Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Quotes 2017

I am highlighting 12 best quotes from all interviews I have carried out throughout 2017. 

1) “I do not want to believe in the supernatural but sometimes, I can’t help myself. Recently, there was a demonstration in Jakarta where I lived. A distant relative sent me coconut water to drink. He said if I drink the coconut water, I will be safe from any harm (from the demonstration). I did not believe him. But in the end, I drank it. I would like to believe that I drank the coconut water because it was a hot day and it tasted sweet.” (laughs)

- Eka Kurniawan, Indonesian author, on whether he believes in the power of supernatural (January 11, 2017)


2) "My relationship with God has changed from fear to love. In Brazil, I visited the statue of Christ the Redeemer. There were a handful of tourists taking pictures of Jesus and praying.It was the World Cup season in Brazil at that time and out of the blue, a group of famous footballers visited the place. Suddenly, the tourists’ focus was on the footballers. Everyone was crowding around the footballers. The tourists were cheering and screaming. The atmosphere was almost like a party. Once the footballers left, their attention returned to Jesus. If a similar situation were to happen in Malaysia, you can bet it will become a controversy, and their behaviour will be seen as disrespecting God. Personally, I like to believe in a loving God. I really believe that God understands these people have no malicious intent to disrespect Him. They were just too happy to see their football idols, and a good God will want his followers to be happy.”

Mislina Mustaffa, actress, activist and author,  on her relationship with God  (January 16, 2017)

3) “He (his older brother) was a disruptive force in my family. But my late mother was constantly defending him. I could not understand how my mother chose to love one child more than the others. I always thought my mother never loved me. And I resented her for that.”

Saw Teong Hin, film director,  on his film  You Mean The World to Me that explore his relationship with his mother. ( April 21, 2017)  

4) “When I act in these foreign productions, nobody really knows who I am. I am almost like a newcomer and have to prove myself all over again. That is a good feeling. I want to be out of my comfort zone. I want to be put in a new place where I have to struggle to play a role. I would rather be an anchovy in a big sea, than a big fish in a small pond.” 

Bront Palarae, actor, on accepting offers from Indonesia and Philippines ( June 8. 2017) 

5) "My father woke up at 5am every day, and only stopped working after 7pm. When he got home, he was too tired to spend time with me. I felt neglected. I was angry at him for putting his work first. I did not understand his predicament then. Looking back now, I realised he was working hard to put a roof over our heads, and food on our table. I should have been more grateful." 

Shanjhey  Kumar Perumal, an award winning film director, on his relationship with his father ( June16, 2017) 

6) "What irks me is when a person who has power, wealth and fame migrates to our country,it is perfectly fine and nobody has issue with that. But these refugees have no choice. They have to abandon their homeland. If they continue living in their homeland, they would end up dead.   Frankly speaking, we need to remove the labels we have attached to [people], and look at these refugees as human beings who are fleeing prosecution. And they need our help."

Mahi Ramakrishnan , a journalist on her her documentary  BOU  ( August 9, 2017) 

7) "How can Islam be compromised if you give justice to a mother? Some Muslims feel [that] if they side with the mother, then they are siding with a non Muslim. But just imagine if this were to happen to you ... what would you do? Some [only care] that the daughter has become a Muslim. But she cannot see her mother. It is never easy to grow up without a mother. Kindness has always been the central principle of Islam, and that’s the reason Islam spread fast in the early days. Unfortunately, Islam (in our country) has become dogmatic.”  

Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim,  a lawyer turned politician, on producing the documentary  Dairi Untuk Prasana that focuses the controversial case of  M. Indira Gandhi who has been cruelly separated from her daugther Prasana. ( August 23, 2017) 

8) "If you want to survive in this industry, you must develop a thick skin.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 are people who like the kind of films I make.” 

Datuk Yusof Haslam, a film maker,   on people who thinks he is a mediocre film maker despite his films making tons of money at the box office. (October 31, 2017) 

9) “In Islam, it is said that you won’t smell heaven if you are arrogant. 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 good things, God will help you." 

 Ramli Sarip, singer cum song writer, on being humble ( November 15, 2017) 

10) “You can find a Malay eating Indian curries and Chinese yong tau foo You can also find a Malay wearing the sari, or the cheongsam.So why can’t we master a beautiful dance form from [another] race?” 

