Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sasterawan Negara Zurinah Hassan

It was last friday that I interviewed  Dr Zurinah Hassan who has won the title of National Laureate. This friday theSun published my story. Here is the full story..... 

Headline: Making Literary History 
By Bissme S

Writer and poet Datuk Dr Zurinah Hassan was recently named Malaysia’s 13th Sasterawan Negara (National Laureate). With that, the 66-year-old born in Bakar Bata in Alor Star, Kedah, created literary history by becoming the first female author to be conferred this prestigious award.
The award came with a cash prize of RM60,000 as well as a RM500,000 advance to publish 50,000 copies of her books which will then be distributed to schools, libraries and government departments and agencies.
This honour is a culmination of a lifetime of writings that have earned her numerous awards including the 1984 Putera Poetry Award, the 2004 SEA Write Award, the 2013 Asean Poetry Award (Sunthorn Phu Poet Laureate) and the Perdana Literary Award from 1971 to 2003. Zurinah, who goes by the pen name Haniruz, talks to theSun about her life and works.

*Tell us about your childhood.

Girls are to be seen and not heard – this was often drummed into me when I was a young girl. Naively, I thought it was given to me with good intentions, [to] teach me good manners and etiquette. But as I grew older, I understood the real meaning behind it – it simply means that if you are a female, please shut up because
nobody is interested in your opinion!
I went to a village school [at a time when my family was debating if it was] worthwhile to send daughters to school.When I finished primary school, my relatives had another intense debate whether I should continue my studies in a secondary school.
This was partially because secondary schools were only located in big towns. Luckily, after much discussion, I was allowed to further my studies. I commuted daily to a school which was 12km away. It was not easy for a 12-year-old girl to get up early to catch the 6am bus, and later walk under the hot afternoon sun, looking for a 
bus home.

*What other challenges have you faced as a woman?

I remembered one incident where a relative advised my grandmother: You are getting old and sick. It’s better if you stop Zurinah from schooling. She should stay home and look after you.’
Luckily, my grandmother did not listen to her. Years later, I wrote a short story based on this experience entitled Nenek, and the story won the National Literary Prize. 
There was another incident which involved my grandmother. I loved writing poetry. I liked to sit alone under the trees and compose poems.
One day, I overheard my grandmother telling some family members that I had been acting strange and, maybe, I was possessed by some spirits calling me to the trees in the late evenings.
My grandmother’s worry over my roaming outside the house only highlighted the fact that she thought girls should not be left alone.
She gave clear instructions that I should be accompanied at all times, and thereafter, I lost my privacy. My habit of spending too much time with books did not make my relatives happy either. They said I should be cooking and sewing like the other girls my age.

*What started your interest in writing?

There was a radio in my house that offered me a respite from boredom.I loved to listen to songs. In those days, songs had beautiful and meaningful lyrics. I learned to appreciate the beauty of words and the poetic value in my language.
I began writing poetry and sending them to newspapers and magazines. They published my works.My late uncle, Ahmad Aris Eckhardt who was himself a writer, bought me a typewriter so that I could type my work and send them to newspapers and magazines.
When I was in Form Four, the Sultan of Kedah came to our school on our speech day. The school held an exhibition to highlight works by the students, from poetry to painting.The next day, my teacher told me that the Sultan had praised my poetry, and his praise gave me the encouragement to continue writing.

*What is the biggest change you would like to see taking place in our literary scene?

I would like to see our society giving more value and respect to serious literature. But sad to say, our society is more interested in entertainment.A writer spent half of his lifetime churning out good works and towards the end of his career, he might receive the title of Sasterawan Negara and his prize money is RM60,000.
But some entertainment reality shows like Maharaja Lawak and Penyanyi Kilauan Emas offer far more attractive prizes. This shows literature is given low priority. I believe serious literature should be encouraged and supported, because serious literature helps us to be a thinking society.

*The world is reading the works of Japanese writers like Haruki Murakami and Yoko Agawa. Why do you think it is
not reading the works of Malay authors?

