New actress Malar Meni Perumal teams up with award-winning Ben G in a new Tamil movie, writes Dennis Chua
THE name Malar Meni Perumal may not ring a bell, but the beautiful woman from Sitiawan is a regular face in print and television advertisements, especially for Nissan on Astro.
The 24-year-old psychology student from Segi University College in Subang Jaya, who will graduate in two years’ time, will star in her first Tamil movie, The Next Step (Adutha Kattam), on July 19. It also opens in India and Singapore on the same day. Her co-star is popular singer, DJ, dancer, director and award-winner Ben G (K Gandhiben) of Klang. The film is a thriller directed by Muralikrishnan Munian and produced by NGP Film.
Malar plays Rekha, an image consultant who is happily married to a businessman named Vijay, played by Tamil movie and drama series actor S. Aghonthiran.
“Rekha, who lives in Bangsar, is an intelligent and caring young woman. Unfortunately, her husband is a very busy man who is virtually married to his job. This makes her upset and lonely,” says Malar.
One evening, Rekha decides to visit her mother and drives along a dark and lonely road near Rawang.
“Her car breaks down and a kind, helpful stranger, Arvindh (Ben), stops to help her...,” adds Malar, who has appeared in video clips and short films for Astro.
Ben, 40, says viewers may “smell a rat” when they see Arvindh but they should not assume he is the bad guy, because the story is not as straightforward as it looks.
Vijay comes looking for Rekha when he cannot reach her on the handphone. “Within the 24-hour time frame that makes our story, there are a lot of startling revelations,” says Ben.
Muralikrishnan says The Next Step has the support and endorsement of the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) and is one of the first Tamil productions to be screened under Finas’ Wajib Tayang (compulsory screening) scheme.
It has plenty of nail-biting suspense, sound effects and action with a Hollywood flavour. It also has a brilliant musical score by our very own composer, Jey Raggaveindra.
The film also stars veteran actor Shashitharan Rajoo.
A freelance director of television dramas for four years, Muralikrishnan is marking his debut as a film director with The Next Step.
“I was a video editor for a television production company, Skywalker Television, and was involved in television dramas, such as Eeram and Maruma Vasal. Then I joined MITV and produced the drama Varnam,” he says.
Muralikrishnan also produced documentaries for Tourism Malaysia and company videos. He has two new movies which will be out next year.
“While I make Tamil movies, I give them a very Malaysian feel and this is what The Next Step is. Shooting took 20 days around the Klang Valley,” he says.
The film was shot three years ago and was produced by Navanithen Ganeson, the founder of NGP.
“It is NGP’s first movie, too,” says Muralikrishnan.
“Post production took place in Prasad Laboratories in Chennai, India.”
Ben, who won Multi-Talented Artiste, Best Actor (for the film November 24) and Best Upcoming Director (for the film Kathale Vendum) at the Malaysian Tamil Artistes Association Awards 2008, is marking his first collaboration with Muralikrishnan and second with Malar.
“In 2006, Malar and I co-starred in Marumalar Chi, a 26-episode drama series which has not been released,” says Ben.
Ben’s last movie was Chow Kit where he played a gangster.
“That was my first Malay movie and it was great to work with brilliant actors like Beto Kusyairy, Lana Nordin and Dira Abu Zahar,” he says.
He is also set to appear in a drama about a child kidnapping racket soon, titled Gandhi, which also happens to be his name.
“I was named after Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi and we share the same birth date. I’m a big fan of him and Sir Ben Kingsley, who played him and earned an Oscar,” he says.
Ben has been an actor for two decades and has entered the Malaysia Book of Records for a feat which saw the largest number of singers performing a Tamil song titled Parents back in 2009.
He has five albums to his credit and has acted in the action movies Kodaikanal, Kumara and Varuvomle in India. He has directed five movies, among them Kathalejayam where Muralikrishnan was the editor.
“While I normally play bad guys, I’ve had my fair share of playing heroes and funnymen, too. I love variety in acting.”
He says it’s great fun working with Malar as she is a fast-learner who is very serious in her work.”
Malar will be appearing in her second movie soon. “While my studies are my priority, I have a passion for acting and I’d love to play more diverse characters later. I’d also love to star in English and Bahasa Malaysia films,” she says.
Muralikrishnan thanks Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, his Ministry and Finas for encouraging the production of Tamil movies and drama series in line with the government’s 1Malaysia campaign.
“While I make Tamil movies and TV series, they are first and foremost Malaysian movies with an all-Malaysian cast. This is my idea of a Malaysian Tamil movie.”