Mohd Yunus Ismail, a dancer, on learning BharataNatyam, the indian classical dance ( December 9, 2017) 


11) “I wanted to be a fisherman. I did not see anything wrong in being a fisherman. Somebody has to provide fishes.The teacher was furious. He wanted me to have a higher ambition, like everyone else in my class. He forced me to rewrite my essay.I just followed what he wanted. Looking back, it is lucky that I did not become a fisherman, because I [discovered] that I do not like the sea very much.”

Chew Kin Wah, Malaysian actor who has been creating waves in the Indonesian film scenes ( Dec 18, 2017)  

12) "There have been three turning points in my life. The first was the death of my father in an accident 20 years ago. The second was the death of my mother from cancer five years ago. And the third was calling off this wedding. It is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. I have done my best for the relationship. I never visualised [that] my relationship would end this way. I’d visualised myself travelling and seeing the world after my marriage, and maybe, even having a baby the following year. I am hurting now, but I am sure the hurt will get less with each passing day. I need time to heal.I know all this [pain] will pass and I will need to move on, and hopefully, to find happiness again.”

Hans Isaac, actor, on his broken heart ( December 21, 2017) 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Hans Isaac

Actor Hans Isaac speaks to theSun about his cancelled wedding, the latest progress in his career and his Christmas plans. Read the full interview below 

Headline: Baring His Soul
By Bissme S

WHEN award-winning actor, producer and director Datuk Hans Isaac announced in February that he had found the love of his life, his fans and everyone who knew him were overjoyed.
The wedding was supposed to take place in July. But a month before the event, he announced that
it was postponed. Finally, in October, Hans called off the wedding entirely – and that set tongues wagging.
After much persuasion, Hans agreed to open up about this bitter episode, as well as how he is
moving forward in his life.

* Your marriage did not take place. Why not?

“All I can say [is that] two people need to be committed for a marriage to work, and I believe that was missing.”

*Did you get cold feet?

“I was committed to being married after the engagement. I was ready to be a husband and a father. I needed a wife and a mother for [my children]. I did not need a girlfriend. When I see couples holding hands and having kids, I get envious. [But] I confessed I made the call not to go ahead with the wedding. It is a call that I was forced to make.”

*How is your relationship with your ex now?

“There is no communication between us at this point, but I do wish her the best in her future, and in all her choices that she will be making.”

*Can you describe your emotions at this moment?

“There have been three turning points in my life. [The] first was the death of my father in an accident 20 years ago. The second was the death of my mother from cancer five years ago. And the third
was calling off this wedding. It is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.
“I have done my best for the relationship. I never visualised [that] my relationship would end this way. I’d visualised myself travelling and seeing the world after my marriage, and maybe, even having a baby the following year.
“I am hurting now, but I am sure the hurt will get less with each passing day. I need time to heal.I know all this [pain] will pass and I will need to move on, and hopefully, to find happiness again.”

*How do you intend to heal yourself?

“I have been keeping myself busy. I have been travelling for the last two months.I have been to Bali with my family, and recently to Koh Lipe with friends ... I have been training in the gym four days a week. I have also been playing golf. I started scuba diving again.
“How do I benefit from something negative like this? Well, I put my attention on my health and experience new things in life. In early October, I collapsed, due to stress. It was an eye-opener
for me. I now see life differently. I learned that life can be extremely fragile. I am grateful that I am still able to appreciate life. I want to focus not just on the bigger things in life, but also the smaller things as well.”

*Have you given up on love?

“For now, yes. My heart is shut completely. I am hoping that one day, someone will come into my life and show me what true love is all about.”

*There are rumours that you already have a new girlfriend.

“No. I am single. I am still healing. But so many of my friends and the people I know are trying to set meup with somebody (laughs). It’s hard for me to meet anyone at this point, as I need to be fair and be 100% committed to her. I justcan’t jump from one relationship to another.”

*What about the perception that you are a playboy?

“I am 46, and I’ve only had eight serious relationships. If I was 25 and had eight relationships, then [it’d be] a different story.Have you ever met a playboy who wants to be married?”

