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 

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