Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Shanjhey Kumar Perumal has just directed a Malaysian Tamil film called Jagat which is about is a coming of-age story which explores the boy’s relationship with his father and uncles. I have interviewed this director and here is the full story that was published in theSun today.  

Headline: Following A Dream 
By Bissme S

Shanjhey Kumar Perumal certainly proved that dreams can come true if we have the courage and faith to pursue them. When he entered the film industry 10 years ago, his dream was to direct a feature film. He never once lost faith in that.
Recently, his dream came true when he completed his first feature film, Jagat, which is based on a screenplay he wrote. If everything goes on track, this Malaysian-made Tamil film will open in cinemas here in mid December.
 “It is hard to get backers interested in financing a movie,” says the 35-year-old Shanjhey, who has directed television shows and documentaries
mostly in Tamil but also in bahasa.
But with digital know-how, production costs nowadays can be kept low, and that has tempted him to turn his longtime dream into reality.
Shot with a budget of RM600,000, Jagat (bottom, right) takes place in the 90s and focuses on a 12-year-old Indian boy called Shankar whose family has moved from a rubber estate to a big town and ended up living in a squatter area.
Shanjhey explains that Jagat is a coming of-age story which explores the boy’s relationship with his father and uncles. His father is a general worker while one of his uncles is a gangster and another is a drug addict.
The boy Shankar is played by newcomer Harvin Raj. Others in the cast include Jibrail Rajhula, Tinesh Sathi Krishnan, Kuben Mahadevan, Senthil Kumaran
Muniandy, G. Crak Asuranz and Aahmuu Thirunyanam.
The idea for the story first came to Shanjhey 10 years ago. Initially, it was supposed to be a comedy but with time, the story turned into a drama.
“When you are young, you are more playful and attracted to fun stuff,” says Shanjhey.
“But as you get older, you are less playful and more serious.”
When asked what he intends to impart in his film, Shanjhey says: “Many Malaysian Indians have forgotten their history and their roots. I am hoping this film will remind them to cherish their past.
“In the 80s and 90s, many Indian families migrated from the rubber estates to the town areas, and my film captures this aspect of history. It follows
the challenges of the members of one particular family as they try to adapt to their new environment.”
Shanjhey is hoping that other races who watch the film will, indirectly, come to understand the Malaysian Indian community better.
“We live in a multiracial society and, sad to say, we do not really understand each other well,” he says.
He recalls doing a documentary about 1Malaysia a few years ago where he asked
people in the streets what they think about 1Malaysia.
“Everyone was commenting on food. They think 1Malaysia is about eating nasi lemak, char kway teow and thosai.
“I really believe our racial unity should be more than just eating each other’s food. We should also try to understand each other’s history and culture. One of the simplest ways to do that is through the arts. When you understand each other’s history and culture, there will be less hatred among us.”
He also reveals that the film’s story has similarities to his own life story. When he was five, his family had to stay in a squatter  area, just like Jagat’s Shankar.
“I stayed in the squatter area for three years before moving into a double-storey house,”says Shanjhey.
He included some of his early experiences living in the squatter area in the film, and used some of the people he met as inspiration for the characters
in the story.
“When I was young, I wanted to be a scientist,” he remembers.
“When I became a teenager,I wanted to be a gangster instead,
because I found that society seemed to have more respect for such people compared to educated people.”
Luckily, as he grew older, Shanjhey became wiser and realised that becoming a gangster would not benefit him in the long run. One wonders how his
parents feel about his career as a filmmaker.
Laughing, he says: “My father seems to be all right with my career choice. But it is a different story with my mother. She wanted me to have a career
that provides a stable income, like a teacher. Even now, my mother keeps telling me to get a proper job.”
Yet, Shanjhey has no regrets.
“I know I am walking a difficult path but I am happy with my choice. I have the privilege to do what my heart desires.”

Shanjhey.... telling a story that is close to his heart

Monday, September 14, 2015

Faizal Hussein & Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Today thesun published my interview with the award winning actor Faizal Hussein where he talks about his role in the movie Kapsul where he shares screen time with our former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as well as playing a woman in telemovie called Chepa Penari Hadrah Terakhir. Here is the  full article  

