Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nor Azida Ishak

I interviewed the author Nor Azida Ishak and her interview was published in theSun today. Read the full article here 

Headline: A Scientific Slant
By Bissme S

Writing science fiction in Bahasa Malaysia is a sunrise industry in our country, and Nor Azida Ishak, 35, is excited to be a part of it. Her first sci-fi novel Leksikon Ledang, which she co-wrote with fellow sci-fi author Fadli Al-Akiti, creatively linked their plot to the mystical Puteri Gunung Ledang of the popular Malay folklore.
The story starts with some mysterious deaths in a village near Hutan Simpan Gunung Ledang. Published earlier this year, the novel sparks an interesting debate on whether Puteri Gunung Ledang is just a myth, or she was an advanced human being from a different world. The interesting combination of folklore and science in the novel won the two writers second place at the recent science fiction writing competition, Sayembara Fiksyen Sains & Teknologi UTM-Kumpulan Utusan.
“Malaysian authors should take advantage of the fact that our country is rich with folklore and we can take these stories and give [them] a scientific twist,” says Nor Azida, who is an executive secretary by profession.
Nor Azida recently published her second novel, Resesif, which features 13 short stories with scientific elements. Currently, she is working on her third novel, which she describes as an investigative adventure against a scientific backdrop.
When asked what sparked her interest in the sci-fi genre, she explains: “My parents are avid readers, and they encouraged me to read instead of watching TV. I read a lot of mystery and horror books, and my favourite author is Christopher Pike, who combines speculative sci-fi, mystery and horror into his writing effortlessly.
“I remember how scared I felt when I read his book Season of Passage, which is about a bunch of Nasa astronauts stranded on Mars who are slowly being possessed by an evil entity there. From then on, I was hooked on speculative sci-fi.”
The Ipoh-born lass is happy to note that in recent years, schools have chosen to include science fiction books such as Di Sebalik Dinara and Tawanan Komander Caucasus in Malay literature studies.
“This is a very good start in promoting this genre to young readers,” she says.
“I read that many students were excited when they learned that sci-fi books were in their reading list. That is a good sign.”
She also sees local writers now becoming more adventurous with their plots. In the past, she finds most Malay sci-fi books focusing on the subject of flying sauces and aliens. But now she is glad that the focus has shifted to include other scientific elements besides spaceships.
“There is more depth now [in the plots] compared to 10 years ago,” she adds.
When asked what inspires her, Nor Azida says: “My ideas often come from imagining alternative scenarios and extreme contrasts for everyday issues.”
She cites the example of Pokok Pontianak, her short story in Resesif. The idea for the story was conceived when she toyed with the possibility of a plant becoming a carnivore and attacking humans in retaliation to Man’s irresponsible pollution of our planet. Yet, Nor Azida emphasises that having an active imagination is not enough in writing sci-fi.
“Research is utterly important. Justifications need to be integrated into your storyboard. You can only give a solid justification when you have done proper research. I personally value a well- researched piece of science fiction because I crave knowledge and discovery in my reading. I think other sci-fi readers are looking for the same thing.”
Her all-time favourite sci-fi book is Stephen King’s collection of short stories in his Night Shift and Skeleton Crew books
“In fact, many of my earlier published short stories were inspired by his works,” Nor Azida says.
“I like the surrealism and mysterious undertones in his stories. He is a very good storyteller.”
Closer to home, she cites Sri Rahayu Mohd Yusop as one of her top favourites.
“I love the way she portrays an advanced and triumphant Malaysia against a backdrop of adversity. Her stories are about hope, courage and strength.”
Nor Azida also picks Fadli, her collaborator in Leksikon Ledang, as another sci-fi author she admires.
“His book Saga Horizon was the driving force for me to start writing sci-fi,” she says.

“The book is now out of print, so I am guarding my personalised signed copy like a precious gem."

The author

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Polis Evo & Ghaz Abu Bakar

Polis Evo has become the Malaysian highest grossing Film. theSun have got the director of Polis Evo, Ghaz Abu Bakar to pick his ten favourite cop action movie. Here is the full article.      

A scene from Polis Evo 

Headline: Drawing Inspiration From The Best 
By Bissme S 

Ghaz Abu Bakar ... the director for Polis Evo

MOHD GHAZZALI ‘Ghaz’ Abu Bakar’s highoctane action drama
Polis Evo has made history by becoming Malaysia’s highest-grossing local film at the box office, collecting RM17.96
million thus far.
The film centres on two police officers, Inspector Khai (Shaheizy Sam) and Inspector Sani (Zizan Razak) who come from different backgrounds. Khai is a city cop while Sani is from a small town. Their opposing personalities put them
at loggerheads. Yet, they must put aside their differences to bring down a drug syndicate.
The film’s explosive action shots have put Polis Evo a class
above other local productions. Recently, theSun managed to pin down director Ghaz to list the movies that have inspired him in his directorial effort.

