Making the nation proud

18 Dec 2017 / 12:45 H.

    IPOH-BORN Chew Kin Wah has become the latest Malaysian actor to achieve commercial success in the Indonesian film industry.
    Last month, the 52-year-old won the best-supporting actor award at Indonesia's Festival Film Tempo 2017 (FFT 2017) in Jakarta, for his performance in Cek Toko Sebelah.
    He also took the best-supporting actor award at the 2017 Indonesian Box Office Movie Awards (Iboma) in March for the same role as a widowed father who runs a wholesale shop.
    In this comedy drama, the widowed father decides to leave the business to his son, Erwin (played by Ernest Prakasa who also directed the film), after a heart attack scare.
    But Erwin has his own ambitions and wants nothing to do with his father's business. Disappointed, the father sells off the business but eventually, Erwin goes all out to buy it back again.
    This is the second Indonesian film Chew has starred in. His first was Upi Avianto's 2015 My Stupid Boss.
    At a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur, Chew opened up about his career and where his ambitions will take him next.
    Though born in Ipoh, Chew grew up in Kuala Lumpur from the age of eight. He was brought up by two women – his late single mother who ran a canteen, and his late grandmother, a sarong-wearing Nyonya wannabe, who spoiled him.
    "I grew up in a household of strong women, and in a gangster neighbourhood," he says. "All the gangsters wanted me because I could speak better English than them."
    At the age of 19, Chew discovered acting. He noticed an audition for a play in an English daily.
    He entered and was selected to appear in the Five Arts Centre theatre production of Kee Thuan Chye's seminal 1984, Here & Now.
    The rest, as they say, is history. Now, more exciting roles in Indonesia seem to be coming his way.
    Chew has just completed shooting Terbang Menembus Langit, a biopic directed by Fajar Nurgros, which centres on poor boy Onggy Winata (Dion Wiyoko), who achieves fame and success through a multi-level marketing and business venture.
    Chew plays the father who inspires Onggy to greater heights.
    There is also talk that he might appear in a film based on a book by late Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

    One wonders if Chew has any desire to base himself in Jakarta permanently?
    The actor, whose Muslim name is Anuar Chew Abdullah, says: "Indonesia has given me an alternate source of income. The lifestyle in Indonesia could suit me.
    "But my life is here. I have my wife, my son, my friends, and three dogs here."
    In fact, Chew will next be seen playing a villain in a local TV series, Banteras, under director Ghaz Abu Bakar, which highlights the life of an anti-corruption officer.
    When asked the difference between working here and in Indonesia, I expect a polite, diplomatic answer from the actor.
    But Chew surprises me with a blunt and honest reply. He states that the Indonesians take their craft far more seriously than Malaysians.
    "When you go for rehearsals, everyone is there, including the big names," he says. "Scripts are given to you way in advance. The production houses prepare the wardrobe for you.
    "Here ... you will find the big names missing during rehearsals. They are too busy launching some shops or products somewhere in Kuala Lumpur.
    "Scripts are sometimes given to you only a few hours before the shoot, and you have to bring your own wardrobe."
    Chew used to get frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude here but now, he's learned to make the best out of the situation.
    He also notes a disturbing 'trend' happening now, where a production house hires an actor under false pretenses.
    He says: "They will pay you for a telemovie [job]. But later, you find (it) is not a telemovie. It is being screened in the cinemas, and the actor has lost out (in terms of income). It is a scam."
    Interestingly, Chew never had any ambitions to be an actor when he was young.
    He remembers that when he was nine, his teacher had asked the class to write an essay about their ambition.
    "I wanted to be a fisherman," says Chew. "I did not see anything wrong in being a fisherman. Somebody has to provide fishes.
    "The teacher was furious. He wanted me to have a higher ambition, like everyone else in my class. He forced me to rewrite my essay.
    "I just followed what he wanted. Looking back, it is lucky that I did not become a fisherman, because I (discovered) that I do not like the sea very much."

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