Saturday, September 13, 2008

And he doesn't even know how good he is.

My Mukhsin
Better than he knows.

Mother and Son

Even when we first auditioned Mohd Syafie Naswip (now more commonly known as Mukhsin) two and a half years ago, we knew the boy had this intense energy inside him. The smile was kind and gentle, but the eyes were slightly fearful. They gaze at you as if to say, "Please don't hurt me, I've been hurt enough."

Well, the boy is now a man. And man, does he have some horror stories to tell about being on some of the TV drama sets he'd been in!

Apparently, having been in a "Yasmin Ahmad film" carries with it some heavy baggage when you go on some other teams' sets and locations. You get directors shouting at you words like, "So you think you're good, do you?" And, "Don't think you're special just because you were in that film. What's so good about Yasmin's films, anyway?" And the worst of all, "Cry! Cry now! I want to see tears! Why no tears? What a crap actor you are!"

Sharifah Amani, who considers herself Mukhsin's big sister, often gets furious when she hears such stories. "Who said that to you? Who! I'll whop their asses to kingdom come!" Mukhsin, nice boy that he is, always refuses to divulge names. He'd just smile that gentle smile and coyly say, "Don't worry, Kak Nani. I'm ok. Maybe I wasn't very good, that's why they got angry. They're not all like that, anyway. Some are very kind. And besides, it's not as if they hit me or anything."

When we started rehearsals for "Talentime", some of us were wondering how Mukhsin would hold up, playing opposite Azean Irdawaty, quite possibly the finest and most accomplished actress in the history of Malaysian cinema. But he held his own, alright. What you will see on big screen, inshaallah, will not be a star and a novice, but two accomplished actors playing mother and son, in some of the most moving scenes I've ever shot.

Alhamdulillah.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

When stars fall asleep.

Ying & Yang

In the script, I had written, "Melur looks clean and showered, dressed in her usual boy-style pyjamas. She’s lying on the floor of the living room. Mahesh is also lying on the floor. They both have a pillow each and they’re facing each other, their legs stretched out in the opposite direction."

When it came to shooting the scene, I had an idea to make them do more than face each other. We made him teach her his language.

It was a quiet moment that turned out more sensuous than we thought. They were speaking, but you will hear nothing, except for the gentle, dreamy strains of Claude Debussy's "Claire de Lune" ("Moonlight").

Then, tired out by the day's activities, they fell asleep. We framed it quite closely at first, but it looked too much like that table scene from Wong Kar-Wai's "My Blueberry Nights".

Then my cinematographer did something miraculous. He framed them loose and pushed to the corner of the frame, and then he rotated the camera clockwise, causing the bodies to float across the frame until they finally rested in the centre. I gasped. Suddenly, they were more than just Melur and Mahesh.

They looked like the constellation, orbiting against the sky. They were so close, but they did not touch. They were two sleeping stars that looked as if they had been together for millions of years. They looked destined to be together.

They became the Yin-Yang.

ying yang