*Eight serious relationships, and none resulted in a marriage. Do you think something is wrong with you?

“Maybe. We all have flaws. I am not afraid to look at myself and discuss my flaws. I think I am a good guy. I think my parents have brought me up well. I was not ready to get married before this, but I was committed to this engagement. It was the first time I [went] down on my knees and proposed marriage. It was never easy for me to [do that].”

*What’s next in your career?

“I am planning to have a concert with my buddies – Awie, AC Mizal and Afdlin Shauki – in July where we will be singing and performing funny sketches. I have plans to re-stage Lat: The Musical. The last time I staged it was four years ago. But I need to get Datuk Lat’s permission before doing it.”

*Any updates about your upcoming film project, Sg Rejang?

“I have been working on the project (which centres on the relationship between two tribes) for the last 10 years, and I have not given up on this dream. It is a story I have always wanted to tell. The longer I wait, the better the story becomes.”

*Tell us a little about your Christmas plans.

“I really thought I would be celebrating Christmas as a married man. But that is not happening. Instead, I will have my two siblings, three nephews and one niece to keep me company. Christmas has always been a family affair for me. I always host lunch for my family. The recipes my late mother used to cook will be done by my siblings.And to all theSun readers who celebrate Christmas, I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Chew Kin Wah

Malaysian actor Chew Kin Wah is making waves in the Indonesian film scene, winning one awards after another. I have interviewed him at one of the eatery in Bangsar and the interview was published today in the sun newspaper 

Headline: Making The Nation Proud
By Bissme S

IPOH-BORN Chew Kin Wah has become the latest Malaysian actor to achieve commercial success in the Indonesian film industry. Last month, the 52-year-old won the best supporting actor award at Indonesia’s Festival Filem Tempo 2017 (FFT 2017) in Jakarta, for his performance inCek Toko Sebelah.
He also took the best supporting actor award at the 2017 Indonesian Box Office Movie Awards (Iboma) in March for the same role as a widowed father who runs a wholesale shop.
In this comedy drama, the widowed father decides to leave the business to his son, Erwin (played by Ernest Prakasa who also directed the film), after a heart attack scare.
But Erwin has his own ambitions and wants nothing to do with his father’s business. Disappointed, the father sells off the business but eventually, Erwin goes all out to buy it back again. This is the second Indonesian film Chew has starred in. His first was Upi Avianto’s 2015 My Stupid Boss.
At a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur, Chew  opened up about his career and where his ambitions will take him next. Though born in Ipoh, Chew grew up in Kuala Lumpur from the age of eight. He was brought up by two women – his late single mother who ran a canteen, and his late grandmother, a sarong-wearing Nyonya wannabe, who spoiled him.
“I grew up in a household of strong women, and in a gangster neighbourhood,” he says. 
“All the gangsters wanted me because I could speak better English than them.”
At the age of 19, Chew discovered acting. He noticed an audition for a play in an English daily. He entered and was selected to appear in the Five Arts Centre theatre production of Kee Thuan Chye’s seminal 1984, Here & Now. The rest, as they say, ishistory. Now, more exciting roles in Indonesia seem to be coming his way.
Chew has just completed shooting Terbang Menembus Langit, a biopic directed by Fajar Nurgros, which centres on poor boy Onggy Winata (Dion Wiyoko), who achieves fame and success through a multilevel marketing and business venture. Chew plays the father who inspires Onggy to greater heights.
There is also talk that he might appear in a film based on a book by late Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer. One wonders if Chew has any desire to base himself in Jakarta permanently?
The actor, whose Muslim name is Anuar Chew Abdullah, says: “Indonesia has given me an alternate source of income. The lifestyle in Indonesia could suit me. But my life is here. I have my wife, my son, my friends, and three dogs here.”
In fact, Chew will next be seen playing a villain in a local TV series, Banteras, under director Ghaz Abu Bakar, which highlights the life of an anticorruption officer.
When asked the difference between working here and in Indonesia, I expect a polite, diplomatic answer from the actor. But Chew surprises me with a blunt and honest reply. He states that the Indonesians take their craft far more seriously than Malaysians.
“When you go for rehearsals, everyone is there, including the big names,” he says. 
“Scripts are given to you way in advance. The production houses prepare the wardrobe for you.
“Here ... you will find the big names missing during rehearsals. They are too busy launching some shops or products somewhere in Kuala Lumpur. Scripts are sometimes given to you only a few hours before the shoot, and you have to bring your own wardrobe.”
Chew used to get frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude here but now, he’s learned to make the best out of the situation. 
He also notes a disturbing ‘trend’ happening now, where a production house hires an actor under false pretenses.
He says: “They will pay you for a telemovie [job]. But later, you find [it] is not a telemovie. It is being screened in the cinemas, and the actor has lost out [in terms of income]. It is a scam.”
Interestingly, Chew never had any ambitions to be an
actor when he was young.He remembers that when he was nine, his teacher had asked the class to write an essay about their ambition.
“I wanted to be a fisherman,” says Chew. 
“I did not see anything wrong in being a fisherman.Somebody has to provide fishes.The teacher was 
furious. He wanted me to have a higher ambition, like everyone else in my class. He forced me to rewrite my essay.
“I just followed what he wanted. Looking back, it is lucky that I did not become a fisherman, because I [discovered] that I do not like the sea very much.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bront Palarae & The Intern

