Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Soffi Jikan, Marco Polo & Lelaki Harapan Dunia

Today I interviewed Soffi Jikan, the Malaysian actor who spoke about his latest role in the film he proud of, Lelaki Harapan Dunia. He also spoke about working Hollywood TV series that focuses on the world traveller Marco Polo as well as directing a film about golden bridge. Here is the fill article.  

Headline:Passion for Movies & Music 
By Bissme S

Excitment  is written all over his face when Soffi Jikan (below) talks  about his role in the film, Lelaki Harapan Dunia, which will open in  cinemas on Nov 27. 
“In my 20 years as an actor, I believe I have given my finest performance in this film,” says the 44-year-old actor who is also into singing and directing now. 
What motivated him to give his best performance is the fact that he was working with a good director and a good script with a solid role. He plays a mentally-unstable outcast. 
“(Director) Liew Seng Tat is not a tyrant on the set where everyone is forced to listen to his instructions only,” says Soffi. 
“He’s open-minded and always willing to accept suggestions from his actors. I have enjoyed working with him so much that I have agreed to act in his next film.” 
Lelaki Harapan Dunia has been shown at some of the international film festivals around the globe such as Locarno in Switzerland, Toronto and Vancouver (Canada), Nara (Japan), Busan (Korea) and Kolkata (India). 
Next month, it will be making its rounds at two more festivals – the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and the Singapore International Film Festival. Soffi is not surprised the film is making an impact overseas. 
“While making this film, I had a gut feeling that this is a good film that will appeal to foreign and domestic audiences. 
“After 20 years in the business, you [tend to] develop a good instinct whether the film you are working on is going to be a hit or a flop. There is a lot of humour  in this film and the movie is a social satire of our society.” 
Lelaki Harapan Dunia highlights an ancient Malay tradition called ‘angkat rumah’. In the olden days, whenever a villager wanted to move his house, he would literally carry the entire house to a new location with the help of his neighbours. 
This film centres on Pak Awang who wants to give a house to his daughter as a wedding gift. Unable to afford a new one, he comes up with the idea of restoring an abandoned old 
house he found in the jungle. The villagers agree to help him carry the house from the jungle to 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 panic in the village and creates several hilarious situations. Others in the cast include Wan Hanafi Su, Harun Salim Bachik, Jalil Hamid and Azhan Rani. 
Soffi’s journey to becoming an actor was a strange one. This anak Terengganu was working in his father’s construction company where his duties ranged from clearing rubbish to demonishing old buildings. 
Three days after his father died, he decided to make a drastic change in life. He took up a diploma in directing in Akademi Filem Malaysia. But he is better-known for his acting chops, playing a series of supporting but memorable roles in such films as Paloh, 
Estet, KL Gangster (in which he won a best supporting actor award in the 2011 
Malaysia Film Festival), Bunohan andZombi Kampung Pisang.
He also recently starred in the Hollywood-produced TV series Marco Polo which tells of the relationship between the famous Italian merchant traveller and China Emperor Kublai Khan. Produced by The Weinstein Company, the 10-episode series is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on Dec 12. It stars Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong, Joan Chen, Olivia Cheng and Remy Hii. 
Soffi cherished the experience working with actors from different regions such as Australia and Canada. It was also rumoured that he was paid RM1 million for his role. However, he’s not willing to confirm or deny the rumour. 
“All I can say is that I have given a performance that’s worth more than RM1 million,” he says with a laugh. 
This year, Soffi has also finally gone into producing and directing. He is making his directorial debut with Gangster Rock that touches on the world of rock and roll. 
And this multi-talented artiste is adding another milestone to that – realising an early ambition to be a rocker.
He recently cut his first album, Kasi Sengat, which features seven songs, and is planning to use the songs as the soundtrack for Gangster Rock. 
He says he first dreamt about being a rock star but “I was young and not confident that I could be a rocker”. That dream has never been forgotten and now, he has finally made it come true. 
In between, he is also writing the script for his next film, Kota Emas, which is loosely based on the legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang. The folklore is about the Sultan of  Malacca who falls madly in love with the princess of Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir) and agrees to fulfil three conditions, one of which is to build a golden bridge from Malacca to the mountain.
“You have to see the film if you want to know if there is any truth to the existence of this golden bridge,” says Soffi.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lejen Press & I am Lejen

Today I interviewed Aisa Linglug who left his well paid job as engineer to start a business he is passionate about.  Here is the full story 

