Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gina Yap Lai Yoong

Today, theSun published an interview with Gina Yap who have written four novel and will be soon coming out with fifth novel. Here is the article.

Headline: Writer of Malay Fiction
By Bissme S

There are very few non Malays who write Malay fiction in Malaysia. But 29- year-old Gina Yap Lai Yoong is one of the exceptions. To date, she has produced four Malay novels.
“I love the language (Bahasa Malaysia),” says Gina, a freelance graphic designer and copywriter.
“The language can be gentle and rough at the same time.”
She finds that whenever one tells a Malaysian story in the national language, the story seems to have a more authentic feel.
“The words sound better in Bahasa Malaysia compared to English when describing Malaysia’s atmosphere and our emotions,” she says.
“Besides, there are more publishers for Malay fiction compared to English fiction. If I write in Bahasa Malaysia, my chances of getting published are higher.”
She says she does not use highbrow Bahasa Malaysia in her novels and one can easily read her novels without referring to a Malay dictionary.
“My aim of using simple bahasa is because I want people who do not read Malay novels to read them,” she says.
Yap’s journey to becoming a novelist began in high school. She started reading more to improve her language and essay-writing skills, which slowly cultivated a love for words in her.
Once, her English teacher caught her writing poems, instead of paying attention in class.
“I thought my teacher would get angry and I would be punished,” Yap remembers.
Instead, her teacher was impressed by what Yap had written.
“My teacher told me that she would like to see me published one day.”
It was her teacher’s suggestion that first gave Yap the idea that she could become an author.She has her first novel, Experiment Cinta, published five years ago in 2011 under the pseudonym Geena Edora. She was only 24.
“My publisher thought a Malay novel with a Chinese name would not sell well,” she says of Experiment Cinta which centers on two best friends who are seeking love in all the wrong places.
The following year, she produced her second novel, a crime thriller called Ngeri, about a group of film students who write a script about a murder mystery which starts happening in real life.
This time around, her new publisher Fixi allowed her to use her Chinese name. Ngeri became a success and shot her to stardom.
Then in 2013, she wrote Mangsa, which is a sequel to Ngeri, where the inspector in the first novel returns to solve several missing person cases.
She recently returned to this story thread with the third book in the series, Obsesi. The book will be on sale at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair at Putra World Trade Centre from April 24 to May 4.
“Now, my readers are expecting someone to die in every one of my novels,” she says with a smile.
In between, Yap came out with Serangkai Hidup last year, which centres on eight individuals who undertake a meaningful journey to fulfil their dreams.
There are plans to translate Serangkai Hidup into English and if everything goes well, the English version will hit the shelves probably next year.
Besides writing, Yap has also embarked on a new project. Early this year, she took 14 aspiring writers under her wing to help them complete their manuscripts. She meets up with the writers
individually every month and has even gone to one of the participants’ house and sat with him as he wrote his pages.
“I am not their tutor,” she says.
“I see myself more as their writing partner. I will be with them for one year.”
Yap is offering her services for free.
“I am self taught writer. I have never taken a creative writing course. I am only teaching them from the experience I gained from writing my five novels.
“I do not know any writing jargons. I know you can feel very small when scholars start using writing jargons and you feel very lost.”
She adds that she is here to give the writers support and help them to carry out their dream to complete their manuscripts. 
As for her future plan, she wants to find a foreign publisher in the United Kingdom and publish English fiction for the world market.
“My dream is to earn a living as a writer of fiction,” she says.

“I can only achieve this dream if I am able to reach a wider readership base."

Monday, March 23, 2015


Today theSun publishes an interview on a website that promotes short films. Here is the full article. 

