Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mamu Vies & Dog Pound

Today theSun published my interview with Mamu Vies who spoke about his debut Dog Pound that has hit the book shelves recently. The interview took place in Chawan Bangsar and his fiancee, the famous novelist Nadia Khan was also present at the interview and she  contributed a few words to the interview. Here is the full article.   

Headline: A Tale Worth Telling  
By Bissme S 

The Violent world of underground boxing formed the main plot for Muhammad Fahmi’s Dog Pound, his English fiction that recently hit the bookshelves. The author, who writes under the pen-name of Mamu Vies, explains that the boxing element in his debut novel is an allegory of how all of us are fighting for survival in life.
On his personal battles in his own life, Mamu says: “I am constantly fighting to make a living as an artiste. I have failed in so many things. But I always find myself coming back and doing artistic stuff. I feel alive when I am doing artistic stuff.”
Published by Fixi Novo, Dog Pound centres on Azroy, a risingstar in the underground boxing circuit, who finds himself in hot soup after he kills his opponent in the boxing ring. On the run from the law, he soon learns that he has been framed and that there are powerful forces involved.
Mamu himself has taken some lessons in kickboxing in the past and his experience proves invaluable in writing this novel.
“Some of my friends and I had sparring sessions after our kickboxing lessons,” recalls the 27-year-old full-time writer.
“But, honestly speaking, the sparring sessions I have watched and participated in are not as violent and gory as I have portrayed in my book. I have magnified my experiences some 200%!”
Mamu believes it is essential that writers today write books that are fast-paced and can be read in a few sittings to rival what the internet or smartphones and Facebook have to offer.
“People are spending more time online than on books,” he says. 
“Today, there are many more things out there that can distract you from books. I like to be a part of the movement that brings people back to reading.”
Writing this novel has been a personal achievement of sorts for this writer.
“I am one of those people who will start something and if I cannot make sense of the thing I am doing, I will not complete the task,” says Mamu who was born and raised in the Klang Valley.
“It took me three years to complete the novel. I really believe this novel is something that I really care about because I have completed it.”
Currently, writing any more novels has to take a back seat as he is busy writing three film scripts with his fiancée, Nadia Khan, who is also a novelist and writes in both the national language and English.
Some couples do not like the idea of working together. But not these two creative minds.
Nadia says Mamu is more attracted to the way a writer writes his prose while she goes for the way a writer writes the dialogue. 
“I think we complement each other [in this way].”
Is Mamu jealous of his more famous, and popular, girlfriend who has two bestselling Malay novels under her name – her debut novel Kelabu and second novel Gantung?
“If I’m successful, I want her to be happy for me and the same goes with me. I am really proud of her achievements,” says Mamu who reveals that they hope to get married next year.
“Nothing much intimidates him,” adds Nadia who states that they are very open when it comes to making criticisms or giving compliments to each other’s work.
“I will always encourage Nadia to be fiercer with her criticism on my work. I will keep asking her where are her claws,” says Mamu with a laugh.
Asked which he likes better – writing scripts or novels, Mamu admits to preferring the latter. He says with a smile: “I am a control freak. In [publisher] Amir Muhammad’s words: with a book, you deal with lesser idiots; it is only between you, your publisher and your readers.”
In some ways, he admits writing allows a writer to play god to his/her characters. 
“I like playing god,” he says. “But I would not be an intrusive god who throws out lightning or swallows up my characters.”
He also adds that whenever he writes, he makes it a point to never judge his characters.
“I believe that if you judge your characters right away, there will be a lot of self censoring and your characters will be bland and you will not get the full story.
“When your characters are bland, then it will not be a story worth telling.”
Interestingly, Mamu had wanted to be a cartoonist.
“Creating worlds and telling stories have always appealed to me,” he says. “[But now] instead of drawing, I am creating my worlds and stories with words.”
He hints that, one day, he might still be able to fulfil that dream where he gets to tell his stories through pictures.
Mamu Vies with his fiancee Nadia Khan
Mamu with his book Dog Pound

