Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nadia Khan

Today theSun published an interview I did with Nadia Khan, the best selling author who is directing her first stage production. The full article is here

Headline: On Other Side
By Bissme S

Nadia Khan  is the author of four bestselling novels and has also directed  four short films. Now, she is inspired to go into directing her first stage play, one which she penned herself.
Kedai DVD Paralel is a 90-minute theatre production that attempts to bring the world of cinema into the world of theatre. It centres on Mat, a jaded entertainment journalist and movie critic who is cynical about his career and the world he lives in.
One day, Mat stumbles into a DVD store in a parallel world. He discovers that the store sells movies with the same titles as those found in his world, but with the storylines turned topsy-turvy, creating some hilarious moments.
For example, the award-winning drama Bunohan in his world has become a comedy  in the parallel world, while the slapstick comedy Hantu Bonceng has been transformed into a serious, meaningful movie.
Nadia explains that she was inspired to explore what it would be like if the stories that we know turn out completely different.
She says: “I watch all kinds of films. There had been several instances when the movie I was watching was not to my liking, and my thoughts would drift to another plane where I would recreate a totally different storyline for the movie.”
She adds her play also explores how we always perceive the grass to be greener on the other side. “We are always dissatisfied with what is going on in our world and we are always dreaming about living in a place where things are supposed to be perfect.
“The play offers you the option of running away from your world and creating a whole new world.
So would you [run], or would you stay put in your world? “[If you stay put], you have a chance to fix the things that are broken and make your world a better place. [But] abandoning ship is always easier than fixing a sinking  ship.”
Kedai DVD Paralel is played out with just two actors – Fathi Shafie as Mat and  Safia Hanifa as Maya, the owner of the DVD store in the parallel world. Fathi  is a veteran of more than 20 theatre performances.
He has also participated in the 17th World Championship of Performing Arts in Hollywood, California, in 2013. The actor only has praises for Nadia. “Even though this is her first play, Nadia knows what she is doing.”
He adds that the moment he read her script, he was immediately attracted to the content and to the many similarities he shared with the character such as their passion for their job and their striving after perfection.
Kedai DVD Paralel will open at Blackbox at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre tomorrow until Sunday. One wonders if Nadia is feeling any jitters  regarding her stage debut.
“So far, no – and that is making me nervous. I do not want to have a panic attack at the last minute,” she says, laughing.
Asked to describe the experience so far, she says: “When I am directing short films,  one of my shortcomings is that I am not good with visuals.
“I focus more on directing the actors and getting them to give the emotions I need for my characters.”
She feels that in theatre, as the visuals are not as vital as the performance of the actors, so basically, doing a stage play is more her cup of tea.
“I have been in love with the theatre since I was young, and directing a stage play is something I had wanted to do for the longest time,” she adds.
Nadia says she is prepared to hear any comments or criticisms about her play.
“I am willing to listen when people criticise me constructively. If I fail, then it is part of my learning curve.I really believe it is better to do something and experience failures than to not start anything at all.”
Nadia Khan ... the director
Fathi... the actor playing the jaded man
The actors during rehearsals.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prisia Nasution ( Indonesian actress)

My interview with the Indonesia talented actress Prisia Nasution took place in Alexis Cafe at Great Eastern Mall, Jalan Ampang. Today theSun published this interview. Here is the full article.  

