Erra Fazira is playing the role of Tun Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali again but she tells Bibi Nurshuhada Ramli there is greater pressure this time
WE have heard this often times. Behind every great man is a great woman.
In the case of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it is his wife of 56 years, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, who has been by his side, going through the ups and downs of his career.
On Aug 30, get the chance to know more about this female icon and her life in the Istana Budaya production, Teater Tun Siti Hasmah.
It took about a year to get the green light from Dr Siti Hasmah to chronicle her life and her role in her husband’s life.
In a Press interview recently, she modestly explained the reason. “I don’t think there’s anything special in my story to be dramatised and made into a play,” she said, to strong disagreement from the reporters.
She explained that unlike her husband, there is nothing historical about her, except that she was one of the first Malay women doctors in the country.
“I was pressured into saying ‘yes’ eventually!” she quipped, pointing at Istana Budaya director-general Datuk Juhari Shaarani.
Dr Siti Hasmah said that she wanted the play to be more about her as a health officer, rather than a former prime minister’s wife.
“I’m just a regular wife, like most women. When I was a health officer, I was around people who needed me. I was able to serve the rural community by changing its traditional attitude towards health.
“In the end, I was able to see the results of my service and these helped shape who I am today.”
Still, Dr Siti Hasmah takes pride in being Dr Mahathir’s wife, and would love for people to see her loyalty towards him, their happiness together and his trust in her to be his partner and the mother of his children.
Meanwhile, the actress who will play the role of Dr Siti Hasmah is Erra Fazira, who played the same character in Tun Mahathir The Musical in 2010.
“This was a deal I made with Umie (Aida, wife of the producer, Datuk Paduka Khairuddin Abu Hassan) years ago,” said Erra.
“When she told me of her hopes (for me to play Tun Siti Hasmah), I thought it was just a joke between friends. However, the more serious Umie became about it, the more nervous I was. Since it was a request from a friend, I couldn’t say ‘no’.
“Luckily, I had experience playing the role, so I knew a bit about the life of Tun Siti Hasmah and what she is like,” says Erra, adding that eventually she gave in to the idea of taking part in this project.
Umie has promised Erra to let her in on any research that she was doing for the show as a way of showing support.
Although Erra is thrilled to be trusted with playing Dr Siti Hasmah, she admits feeling the pressure, since it is a bigger role compared to the one in Tun Mahathir The Musical.
Since Dr Siti Hasmah is a living icon, there is an added pressure for Erra to nail the part. “My biggest fear is not delivering the expectations of Tun Siti Hasmah herself. Dr Mahathir and their children know her very well, so I hope I won’t disappoint them.
“It is a big responsibility and I will have to work harder to prove to everyone that I can play a convincing Tun Siti Hasmah.”
Erra revealed that discussions are on-going as to whether she will play Dr Siti Hasmah in every scene or if another actress will play the latter in her teen years.
“Whatever it is, I must stay as truthful to the character as I can.”
Dr Siti Hasmah has given two thumbs up to Erra’s portrayal of her in Tun Mahathir The Musical and has no qualms whatsoever about Erra playing her again in Teater Tun Siti Hasmah.
“Erra did very well the first time around. She even looked more lovely than me,” joked Dr Siti Hasmah.
From her experience acting in Tun Mahathir The Musical, Erra said she had gathered some information on the former prime minister’s wife, but she realised that it was not enough.
“The last time, I had a chat with her for one to two hours to get to know her better. This time around, I think I will need several sessions with her since I need to know things in greater detail.”
Erra admires Dr Siti Hasmah for the sacrifices that she has made. The latter cut back on her hobbies as a way of showing her love and support for Dr Mahathir, even before they were married.
“She said that if she were to be remembered, she wanted it to be as a loving wife,” said Erra. “That is what impresses me most.”
Teater Tun Siti Hasmah will be staged from Aug 30 to Sept 8 at Istana Budaya. It will be directed by P. Ramlee The Musical director Adlin Aman Ramlie and produced by World Islamic Network Television.