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SHOWBIZ: Kindred spirits


The triad storyline of Kepong Gangster highlights humanity, brotherhood and the need to appreciate family and friends, writes Loong Wai Ting

FIRST it was Syamsul Yusof’s KL Gangster. Following its tremendous success at the box office, local director Teng Bee made his directorial debut with Kepong Gangster, which centres on five young men whose lives fall apart after joining a triad.

According to Teng, Kepong Gangster is about “humanity and brotherhood”.

“It is about how hatred turns you into an evil person but forgiveness turns you into a hero,” he said, when met recently. With him were the two main cast members, Melvin Sia and Henley Hii. The movie also stars Linda Liao, Lai Meng, Hero Tai, Billy Ng and Jovi Theng.

But why Kepong Gangster? Stereotyping aside, Teng said: “We’ve watched a lot of Hong Kong and Taiwanese gangster movies, so why not a local version?”

“Jinjang has a large Chinese population and in the early 70s and 80s it was believed that many secret societies co-existed here. My story is about how two rival gangs fight to take over Jinjang and eventually expand their power into Kepong.”

For Golden Awards winner Sia, playing the role Ah Hoi was not easy. “I was so absorbed in my character. I became emotionally attached to Ah Hoi and his evil ways. I became very hot-tempered. When I got home after filming, the first thing I did was to calm myself down by screaming out loud,” he says.

The actor watched movies with similar characters and then let his imagination take over. “I kept talking and having conversations with myself. It helped me embody the character. I even asked a friend from Hong Kong to help me on my Cantonese pronunciation,” he says.

Meanwhile, Project Super Star 2007 winner Hii, who played Ah Zhong, found filming to be smooth and progressive.

“Teng was a great director to work with. He planned his ‘first baby’ well — from getting on the smallest details in the script to helping us get into character.”

Hii, a singer-songwriter who released his new Mandarin album recently, is currently busy promoting the movie and his album.

Stressing that the movie is about appreciating friends and family, Hii said it was not their intention to emphasise a triad society. “We want the audience to count their blessings, and be thankful for their friends and family. Let go of your hatred towards one another.”

Whilst making the movie, the production was nearly put off due to opposition from various groups as well as residents in Kepong.

“The residents were concerned about the image of the township. But we visited the local committee and explained our intention of making the movie. We even showed them our storyboard and convinced them that it was all made with good intentions. In the end, we got the green light,” said Teng.

The movie took 23 days to complete with a budget of RM1.5 million. “I hope we can make RM5 million or more at the box office. The movie will also be screened in Taiwan at the end of the month and talks are underway for its release in Hong Kong,” said Teng, adding that a sequel was possible.

Kepong Gangster is currently showing in cinemas.

(From left) Tai, Hii, Sia and Billy Ng

Sia played an intelligent but narrow-minded person in the movie

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