by SURAYA AL-ATTAS
taken from NST July 27
The ‘sifu’ of Akademia Fantasia 3 feels anything but that. In fact, M. Nasir tells SURAYA AL-ATTAS, it’s hard for him not to be emotionally involved with the students, and how he’s the one on the edge.
HE’S famous for not mincing his words. That’s when he does choose to speak. Usually a man of few words, M. Nasir’s forthrightness has often been misconstrued for arrogance.
But then, that’s the very essence of this multi-talented artiste — he’s a songwriter, singer, album producer, painter, film director and actor. M. Nasir just wouldn’t be M. Nasir if he doesn’t didn’t occasionally speak out against something or other.
That was why when he was appointed principal of Astro Ria’s Akademi Fantasia 3 (AF3), one of the most-watched reality-based talent search television programmes, fans couldn’t wait to see how Nasir would handle the “students”. He roared with laughter when it was suggested that viewers expected to see a sterner “headmaster” in him but instead saw a father, big brother, teacher, counsellor all rolled into one.
Q: You seem to have slipped into the role of AF3 principal with ease. Was it a conscious move to show a different side of M. Nasir?
A: Well, yes and no. The first three weeks I was more of an observer on the show. I just wanted to suss out the situation. But let me tell you, it’s not difficult to fall in love with the students.
Q: What is the most challenging part of the job?
A: The fact that we, the teachers, have to be tough. It’s not easy to have to control your emotions... that I didn’t anticipate.
Q: I understand you didn’t think much of the show before this. What made you agree to be part of the academy?
A: Initially I didn’t want to do it. Although I had watched seasons 1 and 2, I never followed the show. I guess I was looking more for quality than anything. But then, I realised it’s not all about quality. It’s about people.
It’s not that I didn’t like the show before but I just refused to be sucked in. You can’t deny that once you watch the show, you’re hooked.
Q: So what do you think of AF now that you’re part of the team?
A: I went in there with a mission. I wanted to bring the students to a certain level and I was really raring to go. But then I realised that I can’t be too ambitious. They come from different backgrounds, with different ways of thinking.
Lately, I’ve been telling myself ‘Yeah, right, so you want to show people that you can do it? Hah... let’s see how you do it then.’ Well, what do you know? Instead of them (the students), I’m the one who’s being challenged!
Q: If there was anything you could change about the programme, would you? The voting system, perhaps? (The fate of the participants lies solely in the hands of viewers who would decide via SMS who’s in and who’s out after the weekly concert)
A: No. I think the person who created it is a genius (AF is a franchise of Mexican television show La Academia). That’s the beauty of the show. It creates conflicting ideas. That’s what makes the show unique.
Q: Do your children watch the programme?
A: They’ve watched AF1 and AF2 but they never really followed the shows.
Q: And now that you and your wife (Marlia Musa, who’s the drama teacher on the show) are on it?
A: Well, the younger ones have been staying up to watch it. But I’ve been having this umm... “conflict” with my 20-year-old son. I used to say the programme doesn’t do any good to the music industry. When I accepted the job, he asked ‘Why?’ What can I say? I only managed to tell him ‘You’re too young to understand...’ (laughs)
Q: Do you discuss the show at home?
A: Oh yeah, in fact we over-discuss it. Even my mother-in-law is in on it!
Q: How would you rate Marlia’s teaching skills?
A: I think she has done a wonderful job in bringing out the students’ confidence. I was quite amazed because to me acting is not easy. But most of the students can do it. It’s just that they don’t realise what they’re doing — the games and exercises in class — is acting.
Q: I know Marlia felt very strongly about Adlin Aman Ramlie’s comments. How did you feel about them? (Adlin has appeared as one of the critics three times on AF; his second appearance caused quite an uproar when he used crude words to comment on the contestants)
A: The nature of the show is such that we have to expect the unexpected. That’s the `beauty’ of the show. Malaysians, too, can be quite sadistic. Some people actually love watching others being run down in public. There are different kinds of critics. Some don’t actually
say what’s on their minds; some are not knowledgeable enough; and there are some who get so technical that their comments are lost on the students. Maybe that’s the kind of variety that Astro is looking for.
Q: This doesn’t have anything to do with AF. How do you feel about being called sifu (teacher, his nickname in the music industry)
A: It makes me want to cringe... every time! I don’t like labels of any sort. But it’s a Malaysian thing. They somehow need to put a tag on people — here, we have “Papa Rock” and “Ratu Jazz”, etc. Whether I like it or not is immaterial. People are still going to call me that.