Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tommy & Shaun Tam


theSun publishes my interview with Tommy Tam better known as Ti Lung and his son Shaun who have appeared in the Malaysian made movie The Kid from Big Apple 2: Before We Forget.  

Headline : The Apple of His Eyes 
By Bissme S


Opening  in cinemas today, The Kid from Big Apple 2: Before We Forget will definitely make the audience shed a tear or two.
Hong Kong actor Tommy Tam, better known as Ti Lung, returns as the grandfather in this sequel to the award-winning film, to give another moving performance as a man who is slowly losing his memories of everyone he loves, including his favourite
granddaughter.
The film, by award-winning director Jess Teong, also sees Malaysian rising stars Sarah Tan and Jason Tan reprising their
roles as the granddaughter and her friend, as well as two new faces – Malaysian actress Debbie Goh and Hong Kong rising star
Shaun Tam.
Shaun, 37, who plays a man who regrets abandoning his pregnant girlfriend, is in fact Ti Lung’s son. Ti Lung, 71, was in Kuala Lumpur recently together with his wife of 42 years, former beauty queen and actress Ta  Man Ming, as well as Shaun for
the gala premiere of the film.
At an earlier press conference, the veteran actor states: “It is a challenge to play someone [suffering from dementia that]
you have never played before.I have to learn to walk slowly. I have to learn to talk slowly, too.”
The moment the actor received the script for the sequel, he asked his doctor for the symptoms for dementia. Then he used what his doctor told him to get under the skin of his character.
When asked what motivated a well-known Hong Kong actor like him to accept a role in a Malaysian-made production, Ti
Lung explains: “In my career, most of the time, I have always played strong, driven characters – either as an emperor, a gangster or a soldier.
“In this movie, my character is just the opposite. He’s suffering from dementia and his condition is deteriorating.”
While the film deals with issues of ageing, Ti Lung, despite his age, looks fit and his mind is still sharp. “Only my joints are
painful,” he says, pointing to his legs. Nobody can escape ageing,”
he adds. “But to maintain your health, you must not smoke or drink and you must be less aggressive. You need to
[appreciate] what you have in your life.” 
Ti Lung started his acting career in 1969 at the age of 22, playing a minor role in the Hong Kong film, Return of the OneArmed
Swordsman. Recognising his talent, the film’s director Chang Cheh did not waste any time in giving Ti Lung the lead role in his next production, Dead End. That film eventually led to more roles in such well-known films as The Blood Brothers, The
Duel, The Sentimental Swordsman and A Better Tomorrow.
However, Ti Lung attributes the biggest achievement in his life as being able to give a proper
education to his only son.
“I came from a poor family,” says Ti Lung. “I had to work [from the age of] 12. I started working as a delivery boy. I would deliver newspapers, milk and groceries. I could only attend night school.
“I know knowledge is important in life. That’s why I was determined my son will not suffer the same fate as me.”
Shaun went on to obtain a degree in advertising from a Canadian university. But in the end, he decided to
follow in his father’s footsteps and became an actor.
Ti Lung says: “Initially, I was not happy with my son’s decision to be an actor. You have to work long hours and you cannot see
your wife and your children very much. You will miss them.I did not want my son to go through what I had gone through.
I wanted a better life for him. But now, I have accepted his decision.”
Ti Lung admits that in the early years, he and his son went through some conflicts where they rarely spoke to each other.
Over time, they have reconciled and their relationship has since improved.
“I understand now that I cannot force him to live the life I want him to live,” says Ti Lung.
“I have to let him do what makes him happy.”
To Shaun, his father is the perfect role model who always puts his family first. He recalls how when he was in
his teens, he used to get beaten up in school because his classmates thought beating up a ‘gangster’s son’ would be cool.
“Immediately, my father stopped taking on gangster roles,” Shaun says. 
“He did not want me to be traumatised any more.”
But when it comes to his craft, Shaun says his father puts his whole heart into it. 
“He will memorise his dialogue and never come to the set late.”
Since becoming a father himself to a two-year-old daughter and a two-month-old son, Shaun says it makes him
appreciate his father even more.
“My father is a warm-hearted man,” he says.
 “He is not good at communicating his feelings. But his grandchildren always bring out the best smiles from him.”
As for The Kid from Big Apple 2: Before We Forget, Shaun says he loves the film because it emphasises on “traditional family
values and people connecting with people”.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ramli Sarip

Today theSun published my interview with  the iconic singer and song writer Ramli Sarip. 