Headline: History in the Making
By Bissme S

It is not every day that an actor gets to co-star with a former prime minister. Thus, award-winning actor Faizal Hussein, 48, considered it an honour indeed to share screentime in his latest film with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“He is my favourite prime minister,” says Faizal.
“He has done so much good for the country. He’s made Malaysia famous in the eyes of the world. I never imagined that one day, I would be acting opposite my idol. I will cherish this moment in my life forever.”
Mahathir makes a cameo appearance as himself in Kapsul – what Faizal calls “a patriotic science-fiction film”. Opening in cinemas this Thursday, the story centres on an IT expert named Zohri (played by Faizal) who opens a time capsule. He is then zapped back in time to four different eras of Malaysian history.
Initially, the production team thought the elder statesman would not agree to appear in the film. They had even shot the scene between Faizal with a stand-in for Mahathir.
“Imagine our surprise when Tun agreed to appear,” says Faizal.
“We were glad to reshoot the scene.”
After shooting the scene, the elder statesman and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, were gracious enough to stay back for lunch with the cast and crew.
“Their humbleness really touched my heart,” says Faizal. Faizal even had the chance to present his autobiography Limelight to Mahathir. Published in 2012, the book depicts Faizal’s four decades-long experience as a Malaysian actor.
Laughing, he recalls: “I almost fell off my chair when Tun wanted my signature on the book. Everyone wants Tun’s signature, but he wanted my
Besides the attraction of Mahathir’s cameo in Kapsul, Faizal says there are other reasons to catch this film.
“The story for Kapsul is really out of the box,” he explains, adding that the character he plays ‘jumps’ into the body of a total stranger in each era and sees the events happening from the person’s eyes.
“If you remember the TV series Quantum Leap (starring Scott Bakula) in the 90s, then this movie shares similar concept,” he adds.
The first era that Zohri gets zapped into is during the Japanese Occupation in the 1940s. Here, he is a nationalist fighting against the Japanese. Then, he ‘moves’ into the 1950s where he is the driver of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj who is fighting for independence from the British as well as battling against the communists. He ‘sees’ the Tunku becoming the first prime minister of the Federation of Malaya and later of Malaysia. Then Zohri finds himself in the 1970s where he is a settler in one of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) schemes. Set up by the second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Felda changed the social and economic condition of the poverty-stricken rural Malay community by offering them land and help to cultivate and market their crops.
Faizal says viewers will get to see the struggles that a Felda settler underwent to develop his land. In the final era, Zohri finds himself in 2002, in the body of an old man who feels extremely sad to hear that the leader of his nation, Mahathir, is resigning.
“The movie will remind us, especially the younger generation, how Malaysians and our leaders have struggled to build this country,” says Faizal. “We must never forget our history. This is a perfect movie to be screened on the day after we celebrate Malaysia Day (Sept 16).
“The movie also has lots of CGI (computer-generated imagery) that will appeal to the youngsters.”
Faizal adds Kapsul is also a testament to its director and scriptwriter, Martias Mohd Ali, who died of cancer last year. Martias was only 46 and Kapsul is his first feature film.
“The movie is his vision,” Faizal says.
“It is very sad that he did not live to see the film opening in cinemas.”
Faizal will next be seen in the role of a feminine man who has to wear women’s attire and become a dancer in the telefilm, Chepa Penari Hadrah Terakhir.
“You will get to see me shaking my hips,” he says with a laugh but quickly adds that the film is not a comedy. Instead, it tells the sad tale of a father whose college-going daughter is ashamed of her father’s femininity and disowns him. Faizal has since gone on a diet to look thinner and kept his hair long for the role.
As for his reason to taking up the role, he says: “I am always looking out for stories that are out of box and roles that challenged me as an actor. “I am glad this script has fallen onto my lap. I have never played a woman before.”
Shooting for this telefilm will begin sometime in October.
A scene from Kapsul ... Faisal ( left) shares screen time with Mahathir Mohamad

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pak Pandir Yo!

Dancer and choreographer Alam Wakaka is featuring the the popular character Malay folklore, Pak Pandir in a dance drama that will be staged at our national theatre Istana  

