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Hairul Azreen

Hunky actor Hairul Azreen and co-stars talk about the challenges of portraying brave firemen in Qhaliq

MANY viewers who have caught actor Hairul Azreen on TV and cinema may think he excels in playing “sweet, young men”.

But the 29-year-old from Negri Sembilan is set to prove them wrong soon, in his latest movie Qhaliq which will be released on June 14.

Playing the titular character, a tough and no-nonsense fireman, Hairul is in fact kicking off a “string” of tough guy film roles which also include Polis Evo 2 and Paskal.

Polis Evo 2 later this year will have him join fellow action heroes Shaheizy Sam and Zizan Razak busting ruthless crime lords, while Paskal which opens in 2019 will see him play a real-life Royal Malaysian Navy Special Force commander.

Hairul, who is married to TV host and blogger Hanis Zalikha, and whose two-year-old son Yusuf Iskandar is a celebrity in his own right, admits that playing a tough guy has always been his goal as an actor.

In fact, he proved himself as such when he participated in Celebrity Fear Factor Malaysia alongside fellow actor Dazrin Kamaruddin of Usop Wilcha Dan Werewolf Dari Bangladesh, and won the contest in 2012.

Prior to becoming an actor, he was a stuntman on the set of several movies.

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“I like variety when it comes to acting - at times I’d like to be an action hero and at others, I’d like to be the ‘boy next door’ fans initially thought I was,” said Hairul.

He is thankful to director Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nadzri for offering him the title role of Qhaliq, because it will make viewers appreciate another side of him.

“Ahmad Idham said he is impressed with my courage in Fear Factor and thus offered me the role of a fireman. That’s so cool, and I can’t thank him more.”

Hairul went through several weeks of tough training to play Qhaliq. Fortunately he passed the test with flying colours and was even praised by real-life Fire and Rescue Services Department officials.

“An official told me ‘ini barulah hero’ (you have the qualities of a hero). I was so proud of myself,” he said.

Qhaliq which is produced by Ohsem Network also stars Aliff Yashraff, Nur Risteena Munim, Syanie Aida, Azza Zawari of Elite, Nor Albaniah, Hafiz Bahari, and Ahmad Idham.

Below is an interview with Hairul and his co-stars Aliff and Risteena:


Hairul Azreen (centre) with fellow firemen and officials.

Tell us did you always want to play a fireman? Anybody in your family was one?

Hairul: Yes, of course. Firemen are the country’s unsung heroes who brave danger and rescue people from fires, landslides and accidents. I’m the first “fireman” in my family.

Aliff: I’ve never thought of playing a fireman, but Ahmad Idham suggested that I give it a shot, and I thank him for that.

Tell us about your character.

Hairul: Qhaliq comes from the village, and has had a tough life. He chooses to become a fireman because he wants to help people in distress. He is an idealist, too. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of playing nice guys, I’d rather be a nice guy with brawn and brains.

Aliff: I’m Fyzal, Qhaliq’s best buddy and fellow fireman. He’s a happy-go-lucky and loyal friend to our hero.

Risteena: I’m Qhaliq’s love interest Qhalisya, whose father is Qhaliq’s superior. Qhalisya is unhappy that her father does not spend quality time with his family. However, Qhaliq becomes her close friend, and gradually love blossoms between them.


(From left) Aliff, Hairul and Hafiz Bahari

When you were in school, did you ever have a dream of being a fireman or any tough job such as navy commandos and police special forces?

Hairul: Definitely. I’ve always had a soft spot for Malaysia’s uniformed heroes. Firemen are my favourite because they don’t kill people, they save people. Nevertheless, playing a commando is more exciting.

Aliff: No, not really. But my parents have always reminded me that firemen are amongst society’s true heroes, so it’s an honour to portray one.


Risteena Munim (left) and Azza in a scene from Qhaliq.

Risteena, do you think you can handle characters in uniform in future?

Risteena: It’s a challenge, but I’m game for it. But I’d rather play police officers. Training may be tough, but I’m confident I can do it.

Did Qhaliq encourage you to audition for Paskal and Polis Evo 2?

Hairul: Yes. All three are my kind of films. My wife and parents encouraged me to go for it and do my best, since action is my passion.


Hairul (left) with the cameramen

Tell us all about the difficulty you faced training for your role in Qhaliq. Did you sometimes fear you would get hurt?

Hairul: We were trained for two weeks by real firemen and had to jog, swim, march and undergo team-building exercises. I enjoyed every moment of it. But when it came to scenes where I had to extricate people from a crashed car and “dive” into a blazing fire with a fire suit, I did tremble a little, because excessive “blood” and explosions shake me up.