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hadi M Nor & Family Values

On last Wednesday, theSun published an interview I did with the writer  Hadi M Nor who has just churned out his second fiction work, an English novel called Family Values.  Hadi is also the son of the famous Malaysian cartoonist Datuk Mohammd Nor Khalid, better known as Lat. Below is the full interview

Headline: All for telling tales
By Bissme S

“Sometimes your family is your curse,” says young published writer Hadi M Nor.
“You are stuck with them. You can’t choose your family. You have to love them, no matter what.”
This family theme forms the basis for Hadi’s latest work fiction, appropriately titled family values, published under Fixi Novo. This is the 23- year –old second published book but his first English novel. 
Family Values tells a story of a young married man Aizat who sells land that he inherited from his late father. But sicnce then he is beset by weird voice and is tortured emotionally, physically and mentally.
Suddenly his rich uncle Tan Sri Aliyas gets touch with him even though they have not been in contact for many years. Uncle Aliyas finally reveals the family dark secret – a legacy that involves black magic and racial elements. Though a dark tale, Hadi has given it a touch of humour, making the story more intriguing and compelling. During a one to one interview with theSun, Hadi displays that sense of humour we find in his book in the questions posed to him.
“I like stories about family,” says the freelance translator who is currently pursuing a two year degree in journalism in the United Kingdom.
“I believe in my story, I am always exploring situations where you cannot get out easily.”
As for the lead character Aizat in Family Values, he admits not liking him at all
“I would not hang out with him if he were real person. He is a trust-fund baby. He is a spoilt-brat. I hate him and it’s easy to torture him,” he says with a big laugh.
Asked about the message he wants to impart in his novel, Hadi says: “If I tell you the messages in my novel, then I am just  spoiling your fun in reading the novel.
“When you get to the end of my story, you will know what is it that I am trying to tell you. Half way through the novel, the readers will notice that my story takes on a totally different direction.”
For someone who already has two published works in his name – his first  work of fiction is a collection of short  stories entitled Sepucuk Pistol Di Dalam  Laci which was published by Sang Freud  Press two years – Hadi says he still does  not know what he wants to do in life.
“But I love writing. I think writing is the tool I use to communicate with people. I love telling stories. I see myself more as a storyteller than a writer. I believe calling yourself a storyteller is more profound.”
Hadi started his own blog called Frust Tapi Malas at the age of 15, where he wrote about life and the people around him. Later, he started writing short stories. It was his sense of humour that attracted people to his blog.
“Whatever happened to me, just happened,” says Hadi.
“I never planned anything. My father always told me that I should not rush into being a published writer ... You must be older and have experienced life before becoming a published writer.”
Hadi’s father is speaking from experience. He is none other than Malaysia’s well-known cartoonist Datuk Mohammd Nor Khalid or better known as Lat. Hadi is the youngest of four siblings.
The young author professes:  “Professionally, I do not like to be linked to my father. People always jump to the conclusion that whatever success I have achieved is a result of being his son. Some even believe that doors were opened to me because I am Lat’s son.
“In fact, my siblings and I have always tried to work hard in whatever we do. We do not use his name to get favours. But personally, I am so lucky to have him as my father. He is a cool dad.
“He inspired me to be a storyteller. He encouraged me to read. He even taught me swimming by giving me a book on swimming!”
Hadi does not hide the fact that Lat didn’t like his first novel and that he would probably hate his second one, too.
“My dad likes stories that are positive and culturally-inclined but my books are dark. But I don’t mind that he dislikes my books. Everyone has different tastes and preferences.”
Hadi believes that all writers should be open to any kind of criticism. He says: “People are spending money to buy your book and taking time to read it, therefore they have the right to make comments. You have to respect their opinions.”
At the young age 23, Hadi has two books published

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Recently actor Ario Bayu and producer Raam Punjabi from Indonesia were in town to promote their film called Soekarno which currently showing in Malaysian cinemas. 
Soekarno is a biopic film on Indonesia’s first president Kusno Sosrodihardjo who is better known as Soekarno who liberated his country from colonial masters.   
theSun interviewed  Raam Punjabi and Ario Bayu  about the movie and the story was published in the sun newspaper , today. Here is the full interview.   

