Thursday, December 31, 2015

Osman Ali & Langit Cinta

Today is New Year. theSun published my interview with the film director Osman Ali who talks about his film Langit Cinta and the women in his life

Headline: A Twist To The Tale 
By Bissme S

When director Osman Ali came out with his film, Ombak Rindu, in 2011, it became a boxoffice hit, collecting more than RM10 million nationwide. The story centres on a poor girl and a rich man who go through many hurdles before finding happiness with each other. Now, some critics are saying Osman is rehashing that storyline for his latest film, the romantic drama Langit Cinta, which will open in cinemas on Jan 7. 
Produced by Astro Shaw, Langit Cinta centres on a kampung girl, Khadejah, who falls for a rich man’s son, Aliff, when he visits her fishing village. Naturally, the young couple faces objections from Aliff’s rich parents. 
Osman, 42, claims he has given Langit Cinta a completely different treatment from that of Ombak Rindu. He insists that the only things Ombak Rindu and Langit Cinta have in common are that both movies deal with nature and love, and feature strong female characters. 
Osman loves to put the focus on his female characters in most of his films. He says: “Women lead far more dramatic and interesting lives than men. I grew up surrounded by women, and the women in my life are strong souls who have risen above adversities.” 
He cites as an example his late maternal grandmother, who was left to care and support the family after her husband, a fisherman, became bedridden. 
“My grandmother was a young mother with four children to feed,” he recalls. 
“But she did not allow the tragedy to break her.” 
Bravely, his grandmother took out her husband’s fishing boat to sea and started catching fish herself. 
“When I was young boy, I remember following my grandmother to sea to catch fish.” 
Osman adds that parts of Langit Cinta are also loosely based on his own parents’ story. He points out that about 30% of the plot, especially on how the two lead characters meet, is based on how his own parents met and fell in love. His mother was from Koh Kiam, located in southern Thailand, and his father was from Langkawi. “He saw my mother and it was love at first sight,” he says, adding that his father was also touched by how this beautiful woman was lovingly taking care of her parents. 
Langit Cinta stars Nur Fazura and Keith Foo in the leads, and supported by Farid Kamil, Fauziah Ahmad Daud, Dian P. Ramlee and Siti Saleha. 
Some people felt Osman has made a mistake casting Nur Fazura as a girl from a small fishing village. The award-winning actress is best known for playing modern city girls, from a distinctly urban background. 
“When I cast Ning Baizura as a midwife in Malaikat Di Jendela, everyone said the same thing,” Osman (right) points out. 
“But [later], everyone said that Ning played the role convincingly. “The same thing happened in Ombak Rindu [with Maya Karin in the lead]. In the end, Maya impressed everyone.” 
The director admits that he likes to take risks where casting is concerned. 
“I like to put my actors in roles that audiences have not seen them before. When you take your actors out of their comfort zone, they will bring something new to their roles.” 
As Langit Cinta is set in a fishing village, Osman – who is known for taking the trouble to find suitable locations for his films – had initially wanted to shoot the film in Koh Kiam, the island where his parents first met. Unfortunately, it was too expensive, and he had to settle for Pulau Tuba and Pulau Dayang Bunting, off Langkawi instead.
“Location is an important prop in my shoots,” he says. “A location can [set] the landscape of your movie, and create the atmosphere that your film needs.” 
The film was shot in September. As it was the rainy season, he had to cancel some shoots that were supposed to take place at sea.
 “The sea was not calm, and I could not put the lives of my actors in danger,” he explains. 
With Langit Cinta completed and ready for release, Osman is already working on his next film. Kau Yang Satu, which focuses on arranged marriages, is adapted from a well-known novel by Nia Azalea. 
The story centres around Taufik and Salina, who are forced to get married by their parents. Heartthrob Aaron Aziz and actress Izara Aishah will play the newlyweds. Osman says the film is likely to open in cinemas in the middle of next year. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Writing Without Boundaries

Today theSun published a story where I  covered about a 
discussions that highlights on the press freedom in Malaysia  

