Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mahadi J Murat & Luqman

Film director Mahadi J Murat speaks  to theSun about his latest film Luqman. Read about it  

Headline: A Study on the Malay Psyche

AFTER a 21-year hiatus, Mahadi J. Murat (below, right) is back in the director’s chair. His latest film, Luqman (above), is set to premiere in late December. 
The story centres on a writer, Luqman Hakim (starring Wan Hanafi Su), who is upset that the younger generation does not appreciate their Malay heritage. To make matters worse, he feels jealous when his much younger wife, traditional Malay dancer Ayu Kencana (Raja IIya), gets close to young graduate Marwan Al Hadi (Josiah Hogan), who is doing his thesis on Malay culture. 
Luqman lives in fear of losing Ayu to Marwan. He wants her to stop dancing, but she refuses, putting a strain on their otherwise happy marriage. Luqman is Mahadi’s fourth feature film. 
His previous three films were Roda-Roda (1985), Wanita Bertudung Hitam (1992), and Sayang Salmah (1995) which won six Malaysian Film Festival awards, including best film. 
Recently, Mahadi held a private screening of Luqman for close friends and selected media. He later shared some of his thoughts and views on the film industry.

You have not made a feature film for two decades. Why? 

I have not remained idle during that time. I have been sharpening my skills [as a] filmmaker so I can tell my stories effectively. “I started my career as a photographer and later, as a cameraman. I have technical experience. 
But to be a better filmmaker … you need to study philosophy, human emotions and literature, as well as gather life experiences. 
I have been doing that. I took up a masters in film studies at the University of Westminster in London. I have taught subjects related to film, art and literature at several universities and colleges. Between classes, I made short films and documentaries. I have not stayed away from my craft. 

What is the message you want to convey in Luqman? 

All my films touch on the Malay psyche and Luqman is no different. 
The husband in my movie represents the older generation of Malays who want to preserve the past, while Ayu represents the younger generation who want to move forward. 
So my movie looks at the conflicts ... between the old and the new, between the past and the present, and between the present and the future. 

Some may feel that the themes you tackle in Luqman are not commercial enough. 

Filmmakers must not be restricted to just making certain types of films. They have a responsibility to provide alternative movies from [the] mainstream. 
There is a [substantial percentage] of audiences who are looking for different genres, and filmmakers must fulfil this need. How many times have we met movie fans who said that they do not watch Malay movies because they do not like the [content]? 
We need to change that. We can only do that if we tackle different themes. Besides, the audience’s mood is difficult to predict. Look at The Journey (2014), which is about an apek tua (old Chinese man) who is busy preparing for his daughter’s wedding. Where’s the commercial appeal of this storyline?
But interestingly enough, [it] became a box-office hit and touched many hearts. 

What is the biggest change you would like to see taking place in the local film industry? 

Recently, there was a big hooha about what kind of language we should use in our films [for them] to qualify as a Malaysian film. We must realise that we live in a multicultural and multilingual society. So, we should allow people to make a Malaysian film in any language that they want. What is important are the stories the filmmaker tells in his movies, not the language he uses. 
Films should be about humanity, not languages. Let us leave politics out of films.” 

What is your next film about? 

I would love to do a biopic on the late legendary singer Sharifah Aini. She lived an amazing life – going from being an expert Quran reader to a singer with a versatile vocals, who could sing [everything from] traditional Malay songs to modern numbers. I am still doing research on her. 

scenes from Luqman 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Juvana 3

theSun spoke the cast from the film Juvana and here is the full story. 

