Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Julian Jayaseela

I have spoken to film producer Julian Jayaseela who wrote his first fiction novel, The Prime Minister’s Secret. Check out his full interview in theSun today and here is the full story.  

Headline: A Woman on Top
By Bissme S

Absolute power corrupts absolutely: that seems to be the message film producer turned writer Julian Jayaseela  has incorporated in his debut novel, The Prime Minister’s Secret. The 253-page fictional work, published by Gerakbudaya Enterprise, will be launched on Jan 17 at 3pm at the Gerakbudaya bookshop in Petaling Jaya.
The story is set in Malaysia and spans four decades, from the 1980s to 2010s. The protagonist is woman politician Rabiah Kadir, who has been groomed for a career in politics from young. From being the home affairs minister, she works hard to become the deputy prime minister, and finally, the prime minister.
As home affairs minister, Rabiah implements a law that gives her the power to send her critics to prison without trial. In her mind, she believes she is doing the right thing. She is saving her nation from chaos. Readers will also learn that Rabiah will go to any length to save her crumbling marriage, including driving away her husband’s mistress. Despite her flaws, you have to admire the strong will the woman possesses. She never quits even when the going gets tough.
 From the start, Julian wishes to clarify that The Prime Minister’s Secret is purely a work of fiction. He says: “The story I am writing is not based on any of our prime ministers. This is because Malaysia has never had a female prime minister.”
Though his novel deals with the corruption of power, interestingly, Julian insists his story is about humanity and hope.
“I just want to say that we can make the world a better place and we can be better people,” says the 53-yearold who is better known for producing films such as Bukak Api, Cun and Jwanita.
“I would categorise my novel as a pop-political thriller aimed at entertaining readers.”
Part of the book also follows a character called Junid, who sees his father unfairly arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Junid becomes obsessed with abolishing the act, even to the point of blackmailing the prime minister.
Julian himself has first-hand experience with the act. At age 25, as a trade unionist, he was detained under ISA during the infamous Operation Lalang in 1987.
“It was a tense period, and human rights was a taboo word then,” Julian recalls.
Is Junid loosely based on Julian himself? Laughing, he says: “There is little bit of me in every character in my novel.”
As for his time under ISA, he remembers being interrogated and left in solitary confinement for 60 days, and later sent to Kamunting Prison. He was released a year later.
“I thought I was a superhuman and that I could handle what I had gone through,” he says, but that was not the case. He suffered from terrible nightmares.
“When you go through such a traumatic experience, your mind has a tendency to put a ‘bandage’ on your wound. But you need to take off the bandage if you want to heal your wound.”
Eight years after his release from ISA, he sought professional help to cope with what he had gone through. During his therapy, one of the exercises was writing down his experiences while under detention.
“I have always enjoyed writing since I was young,” he says.
 “My family was so poor that we could not afford a television. So my eight siblings and I spent most of our time reading. We got excited about books. On hindsight, I must be thankful that there was no television in my house. Perhaps I would not have become an ardent reader.”
Most of that credit, according to Julian, he gives to his mother, whom he describes as a strong, supportive woman.
“She created so much joy and happiness at home that I never realised I was poor.”
As for writing a book on his detention under ISA, he says he harbours no such desire to do so.
“Many people were arrested under ISA,” he says.
“I spoke to them and included their experiences in [The Prime Minister’s Secret] instead.”
 Reading the novel, it is easy to say that the lead character, Rabiah, has a ruthless streak in her. But Julian does not like to put any labels on her.
“I would leave it to the readers to [ decide] whether she is a villain or not,” he says.
“All I can say is that she takes her responsibility as a prime minister very seriously.”

Julian with his novel ... The Prme Minister's Secret 

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