Thursday October 16, 2008
Talents on show in Talentime
By AZHARIAH KAMIN
Yasmin Ahmad’s latest offering, Talentime, features new faces and even some song and dance sequences.
You only need to spend a few minutes talking to prolific director Yasmin Ahmad to notice her fascination with people.
It’s no wonder her previous offerings (Rabun, Sepet, Gubra, Mukhsin and Muallaf) have all revolved around human dramas, with characters that most people can relate to.
Yasmin’s keen eye for detail and her understanding of the human psyche are also evident in the numerous commercials she has helmed, for which she has won numerous accolades. Just last week, Yasmin’s Japanese film project Wasurenagusa (or “Forget-Me-Not”, produced by Japan’s Wa Entertainment) won the US$20,000 (RM70,120) Pusan Award at the 2008 Pusan International Film Festival. The project is about a Malay girl who goes to visit her relatives in Japan after her Japanese grandmother dies.
Yasmin’s stories - be they happy, funny or heart-rending - have the ability to tug at one’s heartstrings. It’s this knack for drawing audiences into her little world that makes one eagerly await Yasmin’s next project.
Her sixth offering, Talentime, has been slated for screening later this year. A joint-venture between Primeworks Studio and Chilli Peppers, Talentime is a simple tale about a school talent competition. It explores growing up and the challenges the students have to face.
“To be the best, you have to go through a lot of struggles, just like a lotus which has to survive in harsh conditions,” says Yasmin about the movie’s message. Buddhist teachings often refer to the lotus flower that grows out of the mud and blossoms above the muddy water surface as an example for people to rise above their suffering. “I don’t like to show only the pain and struggle in my movies; I like to show hope as well,” says Yasmin.
Director Yasmin Ahmad (in red) with the cast of Talentime ... that’s one big family!
With Talentime, Yasmin confesses that it was time to play a new game.
“My previous movies were about relationships, but now I’m dealing with a talentime that means a lot of music and dancing.”
While Yasmin seemed to favour certain actors in the past (Sharifah Amani, for example, could well be termed her muse), Talentime features a number of fresh faces including Pamela Chong (one half of the Strong Chongs from The Amazing Race Asia 2) who plays leading role Melor, and another newcomer, Mahesh Jugal Kishore.
Yasmin added that when the two met during rehearsals “the chemistry was electric”.
Other stars include Mohd Syafie Naswip, who made his debut performance in Mukhsin, Malaysian Idol Jaclyn Victor and veteran actress Azean Irdawaty.
“I always find it interesting working with fresh talents as they are honest, interesting and dynamic.”
As Yasmin tells it, Talentime is a story about family and a talent competition in a school.
“There’s a lot of ‘mud’ in these stories, from which blossoms the most beautiful lotus,” she explains, adding that she had to rewrite the script several times since rehearsals began.
Expect to see a range of emotions being played on screen from love and friendship to suspicion and hatred. Hopes will get dashed, that’s for sure, and there’ll be plenty of rivalry, friction and of course, some romance thrown into the mix. It’s a co-ed school, after all.
“After featuring Malay and Chinese families in my previous movies, I decided to focus on Indian and Eurasian families this time.”
Yasmin says that one of the unique qualities of her movies is that it features characters of all races.
“For me, it is strange to see only Malays in a movie because in our daily lives we interact with other races, that’s who we are every day.
“I don’t like films that preach. I just tell what I feel on screen. I leave it to viewers to make their own interpretations. As a filmmaker, I am just asking questions, I don’t use my films to make judgments.”
Filming for the movie just wrapped up in Ipoh recently.
“I prefer outstation locations compared to Kuala Lumpur, and I know Ipoh well. Once the cast members were all here in Ipoh, we lived like a family, we ate together and stayed at a cheap hotel. And at the end of shooting, tears were flowing because we had to part ways,” she says.
What the actors sayPamela Chong
, 24, (Melor)
“It used to be just a dream to act in a movie!
“It all started when I tagged along with my mother (Susan Ann Chong) for a meeting with Yasmin. Being a fan, I wanted to meet her in person. Yasmin asked me whether I knew any girls of mixed parentage. Then she asked my age and asked me to turn up for audition.
Newcomers Pamela Chong and Mahesh Jug al Kishor play lovers in Talentime.
“Soon after, I received a phone call from Yasmin telling me that she wanted me to play Melor. I couldn’t believe my ears!
“It was only on the day we started reading the script and rehearsals began that the whole thing started to sink in... that I was going to act in a movie directed by Yasmin Ahmad!
“Once I dress up for my role, I get into character very easily. I learnt more about Malay culture while filming. But getting the Malay accent right was a big challenge.”
Mahesh Jugal Kishor, 18, (Mahesh)
“My character is deaf and mute and it was challenging to play him,” says Mahesh who learnt sign language for two months prior to filming.
“I love watching Yasmin’s movies and I’ve seen Sepet and Gubra but I never thought, not even in my wildest dreams, that I would be working under her direction!
“As a newcomer, I feel very lucky to have been discovered by Yasmin. I have had so much fun acting in Talentime; everyone has been like family and we even call Yasmin ‘mother’.”