Headline: The Accidental Actress 

Award-Winning Indonesian actress Prisia Nasution has taken on the female lead role in the Malaysian-made film, Interchange, that is slated to open in cinemas next year.
The film, under the direction of Dain Said, is a supernatural thriller that focuses on a series of gruesome murders under investigation by the authorities. 
One of the reasons that motivated the 31-year-old actress to accept the role is because she shares a warm relationship with the director.The first time Prisia and Dain met was in 2012 at the Asian Film Festival in Macau, China.
“There was a connection between us,” says Prisia.
“We hit it off immediately. We had so much fun. I enjoyed the time I spent with him. I even told him that it will be more fun if we make a film together.”
Three years later, she and Dain are making this dream a reality.
“A lot of people out there are making safe movies,” she says,
“But Dain is making a movie that is out of the box.Interchange is about birth, life and death.”
Prisia is not allowed to describe her role in detail as it will reveal too much of the plot. She also wants viewers to be able to discover the film on their own.
“All I can say is that my character has a lot of layers,” she
Going back to her past, Prisia explains that her career as an actress was a happy accident. She started out as an athlete who represented her country in silat. Later, she began receiving offers to be a catwalk model.
“I agreed to the offers because I wanted to earn money.” 
But she hated the industry.
“Everyone is always judging how you look, and always finding
flaws with your appearance,” she recalls.
“You hear harsh comments like you are too skinny … your legs are too big ... your hands are too manly … your left eye is smaller than your right eye.
“Modelling was all about appearances.I stopped appreciating myself and I did not like that.”
Then, in 2007, acting jobs came knocking at her door and she appeared in a handful of telemovies before making the leap to the big screen.
Her role as a ronggeng (a type of Javanese dance) dancer in the movie Sang Penari, based on the Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk trilogy written by Ahmad Tohari, earned her the best actress award at the 2011 Indonesian Film Festival.
Ironically, she remembers having failed her first audition for that role. 
“But then, I started reading the novel and I fell in love with the story.”
Prisia believes in being selective about her choice of roles and only wants projects that she is passionate about. She is also a strong believer of method acting, from learning ronggeng for Sang Penari to living among indigenous people for her role in Sekolah Rimba, where she played a teacher who works with indigenous children.
“I ate what they ate,” she recalls. 
“I slept where they slept. I learned their dialect. Research is important if you want to give a convincing performance.”
Some actors have complained they have a hard time shaking off their character roles in-between filming. Fortunately, Prisia has never experienced this kind of madness.
“I hope I never do,” she says with a laugh. 
“I am in character between ‘action’ and ‘cut’. Before ‘action’, people can joke with me, and after ‘cut’, people can still joke with me.”

Prisia ( left) with the Interchange's Director Dain Iskandar Said and the Interchange's Producer Nandita Solomon 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Taubat Si Tanggang

Today theSun published my interview with Adilfitri Ahmad who talks about his graphic book Taubat Si Tanggang. Here is the full story 

Headline: A folktale Reborn
By Bissm S 

Adifitri Ahmad  a full-time web designer and illustrator, has given the traditional Malay folktale of Si Tanggang a new lease of life in his latest graphic novel, Taubat Si Tanggang (left). Coloured by artists Akmal Aziz and Khairul Ammar and published by Maple Comics, the 100-page book (priced at RM20), recently hit the bookshops. 
The original folktale centres on a poor boy  named Tanggang who dreams of becoming rich and famous. He leaves his small fishing village to find his dream, despite his mother’s protests. Tanggang works hard and achieves the fame and success he sought, even marrying a beautiful wife. Unfortunately, success has changed him. He forgets about his poor old mother pining for him back in the 
village. When his ship happens to sail to his village, he feels ashamed of her and rejects her. Heartbroken, his mother 
places a curse on him and a bolt of lightning turns Tanggang, his ship and all the people on it into stone. Adifitri, 35, decided to add to this local folktale by focusing on Tanggang’s life after he has been turned into stone. 
In his novel, Tanggang is a stone-creature remorsefully searching for his mother to beg for her  forgiveness. 
“This is a story of  redemption and atonement,” Adifitri said. 
It’s a different side of  Tanggang from the arrogant, ungrateful character portrayed in the original tale. Along his journey in search of his mother, a humble and remorseful Tanggang performs good deeds. He finds that the more good he does, the more stones disappear from his body, and the more human he becomes. Yet, this book will not end with him finding his mother. Instead, Adifitri is planning two more books before Tanggang finally finds her. 
The illustrator is concerned with the fact that many Malaysians are unaware of this folktale. He said: “I [had] a few friends who asked me who Tanggang is. I do not blame them. Today, you have to  compete with so much content and i nformation out there. You have to present your story in an interesting  manner if you want to grab attention. 
“I am hoping these graphic books will teach [the] younger g eneration to be interested in k nowing  Tanggang. And who 
knows, they might even dig up the original text.” 
Adifitri pointed out that Hollywood is always churning out different interpretations of E uropean fairytales. For example, 
the recent film Maleficent is a d ifferent  interpretation of the c lassic story of Sleeping Beauty, and the musical film 
Into the Woods combines s everal stories to keep the tales  interesting and alive for  modern audiences. This is what he 
is trying to do with Tanggang. 
“Some people want  Tanggang to be removed from our Malay folk stories,” he lamented. 
“They feel the idea of a mother cursing her son and God turning him into stone is not I slamic. “I feel it is a shame if this happens. The story of Tanggang is part of our heritage and culture, and we should appreciate it.”  
Recently, Adifitri presented a paper on his graphic novel at a conference in the U niversity of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He hopes this conference will indirectly give some exposure to Malay folk stories in the West.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