Headline: End of the Line 
By Bissme S

The 2011 hit TV series, Juvana, had an interesting premise. Daim Yahya (played by Zahiril Adzim) was falsely accused of murdering his mother and her new boyfriend. 
Since he was underaged, he was sent to a juvenile school. However, he does not become bitter at his fate. Instead, he influences two of his new friends, Botak (Johan Asari) and Ayam (Adam Shaz), to turn over a new leaf and become decent human beings, as well as to always believe in a better tomorrow. 
The success of the 13-episode TV show prompted director Faisal Ishak to produce a film trilogy that focuses on the post juvenile school lives of Daim, Ayam and Botak. The first part hit cinemas in 2013 and two years later, the second part was released. 
The third and final part, Juvana 3:  Penghitungan Terakhir, opens today.  In a recent interview, the three lead actors talk about their characters in Juvana 3. 
Zahiril, 32, reveals that his character Daim goes through a  major change in the movie. 
“Daim goes through [an emotional] roller-coaster ride and [reveals] a darker side,” Zahiril says, adding that it was challenging to play a character that goes through such changes in life. 
“The woman he loves gets killed and he becomes a broken man,” Zahiril explains. 
“He feels [that] being good does not pay.” 
Daim then goes to work for a gang and turns to a life of crime. What he does not know is that his current boss is responsible for the death of his girlfriend, Sara. Sara is played by Zahiril’s 
real-life wife, actress Shera Ayob. 
“There [are] advantages and  disadvantages to working with your spouse,” the actor says. 
“The advantage is that we can have more discussions about our roles since we are staying under the same roof.” 
On the other hand, the couple can be rather shy when acting out romantic scenes.  
Meanwhile, Johan, 30, believes that fans of Juvana will be shocked to see a change in the relationship between his character Botak and Daim. 
He says: “[The two are] like brothers. But in this movie, their friendship [has] some rocky  moments.”    
However, Johan believes that a good movie is always about good scriptwriting. 
“The success of Juvana lies in how the director and the scriptwriter have shaped our characters,” he adds. 
For Adam, 35, his character Ayam also undergoes a transformation in this movie. 
“Ayam has always been a bad boy,” he says. 
“In this movie, he changes. He becomes a good boy. He discourages his friends (Botak and Daim) from a life of crime.”   When asked whether he prefers to play positive or negative roles, Adam says with a laugh: “Playing the bad [guy] is more fun.” Adam believes fans have to catch this film because it is the final one of the franchise.   
“This movie will have far more intense fight scenes that the audience will enjoy,” he adds. 
With the trilogy completed, the three actors are already moving on to new projects. In his next film, Dorm Melati, Adam plays a college boy who gets angry when a girl rejects his love and in revenge, he sets out to make her life miserable.  
Johan, meanwhile, will be doing a comedy, Bo-Peng, with actor Nabil Ahmad. The two play best friends who work in a pizza shop. Zahiril is taking on the role of a cop who tries to curb corruption taking place in his unit in One Two Jaga, under the direction of Nam Ron. 
“Soon, my character learns he is playing a dangerous game, [and that] his life is in danger,” the actor reveals. 

from left :
Botak, Ayam & Daim 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Harith Iskander

The famous Malaysian comedian Harith Iskander speaks to theSun and here is the full story 

Headline: The Serious Side of Comedy 
By Bissme S

A TOTAL of 86 comedians from 55 countries are competing to be the Funniest Person in the World Competition, organised by American comedy club chain Laugh Factory. 
One of the two chosen to represent Malaysia is popular standup comedian and talkshow host Harith Iskander, 50. The other is Dr Jason Leong. Currently, the competition is in the first round. 
Fans can go to the Funniest Person in the World website, where they can view short clips of the comedians and vote for their favourite before 3am on Oct 3. 
The 20 comedians with the highest votes will then proceed to the second round where they will be performing in Helsinki, Finland, on Dec 4 and 5, in front of a live audience. 
From there, the top five will move on to the third and final round, which will take place from Dec 6 to 10. The comedian with the highest number of online votes will take the title and the US$100,000 (RM410,000) cash prize as well as go on a US standup comedy tour. Here, Harith shares his aspirations as a comedian. 

*What is your goal for this competition? 

