Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Today we run a story on film maker Melissa Saila who did a biopic on her aunt, the famous legendary singer  Saloma for the small screen. Here is the full story  

Headline : Saloma Remembered 
By Bissme S

Award winning actress Melissa Saila has just produced and directed a biopic for the small screen that is close to her heart. It focuses on the life of her aunt, the late Saloma, the famous singer- actress extraordinare Saloma who was also the wife to the legendary to the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee.  
Saloma will be aired on Astro First ( Channel 480) tomorrow in two parts. This biopic has been a long time coming for Saloma's sister Mariani Ismail, a well known actress in the 60s. It was  Mariani who inspired her daugther Melissa to direct this biopic.
“I have been waiting for more than 30 years since the death of my sister for someone to do a decent tribute in her memory,” says the 81-year old Mariani Ismail. 
“I am disappointed no one has done that earlier." 
Tired of waiting, Mariani asked her daugther to do something so that Saloma's life story would be made known to all Malaysians. 
"My sister has contributed immensely to the entertainment industry and till today people are still enjoying her song. I do not want Saloma to be forgotten." 
The two part series begin in 1941 when Saloma was aged six and ends in 1983 with the actress's death at the age 51.  Playing the younger Saloma is Puteri Balqish while Nabila Huda takes 
over as the older Saloma. Among the cast are Tony Eusof (as Ramlee), Sazzy Falak (as Mariani), 
Sharifah Amani (as Siput Sarawak) and Hasnul Rahmat (as Pak Ismail). 
Mariani has seen the biopic and is clearly happy  with what her daughter  has presented. Some scenes brought back fond memories  and tears to her eyes. 
“It was difficult for me to cope with my  sister’s death,” recalls 
“For 20 years after my sister’s death, I refused to listen to any of her songs or watch any of her movies. I did not want anything that reminded me of her as it would  make me sad.” 
Mariani’s favourite scene in the biopic shows Saloma at  age seven and  herself at age nine when their parents had divorced. The two girls were staying with their father in Tanjung Karang, Selangor. 
“Saloma missed our mother who was staying in Singapore very much,” Mariani says. 
“She was crying for our mum almost every day. I could no longer stand to see tears in my sister’s eyes.“So one morning, I took Saloma to the market in Tanjung Karang and manage to hitch a ride to Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. Then, we walked to the railway station and sneaked into a train that was going to Singapore. Our mother was shocked to see us standing at her front door.” 
For Melissa, 42, who started her own production house Kus Semangat Aktor Sdn Bhd in 2007, her favourite scenes are those of Saloma struggling to continue living after the death of her beloved husband,Ramlee. 
“He was the love of his life and she was not the same person after his death,"says Melissa 
"She has lost the will to live." 
Melissa was only 11 when her famous aunt died. She remembers Saloma as an introvert,reserved and shy and such contrast to her mother Mariani, who is an extrovert and outspoken. Melissa's husband Megat Fauzi Isa, 51, is one of the producer and co wrote the script. He is mindful of the fact that doing a biopic on legend like Saloma will likely draw many comments      
"We cannot satisfy everyone,"he says. 
"And they must understand it is impossible for us to feature everything that took place in her life in a three hour biopic. With such a time constraint, we had to choose what we want to feature.”
He adds that they chose to highlight Saloma the person first rather than the singer or actress. 
“Viewers will always be [more] interested about the human side of any famous personality.”
Shooting for the biopic took 33 days to complete and about 90% of it was done in Penang with the rest in Kuala Lumpur. The biggest challenge Melissa had to face was portraying a bygone period in which she was not even born yet.
“In that sense, I’m lucky to have my mother to fill me in on how that era looked like,” says Melisa. 
“She was my adviser.”

