an interesting journey – to go homeless for a year.
“When you have no house, you have no dirt to clean,” says the 41-year-old. “I’m curious to see what I’ll be doing with this 85% of my time.”
Mislina is keeping a journal to record all her experiences from her adventure and plans to turn it into a book for publication next year.She also intends to use the journal as the basis for her thesis in her studies in the future, most likely in the field of performing arts.Interestingly, it was not difficult for her to give up the place she had called home for the last eight years and disposing off most of her furniture, except for a few of her favourite books and paintings which a friend would be keeping for her.What she found difficult was giving up Atan and Mong, her dogs who had been with her for more than a year. Fortunately, she managed to find a new home for them.
“I learnt that it’s easier to give up material things,” says Mislina, who has acted in films such asAnak Halal, Talentime and Cun, as well as Karaoke that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.
Asked if she plans to get her pets Atan and Mong back, she says: “I’m sure the new owners will get attached to the dogs and they to them. It will be cruel, heartless and unfair to tear them apart.”
For her project, which she dubs ‘homeless by choice’, Mislina only has four changes of attire and basic essentials in her bag. If she has a film or TV drama shoot, she will stay in the city. Otherwise, she will be travelling all over Malaysia.So far, she has visited Pulau Tioman, Peang and Bintulu in Sarawak, staying mostly in budget hotels. She has met people from all walks of life – from a Canadian hippie to a Korean student who could not speak proper English.
“The journey has been tiring but the experience has been enriching,” she says.
Mislina has also adopted ‘a couch service’ from good friends as well as kind-hearted strangers who offer their couch to her to bed down for free. 
“Usually, I would stay with them for two or three nights,” she says.
Most of the time, her gracious hosts are kind enough to invite her for lunch and dinner as well.So far, she has stayed with four families, and mingling with them has exposed the actress to new experiences.
“When I stayed with a Chinese family, I noticed a picture of a rhinoceros pasted on their front door,” she says. “Later, I learnt that it’s a fengshui symbol to keep robbers away.”
Mislina says staying with people from different backgrounds has helped her to sharpen her skills as an actress.
“Through this project, I hope to get to know our society and its people a little better.
“Should I write a script in the future, I’ll include bits of my experiences. It’ll make the script more interesting and realistic.”
Mislina also hopes to show that a woman has many choices in life. “Many Asian women’s ultimate goal is to get married, have kids and have a house that they can call home,” she says.
“They have become slaves to this social and stereotypical image. All their efforts, money and energy are dedicated towards this goal.
“It’s okay to have a home. But your home should not become your prison. Your home should not be your only dream.”
Mislina’s ‘homeless by choice’ project has also helped her to create a better bond with society.She says many actors have this wrong perception that they should not mingle with ordinary folks. They, in fact, feel that they should remain reclusive and exclusive.
“They would make their assistants do all their chores for them, even buying fruits from a street vendor. And, they definitely wouldn’t think of queuing up at a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee.
“But we actors represent society. We play roles that we see in society. If you refuse to be associated with society, how convincing are you going to be in your performances?
“For instance, if an actor has to play a fruit seller, how will he know the emotions experienced by such a person? This is why some actors put up such shallow performances.”
Actors cannot be aloof and keep away from society. They should be part of society, adds Mislina.