“I want to [bring honour to Malaysia] like our Paralympic athletes did when they won golds. Everyone knows that the US has great comedians, and I just want everyone to know that Malaysia, too has comedians. I want to be in the semifinal, among the top 20 comedians performing in Finland. I have confidence I can win, based on my 26 years of experience performing in Malaysia and countries such as India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Dubai. For me to qualify for the semifinals, I need to gather enough online votes from Malaysians.” 

*What do you think of your Malaysian competitor, Leong? 

“He is a very hard-working person. He is a friend. He is one of the new generation of comedians. It is a shame that we have go up against each other. But I am not going to shrink from the fight.” (laughs) 

*Comedy is difficult to judge. What makes you laugh may not make me laugh. 

“I admit comedy is difficult to judge to a certain degree. Ever since American Idol started, we live in a generation where competition is king. Fifteen years ago, one might say that [you cannot make a reality show about cooking], because taste is a matter of preference. Now look at how many cooking competition shows we have on air. To remain current, you have to keep up with the changes.” 

*When did you first discover you were funny? 

“On Merdeka eve in 1990. My friend who was a public relations officer for a hotel asked me to go on stage and entertain the crowd. The crowd was laughing at my jokes. I did the same thing at a jazz club and someone offered to pay me to tell the same jokes at his event. I never thought you could get paid for being funny.” 

*What’s the saddest moment in your life? 

“It was in 2010 when my father passed away in February and three weeks later, my mother passed away in March. My father was 76 and my mother was 82. They had lived their lives to the fullest. When they died, the reason for me to live disappeared. Thank God, my wife entered the picture in the same year and [gave] me a reason to carry on with my life.”

*Who makes you laugh? 

“My wife. In my opinion, she laughs at the silliest things. What makes her laugh [often] does not make me laugh. But her laughter can be infectious. When I see her laughing, I will start laughing, too.” 

*How has being a father of three changed you? 

“My children [amuse me]. My children are [also a] source for my material onstage. “[One minute they will be] laughing and playing together, [and] crying and arguing the next. They won’t speak to each other. Soon, they forget what they fought about and become friends again.” 

Footnote Vote for Harith at

Monday, September 26, 2016

Zapin's Performance

theSun highlights a Malay dance form Zapin's show that will take place today. Read more 

Headline: In Praise of Zapin  
By Bissme S

The dance Faculty of Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) has always produced memorable dance performances. 
Aswara’s latest show, the 90 minute Main Zapin  2016: Akar Budaya Zaman which highlights this traditional Malay  dance form, is likely to be another success under its belt. 
Aswara’s Dance Faculty dean Mohd Yunus Aliallah, who is also the artistic director for the show, explains that zapin originally  came from the Middle East, and that Arab traders brought the  dance to Malaysia centuries ago. 
“You can see the Islamic and Arabic influences in zapin,” he says. 
Since 2010, Aswara has been sending its lecturers to learn zapin  from the old dance masters in different states. These lecturers brought back the knowledge gained to impart to their students. 
“We wanted the students to see the differences between zapin  dances from different states,” says Mohd Yunus. 
“Now, we want the audience to have the same experience that our students have had.” 
Syed Haziq Afiqi, a dancer and arranger for the show, says that each state in Malaysia has adapted zapin to suit its surroundings and culture. 
“[That’s why] zapin is different from one state to another,” he says. 
“In one state, the dancers use more of their hands, and in another state, the dancers use more of their hips. In this show, we will try to present zapin from all the 14 states in Malaysia.”  
The show will include 40 dancers and about 80 crew members.  
“Audiences love watching traditional dance performances compared to contemporary dances,” says Al-Jabar Laura, another  dancer and arranger for the show. 
“However, if you [stage] an Indian traditional dance, the majority  of the audience will be Indians, and if you [stage] a Malay  traditional dance, the majority will be Malays. 
“I want to see more Malays watching Indian classical dances and more Indians watching Malay classical dances, etc. I would like a more mixed racial crowd coming to watch this zapin show.” Jabar points out that the dancers for the show are made up of  different races. 
“The dance students in Aswara are taught all kinds of  dance forms such as Indian classical dance, Chinese classical dance, Malay classical dance and contemporary dance,” adds Mohd Yunus.    
“We want our students to have a variety of dance experiences. 
Some dance forms will improve your posture, and other dance  forms will improve your movements. 
“The more dance forms you learn, the more knowledgeable you  become.” 
When asked if there is future for people who want to learn dancing and make it their career, Mohd Yunus says: “A lot of  parents ask me that question. In the commercial dance scene, you have a good chance of being a theatre and television shows.  However, if you want to perform an artistic dance show, then you have to get financial backing.” 
He explains that Aswara has also started its own dance company to raise funds for students to stage artistic dance performances. It  looks like Aswara is always willing to push the boundaries for the  betterment of the local dance scene. 
Main Zapin 2016: Akar Budaya Zaman will be staged at the Experimental Theatre, Aswara, this Friday and Saturday. For more, visit the Aswara website.