On last Thursday, theSun published an interview I did with the actress Lisa Surihani who will be expecting her first child soon. She talks about her career and motherhood. Here is the full interview 

Headline: Becoming A Mother 

Lisa Surihani has proven that she is an actress to be reckoned with by winning three main awards. In 2008, she walked away with the Most Promising Actress award for her performance in I’m Not Single at the 21st Malaysian Film Festival.
Two years later, she grabbed the Best Actress award for Lagenda Budak at the 23rd Malaysian Film Festival. She also won the Best Supporting Actress at the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian for Ombak Rindu the same year. 
In 2012, she married actor cum film director Yusry Abdul Halim
and now , Lisa, 29, is pregnant with their first child. 
In this exclusive interview, she answers the  following

*Tell us about your early years in the entertainment industry?

When I was 11, a relative of mine suggested that I should try my luck as a TV commercial talent. I loved the idea because I could be earning my own money at a young age. So I sent my resume to several advertising agencies. Interestingly, my first few jobs were appearing in telemovies. I became a child artiste. My parents were strict in making sure that I did not miss school and that I never neglected my studies. All my shootings had to be done during my school holidays. I only became a fulltime actress after graduating with a law degree.
My advice to every child artiste out there is never to miss school. Going to school is not just for your education and getting a paper qualification. Going to school gives you a normal childhood. It is important for every child to have a normal childhood. In Hollywood, we have seen many cases where child stars became messed up adults because they did not have a normal childhood.

*Why did your relative suggest that you try your luck at being a TV commercial talent?

It could be because I was very bubbly, lively, chatty and always laughing. But I was not always like that. When I was in kindergarten, I was always picked  on. I was a victim of bullying. I became
an introvert and hardly opened my mouth. It is only when I went to
primary school that I gained more confidence in myself. I was not bullied during primary school.

* You got married at 26. Were you afraid that marriage would hurt your career?

I never had second thoughts about marrying Yusry. The stigma that once an actress gets married, she will no longer be popular is outdated. Today’s audience are more mature. In fact, the trend now is that fans love you more if you are married and have children. They always love a celebrity family.

* You are starting a new chapter in your life as a mother soon. How areyou preparing for motherhood?

I have read many books on pregnancy and motherhood. Most of them are written by Caucasians. You cannot accept everything that they have written because we ( Asians) are a little different from them in terms of physicality and culture. I also attended many forums on pregnancy and motherhood.

* Are you still going to act after giving birth to your first child?

I am not sure what I am going to do next. But I am passionate about acting. Before getting pregnant, I had a hectic schedule. I was shooting films back to back. I cannot continue with that kind
of schedule after having a baby.Having this baby will bring a huge change in my life. But I know of some actresses such as Fasha Sandha who  has managed to balance motherhood and their acting career.

* Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I hope I am still acting then. I recently directed a short film. After directing the short film, I have new respect for my husband. irecting a film is not an easy task. You have to be involved in every aspect of the film. Who knows I might try my hand at directing a film. 


*Who is one person you’d like to meet?

Angelina Jolie. It will be very interesting to talk to her. She is a woman of substance. She is not just a pretty face.

* What are your strengths?

I always see the good in everything. If you allow negativity to weigh you down, it is not good for you in the long run.

* What are your weaknesses?

My mum says I am too generous and sometimes she worries that some people might take advantage of me. She always tells me to do everything in moderation.

* What is one change you’d like to see taking place in this country?

It will be great if we get to see healthy debates between politicians
from different political parties on our television screens. 
Lisa with her Husband Yusry

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Movies on Motherhood

Today theSun published a story of mine that touches on mother's day. Here is the full story.  

Headline: Mommie Dearest 
Suggested Standfirst : Here are 10 movies showcasing the all-consuming love a mother feels for a child, which can either nourish – or destroy

By Bissme S

Full story 

This coming Sunday, we will honour all mothers in conjunction with Mother’s Day. Here are 10 movies from different parts of the world and in different languages that depict motherhood at both its best and worst.

1)August: Osage County (English)
Directed by John Wells
Oscar winner Meryl Streep is brilliant in this movie, playing a drug-addicted cancer  patient named Violet Weston who is horribly mean to her husband and her three daughters. Watching this movie, you will be grateful and thankful for your mum who is nothing like Violet Weston.
2)Confessions (Japanese)
Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima 
A teacher discovers that two of her students are responsible for the death of her young daughter. Out for revenge, the teacher makes their lives a living hell, making the students wish they were dead instead. This thriller will have you glued to your seat till the end of the movie.
3)Mother (Korean)
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
A mentally-challenged man gets arrested for the murder of a teenage girl. His mother goes all out to prove his innocence, despite almost everyone else believing that her son committed the murder. Eventually, she does discover the shocking truth, which leads to unexpected results. This shows that a mother will go to any length to protect her son.
4)All about My Mother (Spanish)
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Manuela, a single mother, loses her teenage son Esteben in a car accident. Esteben had always wanted to meet with his estranged father, about whom his mother refused to share any information. After Esteban’s death, she goes in search of her ex (a transvestite) to tell him about the son he never knew he had. The movie will make you laugh and cry at the same time.
5)Mother India (Hindi)
Directed by Mehboob Khan

A widow raises her two sons, Birju and Ramu, through hardship and poverty. The injustices of life have turned her son Birju into a bandit. The movie has a tragic ending, when the frustrated mother kills her bandit son and he dies in her arms.
6)Pasumpon (Tamil)
Directed by P. Bharathiraja

A widow gets remarried but her son doesn’t like to share his mother’s love with his stepbrothers. So he runs away from home and stays with his grandfather. When he is an adult and begins to understand his mother better, it’s too late. His mother is dying in bed and no matter how many tears he sheds, he cannot bring his mother back to life.
7)Si Tanggang (Bahasa Malaysia)
Directed Jamil Sulong

A young man leaves his small village to seek fame and fortune, and promises his mother that he will return home and they will live happily ever after. However, when  he does sail home, he has been changed by wealth and rejects his mother. Heartbroken, she curses him, and the heavens soon turn her son and his ship into stone.
8) Pasir Berbisik (Bahasa Indonesia)
Directed by Nan Achnas

Daya lives with her overprotective mother Berlian. Out of the blue, her estranged father Agus returns home. Immediately, Daya becomes close to Agus as he is less strict compared to Berlian. But Agus reveals his true colours when he sells Berlian into prostitution. When Berlian learns about this, she poisons her husband to death. Christine Hakim and Slamet Rahardjo play the husband and wife brilliantly.
9) The Unwritten Law (Mandarin & Cantonese)
Directed by Ng See-yuen

An old prostitute, Lau Wai Lan, kills her perverted client in self-defence and faces the death sentence in court. Luckily for her, a hotshot lawyer, Raymond Lau, agrees to defend her. Eventually, she discovers that Raymond is her long lost son that she once gave up for adoption, but does not have the heart to tell him the truth.
10)We Need to Talk about Kevin (English)
Directed Lynne Ramsay

This British-American film revolves around a teenager, Kevin Khatchadourian, who is arrested after shooting his classmates. His mother Eva remembers his early years, and her difficulty bonding with Kevin. As a baby, he cries incessantly, and as a child, he rebuffs Eva’s attempts at affection. This disturbing movie simply tells you that not all children are meant to love
their mother.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ainunl Muaiyanah & Mother's Day

Mother's Day is around the corner (May 10). I got an award wining author Ainunl Muaiyanah to pick ten novels that depicts motherhood. theSun publishes the story today. Here is the story 

Headline: The Maternal Instict
Standfirst To celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, a local author shares a selection of local novels that depict motherhood at its best

Full story: 
Ainunl Muaiyanah Sulaiman is an award winning novelist and poet. Among her awards are the Hadiah Sastera Perdana Malaysia 2012 for her poem entitled Mimpi Dari Sebuah Lukisan Ilusi, Hadiah Utama Hadiah Sastera Kumpulan Utusan 2013 for her poem Berbagi Puisi, and Hadiah Sastera Perdana Malaysia 2013 for her first novel Sepetang di Kafe Biblioholic.Currently, she is an editor at the Institute of Translation and Books Malaysia. Here, she shares her pick of novels written by fellow local authors that celebrate a mother’s unique love. 