I hope one day the world will come to know about our literature. Translation plays an important role if we want to achieve this aim. I’m pinning my hopes on Institut Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia (which translates most  national literature). So far, I find they are doing a good job in translating our works into other languages. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sri Rahayu Mohd Yusop

Today theSun published my interview with Sri Rahayu Mohd Yusop who writes science fiction in Bahasa Malaysia.   

Headline: An Eye & Pen on the Future 
By Bissme S

Sri Rahayu Mohd Yusop has always been interested in the future of human civilisation.
The 39-year-old secondary school teacher firmly believes that science and technological advancement plays a significant role in shaping our future.
Sri Rahayu also loves books and speculating on how future technology will impact the human race.
“All that thinking and reading would have gone to waste if I
did not share my thoughts with others,” she says, when asked
what prompted her to go into writing science fiction novels in Bahasa Malaysia, during a recent interview.
Sri Rahayu’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Her novel Impuls/Roh, which deals with neuroscience and virtual reality, won first place in the 2010 Hadiah Sastera Kumpulan Utusan’s Young Adult Literature (Novel) category.
The following year, her Equilibria novel, which is about a group of people isolated on an island in an experiment to build a civilisation without petroleum energy, took the first runner-up spot in the Sayembara Fiksyen Sains & Teknologi competition. That same novel also won the Anugerah Buku Malaysia 2011 award for the Science & Technology fiction category.
Early this year, she bagged first place in the third season
of the Sayembara Fiksyen Sains & Teknologi for her Transgenik Sifar, which is about a boy’s experience as the first transgenic creation.
“I love writing about bleak futures because dark stories are compelling,” says Sri Rahayu.
“Whenever you read a sad story, you get more emotionally
attached to the story and the characters. I want to have that same impact on my readers.”
Some people are surprised when she mentions writing science fiction in Bahasa  Malaysia.
“They feel I should be writing something easier, and in a genre that more people would read,” she says.
But Sri Rahayu doesn’t take such criticism too seriously.
“I love being complicated,” she says, with a touch of
“When people see the science fiction tag on my novels, they
immediately assume that what I have written is complicated.
“What is worse is when my novels win awards, they jump to the conclusion that my novels are difficult to read, with serious subject matters.”
She reassures that even non science fiction fans can easily
understand her novels.
Sri Rahayu believes this is an exciting phase for Malay science fiction writers as more publishers are keen to publish Malay-language works in this genre.
Also Malaysian science fiction writers are getting more
adventurous in telling more diverse stories.
Her word of advice to Malay science fiction writers is not to worry about the size of their readership because, as long as they keep putting stuff out there, the readership will eventually grow.
Sri Rahayu cites Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton and Isaac Asimov as her favourite authors.
“Some unknown writers have also written some good stories,”
she says.  
“I remember the stories more than the authors.”
Science fiction films are also an important influence on her  writing, says this author who admits to being a film buff.
In fact, her all-time favourite science fiction film is Dark City written and directed by Alex Proyas.
“That film really changed my life,"she adds. 
“The story is based on how aliens have used the human race
as experiment subjects. The director has cleverly blended science and romance in a movie.”
She says that writing novels is one way for her to fulfil her childhood dream of becoming a film director.
“Writing a novel is me imagining myself directing and writing a film. My crew only comprises my pen, the paper I write on and me.
“My novels are my films, in my mind." 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Jwanita & Dangerous Women

Today theSun published this story of mine. Check it out. 

Headline: Dangerous Women
By Bissme S

A scene from Jwanita
There are some women you do not want to mess with. They cansend chills down your spine, which is what actress Maya Karin manages to accomplish in her latest provocative role as a disturbed woman haunted by past abuse in Jwanita. 
Jwanita (Maya) is an orphan who has been separated from her sister, Julaika (Christina Suzanne), in their childhood. When she could not stand the abuse from her adoptive parents, she killed them, and is now getting help from the kind Dr Farhan (Bront Palarae) to recover her sanity.
Jwanita soon falls madly for Farhan but is crushed to learn that the doctor will be marrying Julaika, her biological sister, instead. The disturbed Jwanita is determined to get Farhan at any cost, including killing her sister and anyone who stands in her way.Currently showing in cinemas, Jwanita has been getting rave reviews. Here’s a look at 10 other deadly female characters in movie history.