from Jabar, Yunus and Haziq

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Saharil Hasrin Sanin

For the book Section in theSun today, I highlighted a Malay writer Saharil Hasrin Sanin. He talks about his three books Kentang, Tentang and Dentang Below is my story.  

Headline: Connecting Through Symbol  
By Bissme S

SAHARIL HASRIN SANIN has the gift of telling stories with a touch of humour and wit.
 “I have been brought up to be always critical and sceptical,” says the 41-year-old author, illustrator and visual artist. 
“So scarcasm and humour come naturally to me. The most difficult thing for me to write is emotion. I do not want to be too melodramatic. I am more interested [in showing] emotion.” 
Saharil believes that humans connect emotionally through symbols rather than words. 
“Our earliest language is [in the form of] hieroglyphs,” says Saharil, a native of Pontian in Johor but who now resides in Kuala Lumpur. 
“Currently, all our languages are returning to this mode of communication via emojis. Even the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2015  was an emoji. I am trying to explore emotions without using words. It is an experiment, and I hope it works.” 
Saharil’s ‘ experiment’ can be seen in his book series that began in 2001 with Kentang, where he uses his artistic talent to describe his views on life. That same year, he released his second book, Tentang, which is a series of essays about his life experiences, from his embarrassment undergoing the public circumcision procedure as a young boy, to his time working with Pakistani immigrants picking strawberries in the United Kingdom while studying there. Recently, Saharil launched the third book in the series, Dentang, where he dabbles in fiction. Here, he ‘tells’ three love stories using innovative techniques. The book follows the main character, Dentang, who recounts the love story between his two best friends, Salinda and Haikal, which is filled with uncertainty and jealousy. Their complex romance makes Dentang reminisce about the love between his parents – where his mother is dying of a terminal illness and his father tries his best to cope with the situation. Dentang also describes a famous legend from Sulawesi called Ringkitan and Bear about a woman named Ringkitan who takes pity on a bear and marries the creature. Later, the bear turns out to be a handsome man in a bear skin. Ringkitan’s sisters become jealous of their relationship and plan to sabotage their marriage. 
“I love exploring the technical part of [storytelling],” Saharil says. “I wanted to tell these three stories as if they are one.” 
When asked if Haikal and Salinda’s relationship is based on his own personal love story, he replies with a laugh: “It is not my love story. Of course, many bits and pieces from the book are based on true incidents, [a] mixture of events collected over the years. 
“I believe many authors who write about things that happened to them tell richer and more realistic stories. 
"Everything that we are experiencing, someone else has experienced before. Life is like a repetitive song.” 
Saharil has also started his own online bookshop, Kedai Saharil, as a way to sell his books. 
“A publisher has many books under his label to promote and sell,” he says. 
“He cannot give special attention to your book alone. So a writer should take it upon himself to promote [his own books].” 
Saharil adds that writing can be a tiring affair and can leave him exhausted. 
“I am jealous of authors who can sit and write for hours, transferring their thoughts on to the computer,” he says. 
“I can’t do what they do. I go to the gym quite frequently and let me tell you, for me, working out the muscles is less tiring than working out the mind. 
“I have (a self-labelled) OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and I am obsessed with producing perfectly crafted words in every sentence. The words have to flow like a stream. 
“So I write and rewrite every sentence, and read and reread them multiple times to ensure that they flow perfectly. 
“Maybe that is why I am not that prolific. My output is one or two books every five years. I tend to get author fatigue.” 
When asked if there is any author, living or dead, whom he would like to meet, he says: “[At the] top of my mind now is Tun Sri Lanang. 
“He’s worked with the two Johor kings and three Acehnese rulers in his life. He witnessed most of the important historical events in Aceh at that time. 
“I would imagine his life is like [that of] a character from the Games of Thrones. “I would like to ask him which part of his writings are the absolute truth, and which parts are embellishments.” 

