Monday, May 29, 2017

OlaBola The Musical & Rise of the legend

This story was published in theSun on Monday May 29....theSun highlighted two productions  - one is a musical theater and the other is a biopic -  that deals with Malaysian sports and Olympics. Read  the full story here

 Headline: Firing Up The Malaysian Spirit

FOOTBALL fans the world over are looking forward to the Fifa World Cup next year. This international football tournament will be held in Russia from June 14 to July 15, 2018. 

While this sporting fever will be sweeping the world, Malaysians will be presented with two ‘hot’ local productions that deal with Malaysian sporting triumphs.
The first is a musical theatre production based on director Chiu Keng Guan’s 2016 movie, OlaBola, about the exploits of the Malaysian national football team that qualified for the 1980 Olympics. Award-winning actress producer Tiara Jacquelina will be making her directorial debut in this musical.
The second production is a biopic by director Teng Bee on local badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei, who is a triple Olympic medallist and an acknowledged world singles badminton champion. Both productions will be premiering next February. Below is a quick comparison between the two productions. 


The musical will be staged at the national theatre Istana Budaya from Feb 22 to March 22, 2018.  


Tiara Jacquelina has been producing entertaining musical theatre productions such as Puteri Gunung Ledang the Musical and P. Ramlee the Musical. In OlaBola the Musical, she will be directing for the first time. 

The story: 

The musical is based on Chiu Keng Guan’s 2016 football film of the same name, which referenced the 1980 Malaysian national football team and how its multiracial players overcome their differences to qualify for the Olympics.

How the idea came about: 

Tiara loved the film and its theme of dedication, hard work, perseverance and unity. She says at that time, Malaysia did not have the tallest building like the Petronas Twin Towers, or the national car like the Proton Saga, but we were daring enough to dream about entering the Olympics. She hopes her musical will help capture that psyche.

Her challenge: 

Tiara wants the audience to forget they are watching a musical production. She wants them to exprience OlaBola the Musical experience as if they are watching an exciting football game.


Tiara refused to divulge the amount but hinted that the musical could be the most expensive that she has ever produced.

Additional information: 

Some of the people involved in the project include acclaimed music director Saiful Ridzuan, and awardwinning set designer Raja Malek.
Tiara intends to include rap and hip-hop tunes in the musical. Composer Mia Palencia will be composing the score, with additional music provided by rapper Altimet. Actress, director and comedian Shamaine Othman will be cowriting the script.
OlaBola the Musical will be the first show at Istana Budaya after it has completed its current renovation.
The cast of the OlaBola film have been invited to audition for the musical. The production is hoping that the success of the film, which collected more than RM16 million at the box office, as well as next year’s World Cup will attract Malaysians to watch the musical.
Chiu is happy his film is being turned into musical and is keen to watch it.



Opening in cinemas on Chinese New Year day, Feb 16, 2018.


Teng Bee is known for triad film Kepong Gangster and the sequel Kepong Gangster 2. This will be his fourth film.

The story: 

This biopic of national badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei will focus on his life from the age of 10 to 17, with two child actors set to portray Lee at that age. The audience will see how Lee became a badminton champion.  

How the idea came about: 

Teng says they wanted to tell the story of how Lee who grew up in poverty could still manage to achieve his dreams despite these obstacles. The director hopes the film will inspire the youth out there that whatever challenges they might face in life, they can overcome them, just like Lee.

His challenge: 

The difficulty of finding two child actors who could play badminton as well as act. So far, over 2,000 children have audtitioned for the role, including young actors from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.


RM6 million has been set aside for the film.

Additional information: 

 The production house had wanted to make the film three years ago. But it only got the green light from the badminton player late last year.
Teng had an intimate interview with Lee before writing the script. He also read the finished script to Lee in order to make sure that he got the details correct.
The film also looks at Lee’s relationship with another badminton great, Datuk Misbun Sidek, who was his mentor. The producer is hoping to sign on a well-known Malay actor to play Misbun, most likely award-winning Rosyam Nor. 

The film will also highlight Lee’s first meeting with the love of his life, fellow national badminton player and now wife Datin Wong Mew Choo. The film will feature dialogue in Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Bahasa Malaysia and English.
The filmmakers are also hoping to release the film internationally, particularly in countries were Lee is wellknown. Lee may likely make a cameo appearance in the film itself.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nurul Izzah & Wan Azizah ( Mother's Day)

For mother's day I interviewed Nurul Izzah who talks about her mother Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. The story was uploaded in theSun website. Below is the full story  