Headline: Writing without Boundaries  
By Bissme S

During  a recent book launch held at Borders @ The Curve, four well known columnists and journalists took the opportunity to talk about the challenges  of writing in the mainstream media.
Leading the charge was activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who was launching her third book, Dancing on Thin Ice, which is a compilation of her columns published in an English daily.
The book also features two of her pieces that were never published. Some people assume that being the eldest daughter of a former prime minister gives  her the privilege of speaking her mind without fear of censure from the  authorities.
“I don’t think I am specially protected in any way,” says Marina candidly. 
“I have yet to spend a night in the lock-up but I think that is due to the way I write. I think I have developed a way of saying things in a style that … [manages to] get my point across and most of [my readers] get what I am trying to say.”
Still, Marina does not take her freedom for granted.
“What people thought was safe (in the past) is not safe any more,” she says. 
“Today, I just read in the newspaper that even the word ‘moderation’ is not a  good word.”
Zainah Anwar, who has a column in an English daily, points out that the  government will not offer press freedom on a silver platter.
“It is up to the journalists and the editors to push the boundaries of press  freedom,”she says. 
“The more journalists push the boundaries, the [safer the] space for press freedom will be.”
As a young journalist in the 1970s, Zainah often argued with her editors to  reinstate information in her articles that had been cut out.
“You cannot take censorship lying down,” she says. 
“Young journalists need to take this up with their editors, and sometimes, the  editors will get tired and give in.”
She admits some editors in certain media are politically appointed, and that these editors feel it is their job to protect their masters, indirectly contributing to censorship in the media.
“The less credible you are in your reporting, the less people will read your work, and that will contribute to your [paper’s] circulation plunging,” she  says.
R. Nadeswaran, who writes the popular Citizen Nades column for theSun, had in the past exposed corruption within government bodies. 
“I have been often asked why I am attacking this and that minister,” he says.
“But I am not attacking anyone. I am just exposing corruption. I am just writing based on facts.”
He admits that it is difficult to get civil servants to respond
to some of the questions he sent to them.
“We can build a better society if civil servants are more open and  transparent,” he says.
“In one of the articles I read on (the late) prime minister Lee
Kuan Yew when he took over Singapore (in 1965), he saw there were a lot of letters of complaints in the newspaper.
“He immediately issued a circular to all his ministers that letters must be replied within 48 hours, and that was when everybody got on their feet.”
In pushing the envelope to get at the truth, Jahabar Sadiq always encourages  his reporters to be honest in their reports.
“I always tell my reporters that we are (living in) the Wild Wild West, and we are the cowboys and we just waiting for the marshall to shoot us down,” says this CEO and editor of the Malaysian Insider, with a smile.
“And our duty is to tell the truth.”
Over the years, Jahabar has found that readers are now becoming more mature,  but the government and civil servants have become more immature instead.
Yet, these media practitioners are hopeful that this negative scenario in the country can change for the better.
“Sometimes, the frustration sets in but if you keep on banging your head against the wall, one day, the wall will crack,” Nadeswaran says.
Zainah agrees. She says though freedom of expression here is tight, it still very much open, and Malaysians should take advantage of it.
“In some places, if you want to write the kind of things I write, death awaits  you,” she adds, pointing out that some of her Middle Eastern journalist friends have been forced to flee their homeland and are now living in the United States, Germany and France for their own safety.
“Back home, they receive death threats and their house gets burnt down."
She adds that while people in some countries will not even take the trouble to write to the newspapers about the bad state of affairs in their country, in Malaysia, people still care and they still write letters of complaint to the newspapers.
“Once we don’t speak up, that is when we start to go downhill,” she says. 

Marina Mahahtir

Jahabar Sadiq

Zainah Anwar 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Boys In Films

Jagat, The Malaysian made Tamil movie has been gaining rave reviews. In today sun newspaper we mention about Jagat and picked 12 other movies where boys are central characters.  Here is the full movie   

Headline: From Boys To Men 
By Bissme S 

The process  by which a boy slowly becomes a man can be a difficult and confusing one. What more, if the boy in question grows up in an environment that is less than ideal. Director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s movie Jagat (right) tells the story of 12- year-old Appoy (Harvin Raj) and his relationship with his father, Maniam (Kuben Mahadevan), and his two uncles – former drug addict Bala(Senthil Kumaran Muniandy) and local gangster Mexico (Jibrail Rajhula).
The movie bravely tackles the subject of gangsterism among the Indian community in a realistic manner. Lead actor Harvin gives a convincing portrayal of a boy trying to make sense of his life in this film which is currently showing in cinemas. 
We look at another 12 movies which centre on a boy on the cusp of manhood.