Headline: Ode To Soekarno 
By Bissme S

Raam  Punjabi has put his heart and soul into his latest film project, Soekarno, that is currently screening in the local cinemas. This historical film, about Indonesia’s first president Kusno Sosrodihardjo who is better known as Soekarno, took two years to complete and was produced at the cost of US$2.5 million (RM8.2 million) – making it the most expensive Indonesian film ever made. Soekarno bagged the awards for best picture and best director (for Hanung Bramantyo) at the recent Bandung Film Festival.
“This movie is my legacy to the new generation of Indonesians,” says the 71- year-old Raam, who is a key player in the Indonesian film scene and runs his own
production house, Multivision Plus, in Jakarta.
“I have admired Soekarno since I was nine years old. He has successfully united us as Indonesians. He was the one who came out with the vision of Satu Negara, Satu Bangsa and Satu Bahasa (One Country, One Race and One Language).Not many leaders could have united a nation as he had done.”
The film followed the life of Soekarno from his childhood days till the day he declared independence for Indonesia on Aug 17, 1945. Raam remembers meeting Soekarno for the first time in his birthplace of Surabaya when he was 13 years old.The then president was in the city to give a speech during one of the Indonesian elections. 
“I found him to be a charismatic leader,” says Raam.
Playing Soekarno is Indonesia’s leading man Ario Bayu. Others in the cast include Lukman Sardi, Maudy Koesnaedi and Tika Bravani.
The film attracted controversy when one of Soekarno’s daughters, Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, voiced her displeasure with Hanung for selecting Ario to play her father. She had wanted another Indonesian actor, Anjasmara, for the role.
But Raam feels Ario has done justice playing the first president, adding that Soekarno’s other children and relatives have seen the film and are happy with the end result.
Ario’s family had actually migrated to New Zealand when he was eight. Then, at 19, he returned to Jakarta to pursue an acting career. Last year, he was involved in the Hollywood action film, Java Heat, playing opposite Kellan Lutz and Oscar nominee Mickey  Rourke. He has also appeared in the Australian- Singaporean television drama series,
Serangoon Road, acting opposite Hollywood actress Joan Chen.
The 29-year-old actor was not amused when some people thought the controversy was a marketing ploy to attract people to watch the film. 
“I do not think we need that kind of controversy,” he says.  
To get into character, Ario read books, watched videos and interviewed three historians on Soekarno. 
“The way I approach my role is by asking myself what I would have done if I was in Soekarno’s shoes,”he says.
Since tackling the difficult role of Soekarno, Ario has decided to take a break from acting. 
Raam discloses that he hopes the younger generation of Indonesians will learn more about  the man who had liberated their country from this movie.
“At the young age of 19, Soekarno already thought about politics and doing good for his  people and his nation,” he says.
“I hope this movie will inspire the youth of today to follow in his footsteps instead of idling away their time or becoming involved in drugs or alcohol. They should use their time wisely. I want to create more Soekarnos among our youth.”
That was one of the reasons why Raam was willing to sink so much money into the movie. 
“The budget for this is 10 times more than the budget in my other movies," he says 
“There are two aspects to moviemaking. One is to make money and the other is to get satisfaction. I would say Soekarno falls into the second category.
“I cannot say for sure if I will make money from this movie. But I enjoyed making this film. Of course, I cannot go on making movies without expecting money in return.”
Soekarno has also been selected by the Indonesian government for consideration in the foreign film category for next year’s Oscars.
Raam is extremely grateful to the government. 
“I cannot say for sure if my film will get into the top five nominations," he says 
“But what I know for sure is this film will expose the world to my country, Indonesia, and my first president, Soekarno.”

The producer Raam Punjabi presents his movie Soekarno

Ario Bayu as Soekarno in the scene of the movie