A scene from Saloma - Tony Eusoff plays PRamlee and Nabilah Huda plays Saloma
A scene from Saloma - It tells a great love story between Saloma & PRamlee 
A scene from Saloma --- This is when Saloma at her height of fame
Melissa (in red) with her mother Mariani and her husband Megat

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Raja Azmi & karkuma

Today theSun carries an interview with the film producer cum author  Raja Azmi who have just written about her latest novel Karkuma. The interview took place in art gallery in Publika .... below is the full story that is published in the sun 

Suggested Headline: An Old Age Battle  
By Bissme S

Some people may not be  aware that Raja Azmi Raja  Sulaiman started out as a writer before she became a film producer. She wrote her first novel Black Widow in 1993, followed by Tangkis 
(1996), Jendela Putih (1997), Jijik (1998) and Cinta 100 Ela (2000).
Returning to writing after a hiatus of some 14 years, she has just come out with her sixth book, Karkuma, which explores the age-old battle between good and evil.It centres on Karkuma, a kind gardener, who has the ability to communicate with plants. 
He wins over the heart of Sirehpani, a beautiful maiden in the village, and they marry. Unfortunately, this angers Jameng who harbours feelings for Sirehpani. The man, who claims to be 
a religious leader, is secretly in cohorts with the devil and intends to use evil means to destroy Karkuma. In a recent interview with theSun, Raja Azmi, 55, talks about her new book, how it is different from her earlier works and also her future plans.

*Why did you name your novel,Karkuma? 

Karkuma or kurkuma is the scientific name for kunyit (turmeric). According to Malay folklore, the devil is afraid of turmeric. Note that my lead character also has the same name. I don’t want to be a spoiler by revealing more. Find out by reading the book. 

*You took 14 years to come out  with your sixth novel. Why? 

My last novel, Cinta 100 Ela, was banned in 2000. I went to see the authorities and asked them why they had banned my novel. They said my novel was too sensual.I argued that there are many 
novels in English that are far more sensual than my book and these books do not get banned. You can get these books on the shelves easily. But they said those books are in English and my book is in Malay. I could not accept their argument. They were being unfair. I was so angry and frustrated with the unfairness that I decided not to write novels again. But after 10 years, I began  to miss writing very much. A story was trapped inside me. I decided to forget the bitter episode of Cinta 100 Ela and  started writing again. 

*You started writing Karkuma in 2010 but only had it published  after four years. Why did it take you so long to complete this  novel? 

In the past four years, I was going through many personal crises in my life (her divorce from first husband Jalani Sidek as well as being accused of breaking up the marriage of another badminton player Roslin Hashim, among others). I was not able to give full attention to the novel. Once I had sorted out the mess in my life and cleared my mind, only then was I able to finish the novel. 

*How is Karkuma different from the novels you had written in 
the past? 

When I began my career as a novelist in 1993, I wanted glamour and fame. But now glamour and fame are no longer my priority. As a novelist, I want to leave something of substance behind.
There is a Malay saying: Harimau mati meninggalkan belang, manusia mati meninggalkan nama’ (When a tiger dies, it leaves behind stripes; when a man dies, he leaves behind his name or reputation). I do not want people to remember Raja Azmi only as 
a woman who loves to court controversy. I have plans to get an international publisher to translate Karkuma into English and distribute the book all over the world. I also have plans to turn Karkuma into a stage play and a movie. In fact, I am already writing a sequel to the story. 

*Some people say your novels can be erotic. Any comment? 

Sex, religion and love are three important elements in our lives. We should not be afraid to explore these elements in our writing or be afraid to discuss them. I would say the sex element in my novel this time around is more poetic and polite. I was told that people during 
that bygone era expressed their sexual desires in a more subtle manner. 

*Some people may condemn you for writing about the devil. Any comment? 

Every religion believes there are dark spirits that walk among humans. The food for any devil is our hatred and our negative energy. My novel emphasises that you should have more love than hate in your heart and in your mind … You should pay attention to having more positive energy than negative energy. My novel asks this important question: ‘How do you fall in love with God?’ My novel is more about God than the devil. 