Headline: Return Of Pak Pandir 
By Bissme S

PAK PANDIR is a popular character in Malay folklore who is depicted as simpleminded and naive – the very incarnation of the village idiot whose foolishness always lands him in hilarious situations. Dancer and  choreographer Alam Wakaka is showcasing this character in a dance drama entitled Pak Pandir Yo! at
Panggung Sari, Istana Budaya, this weekend (Sept 19 and 20) at 3pm and 8pm.
This 90-minute performance is part of the Kuala Lumpur International Dance Festival under the month-long, inaugural Diverse City 2015: Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival programme, which ends on Oct 4.
“I have choreographed many dance shows for corporate events,” says Alam, who also runs dance company Alamak
“This will be my first time producing and directing one.”
He adds that he wants to combine dance and comedy for this show. For Pak Pandir Yo!. Alam is transplanting
this clownish character from his village setting into the city. It centres on how Pak Pandir and his wife Mak  Andih cope with visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time. Naturally, the couple experience a big cultural  shock, encountering many new experiences that both excite and astonish them.
Pak Pandir’s gaffes, of course, land the couple in funny situations that will have audiences (hopefully) laughing their heads off. On his reasons for putting up this production, Alam explains that there had been many plays that focused on legendary characters like Puteri Gunung Ledang, Hang Tuah and Mahsuri.
“As a result, many people know about the stories behind
these legends,” he says. 
“But there has not been a theatre production focusing on Pak Pandir. I find Pak Pandir has become a forgotten folklore character. I hope to inject some life into his story and remind the young generation of his existence.”
The dance show will not have any dialogue. The plot and characters’ emotions will be expressed through dance.
“It will be like watching a silent movie,” says Alam, who won Malaysia’s first So You Think You Can Dance competition in 2007. 
“The only sound you can hear is the music.”
There will be 26 dancers in the show. Alam plans to showcase various dance forms, from traditional dances like dikir barat, to forms of street dancing such as breakdance.
“Some quarters may look down on street dancing,” he says. 
“They feel what we are doing is not an art form because most street dancers are self-taught dancers and have no formal training.
“They forget that street dancers also put in a lot of hard work and energy into their choreography. As a result, they also deserve some respect.
“But, you cannot force people to respect you. All you can do is to ignore such negative talk and just concentrate on your work.”
Leading the production of Pak Pandir Yo! is rising young actor Mohd Redha Rozlan, 27, better known as Mat Redho, who will take on the role of Pak Pandir.
“Since there is no dialogue in this production, I have to rely on my facial expressions and body language to depict Pak Pandir’s story,” says Mat Redho.
“I think that is very challenging [but] I love challenging roles.”
Most actors do research on their character and Mat Redho is no different, as he has turned to the silent films of Charlie Chaplin for inspiration.Now, he has new respect for the legendary comedy actor.
“Chaplin was brilliant in using his body to express his emotions,” says Mat Redho.
Comedienne Refika Noviati Faturohman, better known as Vicha Saywho, plays Mak Andih. This Indonesian actress has made Malaysia her second home, and has been a regular guest on Astro’s comedy show Maharaja Lawak Mega for  three years.She describes her character as someone wise, and who wants a better life for herself and her husband.
“Unfortunately, her husband does not listen to her,” she says.
“Despite his foolishness, she loves him very much.”
Refika explains that there is a scene where the wife gets tired of her husband’s foolishness and leaves him stranded in Kuala Lumpur.
But she misses him in the end and returns to the city to search for him.
“The scene when they reunite is very touching. You have to admire her willingness to love her husband despite his flaws.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

kushairi Zuradi & Simptomatik Press

Today theSun published my interview with the author and publisher Kushairi Zuradi. He is interested to see the growth of Malay science fiction. The interview took place in Chawan, Bangsar. Here is the full article.

