Friday January 30, 2009
Stories by SHARMILLA GANESAN
Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina prepares for her final stint as the mythical princess of Gunung Ledang.
SHE had the time of her life playing the part of a princess. Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina would be the first to admit that.
“Puteri has been such a big part of who I am for the past few years,” she gushed of her role as the princess in Puteri Gunung Ledang. “Playing her has the kind of magic that I’ve never found anywhere else... I know everything about her; how she moves, how she speaks, what she thinks, how she would react, even her scent! It’s like having to say goodbye to your best friend!”
Yes, all good things come to an end. And the time has come for the star to say goodbye to the princess – after a motion picture and three musical theatre runs, Tiara bids adieu to her beloved role as Gusti Putri Raden Ajeng Retno Dumilah.
A teary-eyed Tiara recently shared that the upcoming third season of Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical (PGLM) next month would be her final stint as the mythical princess, a role which started with the film version in 2004.
“I can happily say that I’ve had a full adventure on my journey with Puteri Gunung Ledang, (and that) I’ve taken it as far as I could,” she said. “While I’ve had the time of my life playing the Puteri, I am ready to move on to new endeavours.”
It is not, however, a separation that will come easily. The role of the Puteri has become almost synonymous with Tiara’s graceful and strong portrayal. Tiara, too, has been living and breathing the character for almost six years. Before filming for the movie began, Tiara even spent several weeks in Indonesia researching the part of the Majapahit princess.
The producer/actress/businesswoman revealed that as difficult as it is, she cannot be attached to this one character any longer. “This is all I’ve been for a while now, and there comes a point when you know you have to move on,” she said. “In order to grow, I need to try my hand at different challenges.”
It is no secret that Tiara is an accomplished actress in the fields of film, theatre and television. What’s more, she is also a talented producer in her own right, presenting quality local productions through her company, Enfiniti Productions.
As a film actress, Tiara is well-known for her role in Suhaimi Baba’s Ringgit Kasorrga, for which she won the Best Actress award in 1995 at the Malaysian Film Festival. She also made Malaysia proud by getting a role in the Hollywood film Beyond Rangoon, where she acted alongside Academy Award winner Frances McDormand and Patricia Arquette.
The mother of two began her love affair with theatre in 1990, when she was cast as the female lead in Joe Hasham’s A Man for All Seasons. She then worked with Rahim Razalli in Kelas 2020, and continued to work with many other theatre directors. Her play, Siti Zubaidah, is still remembered as one of the biggest box-office hits at the Istana Budaya.
Where Puteri Gunung Ledang is concerned, it is undeniable that both the film and musical versions of the legendary tale took the local entertainment industry to new heights, thanks in no small part to Tiara herself.
The film Puteri Gunung Ledang was screened all over the world, including the prestigious Venice Film Festival in 2004. It was even submitted for consideration for an Academy Award. PGLM, on the other hand, was a runaway hit, playing to full houses for two seasons so far. The musical was also staged with much success at the Esplanade, Singapore, in 2006.
“We managed to create some new benchmarks, added to the growth of theatre-goers, and contributed to the acceptance and recognition of Malaysian films locally as well as abroad.
“It is something my team and I didn’t even dream of. I’ve also had the good fortune of working with the best talents in our industry. We’ve achieved so much!” said Tiara.
“Now, I’m looking forward to climbing and conquering new mountains.”
While she will stay on as executive producer of PGLM, Tiara hopes that saying goodbye to the Puteri will leave her free to pursue other endeavours.
“I miss so many things! I miss producing films, and I definitely miss acting in other productions. So I certainly hope that I will be able to act in and produce other films and plays,” she said.
She also has a pet project she hopes to develop – a performing arts school. It is an idea that has its roots in the Starmaker: Musical Theatre Bootcamp organised by the PGLM creative team in 2007.
“As a producer, I see that we keep on grumbling about the quality of the shows here. But the difficult question that needs to be asked is, do we have the talent?” Tiara explained.
“I want to see in our industry a solid stable of actors who are confident and capable. This is the only way we can come out with consistently good work.”
While the upcoming staging of PGLM will be an emotional one for Tiara, she also looks forward to seeing someone else take up her mantle. With the necessary commitment and hard work, she is sure that there are actors out there who can play Puteri equally well.
“Of course, there will be a transition period. But I’m confident that people will come to see that the role is not Tiara. I’m just an actor. Every staging is a story in itself, and the audience has to allow it to evolve.”
Most of all, Tiara is certain that this story of the mythical princess of Gunung Ledang will continue to hold its special place in the hearts of Malaysians.
“I believe Puteri Gunung Ledang will live on, because it’s the most beautiful story. There will always be new blood, and the show will continue to grow, live and breathe.”