Headline 
By Bissme S

Legendary rocker and songwriter Ramli Sarip (right) is making a special appearance at the Konsert Tanah Airku, taking place at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) this Friday and Saturday at 8.30pm.
The concert is a collaboration between the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia, with Ramli invited to showcase his hits such as Kamelia, Teratai, Kau Yang Satu, and Syair Laila Majnun.
“It is always nice when you are invited to perform with [younger] musicians,” says the rock icon.
“You can share your knowledge with them, and they can share their knowledge with you. I am also eager to see how these youngsters will interpret my songs.”
Even at 65, Ramli still has fans who are eager to see him perform,while his songs continue to entice a whole new generation.
Surprisingly, Ramli says that growing up, he never had any strong ambitions to be a musician.
“I remember loving sports, and was a good athlete in school,”says Ramli. 
“I loved to rear fish and collect butterflies.You should always have a hobby, especially when you retire.If you do not have a hobby, you
will die fast.These days, my hobby is reading books.”
In 1969, the then-17-year-old Ramli started the rock band Sweet Charity, with him as lead singer. After releasing seven albums, he left the band to pursue a solo career in 1986.
To date, he has released 12 solo albums, and counts among his many hits such songs as Nyanyian Serambi, Panah Beracun, Bahasa Terindah, Perjalanan Hidup, Doa Buat Kekasih and Sejuta Wajah.
“Sometimes, you need to write 50 songs just to get one hit,” he says. 
“As a singer, you need a collection of songs under your belt ... If you only have one or two hit songs in your career, how are you going to have a two-hour concert?”
When asked the secret behind this success, he says: “I never dreamt of becoming famous when I started my music career 48 years ago.
“I did not have the‘ commercial’ voice or commercial’ face that the mainstream music scene was looking for.
“But God has been kind to me. He wanted me to be famous, and nothing can stop God from making this a reality.All my success comes from God and I am grateful to Him.”
He also attributes his success to getting his late parents’ blessing in pursuing his music career.His father was a foreman who taught religious classes part-time, and his mother was a housewife.
“I always tell young people to respect their mother and father, and to always get their blessing in whatever they do,” he says.
“If you do not get your parents’ blessing, then you [will] not get blessings from God.”
His career was not without challenges, however. When Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) imposed a ban on male artistes with long hair in 1993, Ramli was one of the few singers who refused to cut their hair.As a result, he was slapped with a television appearance that lasted several years.
“I was not being a rebel,” he explains. 
“I was 40 years old, and I should not be forced to cut my hair.Even in my teenage years, I did not like cutting my hair short.”
His late mother was worried that he would not earn enough to survive, and subtly tried to persuade him to cut his hair.
“I told my mother not to worry about my bread and butter, and to just pray for me. If she prayed for me, then God would listen.”
It appears her prayers worked. The ban could have easily ended his career. But it did not. Ramli went on to become the legendary singer and songwriter that he is today. Despite his huge success, he remains humble.
“In Islam, it is said that you won’t smell heaven if you are arrogant,” he says.
“No matter how rich and popular you are, you must remain humble.I pray every day that I will never be arrogant. If you want to do bad things, God will permit you, and if you want to do goodthings, God will help you. “
Next year, he plans to produce his 13th solo album to mark his 50th year in the music industry. He also reveals that he plans to release his autobiography soon after that.
“Now, I am busy jotting down [details of] my journey in the music industry, and the inspirations behind some of the songs I have written,” he says.
“I hope I can complete my [book] in time.” 
For a colourful personality, with such a long and prolific career, his life story should make for an interesting read. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Yusof Haslam

Today theSun interviews Yusof Haslam after winning the life time achievement award at the recent Malaysian film Festival.  