Footnote: Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman will be discussing her novel, Karkuma, at the Art For Grabs event at The School, Jaya One, on Aug 24 at noon. Karkuma: The True Colours of Raja Azmi dialogue session is open to the public.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lelaki Harapan Dunia

Today theSun carries an interview with Liew Seng Tat who talks about his film Lelaki Harapan Dunia that will premiere at 67th Festival del Film Locarno in Switzerland on Aug 11.  Read the full article here 

Suggested Headline A Moving Tribute 
By Bissme S 

Film maker  Liew Seng Tat’s second feature film, Lelaki Harapan Dunia (Men Who Save the World) has been given the honour to premiere at the 67th Festival del Film Locarno in Switzerland on Aug 11. This is one of the film industry’s prestigious festivals held annually in August in the city of Locarno since its founding in 1946, making it one of the oldest film festivals in the world, alongside those in Venice and Cannes.The festival, which runs from Aug 6 to 16 this year, has established itself as a launching pad for striving filmmakers around the world. Some of those well known filmmakers who first made their mark at this festival included Stanley  Kubrick, Mike Leigh, Chen Kaige, Edward Yang, Jim Jarmusch, Abbas Kiarostami and Gus Van Sant.
Lelaki Harapan Dunia will be competing in the Concorso Cineasti del Presente (Filmmakers of the Present) section that is dedicated to emerging directors around the world. Only 15 feature
films are selected each year for the competition.Liew’s film touches on an ancient Malay tradition called‘Angkat Rumah’. In the old days, whenever a villager wanted to shift or move house, it was common for his neighbours to come together and literally carry the entire house to the new location.
This practice has, over the years, slowly disappeared. Liew had toying with the idea of doing a  film on this since 2007. But he waited as he wanted to gain more experience, first through directing short films  and then, attempting his first feature film, Flower in the  Pocket.
That film won Liew a slew of awards and glowing reviews  at such international film festivals as Busan (South Korea), Rotterdam (The  Netherlands), Fribourg  (Switzerland) and Pesaro (Italy). 
Liew said he was inspired to  write the script for Lelaki Harapan Dunia after reading an article in the newspaper in 2007 which tells of a farmer who  decided to move closer to his sick mother-in-law in order to care for her. 
But the farmer was reluctant to move into a new house. So, he got 150 villagers to  help him carry his old house half a kilometre to his mother-in-law’s place. 
“The image of a group of people literally carrying a house together left a  lasting impression on me,” said Liew. 
“The spirit of unity where a group of people get together to help an individual was simply amazing. I wanted to document this spirit in a Malaysian film.”
This comedy drama revolves around Pak Awang who wants to give a house to his daughter as a wedding gift. Unable to afford a new house, he comes up with the  brilliant idea of restoring an abandoned old house he found in the jungle. The villagers agree to help him carry  the house from the jungle into the village. Unknown to them, an illegal immigrant  has been hiding in the house. When a villager mistakes the black  shadow he sees in the house as the infamous Orang Minyak, it causes undue panic besides creating several hilarious situations. The cast comprises Wan Hanafi Su, Soffi Jikan, Harun Salim Bachik, Jalil Hamid and Azhan Rani.Lelaki Harapan Dunia will likely screen  in Malaysian cinemas on Nov 27. 
Liew cited the shifting of the house from the jungle to the village as the most difficult scene to shoot. 
“If we had used a house made of cardboards, the scene would not have  looked real,” he said. 
“We had to build the house using aged wood – and moving the house  made from such material is not easy. Further more, the road from the  jungle to the village is not smooth or  level. There were many slopes and we even had to cross a stream! 
“But the men managed to carry the house without any incident. Luckily, I had a strong team of men comprising the producer to the crew and cast.” 
Currently, Liew is working on two scripts which both have comedic elements.The first one touches on a love story involving a ghost while the second  involves soldiers trapped in a jungle. Liew also confesses that his dream  project is to turn Lat’s comic books,Kampung Boy and Town Boy, into a series of films – and, definitely, not  animations. The filmmaker said: “I am a huge fan of Lat’s comics. I gave these books to all my tourist friends as souvenirs. “They are great representations of what Malaysia is all about. And I like to tell Malaysian stories in my films.”

Seng Tat during the interview at Plan B in Bangsar

A scene from the film
A scene from the film
One of the poster of the film