'Soul-searching' on the Big Screen: An interview with Taufik Batisah

Taufik Batisah, a well-known local music figure with hits like Usah Lepaskan and Sky’s the Limit, and a dozen awards, seems to have an uncanny ability to galvanise spirits in a room. He is articulate, composed, yet not without the occasional pocket of earnest energy. Most of all, he came across as wise without sounding too measured. This is Taufik, more than 10 years after Singapore Idol, having seen his fair share of ups and downs in showbusiness, sitting down with a small group of reporters, telling us in the most casual way, his latest foray in show business - movies.

Soulmate Hingga Jannah, marks the first big step Taufik has taken into the world of moviemaking (sort of, he’s been involved in an earlier film but in a smaller role). Having played to hordes of audiences in cinemas across Malaysia, the movie finally makes it way to Singapore, thanks to newly-formed local film distributor DLUX Entertainment, which aims to bring in more Malay films, from the region into Singapore. Some have called the film one of the best Malay romantic comedies ever in recent times. It opened at Rex Golden Mile Tower Cinemas last week on 16 February and Taufik made an appearance for a Meet and Greet session with his fans on 17 February and actually watched the full film for the first time with his fans.

Directed by Prof Madya A. Razak Mohaideen and filmed in Thailand, Soulmate Hingga Jannah is about a high-spirited country girl, Rokiah who has been offered to work at a corporate company in Kuala Lumpur. Unluckily for her, she has to work under the cold-hearted Azmeer who thinks of himself as "Mr. Perfect". As the two spend more and more time together, Azmeer begins to warm up to Rokiah, as she reminds him of his late wife Khalisa. However, he is in a dilemma as he has made a promise to his wife that he would never fall in love and marry another woman besides her.

Apart from Taufik Batisah, the movie stars Malaysian superstar Erra Fazira, Raja Ilya, Reen Rahim, Malaysian comedian Douglas Lim & many more. For Taufik, this is a challenging role as he plays someone totally different from his own character. For his fans, brace yourself for a crying scene with him. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

We spoke to Taufik at the special screening and Meet and Greet session with fans last Friday 17 February, to get the scoop on him taking on the big screen.

How was it like working in your first movie?

This is actually my second movie. But overall, I can honestly say I am still a newbie to the movie industry or even in the acting industry. Especially if I compare myself to my cast. Because Raja Ilya to me, from what I see of her on TV, she is such an amazing actress. And Erra Fazira, obviously a lot of people from my community grew up watching her act. She is amazing. Reen Rahim is also an amazing actress. I had a bit of worry acting alongside these women who are so seasoned and wonderful. So that was a challenge that I had to take.

But for me, ultimately what I gather from any projects that involves any kind of acting that I do is a learning process. And I will absorb as much as possible from my cast and crew. As much as they allow me to. And as much as the director imparts on me. I try to learn as a I go.

You’ve had such an illustrious music career, what took you so long to get into acting?

I’ve been doing so many different kinds of music over the years. I’ve even done a musical before. And the last drama that I did was called Shooting Stars in 2005, in English. Back in 2015, I made a conscious effort to do other things, other than singing or music. I said to myself, man I’m getting older, not getting any younger. Put the fear aside and just try it! You will only learn things from your mistakes if you try something. You will only learn if you want to. So I decided that if the opportunity arises, I would grab it. (pause) And I think I am so fortunate to be given two opportunities to do film. So I just took it and try to see how it goes. And I’m going to keep learning from there.

Raja Ilya, Taufik Batisah and Erra Fazira huddle with director Prof Madya A. Razak Mohaideen

Do you enjoy the learning process?

Yes, I enjoyed the process though I always found it weird to see myself on the screen, even on TV, when it is not music, something else. For example, hosting or acting. Macham Janggal. When I’m watching myself, I always find it weird. So I don’t know if that’s me being critical about myself or me just not used to looking at myself doing other things? (pause)I will definitely take constructive criticism from the masses, my family, my friends, the viewers, to better myself, because that’s the only way to improve.

By the way, I am thinking of putting together a concert for my fans. I think they have not seen a full concert from me in many years. So I would like to plan a concert for my fans at the end of the year. Ultimately, if you ask me, music is still my first love. So that is something I can’t forget about. Like when I do these projects, I would actually ask them, can I do the music? Can I write the songs for you? Can I do the soundtrack?

For this film, abang Azmeer, originally from Singapore, now based in Malaysia, wrote the songs for the soundtrack of this film and I sang Memilih Mencintaimu with Adira from Malaysia. I also sang another song, Teman Jiwa, with Erra Fazira. I think it’s pretty dope to be singing with Erra Fazira! It feels so weird in my head because I listened to her songs when I was growing up. So that was pretty cool. (pause) Music is definitely still a part of the projects that I do. Even in the film before this, I asked if they wanted to use my music?

Any juicy stories/gossips on set?

Ok. This is the coolest thing about Erra Fazira. Everybody knows Erra Fazira. She’s a beauty queen. She is so pretty. We were in Thailand in Chiangmai. So we were waiting at the side of the road for the vehicle for a very long time, but it came finally. It was this big van in which you can just jump in. Somewhere along the way, the vehicle and the engine stopped. And we all had to push the vehicle. It was like a big truck on which at least eight people could sit at the back. Bigger than a Tuk-Tuk. So me, my wife and Ilya starting pushing. We didn’t expect Erra Fazira to do it. But she was like the first person to go beside the driver and push. ‘Come come, I will push,’ she said. And I was like whoa! So she started pushing and we all followed as well. And that was only like two or three days into filming.

The other thing I remember about filming in Chiangmai was that it was super cold. It was so weird. I know it’s the altitude, high up in the mountains, but I didn’t expect it to be so cold. There was one particular scene we had to film along the river. It was drizzling. With the wind and the chill combined together, OMG, I think Ilya almost had Hypothermia. She was freezing.

What are the most memorable scenes for you in 'Soulmate'? Why?

In fact there’s quite a number of moments that were memorable for me. From filming in the elephant park in Thailand to braving the freezing cold on the boat ride with just a jacket to the part where I was literally kicked into the pool.  The one that stood out for me would have to be the fight scene where my character rescued Rokiah (Raja IIya) – that’s the FIRST ever time I filmed a fighting scene! It was a night scene and it took hours to film. I had no previous training on martial arts,  so with some crash course training on set (which was just before the actual filming took place), I tried to execute the moves as much as I could without showing my awkwardness, haha! But that really did took a toll on me as I exerted a lot of energy to control my strength for fear of accidentally hurting anyone in the process.

Would you consider acting more difficult that singing? Why? Which parts of acting are the most challenging?

I've been singing for more than 14 years and it is something that I'm very much comfortable with, so naturally acting is a lot more challenging for me. I feel the most challenging aspect of acting, at least for me at this point in time, is to be able to portray the character convincingly. It is really not easy, especially when the persona of the role is very much different from who I am in real life. But it has been enjoyable thus far and I do look forward to other opportunities.

If you could make your film, what story would you like to tell?

It will be the story of my mother.

Interview by Jeremy Sing

Soulmate Hingga Jannah is showing at Golden Mile Tower Rex cinema. Do catch it soon!

For more information on the film, please visit the Facebook page of DLUX Entertainment.

Here are more pictures from the Meet and Greet session on 17 February.

Fiknatics, fans of Taufik rehearse their welcome greeting for Taufik

While the fans waited outside, Taufik entertained the media in a group media interview

Fans go trigger happy as Taufik appears

Click. Click. Click!

Blue seems to be the most popular colour

3 Taufiks in one picture
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