Yasmin and Sharifah’s closeness was very apparent in their playful banter and cheeky repartees. At times it seemed that the on screen mother-daughter relationship first seen in Sepet had come alive in front of us. Meanwhile, Alan often played the observer, laughing and smiling at the ladies’ antics. It was like a dinner with old friends discussing and dissecting films.
Q: Prior to Rabun, you had no experience in making films, why take the leap of faith into making your first film a feature length one?
Yasmin: I started making films when my father fell really ill one day. I felt that I had to give him something that he would be proud of. Having discussed film with friends for many years, I just decided to make a feature length one.
Q: We heard Rabun took only seven days to make, how long did both Sepet and Gubra take?
Yasmin: Rabun actually took six days to make on an RM80, 000 budget. The extra day was used for traveling! Both Sepet and Gubra were made in twelve days. The Gubra shoot was affected by haze for a day. So, make that fourteen for Gubra (Laughs)
Q: Was it stressful making a film in such a short span of time?
Yasmin: We had rehearsals before each shoot. It wasn’t as stressful as they were prepared to act when the cameras started to roll. They were usually able to get their scenes done in one or two takes.
Sharifah: Sepet had three months of rehearsals while Gubra had two months. This is not a common practice when it comes to making films in Malaysia.
Q: It seems there was a considerable amount of theatre influences in your films.
Yasmin: Oh yes. Actually, if you were to watch Rabun, you’d see that it was very theatre in its style.
It was by a twist of fate that Yasmin was introduced to Sharifah before Sepet was made. Since Sepet, Sharifah has been referred to as Yasmin’s Audrey Hepburn by Yasmin herself. The cast and crew had gotten so close over time that it was often said that it was like working with family.
Q: Was it harder having to work with friends?
Alan: I have known Sharifah for some time prior to the shoot, so there was an existing chemistry between us. Having rehearsals for two months also helped as it allowed us to grow more comfortable with each other. Yasmin’s direction also helped a lot as she knew when to add spice at the right moments.
Sharifah: You need to find friends who are on the same wavelength as you and are on the same page. And in doing so, everyone is treated the same from the director to the actor to the cameraman. That’s when you find you’re actually working with a family. And in doing so, it makes it easier, because you know what you’re supposed to do and avoiding what you pisses them off.
Alan: It was easier working with Yasmin and gang as they’re all very direct people who avoid beating around the bush. And Sharifah is such a brilliant actress. She often helped lead me into my character during our scenes.
Sharifah: Working on a film that wasn’t directed by Yasmin was a whole new different experience. I had to learn to adjust to the different working styles on a different set. It was akin to taking your shoes off or not when you enter someone’s house. Some people don’t take their shoes off, some do.
Q: How different are you from your onscreen character?
Sharifah: The character of Orked is almost similar to me.
Yasmin: Yes! Stubborn and bitchy!
Sharifah: I can be quite defiant. I often got into trouble back in school for challenging norms. People are often confused because I can be an opinionated person but I never forget my roots, culture and religion.
Alan: Yasmin’s a smart character. Having gotten to know me, she crafted the character close to my own character in person.
Q: Do you feel that you have crossed over to the dark side writing Gubra?
Yasmin: What dark side?!
(We explain to her and she laughs)
Yasmin: I feel that Gubra is more complicated than dark because of it’s two stories. Rabun was the darkest and most complex one.
Sharifah: I don’t believe you asked that question the way you asked it! Watch Rabun again! (Laughs)
Yasmin: Hey! Sepet was a little dark too you know. It was like we took you on this very nice and serene Ferris wheel ride and then threw you over at the end. Or, it was like treating you to an ice-cream and then later throwing you onto the tracks in the path of an incoming train.
Q: Well, we must admit the ending to Sepet was a bit dark. But why such an ending?
Yasmin: Something similar happened to me when I was nineteen. My then fiancée was involved in an accident and perished. Back then, in London, it was winter and I looked out of my window at this lamppost everyday, in hopes that he would one day appear. And with the ending, as long as I can change the opinions of bigots, even if it was for a brief moment to have had them want Orked and Jason to have been together, I would have succeeded.
Q: What are your expectations for Gubra?
Yasmin: Gubra is unchartered waters for me. I’m not sure how people will take to it. But, it’s okay. Whenever I get a bad review, I would always visit RottenTomatoes.com. I felt that Habla Con Ella (Talk to Her by Pedro Almodovar) was one of the most brilliant scripts written in recent years. I saw that out of a hundred percent, four percent hated it. It was strangely comforting that a movie as such could have its detractors. You can’t please everybody but I’ll continue to make films.
Q: What’s next after Gubra?
Sharifah: My next film is called Cinta, directed by Khabir Bhatia.
Alan: I’m keeping my options open at the moment. I’m not a full-time actor but I’ve been modeling for the advertising industry.