1) Raden Mas Kesuma in Kaki Bakar (2001)

Under the direction of U-Wei Saari, this Malaysian film centres Ngasri) who admires and fears his father, Kakang (Khalid Salleh).Their stormy relationship ends with one of them killed.

2) Mukshin in Mukhsin (2006)

The late Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad gives us this sweet tale of puppy love between 12-year-old Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip) and 10-year-old Orked (Sharifah Aryana) which is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes and a warmth to your heart.

3) Renato Amoroso in Malena (2000)

A beautiful older woman, Malèna Scordia (Monica Bellucci), stirs up sensual awakenings in 13-year-old Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro). This Italian film, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, beautifully captures the feelings of teenage love and lust.

4) Periya Kaaka Muttai and Chinna Kaaka Muttai in Kakka Muttai (2014)

Two siblings, Periya (J. Vignesh) and Chinna (V. Ramesh) from the slums of Chennai in India set out to get a taste of pizza after seeing an advertisement on it. This film went on to win the 2015 Indian National Film Awards for best children’s film and best child artiste for the two youngsters.

5) Shuya Watanabe and Naoki Shimomura in Confessions (2010)

Teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) exacts revenge on two of her students, Shuya (Yukito Nishii) and Naoki (Kaoru Fujiwara), who have killed her young  daughter.

6) Ali in Children of Heaven (1997)

Ali (Amir Farrokh Hashemian) accidentally loses his sister Zahra ( Bahare Seddiqi)’s shoes. Scared to tell his struggling parents, he goes on a series of adventure in order to find the shoes or get her a new pair. This Iranian movie, directed by Majid Majidi, was nominated for best foreign language film at the 1998 Academy Awards.

7) Billy Elliot in Billy Elliot (2000)

This British dance drama, directed by Stephen Daldry, centres on 11-year-old  Billy (Jamie Bell) who faces stiff objections from his coal miner father for wanting to become a ballet dancer.

8) Sidi in Punggok Rindukan Bulan (2008)

Sidi (Saeful Nazhif Satria) has to learn to cope without his mother after she abandons him. This local film is known for being shot without any music.

9) Angelo in In a Glass Cage (1986)

This disturbing Spanish film by Agusti Villaronga centres on young Angelo (David Sust) who is hired by the wife of a paralyzed man to look after him. Unknown to her, Angleo was a victim of her husband, a former child abuser. 
Now, Angelo plans to exact his revenge, in the cruellest way.

10) Mason Evans Jr in Boyhood (2014)

Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, director Richard Linklater tells the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows from a six-year-old boy to an 18- year-old. The film won Golden Globes for best picture and director and a Golden Globe as well as an Oscar for best supporting actress for Patricia Arquette as the mother.

11) Owen in Let Me In (2010)

This dark horror Hollywood movie, directed by Matt Reeves, is a remake of Swedish movie Let the Right One In. It is about lonely, bullied 12-year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who befriends young Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and later discovers that she is a vampire.

12) Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi in Taare Zameen Par (2007)

Eight-year-old Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) dislikes school, and he is
constantly being scolded by his father for his poor grades. Bullied
by other students, life seems a dreary place, until a new art teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh(Aamir Khan who also directs) enters his life and opens up a colourful new world to him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

M Subash & Natchathiran

Today, theSun published my interview with the director  M.Subash  who talks about his latest film project, Natchathiran. Here is the full interview  