Saharil with his books 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Shaheizy Sam& Interchange

Actor Shaheizy Sam speaks to theSun  about his excitement working with Dain Said in the noir thriller Interchange that will hit cinemas on Dec 1.   The story was published today, Read the full story here 

Headline:  Acting With An Open Mind 
By Bissme S

Award winning actor Shaheizy Sam  has a complex role in Interchange, opening in cinemas on Dec 1, as a detective on a mission to find a violent serial killer. 
“[My character] is driven by logic,” says Shaheizy, 34. 
“But his case is beyond logic. There is some mysticism involved. His world gets shaken. You will see him undergo a transformation from a confident man to a tortured soul. And his ego will be his downfall.” 
While his character may not believe in mysticism, what about Shaheizy himself? 
He explains: “I have seen things that I cannot explain. I remember I once saw something that had the body of a horse and the face of a deer. [But] the thing was not scary [at all].” 
Shaheizy has wonderful memories of working with director Dain Said. 
“Dain takes time to have lengthy discussions with his actors about their roles before shooting begins,” he says. 
“Dain is precise, and knows what he wants. There are many roads to your destination and Dain guides you to the right [one]. If you follow his advice, you will never get lost.” 
In early August, Shaheizy and fellow cast members attended the world premiere of the film at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. 
“There was a huge crowd watching Interchange in the rain, with umbrellas over their heads,” he remembers. 
“No one moved from their chairs. One blogger even said Interchange was a must-see movie at the festival.” 
But while many Malaysian films have achieved international acclaim on the festival circuit, they often fail to connect with 
audiences here. Will Interchange suffer the same fate? 
“I cannot predict [the] response to Interchange,” Shaheizy says. “But sometimes, I wish Malaysians can accept Malaysian films the way they accept Malaysian [athletes] who have done well at international competitions. [Come] and support us, and watch Interchange in the cinemas. We are always hearing complaints that Malaysian filmmakers are churning out the same old boring themes. Well, Dain and his team are giving us something different in Interchange.” 
The movie has three male leads – Shaheizy, ledil Putra, and Indonesia’s Nicholas Saptura. One wonders if there was any competition among them to shine onscreen? 
“Acting is never about competing with each other,” Shaheizy says. “ Acting is all about complementing each other.” 
He stresses that the actors have to work together if they want the movie to succeed. 
“I know Iedil and Nicholas are great actors, and I must [be] on par with them,” he says. 
Shaheizy’s own acting career began at age 12, when he made his debut in the 1995 film Sama Tak Serupa. 
“I never thought I would last [this] long in the movie industry,” he says. 
“Producers are always looking out for tall, fair and handsome actors. I do not fulfil those requirements. But thanks to [shorter actors like] Al Pacino and Tom Cruise, I learned that height has nothing to do with acting ability. They are successful actors. I need to be like them and be extremely good in what I am doing.” 
While he is selective about his projects today, as a young actor he would accept any role that came his way. 
“Some of the greatest actors in the world have accepted bad roles because they have bills to pay,” he explains. 
“I’m the same. I needed to be financially sound before I can afford to be selective with my roles. You cannot always blame an actor if the film is bad. Sometimes I have a good script and a good role. But the situation would be totally different on the set.” 
Instead of being frustrated with the way the industry works, Shaheizy believes in making the best of the situation he is in. 
He has also just finished shooting his latest film, Pinjamkan Hatiku where he had to lose weight to play a cancer patient. 
 “As an actor, you [have] to make things believable, and I am just doing my job as an actor,” he say.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Girl With No Head

The award winning film maker Liew Seng Tat tells theSun about his latest film project The Girl With No Head and gave sneak preview what we can  expect from his film.

