Syafie Naswip is now famous,well known thanks to the late Yasmin Ahmad, but he still finds it embarrassing to watch himself in the movies he acts in
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THERE is a Petronas TV commercial about circumcision that Syafie Naswip recalls fondly.
"I was in Year Five at that time. No matter what I was doing, my mum never failed to holler every time the ad came on TV.
"If I was playing with my neighbours, the whole gang, maybe 10 to 15 of us, would stop and hurry back to my house to watch the ad together. It was our favourite TV commercial," said Syafie.
Yet, Syafie, or better known as Mukhsin, thanks to the movie of the same name in which he played the lead, had no idea who the director was.
When he accompanied his cousin for the casting of Mukhsin, he did not recognise Yasmin Ahmad.
"At that time, I thought Fatimah Abu Bakar was Yasmin," he laughed.
Syafie had tagged along because his cousin wanted to appear in a Yasmin movie very badly.
But in the end, it was Syafie who caught Yasmin's eye.
"Yasmin asked if I wanted to act, too, and I told her I didn't know how to act.
"But she insisted that I read the script, which I did without emotion. The audition was down to the last 20 and I was the last to give it a shot.
It ended close to 2am. The following week, she called and asked me to collect the script. I thought I must have landed a small role," said Syafie.
Syafie and his cousin didn't tell his family about the casting. To his family, acting was a big no-no. But when he got the lead role, he had to break the news to them.
"At first my grandfather, parents and aunties were not amused.
"Even my cousin told me I would ruin the movie.
"He was a little upset at first, but came around when Yasmin gave him a minor role to play in the movie.
"I kept quiet. I'm a person of not many words. But I was up for the challenge," said Syafie, who won Best Child Actor at the 20th Malaysian Film Festival 2007 for his role in Mukhsin.
Indeed, if it hadn't been for Yasmin, Syafie would not have been where he is today.
Impressed by his raw talent and boyish charm, Yasmin cast him again in Talentime.
Syafie did not play the lead, but he still delivered. At the 22nd Malaysian Film Festival, Syafie proved his relatives wrong again when he took home the Best Supporting Actor award.
Yasmin must have been proud of him.
"When I received my first nomination, Yasmin had warned me not to get my hopes up too high.
"She didn't want me to be disappointed. To her, winning or losing was not important. Being honest about your work was.
"I think she didn't want our work to be defined by the awards that we won. She was such a simple person."
Right after the 20th Film Festival, Yasmin went straight to Syafie's house and spent hours with his family.
"When she came, she would make herself at home. She would talk to my mum about everything -- from food to clothes.
"She would park the car hundreds of metres from the house and I would pick her up in my motorbike. All of us, including my parents, would have bakso or satay minang together.
"She had no trouble blending in with my family and with our simple lives."
Would she get upset about anything?
"Once. We were just hanging around at a production house. She asked me if I had received payment for Talentime.
"When she learnt that I hadn't, she was slightly furious and immediately ordered her staff to expedite the payment."
Although he had acted in two of her films, Syafie still had no idea that Yasmin was the person behind his favourite TV commercial.
"It was only when I was featured in her Silky Girl TV commercial with Sharifah Arianna that I realised that she was the brains behind all the touching Petronas ads, including the one on circumcision."
Syafie was also cast in several telemovies, namely Kasih Tak Terucap, Hero Komik, Keliwon and Ampunkan Dosaku (which will be aired soon), and TV3's Jidin. In 2007, his work in Ilham Suci won him Best Actor at TV3's Anugerah Skrin.
He also starred in Nur Kasih The Movie and Songlap, which is about human trafficking and is being screened nationwide. It has received good reviews.
What were the challenges he faced while shooting Songlap?
"I think the scene with Normah Damanhuri, who plays a prostitute, was most challenging. As soon as the camera rolled, she quickly slipped into character. Her eyes, her lips, her body language... she was so good that it threw me off."
He added that the ending scene with Shaheizy Sam was also tough as "we had to portray as though we were real brothers." Another difficult scene to do was with his friend in the movie named Razak.
"The directors told us that we were so close that it was as though we had showered naked together."
What does he think of his work?
"It is so hard to watch yourself on television or films. It feels so weird and embarrassing. I can never watch my movies with people. But when I watch them alone, especially Yasmin's movies, I cry because I miss her so much.
"I felt so lost when she left us. I didn't know where to go as I didn't know that many people in the industry.
"But I always remember her advice: always be honest in your work, never forget who you are and always be grateful to your parents."
• Favourite local actor?
• Favourite local actress?
• Favourite local movie?
All of Yasmin Ahmad’s movies
• Favourite international actor?
• Favourite international actress?
• Favourite international movie?
• Favourite local singer?
Datuk Siti Nurhaliza
• Favourite international singer?
• Favourite song of all time?
Hindustani number Ladki Badi
• Local directors I’d like to work with
Khabir Bhatia, Shuhaimi Baba