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The world is his oyster

13 Mar 2020 / 10:58 H.

Dini Schatzmann is not your average Malaysian actor. The 25-year-old was residing in Switzerland just over two years ago, but he decided to pack his bags and move to Malaysia in order to pursue an acting career.

Despite having little fluency in the Malay language, the engineering undergraduate was determined to seek a different life path, and did not want to take a typical route.

Upon graduating from the University of British Columbia in Canada, Dini took some time off to ponder his career options.

He recalls: “I didn’t really enjoy my engineering degree as I thought I would when I first started. So, I gave myself some time to think about what I really wanted to do with my life and I realised that I wanted to do something more creative, more out there, something different.

“So I was like, do I want to spend the rest of my life doing an engineering job?”

Dini is the youngest of two children and was raised by his Swiss father and Malaysian mother, who was originally from Penang.

Despite calling several countries home every few years, Dini’s mother made sure that their family was familiar with Malaysian culture. At times, his family would use their hands to eat.

Dini’s mother also spoke to him in Malay while he was growing up, so he is able to speak the language, but with a twist.

“I do speak Malay, but in a very casual sense,” says Dini. “I never lived in Malaysia before this. So, growing up my whole life, I was overseas, in different countries.

“The only Malay I knew was what my mother was speaking to me at home, just very casual stuff, day-to-day speaking. But, it was in the Penang slang.”

His lack of fluency in the Malay language has affected Dini’s career prospects, but he refuses to let it get the better of him. This was evident in his first acting role in the 2018 TV drama Cik Reen & Encik Ngok Ngek.

He explains: “So for my first drama, the director told me to speak (in) KL Malay. Then I started my dialogue and the director was like: ‘Um, never mind, just speak in the Penang slang because you sound more natural’.

“So that was a big challenge that I had to overcome, and I didn’t want to be stuck with roles that only spoke in the Penang slang.”

Wanting to overcome the language barrier, Dini was motivated to seek help from a Malay language teacher, as well as an acting instructor. He is improving at a gradual pace.

“To say I got it perfectly now, I wouldn’t even want to say that. It’s still a work in progress. But it has definitely improved”, he says.

Despite coming from two contrasting racial backgrounds, Dini admits that he relates more to his Malay side.

“I always see myself as full Malay for some reason, and I don’t know why. I’ve always felt the most at home here (Malaysia). When I got into the industry, they said: ‘Oh, who is this mat salleh? How do you even speak in the Penang accent?’”

His distinctive looks have also given Dini an advantage, especially in the entertainment industry. “In a way it helped me because it made me stand out, I would say,” he shares.

Recalling his journey from his university days in Canada, Dini is glad that he decided to attempt a different career path, which provided him the spontaneity he craves in life.

He says: “Don’t listen to the voice inside your head that says no, which I had for the entirety of my life, up to the point where I was done with my engineering degree, [until I] forced myself to go outside of my comfort zone.”

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