*Bad Boys

Ghaz says when he first saw this Michael Bay’s film about two detectives assigned to protect a murder witness while investigating a case concerning stolen heroin in 1995,“I was stunned by the action, the camerawork and the awesome soundtrack”.
He adds: “When Astro Shaw approached me to make Polis Evo, I knew this film was going to be one of my biggest influences.”

*Lethal Weapon

“I remembered watching this film for the first time when I was 14.”
Ghaz says before the cameras began rolling on Polis Evo, the
producers asked him to re-watch this buddy cop movie.
Directed by Richard Donner, the film is about a veteran officer forced to partner a young suicidal cop as they attempt to stop a gang of drug smugglers.
The producers had wanted him to capture the spirit of the two cops’ relationship for Polis Evo.
* The Other Guys

“I love the comedy in this film, and Mark Wahlberg is awesome at displaying subtle comedy while Will Ferrell is fantastic at delivering funny one-liners with a deadpan face.”
The two actors play New York City detectives trying to crack
open a major case in an attempt to achieve fame and respect with hilarious results in this Adam McKay comedy.
Ghaz admits that to a certain degree, he modelled Zizan’s
Inspector Sani after Ferrell’s character in this film.

*Hot Fuzz

“[This is] another buddy cop film that takes action, comedy and gore to the next level,” says Ghaz.
This Edgar Wright film is about a London cop (Simon Pegg) who is transferred to a quiet English village where he soon
finds a sinister conspiracy among the residents of the village.
“I love the twists towards the end, where an ordinary comedy
film becomes a violent action film, with some graphic visuals.”
* Seven

Ghaz says he loves the cinematography and the dark atmosphere of this David Fincher film about two detectives hunting a vicious serial killer, with an ending that sends shivers down your spine.
“I tried to apply a similar atmosphere in Polis Evo.” 
* Die Hard: With a Vengeance

This John McTiernan film from the Die Hard franchise is about a police detective (Bruce Willis) and a store owner (Samuel L. Jackson) trying to stop a terrorist from robbing the Federal Reserve Building in New York.
“I really love the fact that in this film] a cop teams up with regular guy to stop a crime from taking place, and the friendship between Willis’ and Jackson’s characters really stands out in the film.”
* Mission Impossible III

The third film in this franchise has Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom
Cruise) hunting a dangerous and sadistic arms dealer (Philip
Seymour Hoffman) who threatens him and his fianceƩ.
“I love how J.J. Abrams made this film, with fast cut editing, fast-tracking shots and intense close-ups,” says Ghaz.
“I applied a similiar method in Polis Evo. I wished I had the same budget he had [for his film]!”
* I Saw the Devil

This Kim Jee-woon film focuses on a top secret service agent’s hunt for a dangerous psychopath to exact revenge for the murder of his fianceĆ©.
“My inspiration for the villain, Izrail, in Polis Evo came from the villain in this film. My dream one day is to make
a dark revenge thriller.”
* A Bittersweet Life

For Ghaz, he finds that Korean filmmakers have interesting ways of telling their stories. In this film by Kim Jee-woon
about the right-hand man of a crime boss who turns on
his employer over a woman. Ghaz says he loves the film’s production design.
* Training Day

This Antoine Fuqua film is about a rookie cop (Ethan Hawke) who goes on a nightmarish 24-hour training course with a rogue detective (Denzel Washington) who is out to make his life a living hell.
“If you love Denzel Washington, then you should watch this film,” says Ghaz. 
“The more you watch it, the more you love it.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Temple of Fine Arts

The Temple of Fine Arts Malaysia has a done a special photo shoot with theSun for this Deepavali. 

The dancers from this dance school has taken trouble to put their beautiful costumes and makes stunning poses for theSun.  We even uses one of the photo in the front page of theSun.

Thank you, The Temple of Fine Arts Malaysia  and thank you to theSun pixmen Adib Rawi for snapping these lovely shots.

Here is the full story


VICTORY OVER DARKNESS ... theSun joins dancers from The Temple of Fine Arts Malaysia to wish readers a Happy Deepavali. The festival, which falls tomorrow, signifi es the victory of light over darkness. There is no publication of theSun tomorrow. We will be back on Wednesday. For news updates, go to www. MORE PHOTOS ON PAGE 20



Headline: Lights Of Happiness 
By Bissme S

ONE of the origins of Deepavali or Diwali celebrated by Malaysians of the Hindu faith tomorrow, stems from the Ramayana, one of the great epics of Indian literature. According to the tale, Lord Rama, who is the rightful ruler of the kingdom of Ayodhya, is living in exile with his wife Sita and brother Lord Lakshmana. The demon Ravana then kidnaps Sita, and Rama goes to rescue her. With the help of the Monkey god Hanuman, Rama manages to defeat Ravana, and eventually returns to reclaim the throne of Ayodhya. Lamps are lit around the kingdom to mark his return, and even today, Hindus light lamps to symbolise the triumph of good over evil. That is why Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. Here, dancers from the Temple of Fine Arts Malaysia reenacted the last few scenes of this epic story exclusively for theSun.
Portraying Lord Rama is Divya S., 17, with Keisewar G., 16, as Lord Lakshmana and Malaika N., 20, as Sita. Meanwhile, Nageshwaran R., 16, plays Hanuman and the demon Ravana is portrayed by Prashant K., 20.