Headline: Wan Azizah - A Pillar of Strength 
By Bissme S

DATUK Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, 65, is the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Selangor state legislative assembly member for Kajang.But there is a side of Wan Azizah that has not been explored. She is also a mother to six children, and a grandmother to nine grandchildren.
To celebrate Mother's day which falls May 14, we examine Dr Wan Azizah as a mother and a grandmother through the eyes of her eldest daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar.
“My mother had faced so many trail and tribulations in her life,” says Nurul, who is a member of Parliment for Lembah Pantai.
“But my mother is a spiritual person. She relies on God for strength and support."
Born on Dec 3, 1952, in Singapore, Wan Azizah received her early education in Alor Setar and Seremban. Then, Wan Azizah studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where she was awarded a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology, and later graduated as a qualified ophthalmologist.
Nurul remembers in the early years when she was a student, and her mother was busy working in the government hospital, her mother would sit with Nurul and helped Nurul to complete her home work.
“My mother always made time for me and my home work, no matter how busy she was,” says Nurul.
Wan Azizah never expected to be a politician, but fate had something different in store for her.Nurul honestly admitted that when she was younger, she was resentful that her mother was spending so much time in politics.
“I missed having my mum on my side,” says the 36-year old Nurul.
"But as I got older, I understand her motivation and her sacrifice better. She wants a better future for her children, her grandchildren, and for every young Malaysian out there. You can only achieve this dream if you are busy eradicating the society ills. She is very focus of her responsibility and her role .”
Politics keeps Wan Azizah busy but she never neglects her family.
“Her parents are still alive, and she is a doting daughter,” says Nurul.
“She always there when her parents need her. [The same] goes with her children. ”
Once a week, Wan Azizah makes a point to have all her children and her grandchildren under one roof, and to have a good family bonding session. They talk about everything under the sun, as well as enjoy delicious food.
“My mother bakes well, and loves baking bread,” Nurul says.
“She has a great sense of humour and she always makes us laugh. She could have her own stand up comedy show. ”
Nurul reveals that her mother is very good at winning the hearts of her grandchildren when they are at their worst behaviour.
"She [manages] to persuade her grandchildren to end their tantrums, and she uses a lot of psychology to achieve this goal," Nurul says.
When asked how Nurul and her siblings will celebrate Mother's Day, Nurul says: "My mother is a homebody. She prefers to stay at home. It is very rare for you to get her out for a dinner. We can’t even get something expensive for her. She loves to embrace the simple things in life.”
Nurul also believes that one should not treat their mother well just on Mother's Day, and "be ungrateful" to them for the other 364 days.
“In fact every day is supposed to Mother's Day,” says Nurul.
“One should always appreciate one's mother. There is a Malay saying that 'syurga itu di bawah telapak kaki ibu' (Paradise is under your mother’s feet)."
Nurul herself is a mother of two - Safiyah, 10 and Raja Harith, eight - and being a mother has made her appreciate her own mum more.
“When you hold a life in your hand for the first time, you will realise all the sacrifices your mother goes through,” she says.
When asked what kind lessons she wants to impart to her children, she says: “I want them to be exposed to different culture and respect them. I want them to understand the world is not made for one race.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Joe Hasham & Betrayal

 Today theSun published my interview director Joe  Hasham and actress Stephanie van Driesen on working Harold Pinter famous work Betrayal

Headline: An Act of Betrayal
By Bissme S

THE CHEMISTRY among actors Razif Hashim, Stephanie van Driesen and Omar Ali is amazing to watch. You can feel the tension in the air. 
Even their director, Joe Hasham, looks satisfied with what his actors have created on stage at the rehearsal for Betrayal. The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat’s latest production will open at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) this Friday and runs till June 4. 
Written by Nobel Prizewinning British playwright Harold Pinter in 1978, Betrayal centres around three characters – a publisher named Robert, his wife Emma, and Robert’s best friend Jerry, who’s also a literary agent and art gallery owner. 
For seven years, Jerry and Emma have been having an affair behind Robert’s back. But secrets do not remain hidden forever, and Robert soon learns about the affair. 
What is interesting about this play is that it is not told in chronological order, and the audience learns the history of the affair in bits and pieces. Creatively, the first scene of the play begins with Jerry learning that Emma has confessed their affair to Robert, and an angry Jerry feels awkward and frightened to face Robert. The last scene in the play is when the affair first blossomed between Jerry and Emma. 
 The play was a huge success when it was first staged in 1978, and the following year, it received the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for best new play from The Society of London Theatre. “Everyone in this play is betraying someone,” says Joe. 
 “In some ways, they are even betraying themselves. They lie to themselves.” 
He adds that the idea of betrayal is still relevant in our society today. When asked if he himself had ever experienced a romantic betrayal, Joe says: “I have been lucky in that sense. But of course, you can never escape from people betraying you. The way I handle betrayal is that I’ll forgive, but I will never forget.”  
Joe is also breaking new ground with this production, by presenting it in two languages. There will be five performances in Bahasa Malaysia, and seven in English. 
When asked why he is presenting the play in two languages, Joe laughs before replying: “It is a stroke of madness on my part. We believe the Malay-speaking audience deserve a play like Betrayal.”
In this particular production, Omar is playing Robert, while van Dreisen plays his wife Emma, and Razif is Jerry. Both language versions will be performed by the same cast. Omar had also taken on the task of translating Pinter’s work into Bahasa Malaysia. 