1) Surat-Surat Perempuan Johor
Author: Faisal Tehrani

The story is told through letters between two women who discuss everything under the sun –from politics to their family conflicts. One of them decides not to get married to a widower whom she 
loves. She is convinced she will not make a good mother and wife because she cannot get pregnant. But the widower’s son finally convinces her to marry his dad. The relationship between 
the stepson and the stepmother is well portrayed here.
“The novel is saying that a woman should know herself as a woman first before she becomes a wife and a mother,” Ainunl says.
“Faisal is very good at capturing a woman’s emotions in his book.”

2) Aci Patmabi
Author: Azmi Iskandar Merican

The story takes place in Penang during the British rule where a woman is trying to prevent her heritage land from being sold to outsiders.However,her world comes tumbling down when her husband cheats on her. The couple then go their separate ways. Her children want to stay with their father instead of with her, and she allows them to follow their heart.
“She is a mother who puts her children’s happiness before her own,” Ainunl says.


3) Ibu Adalah Pentafsir dan Sungai
Author: Shanon Ahmad

A middle-aged male professor is in a forum where his female students are asking for equal rights. These female students remind him of his early childhood years and his mother. His father likes to spend time in the forest, playing with birds and does not contribute any income to the family. His mother had to work hard to raise him as well as to support his father, never complaining of her difficult life and trying to make the best of her situation.
“The saying, ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ is the best way to describe the book,” Ainunl says.
4) Wajah Seorang Perempuan
Author: S Othman Kelantan

Set during the Japanese Occupation, the novel follows the trials of Siti Musalmah, after her husband and children died.
“Losing your children can never be easy for any mother,”
Ainunl opines.
“Yet, she handles the tragedies bravely without losing the will to carry on with her life.”
5) Rumah Itu Duniaku
Author: Hamzah Hussein

An illegitimate child is forced to work as a maid in her father’s house while her stepmother abuses her. However, she will not leave the house, no matter what happens.
Ainunl has this to say of the book: “The novel is not about motherhood but the lead character who is a like a mother to everyone in the house. The novel is saying that for a woman,
her house is everything.”
6) Seorang Tua di Kaki Gunung
Author: Azizi Haji Abdullah

An old man wants to build a traditional Malay house. But his son who stays in the city believes it is a ridiculousidea. This leads to a conflict between generations, and a woman is caught
between her husband and her son. In the end, she chooses her husband over her son.
“The emotions of a woman who gets trapped between her role as a wife and a mother is well portrayed here,” Ainunl says.
7) Setenang Cahaya Hati
Author: Salina Ibrahim

After the death of her husband, a woman is shocked to learn that her husband has a secret second family. She feels betrayed as a wife. But as a mother, she cannot bring herself to hate her stepchild. 

8)  Gadisku Wan Adnin
Author: Noor Suraya

An aristocratic grandmother has been raising her granddaughter with an iron fist, and forces her to marry an aristocrat. Things get more interesting when the readers learns that her grandmother is not really an aristocrat herself.
“This is not story about a mother,”Ainunl explains. 
“The story focuses more on a grandmother, and every grandmother has a mother’s instincts.”

9) Mawar Syurga
Author: Fatimah Saidin

Mariam is totally devoted to her husband, despite being the target of his inferiority complex and jealousy. Things get more complicated when she has a child who is deaf. Once again,
she makes the best of the situation and finds ways for her son to adapt to the world around him.
“You will admire Mariam’s strength as a wife and a mother,” says Ainunl.


10) Boneka Rusia Guido
Author: Wan Nor Azriq

Teenager Chairil Gibran and his mother decide to move to Kuala Lumpur. But the boy soon gets trapped in the political games of Tuan Megat Guido.
“I like the way the author has portrayed the relationship between Chairil and his mother,” says Ainunl.
“It is not a typical relationship. The mother and son share a more open-minded relationship.They are more like friends than mother and son.”