Scene 1: The War ... (From Left) Ravana is battle with Lord Rama, Lord Lakshmana amd Hanuman 

Scene 2 : The victory of good over evil.... Ravana is defeated. 

Scene 3: The War is over....From Left : Hanuman, Lord Lakshamana . Lord Rama and his wife Sita

Scnne 4: The time of exile is over and they prepare to leave the forest 

Scene 5: People of Ayodhya welcome their return with lamps in their hands 

Scene 6: Lord Rama is crowned as the King of Ayodhya 

Monday, November 2, 2015


Film director Chiu Keng Guan became a famous face when his movie The Journey raked in more than RM17 million at the box office last year. Today theSun carries an interview I have done with him where he talks about his latest film OlaBola. Here is the full story  

Headline:Eye On The Goal
By Bissme S

Director Chiu Keng Guan’s The Journey created history last year when it became the highest grossing Malaysian film at the box office with some RM17 million. (But its record has since been broken by Polis Evo this year.)
That film depicts the touching relationship between a conservative Chinese man and his Caucasian son-in-law. But for his latest film, OlaBola, which he has just completed shooting, Chiu has gone a different direction by lensing a story about football. And he is fully aware of the pressure to produce another hit with his take on this sport.
“Honestly speaking, I feel some pressure trying to live up to this expectation,” says the 43-year-old filmmaker, but he managed to calm his nerves by focusing on what drove him to be a filmmaker in the first place.
“I became a filmmaker because I wanted to tell stories. So, I began to forget about everything else and just focus on the story I want to tell.”
Chiu adds with a touch of humour that he left the money factor to his
producers (Astro Shaw), saying: “My job as a director is to put my energy on the creative side of the film.”
Set in the 1970s, the film is about a Malaysian football team which overcomes the hardships and hurdles to qualify for the Olympics.
The story is loosely based on real events. Malaysia national football team did  qualify for the Olympics – the first time, by beating Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, for a spot in the 1972 Munich Games, where it  defeated the United States but lost to West Germany and Morocco.
The team again qualified for the Olympics in Moscow in 1980, but never got to compete as Malaysia joined 64 other countries which boycotted the Games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
To do research for the movie, Chia and his team interviewed several key figures from that national football team such as the legendary ‘Towkay’ Soh  Chin Aun and Santokh Singh.
But OlaBola is not a depiction of that national team and the characters are fiction, says Chiu, adding that this allowed him more creative freedom to be dramatic in his storytelling because he did not have to stick to the facts.
OlaBola stars Bront Palarae, Muhd Lugman Hafidz, Saran Kumar Manokaran, Eric  Teng Shin Wang and Chee Jun Cherng. In choosing his cast, the director has also taken the risk of placing a priority on the cast’s ability to play football rather than having any acting experience. Most of the cast members are newcomers and they were given three months of intensive acting classes before facing the camera.
It was easier for me to teach them how to act than to play football,” Chiu explains, adding that he also wanted the matches in the film to look authentic.
Shooting for the film started in April for about two months. His crew comprised not only locals but also an expert team from Argentina that has worked in Hollywood to help in the visual effects, an Australian specialist for aerial cinematography as well as an award-winning sound effects team from Taiwan.
“I always make sure our local talents constantly follow these foreigners while shooting,” says Chiu.
“Indirectly, they will learn from these experts and that will help them
sharpened their skills. We must never stop learning.”
The film not only has some adrenaline charged football action at the iconic Stadium Merdeka but also a scenic train journey between Beaufort and Tenom in Sabah as well as scenes of the exciting night life at fun-fairs in the 70s.
When asked why he wanted to make a film about football, Chiu explains: “I played football in my school and college days.”
He also reveals that he had wanted to be a national football player but the dream did not materialise. So he decided the next best thing is to make a football movie. Chiu has always been proud of the national team back in the 70s and loved  watching them in action. 
“It is not easy to qualify for the Olympic Games but  they did.”
As for his favourite Malaysian footballer, he says: “I was a striker in my
school and college days. Naturally, my choice is Mokhtar Dahari. He was a striker too, and was a great one. He even beat Arsenal 2-0.”
He hopes his film will reintroduce these football heroes to the younger
“Some of these youngsters do not even know who they are and I hope this film will change that.”

The director is ready to kick some balls.