Headline: Facing Up To The Challenge
By Bissme S

Local director M. Subash has taken on the mammoth task of not only directing his latest film based on a screenplay he wrote, but also playing two difficult leading roles.
Natchathiran, which is opening in cinemas tomorrow, centres on a man who has polio. But he refuses to let his handicap be a hindrance in achieving a better life. His son, on the other hand, suffers from autism and has to contend with bullies at his workplace.
 Subash is taking on both the roles of father and son in this Malaysian-made Tamil film with some 60% of the dialogue in Tamil and the rest in Bahasa Malaysia. Others in the cast include Yan Ibrahim, Mira Nair, Elisya Sandha and Hana Hamadan.
As to why he is tackling such a difficult theme and one which lacks commercial appeal, the director who has six films to his name says his heart is into making this kind of movies. He wants to educate his audience about the world around them through his films.
 He wants to make his audiences think about the issues affecting their lives.
“In the West, famous people with disabilities such as Helen Keller (who was blind and deaf) and Albert Einstein (who was said to have an autism) had managed to do well in life,” says Subash.
“But we rarely hear of people with disabilities from our side of the world becoming famous and doing great things.It is because we do not guide these children like our western counterparts do. We just ignore them. We neglect them. We do not give them the confidence to shine.”
While doing research on autism for the film, he found that many people have the misconception that autistic children cannot lead productive lives.
“Well, they are wrong,” he says. “Children with autism are clever. They [just] process information differently from a normal child. They need different teaching techniques to develop.”
He emphasises that Natchathiran is not just about autism, polio and people with disabilities. It also subtly highlights the transformation the Malaysian Indian community has undergone through the years. “The father and son in the movie have different ways of coping with challenges in their lives,” he says. “The father does not let his handicap become an obstacle to achieving his dream. The people who surround him, including his own mother, also does not encourage him to further his studies.
“But he is determined to follow his dream. Sadly, that seems to be lacking in his son. I just wanted to show how two different generations of Indian men handle the crisis in their lives.”
He adds that his movie is not everyone’s cup of tea.
“I have no regret making this kind of movie. Some people make movies to be famous and make money. But not me.”
Subash is already looking at his next movie which also touches on a taboo subject. Perjanjian Syaitan is a Malay horror film that focuses on an incestuous relationship. Shooting for the film has already been completed and it is expected to open in cinemas in early February.
In January, he will start shooting for another Tamil film, entitled Chelvi, that is loosely based on his late mother’s life.
“My mother is my biggest inspiration,” he says.
His mother was a karnatic (classical music of South India) singer and used to take him along on her singing engagements. Seeing his mother sing sparked his interests in the entertainment and art world. “My mother did not have an easy life,” he says.
“She was a divorcee who raised six children. She made sure her children have a roof over their head with enough food to eat and [equipped with a] solid education.”
His mother died at age 62 of breast cancer.
“My mother is someone you can admire and emulate,” he says.

“This movie is my tribute to her.”

Monday, December 7, 2015

Zamzuriah Zahari,

Today theSun publishes my interview theatre performer Zamzuriah Zahari. Here is the full story 

Headline: A Thespian Journey 
By Bissme S 

DANCER, singer and actress Zamzuriah Zahari, 33, has taken on a project that’s  very close to her heart. Not only is she starring in the one and only role in Jalan Primadona, the musical is based on a script she wrote and she is also a co-director with veteran theatre performer and producer Faridah Merican.
The 90-minute show will be staged at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) from Dec 16 to 20 under the banner of The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat.
Accompanying her performance is the Kelantanese traditional music group, Geng Wak Long. What sets the musical apart is that it bravely tackles the conflict between religion and [artistic] tradition.
Jalan Primadona centres on a young girl who dreams of being a professional Malay traditional dancer specialising in Mak Yong and Tari Inai.Some look down upon her for choosing dancing as a career. Ignoring her critics, she concentrates on her passion and soon becomes famous.
Eventually, times change and tastes differ, and her fame starts to dwindle. She quits dancing and turns to religion. But is it possible for her toforget the world of dance that has brought her fame?
“Sixty per cent of what you will see on stage is based on my own experiences as an artiste,” says Zamzuriah, who is a fulltime lecturer in Aswara, an nstitute of higher learning in Malaysia that provides formal training courses in the arts, culture and heritage.
She explains that her journey as an artiste has never been a smooth one, and she has gone through many conflicts.
“It is not easy to be a female artiste because people are always judging you,” explains Zamzuriah, who in the past has churned out memorable performances in such productions as Titisan Sakti (2009) and Usikan Rebab (2012).
“Some have told me that I am not a pious Muslim because I do not cover my head when I am performing. But my question to my critics, and to myself is:‘Does your attire make you a good Muslim’?”
To those who criticise her for dabbling in Mak Yong because they believe this dance form contains mystical elements that go against Islamic teachings, she counters: “Did you know, in the early days, Mak Yong performances were used to spread Islam?”
She cites the tale of Dewa Muda that is often performed in Mak Yong performances, with Islamic elements. She adds that only those who do not know the history of Mak Yong will say that this art form is syirik (sinful).
She does not deny that a few Mak Yong performers say some jampi (spell) before starting their performances, and that this jampi has been seen as unIslamic.
“You cannot blame the art form,” she says. “Clearly, it is not at fault. You have to blame some of the performers for bastardising this art form by uttering these jampi.
“But frankly speaking, I do not think that these performers are really worshiping the devil. I believe they are using jampi as a
gimmick to attract attention from the audience.”
She admits that in the past, she has toyed with the idea of leaving the dance world in the name of religion.But her attempt was unsuccessful.
“The Almighty decides everything that takes place in one’s life,” she says.
“There must be a good reason why He still wants me to continue as a MakYong dancer.”
She emphasises she is not providing any answers to the questions she will be posing in the musical drama.
“I want my audience to seek the answer on their own accord,” she says, ading that she wants her audience to think about issues that affect their lives.
Recently, members of the media were given a short preview of Jalan Primadona, and it was indeed impressive. Zamzuriah and Geng Wak Long gave an electrifying performance. The show featured both humour and sarcasm, accompanied by the vibrant and enigmatic music. Zamzuriah was excellent, both in her comedic and emotional scenes.
From the little that I saw, I can predict Jalan Primadona is going to be a play that will touch hearts and minds. 

