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 


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 

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. 

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


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. 


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
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.”


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
“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
“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
“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.”