Monday, August 31, 2015

Hari Malaysia

Yesterday theSun run a story I did to celebrate our 58th Independence Day. Here is the full story

Headline: Malaysia In Their Eyes  
By Bissme S

Today, as we celebrate our 58th Independence Day, we invite three foreign-born individuals – two who are now permanent residents and one who is now a Malaysian citizen – to tell us their experience of becoming a part of this nation. They may not have been born here, but they have come to love their adopted country and now look upon it as their homeland.

Shantha with her three grandchildren 
*Shantha A. was born and raised in Madurai, India. She got married there to P. Subramaniam, a Malaysian technician, in September 1960. Two weeks later, her husband had to return to Malaysia, and nine months later, she followed him as an 18-year-old bride. That was 54 years ago.
“I had to travel alone and I also had to stay on the ship for a week,” recalls Shantha, 73, who lives in Seremban.
“That was my first time [travelling] anywhere outside of India.”
It was her mother and younger brother who sent her to the port in Madras with tears in their eyes.
“I cried because I was very close to my family and I knew I was going to miss them very much,” she says.
In 1967, Shantha officially became a Malaysian citizen.
“People in Malaysia are nice and friendly,” says the mother of five girls and grandmother of three granddaughters. She adds that her friends and neighbours made her feel comfortable when she first arrived.
“As a result, I did not feel homesick and I could adapt to my new life in Malaysia easily.”
She also had no difficulty picking up Bahasa Malaysia. She loves the many different foods here such as nasi lemak, lemang, chicken rendang and tom yam, and Malaysian fruits like durian and manggis which are not available in India.
One thing Shantha does not take for granted about Malaysia is the fact that the people here live together harmoniously despite being of different races. She says: “It is admirable that every religion has a place of worship here. “Malaysian culture is also so colourful and exciting because the people celebrate the many festivals of the various races.”

Oh Jun in his hair saloon in Jalan Ampang 
*Oh Jun was running a successful hair salon in his native South Korea but decided to migrate to Bangkok, Thailand, in 1999, as he wanted a change of scenery.
“I wanted a place that is more relaxed,” says the 47-yearold professional hairstylist. In 2003, he visited Kuala Lumpur for the first time and fell
madly in love with the city.
“KL is a city with a soul,” he says.
“You can see green everywhere and people here are friendly.”
Oh did not think twice about making Kuala Lumpur his new home though he had to start from scratch to open a salon in Jalan Ampang. Today, he cherishes the fact that he gets to enjoy the various cultures of different races. He visits his Muslim friends on Hari Raya, wearing baju Melayu, and has even attended a Hindu wedding where he was served banana leaf rice. This year marks his 12th year in Kuala Lumpur.
“Now,whenever I visit my family and friends in Korea, I will miss Kuala Lumpur very much,” he says.
Joe found love and a menaingful life in  Malaysia 
*Joe Hasham was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, and raised in Australia. But he has been living in this country for the last 31 years since he migrated here in 1984 with the aim of finding more business opportunities for his advertising agency. Over time, Malaysia has grown on him and his love for this country has grown as well. It was here that he found the love of his life, renowned theatre actress Datuk Faridah Merican. They married in 1989 and the two have played a vital role in the growth of Malaysian theatre.
“There are many things to like about Malaysia,” says Joe, 66, pointing to the country’s reputation as a haven for all kinds of delicious food.
“The best thing is that you can get food 24 hours a day. Eating has become our national pastime.”
When asked what will make Malaysia better in his eyes, he says: “I just wish Malaysia had four seasons. I had that in Australia and I miss not having that in Malaysia. It is always summer in Malaysia.”
But he adds: “I love my life choices here. I believe what I am doing here is meaningful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Jejak Warriors & Saw Teong Hin

The director ... Saw Teong Hin
Football. Fatherhood. Family … these elements will be found in the Malaysian made film Jejak Warriors. The director of the film Saw Teong Hin spoke to theSun about the challenges he faced in the film.  The article was published today. Here is the full article