Malaysian actor Bront Palarae has signed deal with a production house in China and  will be directing a Mandarin language thriller called The Intern next year for international market. Read the full story here

Headline: In Greener Pastures 
By Bissme S 

AWARD-WINNING actor Bront Palarae, 39, has just signed a memorandum of understanding under his production house Pixel Play with Kunming Heng Ming Media Co Ltd (KHMM), a film production house based in Yunnan, China. They plan to work together to produce films, television shows and documentaries, with their first project being a Mandarin-language thriller
called The Intern. Bront, whose real name is Nasrul Suhaimin Saiffuddin, will be helming this project.
The story centres on a young graduate who becomes an intern at an advertising agency. On her first day, she is bullied and forced to work alone, late into the night. A blackout occurs and the intern finds herself trapped in the office with all the doors locked.
Slowly, she realises that someone else is inside with her, and that this person means to harm her. She spends the whole
night in terror in the dark, finding ways to keep herself safe.During a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur, Bront shares some details of his new project.
“We are trying to get a famous name to play the intern, as we want to sell the film all over China and internationally,” says Bront, who held auditions for actresses from Hong Kong, China, and Korea.
At the moment, they are in talks with a certain actress, but Bront is keeping mum on any further details until the deal hasbeen signed. Bront, who wrote the first draft for the script, says the film will be set over a period of 24 hours, with over 90% of scenes taking place in an office.
“I am planning to build the office set from scratch, so I can better control the environment when I am shooting the film,” he adds.
This will be Bront’s second time in the director’s chair. His first attempt was for the anthology film Kolumpo in 2013. Over the last
few years, this versatile actor has been spreading his wings across the region, acting in Indonesian films such as Headshot,
My Stupid Boss, and the recent hit horror flick Pengabdi Setan, which has been distributedto more than 30 countries, including
New Zealand, the United States and Australia.
“I still can’t believe that my face will be [on] a big screen in 30 countries,” says Bront, who plays a father to four children in the film.
His performance earned him a nomination for best supporting actor at the Festival Film Tempo 2017 in Jakarta. However, Bront lost out to another Malaysian actor, Chew Kin Wah, who won for  his performance in the comedy drama film, Cek Toko Sebelah.
Bront says in jest: “[Chew] won because he is older than me. I am still young and I have many more chances to win.”
But the actor quickly adds: “Frankly speaking, I love him like a brother. He is the one who recommended me for Belukar  (for which Bront won the Malaysia Film Festival’s best actor award in 2010).
“[Chew] is a very talented actor who is underappreciated and  underutilised. I think [Malaysia is] going to lose him to the
Indonesian film industry. There, he gets better pay and better scripts.”
Bront himself is also more than happy to seek roles further afield. He recently completed shooting a Philippine horror film called Daddy’s Home. That film is directed by award-winning Malaysian filmmaker Bradley Liew, who is based in Manila, and produced by Philippine producer Bianca Balbuena. It will likely open in cinemas here early next year.
However, Bront is still making films in Malaysia. He is starring as a corrupt police officer in the crime film, What Comes Around, which will begin shooting next year under director Zahir Omar. And his Pixel Play is putting the finishing touches on the film
1, 2, Jaga, which has been in production for three years.
The film, which is  directed by Namron, deals with the hot-button issues of police corruption and illegal immigration, and stars Rosdeen Suboh, Zahril Adzim, Ameriul Affendi, Vanida Imran, and Azman Hassan.
His production team worked closely with the PDRM (Polis Diraja Malaysia) to get certain police procedures done as authentic as possible for the film.
“Our aim is to discuss the issues of corruption and immigration,” he says.
“Whenever we have problems [in our society], we always take the easy way out and blame immigrants for them.”
He adds: “We are not pointing fingers at any one [person] or any institution. It is a story that needs to be told.”
Bront is famously choosy about his roles and the films he makes. But he always puts his passion first, before money.
“As an actor, I would rather play a normal role in a great film than a great role in a bad film,” he says.
“I had experiences where people tell me that I was great in the film, but the film sucked. I just do not know how to react to that kind of statement.”
But how long can he resist the lure of big buck commercial roles?
Bront mentions his 18-month old daughter Adeena, whom he has with wife Rozi Isma, as a possible turning point. 
He says: “I should think of her future, too. I should not let her be a victim of my passion. Eventually, I need to find a balance between
passion and finance.” 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Crossing Borders