Headline: Promoting Shorts Online 
By Bissme S 

When Ho Jia Jian and his business partner,Derick Tan, founded the Viddsee website two years ago, they faced a lot of scepticism and discouragements right from the beginning.
“Everyone thought we were dealing with a niche market because they believe not everyone loves watching short films,” Ho says in a recent interview.
But the duo has proved the critics wrong. To date, the Singapore-based platform has over three million monthly video streams.
The hybrid online platform currently showcases short films from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and India.
Viddsee has also become a hit among film buffs and filmmakers with many filmmakers having used this website to showcase their works.
Ho explains: “This is the place where you get your voice heard.”
Even an experienced filmmaker like James Lee is  impressed with Viddsee and is currently using this platform to showcase his works from his production house, Doghouse 73 Pictures.
“I do not see my future in mainstream cinemas any more,” says Lee.
“The mainstream film industry is not progressing financially and doesn’t give you the space to put up different stuff. Almost everything in mainstream cinemas is determined by investors.”
Catering for audiences online gives Lee the chance to be creative and to think out of the box, adding that “one of my biggest mistakes in the past was not to take YouTube seriously in showcasing my works”.
Lee loves the fact that now, he can reach new audiences and has a more direct contact with them – and he can read their feedback immediately.
Another filmmaker who has benefited from Viddsee is Quek Shio Chuan, whose two shorts – Guang and Sunflowers – have become a hit on the website with their captivating and touching storylines.
The 14-minute Guang is a about two brothers. The older brother, Wen Guang, is autistic and often misunderstood. He has to struggle with social interaction as well as finding it hard to perform his daily obligations.
The 30-minute Sunflowers is  about a struggling young makeup artist who finds herself working in a funeral home, making the dead look beautiful.
The positive response he’s received from Viddsee has encouraged Quek to turn Guang into his first feature film.
Another filmmaker reaping rewards from Viddsee is award- winning actress Sharifah Amani. Her 22-minute short, Sangkar, has so far been viewed more than 100,000 times.
Sangkar is about a highschool girl who falls in love with her classmate but has to accept a marriage proposal from an old man to help with her family’s dire financial situation. Things get more complicated when the old man is related to the boy she loves.
“Directing shorts gives me a new respect for female
filmmakers,” says Sharifah.
“All over the world, women are often treated as secondclass citizens behind the scenes.A woman has to be tough to survive in such a situation.”
In her next short, the actress wants to tackle the controversial subject of having babies out of wedlock.
“In Malaysia, we do not put importance on sex education.”
When asked when she will direct a feature film, she cheekily quips: “Give me the money.” 

From left: James Lee, Quek Shio Chuan, Sharifah Amani & Ho Jia Jian

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Faridah Merican & Usman Awang

Today theSun published my interview with theatre actress Faridah Merican who talks about the famous poet cum writer  the late Usman Awang and his famous work Uda Dara 

Headline: Forbidden Love Revisited  
By Bissme S 

Renowed Theatre actress Faridah Merican wants to reintroduce the
works of the late Datuk Usman Awang, who died in 2001, to a 
younger generation and tempt them to read his books.
 “His works are not taught in Malaysian schools any more,” says 
this first lady of the Malaysian theatre at a recent interview.
“We do not value him. We have a great, brilliant poet and 
writer, and we’re just letting him ‘die’ from our memories and
from our schools.”
Faridah was a close friend of Usman. “I loved the tone of his
voice, the smile on his face, his gentleness and his  cleverness,”she recalls.
The late national laureate,who is also known by his penname 
Tongkat Warrant, had produced many great works.
Among his more famous is the musical drama Uda & Dara, a tale 
centring on two young people who fall in love and dream of a 
happy ending to their love story.
However, that is not to be. Dara’s rich parents objected to
their relationship because Uda comes from a poor family.
The story ends tragically with Uda dying and Dara losing her 
mind. Faridah and this play has a long history.
When the musical was staged in 1972, Faridah played the tragic
Dara with well-known theatre actor Ahmad Yatim as Uda, receiving rave reviews for their performances.
Even today, the memory of that 1972 production still holds a
special place in her heart.
“It was not difficult to fall in love with someone who
was as good looking as Ahmad Yatim,” Faridah says with a
touch of humour. 
“I can still remember the attire I wore for the production.”
In 1984, Uda and Dara was staged again, and this time,
Faridah played mother to Uda.
In 1995, she was the co- producer of the musical when it
was restaged once again. She was 33 when she first played Dara. 
Now, at age 75, she has taken on the mantle of director for this 
latest restaging of the classic tale, titled Uda & Dara 2015. 
“I have always wanted to direct Uda & Dara,” confesses Faridah who is currently the executive producer and co-founder of The Actors Studio, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and The Penang Performing Arts Centre (penangpac).
“Uda & Dara always reminds me of Usman and to direct this play is to do justice to his works.”
Faridah has decided to make  a few changes to the script. The story is now set in present day, with Uda now a Chinese boy falling for a Malay girl, Dara.
Explaining her reasons for the change, Faridah says: “With the current situation in the country, there is uncertainty whether [the different races] can truly live side by side ...There is uncertainty whether we can welcome everyone into our homes again, like we used to do a long time ago.
“When I was growing up, I remember people [regardless of their race] welcoming me into their homes and I welcomed people [of all races] into my home without any question.
“If I had set the story in the past, perhaps today’s audiences
will not be able to relate to the story, so I want to tell the
story [set in] in our present day situation to our current
generation of audience.
”The musical production will have more than 30 cast members, with Mark Lim Eu Jin taking on the lead role of Uda and Hana Nadira as Dara. Others include Gani Karim, Nur Fardilla Nadia and Priscilla Wong Suet Yee.Uda & Dara 2015 will be staged from April 2 to 11 atPentas 1, klpac, and from April 21 to 25 at penangpac.For more, visit the klpac and penangpac websites.