Below are the pictures from her show

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Kiran Kreer

Kiran Kreer  is very inspiring. He has dedicated his life to make others happy.. My interview with him was published in the theSun on Friday. Here is the full story. 

Headline: Lighting Up Lives  
By Bissme S 

Malaysian activist and documentary photographer Kiran Kreer seems to be on a mission to end darkness in the world. In late 2012, he started a humanitarian project called Give Them Light (, where solar lights are given free to people in places without electricity.
The idea was ­conceived after a trip to the ­Philippines – which had just been struck by a typhoon – to take ­photos of the disaster. He hoped his images would convince people in different parts of the world to send aid to the Philippines.
“During my shoot, I came across many homes where people were unable to cook, read or sew, just because they had no electricity,” he says.
“We often forget that what millions take for granted is [a luxury] in some people’s lives. Slowly, it occurred to me that I could do more than just take pictures.”
He collaborated with some friends in the United States, and is now the ­unofficial Lights ­Ambassador for ­Denver-based solar light bulb ­manufacturer Nokero Inc. Besides taking pictures of places of natural ­disasters and mishaps, he also ­distributes solar lights to needy communities in ­Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam and the Philippines.
When asked to relate some of his memorable experiences, he says: “An old woman from the Jakun tribe in Malaysia had seen her surroundings change ­drastically over the last few years. The deforestation in her area made life difficult for the villagers. Many had moved away.
“She was so touched that a total stranger would want to listen to her story, and was interested in her as a fellow human. When she realised that we had brought solar lights for her, her big, pure, honest and unforgettable smile seemed to fill the room.”
He also described the time a young boy in Nepal had smiled and insisted that he and his siblings needed a light to read at night.
“These people feel happy knowing that there are people out there who care for them and that they have not been forgotten,” he says.
One wonders how Kiran remains positive when he keeps visiting places with overwhelming poverty and disaster.
“Sometimes what I see takes a toll on me,” he confesses.
“I keep on doing what I do because I believe that it can make a difference. When one of my photos ends up creating enough awareness, and aid gets there, I feel my job is rewarded and that keeps me going.”
During his shoots, Kiran gets to meet many NGOs, ­volunteers, and other ­concerned ­people, who ­become a source of ­inspiration and ­motivation.
“In many of my ­pictures, you can see ­smiling faces, even when the ­reality these people endure can be very cruel,” he says.
When asked what his hopes are for the project in the long run, he says: “I would love to help each and every person in need that I meet, but I’m unable to do that.
“So my goal in the long run would be to inspire others, mainly the youths, to join me in my efforts. Go out there and see the world, and try to change it with small acts of ­kindness.”
Recently, Kiran faced some problems with the customs department in Nepal when bringing in his solar lights. He ended up having to find creative ways of getting his lights into the ­country, even ­using ­backdoor agents.
Despite these challenges, Kiran still wants to continue. He says: “Bringing them solar lights not only makes their nights brighter, but it also reminds them that there are people out there who care for them. This is who I am. This is my purpose in life.”

PS: In my blog, I am also posting some of pictures that Kiran  Kreer has taken in his mission to help others around the world. To see more of his wonderful pictures Please visit his website :