Headline : A Life In Films 
By Bissme S

DIRECTOR and producer Datuk Yusof Haslam was recently honoured with the Anugerah Karyawan Sepanjang Zaman award at the 29th Malaysian Film Festival. But he would be the first to
state that his road to success was not an easy one.
“I came from a poor family and I stayed in a squatter house,” Yusof, 63, remembers.
His father was a lorry driver while his mother was a housewife. He was the fourth among seven children in the family. As a child, Yusof loved watching Hollywood cowboy films and Bollywood films. He wanted to be a famous actor,just like his idol, the dashing Bollywood star Shashi Kapoor. Unfortunately, his father was not supportive of his career choice.
“I was not angry at my father,”Yusof recalls. 
“I understand his motivation for [opposing] my acting ambition. He believed the Malaysian film industry was in the doldrums and a career in films was not a bright choice. He wanted me to choose a more stable career.”
Yusof then took up a job as a bus conductor. But he did not completely abandon his acting ambition. Without his father’s knowledge, he secretly went for auditions.
Initially, he started as an extra in films. Then in 1975, at age 19, his luck turned and he landed his first leading role, in the dramatic film Permintaan Terakhir.
“Actors these days are very lucky,” he says. 
“They can make enough money by just working on films and television series. In my time, there were not enough films and television series being made. What was worse was our payment which was small compared to what actors are getting today.”
He adds that acting was only a part-time job for many actors then who had to find day jobs to support themselves and their families.
After almost a decade of acting, Yusof won his first Malaysian Film Festival award – for best supporting actor in 1984 for his performance as a crime boss in the comedy Mekanik.
A year later, he set up Skop Productions to produce his own movies, a company he still runs to this day. Yusof went on to direct and produce a police TV series called Remang-Remang Kota Raya as the first project under Skop.
In 1991, Yusof directed his first feature film, Bayangan Maut, which he also produced and starred in. The film, which also starred Noorkumalasari, Ella, and Faisal Hussein, was a box-office success, collecting (at the time) a record RM1 million.Since then, Yusof has directed a dozen other films, many of which were also box-office hits.
At one point in his successful directing career, Yusof wasdubbed the “director with the Midas touch'. Most of his best-known projects have been films or TV series revolving around
policemen, including Remang Remang Kota Raya, Roda-Roda Kota Raya, and Gerak Khas.
When asked why, Yusof says: “My other childhood ambition was to be a police inspector.”
To some degree, directing police stories or starring as a police inspector was his way of reliving his childhood ambition. Despite some of his films being huge box-office hits, there are critics who consider him as merely a mediocre filmmaker.
“If you want to survive in this industry, you must develop a thick skin,” says Yusof. 
“You cannot take criticisms to heart and let them break you.Our former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir [Mohamad] has done a lot for our country, and yet people have not stopped criticising him.
“You cannot please everyone. My company has survived for more than 30 years in this industry, and that fact alone is enough to tell you that there arepeople who like the kind of films I make.”
Currently, two of Yusof’s sons – Syamsul and Syafiq – have followed in his footsteps and become film directors. 
“I never showed any special favours to my sons,” he says.
“They started from the bottom, working as [one of the] crew.
“I wanted them to have some experience in the technical side,before they sit in the director’s chair.”
Yusof admits that sometimes, he and his sons do not see eyeto-eye during the film making process. He recalls one time when Syamsul wanted to make KL Gangster without any strong female lead.
“His poster did not have female faces,” Yusof says. 
“I’m from the old school. I always thought [that] to make a successful film, you need to have a strong female lead and you need to have a female face on your film posters.
“I am proud to say that my son [proved] me wrong. The critics and the audience loved the film.”
His sons have achieved their own measure of success. Syamsul has won the Malaysian Film Festival best director award twice – in 2010 for Evolusi KL Drift 2 and in 2011 forKL Gangster.
He also won best director for Munafik at the 57th Asia PacificFilm Festival (APFF) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Syafiq, on the other hand, has been pushing the envelope with story ideas, film techniques and special effects with his films such as Villa Nabila and Desolasi. It appears the apples do not fall far from the tree.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jess Teong

I have interviewed film maker Jess Teong who had directed the Malaysian movie The Kid from the Big Apple that had grabbed four awards  - for best actor, best supporting actress, best newcomer, and best writing – at the 7th Macau International Movie Festival. Read the full story here 

Headline: 

Story with more enticing bite

By Bissme S 

TWO years ago, Jess Teong made her debut as a film director with The Kid from the Big Apple, for which she also wrote the screenplay.
The film, which was shot and produced entirely in ­Malaysia, portrayed the ­relationship ­between a Western–raised ­granddaughter and her traditional grandfather.
It was a roaring success, ­earning RM6 million at the ­Malaysian box office, and over RM1.3 million in Singapore.
The film won four awards – for best actor, best supporting actress, best newcomer, and best writing – at the 7th Macau ­International Movie Festival.
It also won another two awards – for best child actor and the Special Jury award – at the 28th Malaysian Film Festival.
Now, Teong is ready to release its sequel, The Kid From Big Apple 2: Before We Forget, which will open in cinemas on Nov 16.
Award–winning Hong Kong actor Ti Lung and Malaysian child actress Sarah Tan Qin Lin reprise their roles as the grandfather and granddaughter respectively.
Others in the cast ­include Debbie Goh, Jason Tan, and Leena Lim.
Shooting began last ­November around Kuala Lumpur, with ­filming lasting 22 days.
At a recent interview, Teong admits that she is aware of the people’s expectations in this sequel.
“Even if I were to direct a film that has nothing to do with my first film, people will still make a ­comparison between [them],” says Teong, who is also the managing director of production ­company Three Pictures Sdn Bhd.
“You just ­cannot stop people from making ­comparisons. But I do not feel any pressure.
“I’m the type who will just do my job once I put my mind to it. And I will not allow people’s opinions to influence me.”
Teong says recently, she held a ­preview screening of the sequel for ­selected viewers who told her they “loved it”.
She ­emphasises that both films are very ­different, with the sequel having a far more complex plot.
“My two films are like my two daughters and they will never be the same. My first film is my younger daughter who is cute and cheeky. My second film is my elder daughter who is quiet and ­beautiful.
“All I can say [is that] my two daughters have inherited good DNA from their mother.”
Teong also reveals that the sequel centres around a new ­development with the ­grandfather.
In the first film, he is seen as a strong, solid individual. In the ­sequel, he has been diagnosed with dementia.
“Even heroes get old one day,” says Teong.
She wants to address the issue of dementia among older folks, and what role children can play to help their elderly parents cope with the problem.
Teong also has the full support of her two lead actors.
“Ti Lung is picky about his roles,” Teong says. “Initially, he was reluctant to do the sequel.
“But once he read the script, he loved it. In fact, he liked his character far better in the sequel.
“It took him a month to say yes to my first film. For the sequel, it just took him 24 hours to come on board.”
The audience will also see some changes in Sarah, who plays the granddaughter.
She was only 10 years old in the first film, but now, she is a teenager.
In the sequel, her ­character tries to mend her relationship with her ­estranged father. Will she ­succeed?
“Well, you have to watch the film,” says Teong.
She says that Sarah cried upon reading the script. “She was so sad to learn that her character’s grandfather has dementia and has forgotten about her.”
When asked what kind of ­director she is, Teong says: “I am a very fussy one. But I never shout and quarrel with my cast and crew on the set.
“As I am making a ­positive film, I must have positive ­energy on the set. You cannot have ­positive energy if you are ­shouting and quarrelling.
“I warned my crew never to utter four–letter words on the set, since we had child ­actors around.
“In fact, there was a lot of laughter on my set.”
When asked about her ­filmmaking ­philosophy, Teong says: “I want my films to have strong content.
“A film with a good story is like a tree with strong roots and ... when a tree has strong roots, it will bear healthy fruits.”
Teong finds a lot of films today rely too much on special effects and big names in the cast, but ­forget about having a good script.
“Content is king, and you must never forget that,” she says with a smile.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sangeeta Krishnasamy & Deepavali

theSun managed to get the award winning actress Sangeeta Krishnasamy to pose with the dancers Temple of Fine Arts to pose for this exclusive shot. 

The choreographer from the Temple of Fine Arts Shankar Kandasamy has help us in this shoot. A big thanks also goes to the Sunphotograpaher Adib Rawi and Amirul  Syafiq for taking the shots 


Headline 
By Bissme S


This year has been a good one for actress Sangeeta Krishnasamy. Her performance in the inspirational biopic, Adiwiraku,
earned her two best actress awards – at the Malaysian Film Festival, and the Anugerah Pengkritik Filem Kuala Lumpur.
In Adiwiraku, she plays real-life teacher Cheryl Ann Fernando, who left Kuala Lumpur to teach English in a rural school in
Sungei Petani, Kedah, from 2013 to 2015. The film depicts Cheryl’s efforts to inspire her students to greater heights, and
overcome their fear of speaking English. More exciting roles are in store forSangeeta. She will next be seen in the 13-
episode Malay teledrama series Banteras,playing an officer attached with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
And early next year, Sangeeta will be playing a secret service agent, something along the line of Angelina Jolie’s role in Salt.
“I won’t talk more about this role until I’ve signed the dotted line,” she says. 
“I understand that with the awards come certain expectations.All eyes will be watching me and what I’m
doing next. But I will not allow those expectations to stress me out.
“I am human and I will make mistakes. There will be times when I will choose the wrong projects. Mistakes are important
because they teach lessons so that you do not repeat them.”
Sangeeta has a strong desire to be a scriptwriter and a film director in future. In fact, she is saving up money so she can enrol
in the prestigious New York Film Academy.
“I have always been crazy about films since I was young.” she says. 
“I always turned to films when I have problems. Films are good distractions. They are an excellent way to be
entertained. I love watching art films like Children of Heaven and The Colours of Paradise. Majid Majidi is one of my favourite directors.”
Interestingly, Sangeeta never harboured any dreams to be an actress before she first joined the entertainment industry. In fact, she was working for a college which was located near the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) in Sentul, where from time to time, she would watch plays that were held there.
One day, she stumbled upon a notice in klpac announcing that well-known theatre director Joe Hasham would be conducting a
10-week acting course. She decided to participate.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. 
“The acting course [got rid of] all the inhibitions I never thought I had.”
Her mentor, Joe Hasham, kept pushing her to attend auditions, and she eventually landed a plum role as an unwed mother in the
Tamil series Manippu in 2009. Her  performance got her noticed, and more roles started coming her way.
“I’m Anak Malaysia,” she says. 
“I will act in any [local] film, and in any language. I am even willing to act in a Chinese film if the director is willing teach me the language.”
Asked about her personal life, Sangeeta admits that she’s dating a fellow ‘entertainment personality’. But she adds that right now, marriage is far from her mind. 
“I have a very supportive partner,” she says. 
“Since he is [also] from the entertainment industry, he understands my busy routine, and I can always talk to him whenever I face problems in my career.”
Asked her plans for the Festival of Lights (which falls tomorrow), Sangeeta says this year, she intends to spend more time with
her family.
She adds: “In the last few years, I have grandmother, Madam Alagammal, who passed away in 2006. 
“She had a strong personality,” Sangeeta recalls. 
“She would ensure that we had our new festive dresses, and that we looked good for Deepavali. She taught me how to cook.
“She always brought our family together.
“Deepavali is a time for us to [celebrate] the triumph of good over evil, and for us to find opportunities to help others.”
With Deepavali just round the corner, we ask if Sangeeta is willing to do a photo shoot together with dancers from the Temple of Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur to wish all theSun readers of the Hindu faith a happy Deepavali. 
----------------

Footnote: 
Special thanks to Sangeeta as well as The Temple of Fine Arts and its dancers – Purnima Segaran, Harshini Sukumaran, Shonabushani Velusamay and Ananga Manjari – for making this photo shoot possible.

*Stylist & Make-up for Sangeeta: Krishan Bahdur
*Outfit for Sangeeta: Ardana Haran
*Choreographer: Shankar Kandasamy from The Temple of Fine Arts
* Photographers: Adib Rawi Yahya and Amirul Syafiq Din  






















Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tombiruo

Today theSun run two stories on the Malay movie Tombiruo, based on best seller novel with the same name . The first story centers on the film production while the second story focuses on the author. 

FIRST STORY 


Headline: A Clash of Two Worlds 
By Bissme S

Film production house Astro Shaw recently held a special screening of its latest film, Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba, for the media and selected guests. The RM6 million action flick, which opens in cinemas tomorrow, was favourably received by the
guests who were especially impressed by the special effects, cinematography, the fight sequences, and touching emotional
scenes.
Adapted from a bestselling Malay novel by Ramlee Awang Murshid  the story centres on a man named Tombiruo, who lives in the forest with his adopted father Pondoluo. Tombiruo, who wears a wooden mask to hide his disfigured face, has a strong connection with the forest, and is considered its protector, complete with magical powers.
When a logging company gets the job to clear a part of the forest for the building of a dam, the company sends in some hired thugs to drive away the local aboriginal community who opposes the project. Tombiruo and his father try to help the villagers, and in the struggle, Pondoluo is killed. The thugs escape, leaving a devastated Tombiruo swearing revenge upon them.
Playing Tombiruo is Zul Ariffin (Evolusi KL Drift 2, J Revolusi). Others in the cast include Farid
Kamil, Nabila Huda, Faizal Hussein, Hasnul Rahmat, and Michael Chen. Helming the film are not one but
two directors – Australian filmmaker Seth Larney and local actor-director Nasir Jani as associate director.
Larney is also a writer and visual effects supervisor who has worked on such Hollywood productions as Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, as well as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. At the Tombiruo screening, the film’s executive producers Najwa
Abu Bakar and Zainir Aminullah dismissed the notion that hiring a foreign director is a sign that Astro lacks faith in local directors.
“We wanted to elevate the Malaysian film industry by pairing  a very good local director (in Nasir) with a very good foreign director (in Larney),” said Najwa, who is also head of Astro Shaw. 
“[Larney] learns from Nasir, and Nasir learns from [Larney].”
Besides the sharing of knowledge, Najwa believes this move is an excellent marketing strategy for Tombiruo. She explained: “Astro has created box-office hits such as The Journey, Ola Bola, and Polis Evo. But these films have a difficult time
penetrating the overseas market.We want Tombiruo to travel [far].”
Both Najwa and Zainir said that discussions are already underway to distribute Tombirou internationally. Zainir, who is also the chief executive officer of production house Ideate Media, feels that  Larney’s experience with effects heavy
films would help Tombiruo appeal to a global audience.
“We are looking at markets where our movies have not gone before,” he added.
Interestingly, both directors were not present for the press conference after the screening of Tombirou. There were rumours of tension between Larney and Nasir, and I could not help but speculate there might be some truth to them. Then again, I could be wrong. Perhaps, both directors were just too shy to meet the Malaysian press.
Actor Farid – who plays forest ranger Amiruddin in Tombiruo – insisted there was no clash of opinions between the two directors
on the set, and the film shoot was smooth sailing.
“Seth and Nasir have different tasks in the film,” he explains. “Seth looked into special effects, while
Nasir made sure the film did not lose its Malay identity. We should be grateful that we had two
directors on the set.”
He also applauded Astro’s move to encourage a collaboration between a foreign director and a Malaysian director.
“Our football team imports foreign players to become better,” Farid said. 
“We are doing the same thing here. We are just raising the standard of our films.”
Chen, who plays the film’s antagonist, agreed.
“When I got the role, I did not know the film would have two directors,” said Chen, who is also a film producer and active in the Malaysian theatre scene.
At the start, he was worried that the film might face some rough patches. But he was wrong.
“I never had a better experience on a film set, and [it] was awesome,” he says. 
“Both directors were in sync and in harmony.”