Headline: On a Journey of Discovery
By Bissme S

Director Saw Teong Hin tackles the theme of family and fatherhood played out in the world of the ‘greatest game on earth’ in his latest film, Jejak Warriors, which will be released in cinemas nationwide on Aug 27.
The film stars Mohd Aliff Firdaus, Pekin Ibrahim, Nadiya Nissa, Harun Salim Bachik and Ogy Ahmad Daud. And playing a major supporting role in this football film is Kelantan’s state team The Red Warriors.Some of The Red Warriors key players who will be playing themselves in the film include Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor, Mohd Fitri Omar and Ahmad Fakri Saarani. Jejak Warriors centres on young teenager Wan Raja (Mohd Aliff), who loses his father in an unfortunate accident. While going through his father’s belongings, Wan Raja learn that he was a big fan of Kelantan’s The Red Warriors. The team has a huge and loyal fanbase and has won the Malaysia Cup in 2010.Hoping to honour his father’s spirit, Wan Raja decides to travel from his home in Johor Baru to the city of Kota Baru to meet The Red Warriors. Along the way, he encounters many adventures.
Helming the film is Saw, an industry veteran with some 20 years of experience directing and producing not only films but also advertisements and music videos. Saw made his feature film directorial debut with Puteri Gunung Ledang, which was the first Malaysian film featured at the Venice International Film Festival in 2004. He has also directed Apa Kata Hati? (2008) and Hoore! Hoore! (2012).
In this interview, Saw shares his thoughts on the local film industry and the challenges he faced making Jejak Warriors.

*Tell us more about Jejak Warriors?
We rarely make sports movies here. You do not have to be a sports fan to enjoy this film. [Playing a] sport is an activity that inspires us to strive to be better and to never give up. [All of us] are constantly striving to make our lives better. Sometimes our plans work out successfully, and sometimes they fail. But when we fail, we learn to pick up the pieces and continue with our struggle to make our lives better.

*What was it like directing the football players in Jejak Warriors.?
They are not actors. They were nervous in front of the camera. They were afraid they [would not know] where to stand and what kind of expressions to present for the  camera. I had an acting coach (actress Fauziah Nawi) to give them a few acting tips before filming.The good thing is they are playing themselves. I just asked them to be natural. The only problem was [their commitment to their football career]. I had to make sure our shooting schedule fit around their matches.”

*Do you face any challenges as a filmmaker in Malaysia?
Any filmmaker who tells you that he/she is completely happy is lying. There are so many constraints that we have to face as filmmakers in this country – from censorship to financing the movies. You must learn to work around these, and make the best of your situation. No one is spared the trails and tribulations.As a filmmaker, I handle my problems
stoically and cheerfully. You can easily focus on your problems but sometimes, that is not going to help you. Frankly speaking, you must find joy in the things you do.

* What are some of your challenges?
The market is dominated by certain genres of films and the producers want you to make films that will appeal to the audience. When you want to make a film that is out of the box, it is hard to get the funding. “I’m lucky that my next film project is one that is close to my heart. I have always wanted to make a Penang Hokkien film and the dream is slowly coming true. The film, You Mean the World to Me, will start shooting in September. It is a family drama about love and forgiveness. I wrote the script last year. But I could not find the funding for it. So I presented it as a stage play last year and managed to secure some financial backing for a movie.”

* What kind relationship did you share with your own father?
My father passed away in 2005. We were close. He was a businessman, a rice miller. But his business failed. It was difficult for him and the family. But there was no self-pity. He did not let his failure break him. He became a van driver to support us. I did not grow up in a wealthy environment. But I was a happy child. With him, I had experienced unconditional love.
Scenes from Jejak Warriors 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Polis Evo

Shaheizy Sam & Zizan Razak

Yesterday the sun published the interview I have done to promote the film Polis Evo which will hit the cinemas on Sept 17. Below is the full article 
Headline: On The Side of the Law
By Bissme S 
You might think having two big stars acting together in one film will end up with a clash of egos. But that was not the case on the set of Polis Evo, Ghaz Abu Bakar’s latest film.
The director says he did not face any such problem with his two leads, popular comedian Zizan Razak and award-winning actor Shaheizy Sam, both of whom enjoy a huge fan base. To prevent any conflicts on set, Ghaz said he made sure the script was fair to both his lead actors.
“I gave them equal screen time and equally challenging roles,” says the director, who has worked with Zizan a few times – in Hantu Kapcai (2012), Tokan (2013) and this year’s Cicakman 3.
“I made sure I did not give more attention to one actor over the other,” says Ghaz.
"Nobody felt neglected on my set.”
Moreover, Ghaz has known both actors long before this film project started.
“They respect me as a director and a friend. They are professionals and listen to what I have to say.”
Both actors agree there was no enmity on set between them.
“I do not believe in overshadowing my costars,” says Sam, who has acted in more than 20 films.
“It always takes teamwork to make a scene effective and believable.”
He stressed that an actor’s job is to make his role look convincing and not to plot on how to steal the thunder from his co-stars.
In fact, to create chemistry between their characters, Sam made it a point to hang out with Zizan off- camera.
“We would go for meals and discuss our characters,” he says.
Their intense discussions motivated the actors to give better performances. Zizan also sings high praises of his co-star, adding that he has always admired Sam as an actor because he feels Sam always puts his heart and soul into any character he plays.
Polis Evo also marks the first time the two actors have worked together on a film. This buddy cop action film isproduced under the Astro Shaw banner and centres on two police officers, Inspector Khai (played by Sam) and Inspector Sani (Zizan). The two come from different backgrounds – Khai is a city cop, while Sani is from a rural area. Their opposing personalities and styles put them at loggerheads, yet, they must work together to take down a drug syndicate.
According to Ghaz: “Both characters are smart but their method of solving crime is totally different.
“They also have big egos and this prevents them from becoming friends. However, they have to put their animosity aside to solve a crime.”
According to Zizan, the experience on this film has been really memorable.
“Sam is never stingy in sharing his knowledge with me,” he says,
adding that this role also allows the audience to see a different – more
serious – side of him, where his jokes are more subtle.
“What I like best about this film is that it does not focus on the
action scenes alone. It also emphasises the relationship between the two cops as well as that of their family members.”
For Sam, his character Khai is a serious cop who is good at his job but not good in forming relationships with other people.
“Secretly, I think Khai is a little jealous of Sani because Sani has family and friends who love him.”
To get into the skin of his character, Sam bulked up by spending five months in the gym and eating a strict, high protein diet.
“What I am doing is nothing new,” he says as he strongly believes that an actor must mould himself to fit into the character that he is playing,
whether it’s working out or gaining weight.
His role in Polis Evo also has a special meaning for Sam, as his late father was a policeman.
“Most of the time, my father went to work very early in the morning and came home late at night,” he recalls.
“As a result, I did not get to see much of him. He was a disciplinarian and did not talk much. He died when I was hardly 12. I did not get a chance to know my father well. But I remembered I wanted to be a cop just like him.”
Indeed, playing this role has allowed him to fulfil his childhood dreams and, in a way, get to know his father a little better.
“Now, I know how it feels to be a policeman,” he says.
Polis Evo will be in cinemas starting from Sept 17.