Seven dancers will be on stage, performing to Baharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form. None of the dancers are Indian. Read this interview where three dancers talk about learning a dance form that is not from their culture.   

Headline: Dancing To An Indian Beat  
By Bissme S

Seven dancers from the Akademi Seni Budaya & Warisan Kebangsaa (Aswara) will be presenting a Bharatanatyam performance depicting episodes from the famous Ramayana at Lambang Sari, Istana Budaya, from this Friday to Sunday.
This classical Indian dance form is one of the mandatory dances taught to Aswara students for the past 10 years. However, what makes this performance unique is that al seven dancers are not Indians.
The dancers – Kimberly Yap, Mohd Imran Syafiq, Ng Xin Ying, Khairi Mokthar, Norbaizura Abdul Ghani, Christine Chew,and Mohd Yunus Ismail – have all successfully completed theirArangetram (graduation ceremony) under the guidance of well-known dancer Shankar Kandasamy from The Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur.
Their 80-minute crosscultural dance performance called Crossing Borders has been staged a few times in Kuala Lumpur and even in India, in conjunction with the 2014 International Music and Dance Festival.
Mohd Yunus, who is also the dean of the dance faculty at Aswara, says: “The audience and
media from India were happy to see [people of] different races performing [the Bharatanatyam].”
The first time Mohd Yunus caught a Bharatanatyam performance was when he was 15, during a talent show at his school.
“I was not captivated by the dance form then,” he recalls.
But when he came to Aswara and it was mandatory to learn the Bharatanatyam, his dance master
Shankar opened his eyes to the beauty of this dance form and encouraged him to master it.
Like Mohd Yunus, fellow lecturers and dancers Norbaizura and Ng also first discovered the beauty of Bharatanatyam at Aswara.
“It is not an easy dance to master,” Norbaizura says. 
“You have to move every part of your body, and you must get your facial expressions right.”
Ng says initially, she wanted to master contemporary dance, and to just pass the Bharatanatyam.
However, she slowly began to become more interested in it.
“I got [inspired by] both of them (Yunus and Norbaizura) who are my seniors,” says Ng.
“What makes me like this dance form is that you’re required to have strong stamina and good body coordination. It pushes your limits.”
Some have praised them for performing this difficult dance form but there are others who
believe they are ‘bastardising’ it, since they are not Indians.
“I will never get angry with any comments thrown at me,”says Mohd Yunus. 
“I will listen to them and I will try to improve on my dancing skills. [Criticism] is normal if you are an artiste. It is when you do not get criticism that you should be worried.”
The dancers also see nothing wrong with them learning and performing dances from different
Mohd Yunus explains: “You can find a Malay eating Indian curries and Chinese yong tau foo.
You can also find a Malay wearing the sari, or the cheongsam.So why can’t we master a beautiful dance form from [another] race?”