Faridah .... the director of Uda & Dara 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rosyam Nor & Isyarat Cinta

Today, theSun publishes my interview with actor cum producer Rosyam Nor and actress Liyana Jasmay who talks about their latest movie Isyarat Cinta. Below is the full story  

Headline: Torn Between Two Lovers  
By Bissme S

Film producer-actor Rosyam Nor is sending out a signal in his company’s upcoming release, Isyarat Cinta. At a recent press conference, he said: “We have seen many Malay movies tackling love themes. But very few have a love story involving people with disabilities. I wanted to show that they are no different from the rest of us. They have the same feelings like us. They, too, want to love and be loved.”
Isyarat Cinta is about a blind woman, Dhia, who is torn between loving two men – businessman Iskandar who is deaf and handsome tourist guide Ariel.
Opening in cinemas on March 19, this RM1.5 million movie stars award-winning actress Liyana Jasmay in the lead with Adi Putra as Iskandar and Fizo Omar as Ariel.
Rosyam, an award-winning actor himself, said all three leads managed to give fantastic performances in the film helmed by Bade Azmi.
But with many Malay movies doing quite badly at the box office lately, one wonders if Rosyam is not worried about the fate of this film.
He admitted that many movies did not make a profit last year but he was lucky that his movie, Balistik, bucked the trend and turned a profit.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be lucky with Isyarat Cinta, too,” he says. 
“I believe my fans know I will not present an inferior product.That is the reason they come and see my films. They have faith that the movies I make will not disappoint them.
Hopefully, they will leave the cinema entertained.
“Isyarat Cinta is a simple story but it has many beautiful messages that will touch your heart and make you cry.”
Liyana added that playing a blind woman was challenging but she is thrilled to have tackled the role.
“I just observed how blind people interact and adapted what I have observed into my character. I am eager to see the audience’s reaction to my performance.”
Like Rosyam, Liyana has also spread her wings and started her own production company called Mermaid Studios. So far, she has produced several television shows.
Next month, she will be producing her first feature film. Called Bella & Jamie, it is a comedy about two best friends who fall for the same guy and become enemies. Expect their cat fights to 
have some hilarious moments.
Liyana also harbours dreams of sitting in the director’s chair. She has so far directed a number of short films. One of them, Jerat, was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York last year.
“I am directing short films to build up my confidence to tackle my first feature film,” she added.
Meanwhile, Rosyam is already looking at his next project, producing a comedy entitled Rempit Sampai Ke Langit.It’s about a Mat Rempit who is given some enhanced fuel by a scientist. The fuel is infused with unique properties, allowing his motorbike to drive at superfast speeds, even beating a Ferrari in a race at one point! Naturally, this leads to other hilarious shenanigans along 
the way.This film is also directed byBade, and will hit cinemas early next year.
Rosyam will team up with Bade again on another film, this time, a religious movie called Temu Janji Dengan Allah that talks about life, death and God.
The film will start shooting at the end of the year. As for returning to acting, Rosyam said he has become choosy about the script and the role. He recently appeared in Chowrasta under the direction of Razak Mohidden where he plays a gangster who wants his nephew to study hard and get proper paper qualifications from the university.
“The movie emphasises the importance of education,” he added.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Zizan Razak