Headline: A Lejen in the Making 
By Bissme S

In July 2011, Aisa Linglug started a publication company called Lejen Press with his friend, Shahrul Naim.In the span of three years, Lejen Press has grown to become a key player in publishing alternative Malay fiction.
So far, Lejen Press has published over 50 titles and given more than 40 writers a chance to see their work in print. The publishing company also owns a bookshop in Subang Jaya called I am Lejen that carries its books as well as alternative Malay fiction
published by other Malaysian independent publishers such as Fixi, Selut Press, Merpati Jingga, Sang Frued Press, Dubook Press and others.
Aisa’s foray into publishing is quite unusual. Two months before he got married, he quit his well-paid job as an engineer to start Lejen Press.
“Most men about to get married would not leave their stable job,” says the 31-year-old Aisa (real name Aisamuddin Asri).
“I am lucky that I have a fiancée (now, his wife) who understood my passion and fully supported me. I believe the risks I took had given me the extra push to make Lejen Press a success story.”
But he could not find the courage to tell his mother about what he had done.
“I know my mother would not approve of my decision [and] I do not blame [her].
Every mother wants their children to have a stable career and a stable income. My mother is no different.”
But he finally told his mother the truth the following year when he held an official launch of five titles under Lejen Press – Hero, Heroin, Kontrol Histeria, Angus Himself and Pompang Pompang – at I am Lejen.Seeing the number of people who had turned up at
the launch and the long line outside his shop, his mother was confident he was on the right track and finally gave her blessing to Aisa to pursue what his heart desires.
“I started Lejen Press because I wanted to add colour to the Malay fiction scene,”Aisa explains. 
“We want to give something different in terms of content and language.”
The books under the Lejen Press label deal with bold and risqué themes, and use simpler language to tell their stories. As a result, a lot of youngsters are attracted to the books.
“A manager from one bookstore once told me that a skin-head youngster entered his shop and bought several books by Lejen Press,” Aisa says. 
“He thought youngsters like him do not read! He said in his 10 years as a manager of the bookstore, he has never seen a skin-head ever buying a book before.
“That was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received about my books.
In some ways, Lejen Press is encouraging youngsters to read.”
Yet, there are some who feel that the books he published do not have any moral message. Aisa disagrees, citing Azwar Kamaruzaman’s book Babi (Pig), which has come under
criticism because of its title.
“People who read the book will understand why the title was used in the first place,” he says. 
“The story is about an illegitimate child. His friends ostracised him and bullied him. His friends called him Babi because Babi is something to be scorned at in the Malay community. I think it was apt to use Babi as the title. The book has a lot of messages. It tells people not to be judgmental and accept people for who they are.”
He was also accused of promoting the bastardisation of the Malay language.
“We give our writers more freedom to express their stories in the way they want and in the words that they are more comfortable with. We do not want to cramp their style of writing.
“You must understand that every artform goes through some kind of evolution. Look at music which has gone through different phases through the decades.
“Like music, writing and language also go through some kind of evolution [over time].”
Aisa says in the past, he used to be rather defensive when “silly” criticisms are thrown at Lejen Press but these days, he does not waste his time arguing with his critics any more 
“They have an option not to like the books I publish,” he says. 
He recalls a lecturer who once bought a book from his shop but wanted a refund an hour later. 
“I did not argue with him,” he says. 
“I just refunded his money. I [might have] lost a sale but I think the lecturer lost more than I did. “He lost a chance to experience a different form of writing. Any experience will enrich your life. Indirectly, he lost a chance to enrich his.”

Aisa in his boutique bookshop I am Lejen...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dayang Nurfaizah

Yesterday theSun carries a review on Dayang Nurfaizah's concert in Dewan Filharmonic Petronas. Here is full article.  

Headline: An Evening With Dayang 
By Bissme S

I remebered meeting the sultry Dayang Nurfaizah when she first burst into the music scene 15 years ago with her self-titled debut album. She impressed me with her powerful voice. 
But she was extremely shy then. Whenever she performed, she would avoid eye contact with her audience and her interaction with them was kept to the minimum. 
But at her recent concert held at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP), entitled Dayang Nurfaizah:A Celebration of 15 Years in Music, I was amazed by her transformation. 
Dayang has metamorphosised from a shy ‘pupa’ into a beautiful butterfly.No longer shy, the singer was flirting with members of the audience with her endearing smile and witty remarks. Her rapport with them has improved tremendously. Generally, those who attend concerts at the DFP remain quietly seated and are extremely 
polite even as they applaud.Sometimes, I feel attending a concert at DFP is like having tea with the Queen. You haveto be on your best behaviour. But Dayang managed to find ways to make her audience loosen up, relax and cast off their inhibitions. 
A few in the crowd even stood up to dance while some who remained seated were seen moving in sync with the beat of the music. One or two even called out her name, boosting 
the singer’s morale no doubt. Such outbursts have rarely been seen at DFP. 
Like wine, Dayang’s voice has also acquired more depth and versatility with age. The singer, who has nine albums to her credit and won more than 10 awards to date, demonstrated great control in the presentation of her songs. As with singers in most concerts, Dayang also offered a medley of her hits such as Berserah Kasih, Sekali Lagi and Coretan Cinta. 
There were many memorable moments for fans to savour. One of my favourites was when Dayang sang Di Pintu Syurga. It was supposed to be the last song before returning with  Seandainya Masih Anda Cinta as the encore. She delivered both songs with so much passion. Throughout the evening, she appeared ravishing in her three attire changes. 
The moment she appeared on stage in her silver glittering gown designed by Micheal Ong and looking like a glamorous star from a James Bond film, she practically took the audience’s breath away. 
Rizalman’s all-white gown made her appear like an angel on stage while his second piece for Dayang – a white top matched with a printed floral skirt – added a touch of class.
The 10-piece music ensemble under the direction of music director Jenny Chin did an excellent job in complementing the singer. I must say musician John Thomas stood out with his ability to create excitement with his drums. 
After the concert, Dayang made it a point to meet some of her fans and to sign some autographs. She even shared a few minutes with the journalists attending the concert. 
“I have been in the music industry for the last 15 years and in all that time, it has been my dream to perform a solo concert,” says Dayang who hails from Kuching. 
“I am so happy that finally my dream has become a reality.” 
One of the biggest challenges she faced in this concert was to present her songs in new and exciting renditions. 
“With new arrangements, my songs sound fresh,” she says. 
“When something sounds fresh, the audience will enjoy these songs better.” 
She complimented Chin and the musicians on a job well done in making the concert a success.I am sure everyone who left the auditorium that night agreed – the concert was indeed a success. 

Dayang in her first attire

Dayang in her second attire making her look like an angel

Rizalman created the third and final attire that Dayang wore for her concert