Saturday, June 21, 2014

ACTING DEBUTS - FEATURE FILM (MENANTI HARI ESOK)

Today, I am writing on a topic that has long been lingering on my mind.  These are layers of unspoken words.

I made a spontaneuous decision to leave the entertainment world, and thereon, became a publicity-shy recluse. I was content, and still am. Today, after years of absence, I am back, and sharing my thoughts, and past experiences, in this blog. This is somewhat strange, and unprecidented. Many are curious to know if this means that I am making a comeback. Well, not really!

My disappearance   
I left for a personal reason, and this had nothing to do with my life as an artist. Among other things, I discovered that my exit provided me with immense opportunities to focus on different aspects of life. 

Incidentally, I was raised in a home where Conventional and Traditional Medicines were practiced alongside. I decided to pursue seriously into the study, and research on Complementary Healthcare. This led to many discoveries, which in turn paved the way for me to devote my time to humanitarian work. This was the trend in my family, for generations.

My return
Today,  internet has become a necessity in life,  and there are numerous advantages, when wisely utilized. It can also make, or break a person, even a country. In the late 2008, while making a search on Google, I was surprised to find that my name was suddenly appearing more prominently. As much as I enjoyed being a recluse, I realized that I could not erase my past life, as a celebrity. 

Inadvertently, my songs became more alive on the radio and on You Tube. This was followed by EMI’s sudden releases of my hits compilations, in 2009 & 2011. Then, what I dreaded most, resurfaced. It was the feature film  ‘Menanti Hari Esok’ that I acted in, and the role was similar to the Joan Collins’ conniving role in Dallas, that everyone despised. 

When I saw a rescreening of the movie after a lapse of years, I regretted acting this role. Sometimes people tend to associate actors and actresses by the roles they play. This is inevitable, because I also have my own fixation about movies. I like Johnny Depp for the roles he played, but I'm not so keen to watch his movies without his subtle, sophisticated humour. 

After reconnecting with fans, I am pleased to know that they are matured enough to understand that I was merely acting a role. 

Subsequently, in April, this blog came into being. There are however, unanswered questions raised by loyal fans that needed to be addressed. They wish to know why I accepted the role, when I already reached the peak of my profession as a recording artist, TV singer/actress. 

Acting debuts
To answer this question, I now have to relive these moments again.Anyway, here are the answers - quite lengthy, actually. It started as a passion at the age of 5. I was already on stage singing, and acting in school concerts. I would often sneak into my mother’s room, and stand in front of the mirror mimicking different roles while singing. At 14, I used to dramatize on radio shows, and wrote a few drama scripts. My friends in school named me the ‘funny girl’, for my convincing mimics of some teachers. 

Obviously, my passion had always been in the arts and entertainment. I was able to realize the dream of becoming a singer, but what was left unfulfilled, was the desire to become an actress in a feature film. (Above) with Abdullah Chik in TV drama 'Wajah wanita'.

Comedy sitcoms
Serious acting stints actually began during my TV shows. I performed 7 comedies in my musical/sit-com series, and wrote most of the scripts. 

It was a real joy working with the RTM Producer, Helan Abu. He was creative, professional, and experienced. Without exception, filming took place specifically on time. (Left) - in a TV sit-com with the late Abdullah Chik and the late Ayappan.

TV Dramas
I continued my journey in acting, and acted in several TV dramas. I was pleased with the roles, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The TV producers were professional, and gentlemanly, except for one. He has departed from the world, and regrettably, there is no happy moment to reminisce.




(Below)  - in TV drama  'Cemburu'.
(Right) - with Rahim Razali in TV drama 'Yang mana satu'. 






Feature films
There were several acting offers in feature films. The late well-known film director, Omar Rojek, visited me once at my home, with his wife, and offered me a leading role in his movie. However, I turned down the offer, as I was beginning to establish my profession in the recording industry. 

This was followed by an offer from renowned film producers and directors - the late P. Ramlee, and Jins Shamsuddin. I met them including H. M Shah. They were starting the production of a film named ‘Sandira’, and I was offered a leading role. The role was challenging, and most ideal for me. Sadly, this film did not materialize due to internal problems within the company, that led to an eventual break-up.

‘Menanti Hari Esok’ - (Waiting for tomorrow)
Two years later, film director, Jins Shamsuddin offered me the role as a ‘guest star’ in the movie ‘Menanti Hari Esok’. A representative of PERFIMA, the film company, met me. I told that I would not be able to decide until I checked the script, and my role in the film. This was my precondition. 

The representative could not provide me with a full script, but instead, handed a few sheets of paper with dialogues involving my scenes. It was apparently a normal practice in the Malay film industry. Only skeletal scripts would be revealed, in order to ensure confidentiality of the plots. I was assured that upon signing the contact, I could view the actual script. I was told that if I was not happy with my scenes or dialogues, changes could be considered, and effected during filming.

Not a wise decision
Regrettably, I signed the contract, and it was not a wise decision on my part. As filming progressed,  I realized that the overall film was centred around me being a ‘baddy’ - smirking, frowning, or scowling at someone.There was hardly a shot of me looking happy, or smiling, except in the last scene, when I finally showed some remorse.

Behind the scenes
Contrary to my years of filming experience at TV Malaysia, I was surprised that filming conditions were extremely relaxed here. Many times camera could not roll on time, due to unforseen reasons, including casts turning up late for filming. On some occasions, filming was cancelled, without notice. IncidentallyI did not lay eyes on the promised script. It was changed several times, but not to my advantage. Production work unexpectedly stretched nearly two years. 

Premiere screening 
I did not attend the premiere screening, as I had aready moved on with my life. 

Praises
'Menanti hari esok'  turned out to be a box office movie. I saw the movie privately at a Penang theatre. Many commended me for a job well done, and press reviews were flattering. 






(Below, video featuring my song 'Kalong Emas' composed by Reggie Verghese (EMI), with visuals  of my scenes in the movie).

Remembered
I believe that a movie role can be complimentary, or otherwise, to the image of an actress. To this day, I am remembered for this antagonistic role in the movie. Coincidentally, all other acting performances in TV dramas, my funny roles in sit-coms, are totally forgotten, or unknown. These tapes have long been erased, by RTM. What remains of my memoir in acting, is this movie. 

To realize a dream, I ventured into something that could have been detrimental to my profession as a singer. Nonetheless, this was looked upon as  a 'no venture no gain' scenario in life. Afterall, I did gain the experience that I yearned for - as a silver screen actress ! 

Closure
Today,  I've stirred sudden interests in the movie.  Below,  some encouraging words recently posted by loyal fans/friends on my facebook, that finally brought closure to this chapter in my life. Thank you, guys.

22nd June 2014
RH - quote - "Kak Sarena, don't be so hard on yourself. We would always remember you in the best light. It is your songs that are etched in our minds for the rest of our lives.  At the end of the day, we would be listening to 'Bersama' and 'Jangan Menangis' over and over again. I must say I have seen MHE (Menanti hari esok) at least twice during those days, but I would not equate the role with you"

HL - quote - "Too bad you are not in other features so you can display more versatility but the people here are right, you are being too hard on yourself....so relax  sister"

Laid to rest
Now that I have spoken,  ‘Menanti hari esok’ shall be laid to rest, and will not be discussed again!
   
(Photos with compliments of RTM, News clippings from Utusan Malaysia, Star newspaper, The New Straits Times - 1977). Thank you.

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