Headline: The Sci-Fi Advocate
By Bissme S

KUSHAIRI ZURADI discovered late last year that not many publishers were keen to publish Malay science fiction books when he offered his collection of short stories to them. The 25-year-old author and medical school graduate recalls: “Some publishers believe the readership for Malay science fiction is too small [for them] to make a decent profit and they do not want to take a chance on these novels.”
Realising this, in August last year, Kushairi decided to found his own publishing company, Simptomatik Press, to self-publish his first book, Biohazard, featuring 14 of his short stories. All 14 stories dealt with microorganisms.
“In my final year in medical school, I studied microorganisms and I was fascinated by their life-cycles,” says Kushairi, who is currently waiting to start his housemanship.
“You cannot see them but they are everywhere. We have been taught that 90% of [the cells in the human body are actually] organisms ranging from bacteria to parasites.”
Apart from publishing his own book, Kushairi has helped other science fiction writers get their works published. To date, his Simptomatik Press has published Fadli Al-Akiti’s Gugurnya Azazil, Nor Azida Ishak’s Resesif and Fadzlishah Johanabas’ Faith and the Machine, which are all available in bookstores.
A fifth book – Suatu Hari Nanti Manusia Akan Melupakan Tuhan is written by Fahmi Mustaffa – is due out at the end of the year. This science fiction tale takes place in a post-apocalyptic Kuala Lumpur where the survivors have created a new human race with the help of a computer chip. They believe that their creations are better than God’s, and over time, they forget about their own creator and about religion. However, there is a small community on the fringes of Kuala Lumpur who still believe in God, and this sparks a conflict between both factions.
Kushairi says he hopes to encourage more science fiction writing among the Malay community in Malaysia
“I have a dream where Malaysia will one day host a science fiction literature festival.”
In fact, Kushairi has plans to create another company that will publish factual books focusing on science subjects in Malay such as genetics. He believes one of the reasons why Malay- language science fiction is not as developed as other genre is because many Malays are not interested in reading scientific books.
“I am hoping to change this scenario,” he says.
“These scientific books will not be complicated. In fact, I will be using simple terms to explain the scientific theories. They will be reader-friendly.
“I want to increase the science knowledge among Malaysians. I believe once they show interest in science, they will pick up Malay science fiction novels to read. That way, we will see a growth in the Malay science fiction readership.”
One wonders if Kushairi, as a Muslim, feels conflicted in writing and publishing science fiction books? 
“Honestly speaking, I do not have that kind of dilemma,” he says.
“The first word of the Quran that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad was read. So it shows that Islam encourages us to read and gain knowledge, including scientific knowledge.
“In fact, history has shown that Muslim scholars in the past have dabbled in scientific experiments and contributed vastly to scientific development.
“Whenever I write science fiction, I always go back to my creator and I never forget my faith.” Kushairi himself only became an ardent reader in his late teens, when he got hooked by Dan Brown’s mystery thriller, The Da Vinci Code.
“I was only 17, then,” he recalls.
Another novel that impressed him was Faisal Tehrani’s 1511, which takes place in a future where a Muslim army takes over the White House.
“The story was so believable,” he says.
“I love the book so much that I forced my friends to read it. In fact, I bought a few copies and distributed them to my close friends for them to read.” 
Kushairi with the four  books that he published

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Louisa Chong

Veteran actress Louisa Chong talks to me about  how her husband survived a series of debilitating strokes and lives to stand tall again. The article was published in theSun today. 

Headline: Rising Above Adversity
By Bissme S

Watching your loved ones suffering in pain and on the verge of dying can be a petrifying experience. Veteran actress Louisa Chong knows this all too well. Four years ago, she had to rush her 64-year-old businessman husband Hamid Samad to a hospital after he complained he was not feeling well.
“I was told that he had suffered a mild stroke,” says Louisa, 60, who was a household name in the 90s starring in TV series such as Jangan Ketawa and 2+1.
“They wanted to keep him in the hospital for few days just to observe him. But his condition did not look serious. Throughout the day, he looked fine. He could talk properly. He was watching his football game and reading his favourite newspaper.”
However, the next morning, he suffered a second stroke and this time, he was in a far serious condition.
“He was shaking so violently,” Louisa recalls.
“I was in a state of panic and hysteria. I remembered running to the front desk and demanding the nurses do something to calm my husband. The doctor had assured me earlier that a second stroke was unlikely [to happen so soon after the first], so I was surprised [that it happened].”
She was in for another nasty shock, as a few hours after his second stroke, Hamid suffered a third, causing him to vomit blood.
“There were so many wires attached to him and nobody knew whether he would survive or not,” she said.
Seeing her husband in such a helpless condition made her feel defeated and depressed. But in the end, she was able to pull herself together and muster all her strength for her husband. Even when he fell into a coma, Louisa never stopped talking to him. She kept asking him to open his eyes and to get better. Four days later, he came out of the coma but he was not the same. He could not walk or talk properly.
“I had to feed him and I had to bathe him,” she recalls.
Louisa was determined her husband would not be bedridden forever. She used everything available, from modern to alternative medicine and positive encouragement to help her husband stand on his own two feet again.
“I wanted him to be independent,” she says. 
Her efforts paid off. Looking at her husband today, it is hard to believe that he had suffered three successive strokes. Hamid can now walk without any help, and can also eloquently relate his experiences.
“God has given me a second chance and, now, I never take anything for granted,” says Hamid.
“I appreciate every minute of my life.”
Together with motivation speaker Stephen Liau, the couple are in the midst of writing a book entitled A Stroke of Luck, which is based on their experiences of surviving the strokes and their aftermath. The couple first met Liau two years ago when they took an alternative healing class that he ran.
“In my classes, I help people to heal their mind and their body,” says Liau.
“Their story is inspiring and Hamid’s will to live is admirable.”
Liau is certain the book will be a source of inspiration to others to rise above their adversity and live their life to the fullest. A Stroke of Luck will be published at the end of the year.
from right : Louisa Chong, her husband Hamid Samad and Stephen Liau