Headline : A Penchant For The Bizarre 

Sometimes the dead don’t stay dead. They return as zombies. That’s the premise for The Girl with No Head, an upcoming film from award winning director Liew Seng Tat, who wrote and directed 2014’s Lelaki Harapan Dunia. 
The Chinese-language comedy-drama, which begins shooting next year, is about a murdered woman who has her head severed. Her headless body begins walking around town in search of her lost head – as well as to settle her unfinished business – all before her body rots away. 
“The film will have a lot of dry humour,” says Liew, who is still fine-tuning the script he co-wrote with Amand Eu. 
For almost three years, Liew has been working with French make-up artist Bernard Floch to create a prosthetic head and body for the project. 
“Filmmaking is all about collaborations,” Liew says. 
“Getting the right people to work with you is important. You have to [rely] on their abilities and experience to make a good film.” Recently, Floch was in town to meet up with Liew, and also to get ready a prosthetic head and upper torso for a test shoot. Liew was extremely happy with the final product, saying: 
“Everyone who saw the prosthetic was impressed. The company doing the CGI for the prosthetic put the head and torso together in their meeting room. 
“[People] who entered the room got a jolt because it looked so real.” 
Floch, who has more than 20 years of experience in makeup and prosthetics, has worked on numerous feature films and commercials in his native France as well as in the United States, Europe, North America and Australia. Some of the more famous films he has worked on include the Julia Roberts-led Eat Pray Love, the 2006 historical drama Marie Antoinette, French comedy drama The Concert, and French- German fantasy film Holy Motors. “Holy Motors happens to be one of my favourite films,” Liew says. “I’m thrilled to be working with the man who is a part of my favourite film.” 
Liew first contacted Floch in 2013 to recruit him for the project, but at the time, Floch did not think much about the idea for the film. However, after Liew showed Floch Lelaki Harapan Dunia, Floch decided to work with him. 
“I really like the style Liew had used to tell his story,” he says. 
This project also allows Floch to go back to his love for painting and moulding sculptures. 
Some filmmakers rely too much on CGI, but Liew is determined that this will not happen in his film. 
“Good CGI and special effects are supposed to blend in and enhance the movie,” Liew says. 
“I want people to leave the cinema talking more about the characters and the story.” 
This sentiment is shared by Floch, who says that he has observed some filmmakers putting more emphasis on CGI and special effects because they want certain characters to stand out in order to merchandise them later. 
“They want to make [more] money,” Floch adds. 
The pressure is currently on Liew for The Girl with No Head to equal the critical success of his previous films, Lelaki Harapan Dunia and 2007’s Flower in the Pocket, which received praise from audiences at film festivals worldwide. 
“Whenever I start a new film project, I start from zero,” he says. 
“I forget about my past works. I consciously make an effort to make sure my films [are] different from one another.” 
He points out that if one were to make a comparison between his first two films, one can see a vast difference between them – from the language he used to the mood he set in his films. 
“In this new film, I am dabbling in prosthetics and CGI,” he says. “I have never done that in my previous films. I am always looking for different challenges.” 
In Flowers in the Pocket, his lead character has a fascination with manequins. In Lelaki Harapan Dunia, it was the orang minyak. Now, it is a headless body roaming the town. It appears that Liew has a fascination for weird human beings. 
“I really have no idea why I have such fascinations,” he says. “Maybe, it is in the subconcious mind. Maybe you can tell me why.”

Bernard ( right) and Seng Tat is creating magic togethr