Aliff: Some of the rescue scenes almost freaked me out, but the director and firemen assured us that we were all in safe hands. Wearing a fire suit was tricky, as it’s thick and the blazing heat of the day bothered me. It’s the most uncomfortable experience I’ve had for any film. Hairul is a lot braver than me and he motivated me to face all challenges.

Risteena: It was scary to be caught in a fire. Luckily, the director and his assistants made sure I was a safe distance from the flames, and that my “rescuers” arrived in a jiffy.

Hairul, did Yusuf Iskandar miss you a lot?

Hairul: Hanis told me he did. But at the end of the day, my boy is always happy when I show him who I play on TV and cinema!


Risteena Munim and Hairul Azreen in a scene from Qhaliq.

Did you make friends with real firemen? What are the most important lessons they taught you?

Hairul: Yes, Qhaliq made this possible. I’ve never befriended firemen, and I thought they were no-nonsense folk. The firemen who trained me were down-to-earth and patient, and the most important lesson I learnt from them was to cherish life and care for others.

Aliff: I’ve got a few friends who are firemen, and they work in Alor Star and KL. They’ve told me a lot about their work, and more importantly advised me to always help people in distress as best as I can.

Risteena: I haven’t met firemen prior to this, and I now realise they’re some of the kindest people around. I’d consider Qhaliq a very educational, eye-opening film. It’s our first fireman story and it’s as realistic as it gets.

How was it like working with Idham? Have you done many projects together?

Hairul: Ahmad Idham is my cikgu (teacher) in film. And the great thing is he plays my superior. It’s always fun working with him because he allows me to share my ideas on character development. As for my co-stars Aliff and Risteena, they’re very friendly and professional. Risteena is very knowledgeable, too.

Now that you are starring in several action films, do you think you will make this your first choice of movie genres?

Hairul: Honestly, it will be 50:50. I want to play an action hero half the time, without abandoning “boy next door” roles. However, I’d rather play older men as opposed to “pretty boys”.

Tell us your coming projects. What type of movies do you want to appear in, other than action?

Hairul: I’ll soon be filming Operasi X with Datuk Awie and Datuk Aaron Aziz. It’s a police-themed film, too. I’d love to star in period dramas, such as those set in the Melaka Sultanate and British colonial times.

Aliff: I like films that involve adventure, and they need to feature men in uniform. I’d love to play a sportsman, such as a footballer, swimmer or athlete.

How are you going to spend your coming Hari Raya? Will you be going on a roadshow to promote Qhaliq?

Hairul: I’ll be back in Kuala Pilah for Hari Raya with my family, while Aliff and Risteena will be in Kedah and Penang, respectively with their families. But we will visit some major cities with Ahmad Idham to promote our new movie.

A first for Malaysia

DIRECTOR Ahmad Idham is delighted to make Malaysia’s first realistic movie about firefighters.

He says: “We shot Qhaliq over 20 days in the Klang Valley and our 30 “firemen” were also joined by real-life “abang Bomba” who willingly showed them the tricks of the trade.”

Ahmad Idham is glad that none of the actors was hurt during filming, but he was a little worried about scenes where they had to enter a blazing house, wearing their fire suits.

“That required three days to shoot. I could have used CGI but then it would look fake. It was a risky job, but I’m thankful that things turned out right.”

The director chose firemen as the subject of Qhaliq because he believed in exposing young Malaysians to the “noble profession”.

“I love stories about heroes, everyday heroes, and some of the most underrated of the lot are firemen.”

When asked about casting Hairul, Ahmad Idham said the role of Qhaliq was specially made for him.

“Qhaliq is a brave and fearless young man, but he’s also a “manja” son to his parents. Hairul is a versatile actor who embodies the spirit of the firefighting hero,” he said.

Ahmad Idham also revealed that Qhaliq was largely inspired by the 1991 American film Backdraft which starred Kurt Russell and was directed by Ron Howard.

“However, the only similarity between them is the fact that they are stories about firefighters. Our abang Bomba have different challenges to meet, compared to their US counterparts.”

As for coming projects, Ahmad Idham said he was about to complete Townmall which is based on a local horror novel.

Qhaliq was supposed to have been released on April 5 but Ahmad Idham chose to postpone its screening, in order to facilitate the long-awaited release of Dain Iskandar Said’s thriller Dukun.

Qhaliq tells the story of a young man (Hairul) who dreams of becoming a firefighter. Trained by a “brutal” superior (Ahmad Idham), he eventually excels in his job, and becomes a role model to his peers.

Along the way, he also learns that firemen do not merely save lives, but also educate the public on how to become rescuers in their own right.


Ahmad Idham on the set of Qhaliq

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