Ahad, Julai 18, 2004

Right for the role

petikan The Star Online 18 Julai 2004

WHEN Tiara Jacquelina was looking for a director for the movie she was producing, she wanted someone who was a perfectionist.

She found that person in Saw Teong Hin, even though he had never made a film.

“(Mamat Khalid, the scriptwriter, and I) had a list of directors and we watched everybody’s work. Teong Hin had no film to his name but I have known him since I was a teenager when I was in the advertising circle,’’ she says.

The charismatic M.Nasir was the unamimous choice of the director, scriptwriter and producer for the role of Hang Tuah.And she knew that Saw was the “greatest fusspot’’ when it came to details. “I like that as it means that he is a perfectionist. It shows he has pride in his work,’’ she explains.

But her choice was criticised by certain quarters in the Malaysian film industry and by some Malay newspapers columnists. Saw’s race was questioned: He was a Chinese directing a Malay movie.

“It should not matter whether you are a Chinese, Malay, Indian or Eurasian,’’ says Tiara Jacquelina. “Sense and Sensibility (based on Jane Austen’s novel) was directed by Ang Lee (a Taiwanese). The Last Emperor was directed by an Italian.’’

Saw does not understand the thinking behind that controversy: “I am a Malaysian. I know the legend. I know the language. My position is: Why don’t you wait until you see the film and then criticise me if you don’t like it or praise me if you do,’’ says the director of award-winning music videos, short films and television commercials.

As for picking the cast, Tiara Jacquelina, Saw and Mamat all had their own wish list of who should play which character. But there were certain unanimous choices.

“When we thought about who could play Hang Tuah, we all said M. Nasir,’’ recalls Tiara Jacquelina.

But how did Tiara Jacquelina get the plum role of Gusti Putri Retno Dumilah, the princess of Gunung Ledang? The talk of the town then was that she got it – obviously – because the movie was financed by her politician/businessman husband, Datuk Effendi Norwawi.

“Yes, I wanted to play the character, “ explains Tiara Jacquelina, “but we never really set it in stone. We always said that if we came across a name that suited the bill better, then we would have the option to change.

“Later on, after I did much research to flesh her out, she became very interesting. I got to know her character so well that I got very attached to her.’’

Saw, on his part, says the question on many people’s minds was: Why her?

“My reply: Why not her? She is a very good actress (she won the best actress award in the 1995 Malaysian Film Festival for her role as Meera in Ringgit Kasorgga) and she is beautiful. And it is a great role that any actress would want to play. I didn’t see any reason why it should not be her. So that was that.”

As for the rest of the cast, Tiara Jacquelina says they got 90% of the actors on their list. “There was some people who were not on the wish list who turned out to be nice surprises. For example, when we could not fill the role of Sultan Mahmud Shah with the actor we wanted, we found Adlin Aman Ramlie and he has been wonderful. He is such a good actor,’’ she says.

Others in the Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean cast include Alex Komang (Gusti Adipati Handaya Ningrat), Datuk Rahim Razali (Bendahara), Christine Hakim (Bayan) and Sofia Jane (Tun Teja).

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