---------------------------------------------------
SECOND STORY

Headline: A Writer's Dream  
By Bissme S

About  10 years ago, author Ramlee Awang Murshid mstarted a film production company, Layar Sunan, hoping to adapt his novels into films. Tomorrow, the 50-year-old’s dream will come true. The film adaptation of his best-selling novel Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba will be released in cinemas.The film is produced by Astro Shaw, with the cooperation of Layar Sunan.
“This could be the first time that a novelist has turned into a film producer,” says Ramlee, a native of Papar, Sabah.
Asked why he chose this unique route, he says: “There are those who have not read my novels and are not aware of my existence. I [had hoped] this production company would change [that].
“Maybe, after watching the film version of my novels, they will be tempted to pick up my books and read them.”
Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba tells the tale of a man who is the protector of both the forest and the local aboriginal community. The book follows Tombiruo’s fierce battle with a logging company that is trying to destroy the forest. The novel has two sequels, Tombiruo: Semangat Hutan and Tombiruo Terakhir. 
“There was a lot of illegal logging taking place in my  hometown (in Sabah), and these novels deal with that issue,” he
says.
“We should not abuse our environment, because nature can strike back.”
Asked if the film would be a faithful adaptation of the novel, Ramlee diplomatically replies: “It is impossible to translate
everything from the novel to the screen.You cannot compress a few hundred pages into a two-hour movie. Some parts you have to
[leave out] so the film will make a better impact. Sacrifices have to be made.”
However, Ramlee says he is happy the film has managed to capture the essence of his novel, which was written in 1998. Next year, Ramlee plans to release the series’ fourth instalment, Tombiruo Legasi. To date, Ramlee has written 35 novels, beginning with a thriller about revenge and murder titled Igauan Maut, in 1995.
At the time, he says, Malay readers were more keen to read romance novels, and his horror novels did not get a good response.
“Some bookshops refused to carry my titles,” Ramlee recalls.
But over the years, readers began to expand their interest, and his novels started selling like hotcakes. One reason for this change, says Ramlee, is because “too many romance novels were flooding the market”.
He adds:“Readers were getting tired of them. They were looking for something different. If you eat chicken every day, you will get bored with chicken.”
Asked about his inspirations, Ramlee cites his father – a prison officer – as the one who sparked his desire to be a storyteller.
“He would tell me what took place in the prison, [including] stories of criminals, in the most suspenseful manner,” says
Ramlee.
“There was a period where he even handled the last meals the prisoners had before they were hanged.”
One of the stories that Ramlee remembers vividly is about a prisoner who was extremely depressed when he learnt his
sentence was ending.
“He had spent his whole life in the prison, and the prison had become his home,” Ramlee recalls.
“He did not want his freedom. A month after his release, he committed a robbery so he would be sent back to prison.”
Another story that has an impact on Ramlee is about a murderer who was sentenced to
hang.
“A few minutes before [his sentence was to be carried out], the prison office received a call that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was
visiting Sabah, and no hanging was supposed to take place [that day].”
One month later, the prisoner was facing the hangman again. Ramlee says: “A few minutes before [it was to take place], the
prison office received another call that the Agong had pardoned everyone who was supposed to be hanged that day. The prisoner
escaped death twice!”
Ramlee has written about many interesting subjects, that one wonders if the next step is for him to write an autobiography.
“I have tried to write a book about my life. But my story never got completed. To write about yourself is the
most difficult thing to do. You have to true to yourself and that is not easy.”
He adds with a laugh: “I have done some naughty things in my life.”
----------------------------------

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

LUQMAN


Luqman opens in the cinemas today. The director Mahadi J Murat speaks about the women in his life and his movies. Read more 
Headline: The Queen Factor 
By Bissme S

