Thursday, 7 October 2010

Interview with 16-year old Anesha G. Kumar for NST's Niexter


Victoria from my office emailed me a request from NST's Niexter desk, for me to give an interview to a 16-year old. I have always liked the idea of kids learning and seeing the world from different perspectives, and I definitely welcomed the idea of engaging with the younger generations to see what exactly they might find interesting about "my world". Here's the article Anesha wrote, and a photo of her and me before I changed into a slightly more traditional gear to attend NSTP's Open House right after that. (Thanks a million Anesha, I really enjoyed our chat last week!)

Tiara for a Princess

Anesha G. Kumar, 16, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
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WHEN I stepped into the room, I prepared myself for a more than an interesting interview with Tiara Jacquelina, who was Gusti Putri in 4 sold-out seasons of Puteri Gunung Ledang, The Musical including one in Singapore. I must admit I was a teensy bit nervous meeting someone like her, well-known for her fame in both the film and musical. But the moment she stepped into the room, she brought warmth and a sense of ease with her dazzling smile. It was overwhelmingly awesome!

Putting aside her unique and beautiful Burmese-Indonesian-Chinese looks, her down-to-earth personality was what shone the brightest. Now, it’s easy to understand why she stands out in the crowd, with a colourful aura surrounding her.

Tiara’s passion in the arts started during her schooling days. She was always so active as a producer, director, choreographer, dancer, singer, actor in the school annual musical productions, concerts and the cheerleading team that she said it’s a wonder she managed to get decent grades!

“We went to other schools including our rivals, promoting our plays. I spoke to the students before their class,” says Tiara who got her early education at SMK St. Mary.

“You can see how my formative years at school have definitely led me here. Students were always encouraged to explore and develop their creativity and leadership skills out of the classroom. We had a fantastic bunch of very supportive teachers, who believed that creative and artistic development of a child was just as important as scoring 17 A1s.”

Even being the captain of her cheerleading squad in school has helped build her to be who she is today. Tiara says, “Cheerleading is great. It’s all about encouraging that person across the finish line, motivating them all the way.

And in the end, it’s not only that person who is happy but the whole sports house shares the joy. She applies that same concept even today in her life.

She was very sure about one thing right from the onset in her career-to lead every project she undertook. In her mind, she had a clear idea of the outcome of every project and she could only achieve this if she was in the driver’s seat.

As a college student in KDU she started her first venture as an entrepreneur by setting up one of the country’s first talent casting and management agencies, then called Jacquie Eu Productions, with her best friend and college mate Jennifer Ong. They discovered talents like Sofia Jane, Linda Hashim, Sasha Bashir, Nasha Aziz, Maria Faridah, even Meer Habib, as well as many others, during this time.

In 1987, her agency was approached by Bustal Nawawi, Indonesia’s most well-respected film producer, to cast Malaysian actors for the first Malaysia-Indonesia joint venture movie called Irisan-irisan Hati. They auditioned everybody in the business – actors, models, singers, even TV newscasters, but the producer wasn’t happy.

“He finally asked me to audition, and I did so quite reluctantly. He apparently liked what he saw and offered me the role, but I turned him down, saying I had no intention of being an actor, that I was happier to run a business.

He then promised me that if I signed on to do four films under his company, he would teach me the business of film production as well. That did it for me – the chance to learn from the best, first hand as well. I signed on and never looked back as an actor and producer”, says Tiara.

Tiara Jacquelina was also the soulful voice behind the hit song Asmaradana from the soundtrack of Puteri Gunung Ledang. Tiara says she had always wanted to change the music landscape in Malaysia and so they tried out a more ethnic fusion. They also experimented a lot with dance form to add more funk but still keep its traditional vibe to it.

She is also a diligent (producer). She’s always on the go and wants to explore what has never been done before. She saw the opportunity for a magical story in Puteri Gunung Ledang, and even while the movie was being filmed, the version had its own parallel journey. “There wasn’t an industry as such when we first announced we wanted to put a musical version of PGL on stage”.

“To be quite honest, it seemed like the odds were dead against us – we couldn’t find performers who could act, sing AND dance, nobody had the experience to put on a large-scale production, but most worrying of all was that nobody went to the theatre in Malaysia – people didn’t even know WHERE Istana Budaya was, or that we even have one,” she says.

According to Tiara, her favourite aspect of being a part of a musical would definitely be the magic of being able to share it with the audience. “It’s an experience that money can’t buy,” she says. “You always know the applause or standing ovation at the end of it all is genuine because it comes from the heart of the audience.”

As for advice for aspiring musical actors, Tiara says that you always have to be prepared mentally and physically because nothing is going to be easy. She says, “I had to sing day and night as well as learn how to dance for the Puteri Gunung Ledang role”.

Tiara Jacquelina who is also the managing director of Enfiniti Vision Media, says that in her eyes, working with young and dynamic people is always important as you need people around you to be hungry for work. “Having the right spirit and personality is important,“ she says.

From experience, coming into the entertainment business cold, she is currently working on a variety of short courses catering to all ages; children, youths and working adults through Enfiniti Academy.

“We hope to nurture the talents early in children and youths but we also understand that there are many out there holding stable jobs and yet have a stifled love for musical theatre. Our courses will allow them to juggle their passion and responsibilities. In fact, some corporate seminars will teach them how to get the best of both worlds by incorporating musical theatre theories into their everyday lives,” she says.

And of course, I couldn’t leave without finding out her favourite musical of all time. “Oh, Miss Saigon of course, that’s my favourite,” she says with a huge smile sprawled across her face. “When I saw Lea Salonga on stage, I said, ‘If she can do it, I can do it too!’,” she says. She also admires Andrew Lloyd Webber because “he’s a genius” and I couldn’t help but agree.

I must say now that I have been very fortunate to have met someone like Tiara, who has been gracing the stage for years with her vibrant persona. To sum her up in a word would be hard because words cannot define what an amazing and remarkable individual she is. All I can say is that she is definitely a ‘Puteri’ of the musical scene.

Her last words, “Think big, think (like) Obama! Do what you’ve never dreamt of. You have to lead to determine the outcome, be it in life or in a performance”.

Read more: Tiara for a Princess


Devi da Lil' DeviL Photography said...

hi tiara,

Yup, i keep that in my mind too..DREAM BIG!


Anesha G.K. said...

It was really awesomely amazing being able to meet you. Thank you for taking the time off for me to interview you. It was a such a memorable experience and one that I will never forget. :D