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#Showbiz: A love story that never grows old

New Straits Times logo New Straits Times 3/2/2022 Dennis Chua
© Provided by New Straits Times

Director Teddy Chin and the star-studded cast of his first feature film Kongsi Raya believe that inter-racial love stories never get out of date

INTER-RACIAL romances have always been loved by filmmakers as well as actors and actresses who star in them.

Some Malaysians may find such films cliche or repetitive, but first-time filmmaker Teddy Chin strongly believes in them, because as The Beatles said: "all we need is love".

Chin has come up with a Chinese New Year romantic comedy that is a light-hearted yet meaningful take on inter-racial love.

STAR-STUDDED

Titled Kongsi Raya, it boasts a star-studded cast comprising Erra Fazira, Harith Iskander and Chew Kin Wah. The main actor is his old friend Wilson Lee while the main actress is first-timer Qasrina Karim.

In fact, Chin himself plays a supporting role as Lee's quirky elder brother. The main cast also comprises Prebet Sapu star Amerul Affendi and popular actresses Ong Ai Leng and Gan Mei Yan, Chin's longtime friends.

"Inter-racial relationships have become a lot more common than probably two decades ago. That augurs well for Keluarga Malaysia," said Chin at the launch of Kongsi Raya at GSC Mid Valley, Mid Valley Megamall recently.

"However, there still are a number of hurdles that inter-racial couples face. Religious, cultural and linguistic barriers are still formidable, but thank God, parents of such couples are a lot more broad-minded than in the past."

COOKERY SHOWS

Kongsi Raya, produced by Chin's company 555 Filem, tells the story of television producer Sharifah and aspiring chef Jack who meet in a bus and strike up an interesting conversation, gradually falling in love in the process.

Sharifah, played by Qasrina, is bubbly, cheerful and fluent in Mandarin. She produces cookery shows for her celebrity chef father, Rahim (Harith).

Even though Rahim is Western-educated and has friends from all races, he does not approve of Sharifah dating non-Malay and non-Muslim boys, even though his wife Sarah (Erra) supports her on the quiet.

Jack, played by Lee, works for his father Mr Long (Chew) who is the third-generation owner of a reputable Chinese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

The Chinese-educated Mr Long has high hopes for his son to take over the restaurant, and forbids Jack from dating non-Chinese girls.

Nevertheless, Jack's mother Mrs Long (Ong) and elder brother Teddy (Chin) quietly support his courtship of Sharifah.

To avoid having Jack detected by her father, Sharifah gets Jack to disguise himself as her "best friend" Siti.

The truth finally comes out, and this leads to the two chefs challenging each other in a celebrity cook-out produced by Sharifah.

COLOURFUL CAST

Chin said: "I've always loved movies that celebrate the spirit of Bangsa Malaysia, including stories of inter-racial romances. Among my favourites are the late Yasmin Ahmad's Sepet and KRU's 29 Februari."

On his choice of main actors and actresses, he said that he had always admired Erra for her "iron lady" roles, especially in Gerak Khas.

"I'm a big fan of Harith, my favourite stand-up comedian. As for Chew, he is incredibly versatile."

CRASH COURSE

The cast and crew spent 18 days in November 2020 filming Kongsi Raya around the Klang Valley.

Qasrina, 26, said that she was not actually fluent in Mandarin and took a three-week crash course in the language.

"It's always good to learn a new language. Mandarin is quite tough, but my teacher made it a lot easier for me. Chew helped me brush up my pronunciation," she said.

A LITTLE SHY

Lee, 31, said that Kongsi Raya marked his first Malay language film and it was a challenge for him to speak Malay half the time.

"I've never spoken that much Malay in a film, as I'm always in Chinese language films and series. Nevertheless, there is always a first to everything and it is good to try something new for a change," he said.

Lee admitted that he and Qasrina were a little shy about playing a couple, but Chin "coached us well".

"Teddy (Chin) showed us the way, and got Qasrina and I to know each other better first. We warmed up to each other quickly, and it was smooth sailing from then onwards," he said.

GREAT STORIES

Harith, who played a parent against inter-racial romances in Sepet, said that films like Kongsi Raya always made great stories for the festive season.

"Best of all, food plays a prominent role in the storyline. Malaysians love food, it is the one factor that unites all of us," he said.

Harith added that inter-racial love stories were very much needed today, as intolerance and bigotry were frequently rearing their ugly heads.

"Such stories are the perfect antidote. We Malaysians really need constant reminding about the need for unity, and this is the best social message we can have particularly for major festivals like Chinese New Year," said Harith, who is the product of an inter-racial marriage.

ANDY LAU

Harith is delighted that his character Rahim and Erra's character Sarah are revealed to be fans of Hong Kong actor Andy Lau. "He's one of my favourite, too," he said.

As for cooking, Harith said that it was fun doing so on the set for the first time.

"I do cook for my wife and children at home, but I'm definitely not a chef. Nevertheless, it is scrumptious and satisfying to pretend to be one!"

DREAM COME TRUE

Chew, who starred in 29 Februari as a parent who objected to inter-racial romance, said that it was a dream come true for him to star with Harith and Erra.

"Finally, I get to spar with my favourite funnyman Harith. Our cook-out was hilarious in its moments of suspense, and best of all, real chefs prepared those yummy dishes we made," he said.

HEARTFELT MESSAGE

For Erra, Kongsi Raya is a film that will open the minds of Malaysians of all races.

"The lessons we learn from it are aplenty. It makes many parents take a good, hard look at the world around them before making judgements about others to the detriment of their children," she said.

"Kongsi Raya reminds me of Yasmin's beautiful love stories such as Sepet, as it carries its heartfelt message in a non-judgemental and hilarious way. Just what I like!"

She also said that the most hilarious scenes she enjoyed were when Jack became a "drag queen" and when Teddy and his mother performed an improvised hip-hop song in Cantonese.

CANTONESE DIALOGUE

Chin said that the film used Cantonese as its main language besides English and Malay as he grew up speaking Cantonese with his family.

"Usually viewers would expect a Chinese film to have its dialogue in Mandarin. But then, I speak better Cantonese and furthermore, it is the main dialect spoken in my hometown of Kuala Lumpur," he said.

GSC DISTRIBUTOR

The RM2 million Kongsi Raya is sponsored by Coca-Cola and GSC Movies is its distributor. It is currently screening in cinemas nationwide.

For more information, visit www.gscmovies.com.my/kongsi-raya/.

dchua@nst.com.my

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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