1)Rosamud Pike as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl

When her husband Nick (Ben Stiller) cheats on her and then wants a divorce, Amy fakes her own death and frames him for her murder.Later, she wants to return to her husband, so she kills her ex-lover Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) and then claims that he has kidnapped her. To save some marriages, you must have blood on your hands.

2) Glenn Close as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction

Alex has an affair with married man Dan (Michael Douglas) but when he ends the affair, she begins to stalk him. She intends to have him at any price. One of the best scenes in the film is when she puts his family pet, a rabbit, into boiling water.

3) Rebecca De Mornay as Peyton Flanders in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

Claire (Annabella Sciorra) accuses her doctor Victor (John de Lancie) of sexually molesting her during a medical checkup. The humiliated doctor kills himself and his wife, Peyton, suffers a miscarriage. Peyton then embarks on a mission to destroy Claire’s happiness.You are likely to be wary of your nanny after watching this movie.

4) Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery 

Well-known novelist Paul (James Caan) gets into an accident and is found by obssessed fan Annie who brings him to her house and nurses him back to health. All hell breaks loose when Annie learns that he has killed off her favourite character Misery in his latest novel. A journey into madness begins when she forces him to write
another novel, where he has to resurrect Misery from her grave.

5) Jennifer Jason Leigh as Hedra Carlson in Single White Female

Allison (Bridget Fonda) searches for a new roommate and ends up with Hedra, who becomes so obsessed with her that she begins to makeover herself into Allison. Sane roommates are difficult to find.

6) Yeong-hie Seo as Kim Boknam in Bedeviled

This Korean movie takes place on a small undeveloped island where Bok-nam is bullied and raped. Her abuse soon drives her over the edge and she goes on a killing spree. The movie is not all about blood and gore but also gives a depiction of how a sane person can slowly go crazy when tortured.

7) Lee Eun-ju as Choi Ga-hee in The Scarlet Letter

This Korean movie centres on best friends Soo-hyun (Uhm Ji-won) and Ga-hee whose relationship turns sour when Ga-hee has an affair with her best friend’s husband Ki-hoon (Han Suk-kyu). The lovers run away together. But when Ki-hoon decides he wants to return to his wife, they argue and are accidentally locked in the trunk of their car. Realising they are unable to call for help, Ga-hee suffers a miscarriage and forces Ki-hoon to kill her. He is finally rescued after spending two more days imprisoned with her corpse.

8) Sangetta as Arundathi in Uyir

This Tamil film centres on Sundar (Sri Kanth) who is close to his brother and his family – sister-in-law. Arundathi and niece Aishwarya. When Arundathi becomes obsessed with Sundar, this drives her husband to take his own life. get her brother-in-law to marry her, including chasing away the woman he loves. Sometimes, love makes you do crazy things.

9) Ramya Krishnan as Neelambari in Padayappa

Neelambari is madly in love with Padayappa (Rajinikanth). But he falls for her maid, Vasundhara (Soundaraya), instead and marries her. Enraged, Neelambari locks herself in a room for 18 years before reappearing with the perfect revenge plan. Now that Padayappa’s oldest daughter is 18, Neelambari intends to break her heart just like what Padayappa did to her. The greatest pain you can inflict on a man is by torturing his daughter.

10) Sofia Jane as Zaleha in Perempuan, Isteri Dan …?

Zaleha is supposed to marry Amir (Nasir Bilal Khan) but she elopes to southern Thailand to marry the love of her life, Jalil (Jamaluddin Abd Kadir), instead.An enraged Amir tracks the couple down, kills the groom and sells Zaleha to a pimp. Six months later, he brings her back. Zaleha then tricks him into marrying her, and then enacts her revenge, using her body and her tears to achieve her aim. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorne