Wednesday, September 27, 2017


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).  

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
“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


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