DIRECTOR Mahadi J. Murat states at a recent interview that he finds women to be far more fascinating than men.
"They are big in emotions. It is a known fact that girls mature faster than boys. As a result, women are always changing. They never remain the same.
"[Any] married man ... will tell you that the woman he married is not the woman he fell in love with. So, a man needs to be smarter if he wants to keep up with the emotional pace of the woman he loves."
That's why his films have a tendency to feature strong women characters. Of his earlier three films – Rosa-Roda (1985), Wanita Bertudung Hitam (1992) and Sayang Salmah (1995) – the last two have a strong female lead.
As a filmmaker, Mahadi feels he has a lot more flexibility in the treatment of his story whenever he has a female character, and he finds a film poster with a woman's face attracts far more attention.
Mahadi's latest film, Luqman, which is opening in cinemas tomorrow, may have a man's name as its title but the director insists that the story's subtext is about a woman.
The film, which is Mahadi's fourth after over 20 years, was shot on a budget of RM500,000.
Luqman centres on a poet named Luqman Hakim (Wan Hanafi Su), who is upset that the younger generation does not appreciate Malay literature.
Things get worse when his much younger wife, traditional Malay dancer Ayu Kencana (Raja IIya), gets close to a handsome young graduate named Marwan Al Hadi (Josiah Hogan), who is doing a thesis on Malay culture.
Luqman lives in fear of losing Ayu to Marwan. He wants Ayu to stop dancing, but she refuses. This conflict puts a strain on their once-happy marriage.
Mahadi points out that Luqman's feelings go between love and jealousy, while Ayu has to choose between her passion for dance and her marriage.
When asked which woman influenced his life the most, he says: "All the women in my life have played an important role, especially my mother."
His mother passed away seven years ago, at the age of 90. She was not formally educated, and could only read Jawi.
"Yet my mother was so wise," says Mahadi. "She taught me to accept and respect people for what they are, and not just look at their weaknesses and their mistakes. She believed humans are not complete beings."
Mahadi also attributes his success to both his ex-wife (to whom he was married for 27 years), and his current wife. Both women are working professionals.
"I always bounce my ideas off my wife," he says. "She would express her opinions. Sometimes, I listen to her and sometimes I do not.
"For Luqman, my wife gave a few suggestions on [improving] some of the scenes."
Though, Mahadi prefers to keep his age a secret, he does not hide the fact that the age gap between him and his current wife is more than 30 years. It is easy to jump to conclusion that Luqman could be loosely based upon his own life.
Laughing, Mahadi says: "Some people have said that. But all I can say is that I did not put myself in the film."
Mahadi, however, advises married couples not to take their relationships for granted, and that they should have one car, instead of two.
"When you have two cars, you and your spouse take different paths," he says. "But when you have one car, you and your spouse are forced to take the same road.
"You have to drop your spouse at his or her workplace, and you have to pick him or her up after work. You are likely to have dinner, or at least supper together."
Mahadi confesses that he and his wife have two cars. But every Monday, they make it a point to drive to work in one car.
When asked to name any famous women who have impressed him, Mahadi says: "Margaret Thatcher. She had a strong and determined personality. Her husband was always walking behind her.
"Her situation was totally in contrast to our culture. Our women are encouraged to walk behind their husbands.
"We have strong Malay women such as Rosmah Mansor and Siti Hasmah. But they always walk behind their husbands.
"Personally, I believe a woman should not walk in front of her husband, neither should she walk behind her husband. She should be walking [beside] her husband."
Mahadi does not hide the fact that there have been occasions when he walked behind his wife, just like Denis Thatcher.
"Whenever we go to market together, she walks in front of me most of the time, as she makes the decisions on what to buy," he says with a smile.
"But I have no problem with it. My wife is a great cook. Her food is delicious."

Monday, September 25, 2017

Dr Parasuram Ramamoorthi & ASD

Today, theSun publishes my interview with  Dr Parasuram Ramamoorthi who uses theater to connect with children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  

Headline 
By Bissme S 

Indian playwright, poet and director  Dr Parasuram Ramamoorthi set up his theatre company, Velvi, in 1999 with the aim of preserving some of the Indian art forms. But in 2003, he began working in the field of arts for autism, and expanded his goals.
Going with the slogan, ‘Theatre Heals’, he began to use his theatre company based in Madurai, India, to connect with
children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
He has conducted countless drama workshops  for autistic children and adults in India, the United States,
the United Kingdom, Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Nearly 5,000 children have benefited from his programme. These children have developed better social skills and better communication with their parents, siblings and friends.
“Drama is about connecting with yourself, others, the audience and the space,” wrote 68-year-old Parasuram  during a recent email interview.
“When we narrate a story, we narrate our experiences. Our perspective becomes entwined in the story that we want to tell.
“We help these people to step into someone else’s shoes and indirectly, it helps them to understand what the other feels.”
Parasuram says that role play and reversal of roles are gaining momentum with the autism community.
“Role playing helps let out emotions such as anger, fear, and aggression,” he says
Yet some are sceptical of his methods of using art to make a connection with autistic children.
Parasuram says: “They laugh at my workshops. [Yet] we cannot deny art is a social activity, connecting people with
people, and in art, there is no right or wrong.”
He adds: “Art opens a closet, brings fresh air and healing. The cleaning process begins when windows are thrown open and fresh air enters a room that has remained unopened for years. Art serves a similar function on the human body and mind.”
He believes, in time, his sceptics will see the benefit of using art to help teach those with autism. He has met with some success.
For example, one participant has held an art exhibition all over India and Canada, while another is an award-winning musician.
One of his main methods in his programme is the use of theatre masks. He believes the colours in the masks are attention seeking
and children with ASD will be immediately attracted towards them.
“One specific use I have found with the masks is that when children with ASD wear a mask, they tend to focus clearly and
they can be trained to develop eye contact because the mask prevents them from looking in all directions,” he says.
There are occasions he will ask the children to use an animal mask where they play a role of a tiger, a lion, a dog, a horse, or a
cat.
“Masks excite children and they can induce creativity,” he says. 
“It promotes creative storytelling among the children.”
This will ultimately lead to some body movements too, like walking like a lion or trotting like a horse.
“We are introducing a fantasy world to children with ASD,” he says. 
“This will largely ignite their imagination and help them  to relate to things around them.”
Playing with mask leads to the idea of painted masks.
“We can paint masks on the faces,” he says 
“Children like to draw lines and circles by themselves on their faces and the faces of others. So a creative use of colours
may be introduced to them.”
He finds the first question that most parents ask when they learn their children have ASD is “when their children will be normal”,
and a few even see their children with ASD as a curse.
“ASD children have awesome minds,” Parasuram insists.
“They have a mind that does not tell a lie.”
He points out that they refuse to multi-task, unlike normal people, and this can be an advantage.
“When you focus on one thing, you will became absolutely great at it,” he says.
Parasuram also says that there are neuroscientists and  psychologists who also have their share of misconceptions.
“They think people in this spectrum lack imagination and lack empathy. We have organised poetry workshops for them and today,
there are more than 200 of these young people who are writing poetry. Our participants does not merely act. They write scripts,
design costumes, do the lighting and even run a cafeteria. They also usher the audience into the hall.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Terbalik



