Following in dad's footsteps

13 Jun 2014 / 13:01 H.

AWARD-WINNING director Othman Hafsham, 75, has made Malaysians laugh through his numerous films and sitcoms, including iconic gems like Mekanik , Adik Manja, 2+1 and Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu.
Two of his children, Shamyl Othman, 34, and Shamaine, 31, have followed in his footsteps. Shamyl has directed TV shows and his first film Kami Histeria opened in the cinemas last year. Meanwhile Shamaine, who is also an actress and a stand-up comedian, co-directed with four others on her first film Cuak last year.
“As a kid, I was embarrassed to say my father was a film director because most of my classmates’ fathers had regular jobs and they didn’t really understand the job of a film director,” says Shamaine, who is currently busy writing the script for her second film.
“But when I grew older, I thought it was cool to have a film director as my father.”
Unlike Shamaine, Shamyl was never embarrassed with his father being a film director.
“I used to see my father’s photo in the newspapers,” says Shamyl, who has just completed shooting his second film Gol, which explores the world of football.
“I was aware that my father was famous. Some people thought I was bragging whenever I introduced myself as Othman Hafsham’s son.
“However, I wasn’t showing off. I was just proud of my father and his films.”
The siblings remember the fun times they had as children, following their father to film sets where they got to meet famous stars such as Imuda and Susan Lankester. The siblings even appeared as guest artistes in some of their father’s sitcoms.
Watching their dad transform a story on paper into visual form had inspired them to become directors themselves.
“When I was 12, my father had bought me a camcorder,” says Shamyl, who has an eight- year-old daughter, Sophea Shamyl.
“I started making short films with my sister (Shamaine) in the lead role,” says Shamyl. “I really believe filmmaking is in my blood.”

According to Shamyl, at first his father wasn’t too happy with the interest he had in filmmaking and had tried to discourage him.
His father, according to Shamyl, had wanted to spare his son the difficulties and challenges faced by directors in Malaysia.
As such, Shamyl briefly contemplated pursuing engineering but his love for film- making overshadowed all else. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Film & TV directing from the University of Melbourne, Australia.
When Shamaine was asked if she will ever consider co-directing a film with her father, with a chuckle, she says: “There will be a lot of tears on the set.
“My sibling and I have worked under our father as floor managers, and he was very tough on us. I could not bear my father scolding me and the worst was, I could not complain about my boss as he’s also my father. However, I can see myself directing my father.”
Interestingly in 2008, Shamyl had directed his father for a TV show called Sidiq & Co, where his father played a lawyer.
“My father was very professional on the set and allowed me to direct him,” he recalls.
Two years ago, at a film forum, Othman, with no holds barred, boldly criticised the Malaysian film industry. The recording of his emotional outburst went viral on YouTube.
“My father is always in control of his emotion,” says Shamaine. “So it was painful to watch him losing his cool and being emotional. I could understand his frustrations and what he did at the forum was brave.
“It isn’t easy to point out the weaknesses in the local film industry. He’s inspired me to value myself and never be afraid to speak up.”
When asked about the greatest misconception about their dad, Shamyl says: “He has been perceived as being head strong and serious. But he has a soft heart and some things make him emotional.”
Othman is also a grandfather to six grandchildren and like most grandfathers, Othman indulges his grandchildren.
“Of course, he is less strict with his grandchildren,” says Shamaine, who gained her Bachelor of Performing Arts degree from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
“These days, his grandchildren can get away with murder,” she says with a smile.
Since Othman has also directed quite a few comedies, it’s amusing to think of him as a strict parent at home.
“My mother was stricter than my father,” reveals Shamyl. “She is the disciplinarian.”
But Shamaine has a different perspective of her dad. “My father was always checking up on me,” she says. “I always had to be home by midnight. My father would also not watch me doing standup comedy as he did not want to watch me telling dirty jokes.
"Perhaps fathers are more protective of their daughters after all,” adds Shamaine.

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