Today, theSun published my interview with Zizan Razak, one of the hottest comedian in Malaysian entertainment scene. Below is the full story.   

Headline: Scaling New Heights  

By Bissme S 
A yellow  Ferrari was parked in front of PNB Darby Park Hotel and I was informed it belonged to Zizan Razak (right), the comedian and actor I was going to interview. That Ferrari is enough to paint a picture of how well Zizan is doing in his career.
Zizan was born and raised in Kuala Terengganu. He recalls: “When I was a young boy, I always dreamed of being an artiste. I never thought [that] my dream would come true and that I would achieve fame and success.”
But looking at the trend in the Malaysian entertainment industry, local comedians tend to have a short career lifespan. Many of them enjoy huge success but after a few years, they fade from the limelight and some of them have difficulty getting acting jobs.
One wonders if Zizan is worried that he, too, will meet the same fate.
“God plans everyone’s fate,” he says philosophically. “You have to accept what God has written for you. If God decides that in future I
should no longer be famous, I will accept it. I do not have any paper qualifications nor any other skills. Being a comedian is the
only job that I excel in. So, I will do my best to hang on to my profession and not fade away. I will keep doing what people like.
“I believe an artiste must never stop learning about his craft and when you are constantly learning, you will always be relevant.”
Yet, his success comes with some drawbacks. For one, the media has never stopped highlighting the messes he made in his personal life.
For starters, last year, his former manager Marina Juki filed a civil suit against him,  seeking RM535,500 in damages for an alleged breach of contract.
She claimed that Zizan had reneged on a four-year agreement he signed with her in 2011 to appoint her as his personal manager.
Last May, Astro had confirmed that Zizan is now under its management, having signed a RM2 million contract with the direct broadcast satellite pay TV service provider.
The media has also been highlighting details of his rocky relationship with his girlfriend, actress Emma Maembong.
“Nothing is perfect in life,” says Zizan. 
“You have to accept the good with the bad that comes with success.I am not angry at journalists for asking questions about my private life. They are  just doing their job. 
In Hollywood, the artistes face far worse intrusions from their media.”
However, Zizan prefers not to comment on the controversies in his private life, and would rather have the media focus on his career.
Indeed, good things are happening now in his professional life. He is playing the superhero Cicakman in Cicakman 3, opening in cinemas on March 12.
Under the direction of Yusry Abdul Halim and Ghaz Abu Bakar, Zizan plays a jobless father who suddenly discovers he has special lizard superpowers and, despite his clumsy nature, tries to save his city from destruction.
Zizan is stepping into the shoes of renowned comedian Saiful Apek who played the superhero in the first two movies.
After watching Cicakman 3, audiences are bound to make comparisons between him and Saiful.
“If you want to buy a car, you will make a comparison between the different brands,” says Zizan. 
“It’s the same here. I cannot stop the audience doing so. I am ready to hear any feedback from them. But my directors are happy with my performance.”
He points out that he is a big fan of the first two Cicakman movies. 
“When I was watching them in the past, I always dreamed of acting in a scene or two.”
But he never expected to actually land the role of Cicakman himself. He is also a big fan of Saiful.
“I think he is the best comedian after P. Ramlee. If there is a Cicakman 4, I would love to have Saiful make an appearance in the film.”
Two Cicakmen in one movie will certainly have some fans jumping with joy

Zizan never expected his dream will come true