Scenes from Police Evo 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Saban Carrim

Today, theSun published my interview with the novelist Sabah Carrim. She talks about her passion for writing and understanding the world.

Headline: The Need To Write

Novelist  Sabah Carrim,32, confesses she never understood people when she was growing up. Writing was her vehicle to overcome this problem. Writing helps her make sense of the human race and the world she lives in.
“Writing disconnects me from my own world and allows me to travel to a different world and see how people feel,” she says.
“Writing also helps me come out of my comfort zone. I have always been curious about people and their motivations and their intentions.
“I want to know how deep they are, how superficial they are, what kind of world they live in and what kind of conclusions they have about life.”
For the last 14 years, this Mauritius-born law graduate has made Kuala Lumpur her second home. Currently, she is a PhD student in political studies and a part-time editor.
“I have always been interested in writing since I was a child,” says Sabah.
“I wrote poetry, short stories and plays. In fact, I wrote my first play when I was eight.”
To date, Sabah has written two novels. Her first, Humeriah, was published three years ago. The book tells of a woman who is on a journey to try and find the meaning of her life.
“I began Humeriah when I was only 16,” says Sabah, but the book was only published 14 years later – in 2012.During the years in between, she kept revisiting her first manuscript and making many changes.
“I have no regrets publishing my first novel 14 years later,”
says Sabah. 
“You cannot become a philosopher when you are 21. You need to experience life first.”
She also believes that one needs a certain level of maturity before becoming a novelist. In April, Sabah produced her second novel, Semi-Apes. The story revolves around Heera, a clinical psychologist, who talks about the bleakest memories of her childhood and family life. Though both her novels focus on relationships, she explains that they are different.
“In my first book, the focus is more on the relationship between a man and a woman while my second book looks at the relationship between a child and her parents,” she explains.
Humeriah, the title character in her first book, is a suffering soul stuck in a life she doesn’t want and who is always wondering if life out there is worth pursuing, while Heera is more confident and assertive.
The other big difference is that Humeriah is written in the third person, while Semi-Apes in written in the first person. Because of that, some might assume that the latter book could be based on her own life.
“Writing in the first person is difficult, and I know the implications,” she says.
“You are bare and you are nude, and you are facing the world and the world can judge however it wants and you must be ready for its judgment.
“One person who pushed me into writing is [British Indian novelist and essayist] Salman Rushdie.
“In his book Midnight’s Children [which won the Booker
Prize in 1981], he talks about his parents.
“His father, who is an Oxford graduate, reacted badly to Salman’s depiction of him. Strangely, his mother who is not highly educated like his father, took Salman’s depiction of her well and accepted his book as a work of fiction.
“Salman has given me the courage to write. In fact, I always believe that the first few stories an author writes are always (his/ her) own stories. You have to be prepared for any kind of judgement.”
Sabah will be officially launching her book Semi-Apes this Saturday at 2pm, with a book reading and a question and-answer plus signing session, at the MPH outlet in Mid Valley Megamall.

Sabah Carrim
Her first book
Her second book