MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, October 30, 2015

10 questions with… Kee Thuan Chye

Fa Abdul goes inside the head of Malaysia’s much loved public figure, asking him what he’d do if he had billions and how he would like to change Malaysia if he could.
I first met Kee Thuan Chye in 2012 at Borders, The Gardens. Seated on the floor in a cosy nook, I saw this handsome man with a broad smile arranging chairs and books in one corner of the book store while greeting a stream of people walking in.
Intrigued by the book he was holding – “No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians”, I found myself seated on the first row as he began his book reading session. Needless to say I was glued to my seat throughout the reading session and Q&A that followed.
Chye as he is fondly known among friends and acquaintances is an actor, dramatist, poet, journalist, author and activist. Noted for his straight talk, Chye’s commentaries on Malaysian politics are as much candid as it is darn honest.
Having had the pleasure of sharing a few conversations with this passionate writer, I found Chye to be a genuine character who speaks from his heart. I thank him deeply for taking time to entertain my ten random questions.
Question 1:
Would you rather be rich and ugly, or poor and good looking?
Poor and good-looking. You can change your fortunes, but you can’t change the way you look! You can get out of poverty if you work at it, and having good looks can be an asset. You might even get a shot at becoming a successful film star earning millions! Think of Cary Grant and Chow Yun Fatt.
Question 2:
What are the three things that you cannot live without?
Movies. Books. Alcohol. I wish I could add a few more!
Question 3:
Has any movie, or book made a huge impact on you?
The book ‘Being Happy!’ by Andrew Matthews. It helped pull me out of a depression I had slumped into after my dream of acting in my first Hollywood movie was realised and then crushed.
I had got the role, it was to be filmed in New York starring Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche. I would have been flown on business class there, but I was too stupid not to think of applying for a visa from the US Embassy here to facilitate my trip there. Instead, I left it to the Casting Director in the US to apply for my work permit, which took too long to materialise.
When the production company had to shoot my scenes, I still hadn’t got my work permit. So I was replaced, and given a measly cancellation fee. I was devastated. That Hollywood-dream-turned-nightmare still haunts me from time to time.
Question 4:
If given complete freedom to start afresh, what profession would you choose and why?
Jazz pianist. It’s cool to be able to extemporise and play music with your heart and soul. I am most moved by the sound of jazz on the piano. It can be warm, it can be lively, it can be reflective, it can be seductive. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never learned music.
Question 5:
Name one person you love the most, and one person you hate the most.
The person I love the most is undoubtedly my wife, Choy Wan. She’s my anchor. I’ve learned a lot about life from her. She’s a great friend and companion. She’s one of the most beautiful women I know, beautiful in more ways than one.
I can’t think of anyone I hate. To hate someone, you’d have to have strong feelings for them. You may even have to start out liking or loving them and then become greatly disappointed or betrayed by them. That would then make you hate them. I haven’t experienced that.
I may hugely dislike Mahathir Mohamad, Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, but I don’t hate them!
Question 6:
What is your favourite curse word?
Question 7:
Kee Thuan Chye - a scene from his play Swordfish, Concubine and the Fall of Singapura
Kee Thuan Chye – a scene from his play Swordfish, Concubine and the Fall of Singapura
If you find RM2.6 billion in your bank account, what would you do?
My first thought: Najib is trying to pass the buck.
Second thought: Which Middle Eastern friend of mine is the likely donor?
My action: Call the bank to find out where it came from and whether it is truly meant for me.
If it is, stage my latest play, ‘Swordfish, Concubine and the Fall of Singapura’; buy a nice house to live in; make travel plans; decide how much money to give to family members; donate (oops, that’s a dirty word these days, sorry!) to a few charities and theatre companies; produce a movie; buy a few bottles of the finest wines; get the fastest Internet speed that Salleh Said Keruak can offer … I could go on and still have a lot of money left over – RM2.6 billion is a humongous amount!
Question 8:
What are the three things you would like to change about Malaysia?
The current government, patronage and money politics
Attitudes fixated on race and religion
The education system, including tertiary
Question 9:
What are the three habits ordinary Malaysians should get rid of in your opinion?
Political apathy and ignorance, and therefore falling easy prey to propaganda
Lack of civic consciousness, hence jumping of queues; poor hygiene of food handlers; dirty toilets; breaking of traffic rules, including double and even triple parking
Engaging in easy and mindless things like window-shopping instead of meaningful pursuits like reading and educating oneself
Question 10:
If you could give Malaysians one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t get hung up on race and religion. We’re all human beings. Just chill. We all want to belong to this country, so let’s give everyone an even chance and help bring about a better Malaysia. After all, we live in a fast-moving, globalised world. We need to think progressive or be left behind.
Kee Thuan Chye’s most recent edition to his list of bestselling books – ‘Unbelievably Stupid!’ and ‘Unbelievably Stupid Too’ is published by Gerakbudaya. It is now available in major bookstores.

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