The Malaysian movie Terbalik is set for Hollywood remake. The creators behind the film, Bea Tanaka and Yasu Tanaka speaks to theSun what sparks the idea for Terbalik and working together 

Headline : Flipped Over Success 
By Bissme S

MALAYSIAN film producer Bea Tanaka and her Japanese film director husband,Yasu Tanaka,  have done the local film industry proud.
The couple, both 50, are the founders of production house 42nd Pictures, which produced last year’s critically-acclaimed psychological thriller Nota. The film won the best screenplay award for Yasu at the 2016 Malaysian Film Festival.
Now, Yasu’s latest screenplay, for horror-thriller Terbalik, has captured the attention of Hollywood production company Ivanhoe Pictures. Ivanhoe Pictures has purchased the remake rights to the film in a deal estimatedto be between RM12 million to RM16 million (although the Tanakas have yet to receive anycash from the sale).
This is the first time one of their scripts (written by Yasu in English and translated into Bahasa Malaysia by Bea) has attracted international attention.
Ivanhoe Pictures has previously partnered with other Asian production houses to produce several notable films including South Korean horror film The Wailing, and Crazy Rich Asians based on
Singaporean novelist Kevin Kwan’s book of the same name. 
The Malaysian version of Terbalik will begin filming early next year, while the Hollywood version is expected to shoot at the end of 2018.
Terbalik centres on an actor, played by award-winning Bront Palarae, who is trapped upside-down in his car after an accident deep in a forest. A group of boys find him, and instead of rescuing him, the boys torture him and film the act on their smartphones, which they plan to release on the internet.
Most of the scenes show the point-of-view of the actor trapped upside-down in the car.
The idea for Terbalik hit Yasu while he was watching TV at home one night.
“I was wondering what if the visuals on the television were upside down?,” he recalls.
“It would [certainly] make a good story to see things from an upside-down perspective. I just needed to find a suitable setting for the situation.”
Bea believes the script attracted attention because it could be adapted anywhere.
“You could easily make the film in China with Chinese actors, and in France with French actors,” she adds.
Terbalik’s plot sounds similar to the 1990 Stephen King thriller Misery, featuring an author (James Caan) rescued from a car wreck by a crazed fan (Kathy Bates), who proceeds to torture him in order to force him to write another novel.
However, the Tanakas believe that their film bears more similarities to two other 2010 films – the Ryan Reynolds starrer Buried, and the James Franco-starrer 127 Hours.
“[Like them], Terbalik has a ‘one character, one location’ concept,” Yasu explains.
In fact, about three-quarters of the film will be shot around the ‘car wreck’, which will be located in an area around Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Bangi.
The Tanakas have also hired a prop maker to create the car wreck where leading man Bront will be positioned upside down. Medically, it will be dangerous for Bront to be upside down for a long time, so the car seat is rigged in such a way that Bront can easily be turned the right side up again.
They have tested the rig and the Tanakas are happy with the results, but a medical team will be standing by on set, just in case.
The local production is estimated to cost RM2 million and the Tanakas are now in the midst of finding sponsors for it. Terbalik marks the culmination of a dream by Yasu, who admits he wrote the script with the idea of attracting the attention of international production houses.
“The reality of this dream will only hit me when I see the remake,” he adds.
Yasu has wanted to be a filmmaker ever since he was captivated at age 10 by the sounds and visuals of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
He went to America to study filmmaking at age 20, earning a film degree from the California State University. When he could not get any directing jobs in Hollywood, he took up script writing, and
teaching others how to write scripts, adding that you need to be adaptable in this business.
He eventually focused on teaching scriptwriting in the US, his native Japan and Malaysia. Starting 42nd Pictures in 2010 with his wife allowed Yasu to finally realise his dream of becoming a filmmaker.
Yasu and Bea are already looking forward to their next film – a family comedy featuring an actor trying to to save an ice-skating rink from being demolished.
The sport of ice skating has special significance for the couple. Yasu was once a professional ice skater who performed for Disney on Ice, a career that took him around the world, including Malaysia.
It was in 2004 that Yasu met Bea, then a teacher for the deaf, who had come to watch a show he was performing in. A relationship developed between them and the couple, married in 2007.
The two admit that working together is never easy.
“Sometimes I feel like killing her, and she feels like killing me,” Yasu jokes.
Bea adds: “You will never know when the working relationship ends, and [your roles as] husband and wife begins.”
Ironically, both Nota and Terbalik feature characters who are having marital troubles.
“In our third film, my lead character will have an unhappy marriage, too,” Yasu says, cheekily