Joe adds that it has never been done before, where the same cast perform the same play in two different languages. He admits this method of presenting a play would not be easy, and the rehearsal process had been tough for the cast.   
“I always choose projects that are good for my actors and myself,” he says. 
“If my actors and I cannot be challenged, there is no point to do the play.”  
Joe advises audiences to catch the play in both languages as they will probably find a noticeably different nuance in each production. Van Driesen readily admits that Bahasa Malaysia is not her first language. 
“I speak Malay like an orang putih,” jokes the Dutch-Eurasian actress who has won best performance in a supporting role in a musical theatre at the 9th Boh Cameronian Arts Awards in  2012 for her role as Betty in The Secret Life of Nora.  
Van Driesen has been working hard on her accent, adding that according to her cast members and director, she has come a long way. 
Speaking of her character, she says: “Emma struggles with what she wants. She obviously is not in control of her destiny.”  
Van Driesen finds Robert to be a man with a lot of insecurities, but he knows how to manipulate his wife and floors her completely, while Jerry is a romantic poet who knows how to make Emma feel attractive. 
“She tries to have the best of both worlds, but it never works when you try to do that,” says van Driesen. 
“She lets her heart [lead] her, and it cuts her instead. There is a part of me that wishes Emma would make a choice between the two men. She needs to be honest with what she wants.”  
Footnote: Betrayal will be staged in English on May 19, 24, 26, 28 and 31, as well as on June 2 and 4, while the Bahasa Malaysia version is on May 20, 25, 27, as well as June 1 and 3. For more, visit klpac’s website 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Datuk Lee Chong Wei

I spoke to film’s producer Josiah Chieng and director Teng Bee who is keen making biopic movie on our famous national badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei 

Headline: Legend In Reel Life 
By Bissme S

NATIONAL badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei has made Malaysia proud with his achievements on the international badminton courts. 
He is currently ranked No.1 in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) ranking for men’s singles, has won the silver medal for three consecutive Olympic Games for the sport and also captured the All England title for the fourth time this year. 
The story of his meteoric rise from bench warmer to world’s top badminton men’s singles player will be soon be depicted in the two-hour film, Rise of the Legend, produced by CB Pictures in association with Mahu Pictures. 
Shooting of this RM6 million biopic will likely take place in July with a release date tentatively set for 2018. In an interview with the film’s producer Josiah Chieng and director Teng Bee at a recent event to announce the sponsorship of Hwa Tai Industries Bhd for the movie, Chieng says: “I have produced 17 films and I’m proud with some of the works that I had done. But I’m eager to produce a film that will truly represent Malaysia.” 
Chieng adds that Lee’s life is the perfect subject to feature because every Malaysian can relate to his success. The film will focus on the early years of the badminton player’s life, from age 10 when he first learnt to pick up the game from his father to when he was drafted into the national squad at age 17. 
“We want the audience to see how Lee first started out pursuing his passion and dream to be a badminton champion,” says Chieng. “Lee did not have a rosy childhood. He grew up in poverty. Yet he managed to achieve his dream despite the obstacles he faced. 
“We want to tell people, especially the youth out there that whatever challenges you face in life, you must overcome them, just like Lee Chong Wei. 
“We want this film to be educational and motivational, and to inspire everyone to reach for [his/her] dreams.” 
The production house is currently carrying out auditions to find two children to portray a young Lee, first from ages 10 to 13, and then from ages 13 to 17. More than 2,000 candidates turned up for the audition, including some from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and China. 
At the time of writing, the production house has yet to finalise the lead actors. Director Teng explains: “Some can act well and others can play badminton well,” but adds they are looking for two who can do both well. 
Teng, whose most recent acclaim is the triad film Kepong Gangster, says once he finds the right candidates, he will put them through an intensive acting workshop before they face the cameras, to help them give a more convincing performance. 
Rise of the Legend is Teng’s fourth feature film. He adds that Chieng and he had wanted to make the film three years ago. 
“We wanted to work closely with Lee on the film,” he says. 
“But Lee was not free [then]. He was concentrating on the Olympic Games at the time.” 
It was only late last year that they finally got the green light from Lee to go ahead with the project. The director had an intimate interview with Lee before writing the script. Once the script was ready, he read it to Lee. 
“The last thing I want is to present an inaccurate film about the badminton legend,” Teng says, adding that they are still fine-tuning the script. 
The film will highlight Lee’s relationship with his former coach, Misbun Sidek, who first discovered him. The production team is currently in talks with a well known local actor to play Misbun who was himself one of Malaysia’s greatest badminton players. 
Rise of the Legend will also touch upon how Lee met national women’s singles player Wong Mew Choo, who later became his wife, and with whom he now has two children. 
There are plans to shoot the film at Lee’s hometown in Bagan Serai, Perak, to add authenticity to the film. The film will be mainly in Mandarin with some Hokkien (Lee’s native dialect), Cantonese, Bahasa Malaysia and English thrown in as well. 
If everything goes according to plans, Rise of the Legend will be screening in cinemas sometime during the next Chinese New Year. There are also plans to bring the film to international markets seeing that badminton fans around the world already know of Lee.

the director
the producer