STORIES of brave, strong mothers who take on the bad guys in order to protect their children inspire actress Nabila Huda Suhaimi.
Nabila, a 36-year-old mother of an 11-year-old girl, looks up to American actress Jodie Foster, especially her roles in Panic Room (screened in 2002) and Flightplan (2005).
“She was inspirational. I’ve longed to play women as tough as the characters she portrayed,” she says at the recent press preview of her latest film M4M4 (Mama) in Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.
Nabila, the daughter of rock singer Suhaimi Abdul Rahman (Amy of Search fame), has had her wish come true in this film directed by Eyra Rahman.
She plays Aini, a single mother whose beautiful teenage daughter Alya is raped and tortured by three gangsters in the city.
Badly wounded, she falls to her death when trying to escape their clutches. This causes Aini to take the law into her own hands and avenge her only child’s tragic end.
“I burst into tears reading the script. Nothing makes me seethe with anger than the story of a young mother whose daughter is torn to pieces by monstrous men,” says Nabila.
Eyra, whose films include Bencinta (2013), Dorm Melati (2015) and Kolestrol Vs Cinta (2017), made the scenes of Alya’s rape and torture “incredibly graphic” with emotional mortuary scenes.
Nabila’s co-star, 17-year-old actress Bella Dowanna, also sports some gruesome makeup.
“It was agonising to see poor Alya motionless in the morgue, with horrible scratches across her arms and legs, bloodied wounds on her battered face, and a gaping head injury sustained during the fall.
“I just could not stop crying, even when the director said ‘cut’,”recalls Nabila.
The severity of Alya’s wounds and the harrowing moment where Aini identified her daughter’s body also fired up Nabila for her avenging angel role in the second half of Mama.
Nabila says she found inspiration by also watching Foster in her 2007 thriller, The Brave One.
Nabila plays the mother of a teenage girl for the first time in Mama. She bonded with debutante Bella on the set of the film last year.
“It’s interesting to be the mum of a secondary schoolgirl. What really put me into Aini’s shoes was her all-round wholesomeness
“She’s the perfect daughter. She’s good at home, good in her studies and kind-hearted towards her best friends in school, Elly and Daniel.
“Losing her made me really want to shoot all the bad guys.”
On her experience on the set, Bella says actors Kodi Rasheed, Ungku Hariz and Niezam Zaidi, who played the gangsters Apai, Luk and Remy respectively, were gentle with her.
“There was no rape scene, only footage on Alya’s smartphone. But the very thought that it was a rape scene gave me nightmares.”
Even the mortuary scene terrified Bella. “Oh my God! It was a nightmarish experience playing dead.”
Eyra adds that she picked Nabila to play Aini as the actress loved such roles.
“Nabila has the intensity of Aini, and she loves the challenge of being someone she’s not, that is, the mother of a teenager. As for Bella, she was just the Alya I was looking for, a schoolgirl who is sweetness and goodness personified,” she said.
Eyra is glad that her old friends Kodi (Ophilia), Ungku Hariz (Polis Evo) and Niezam (Sangkar) were “game” to play the bad guys.
Filming took 25 days in the Klang Valley as well as Karak in Bentong, Pahang.
Eyra and Nabila plan to make more films that tell interesting and important stories from a woman’s point of view.
“It’s true that many of our films are male-driven. I strongly feel that we should come up with more such female-driven films. If Hollywood can do it, why not Malaysia?” said Eyra.
“Stories from the point of view of women, be they tragic, funny, adventurous or scary, enrich our film industry. They give viewers different perspectives and are very thought-provoking, and this is good for everyone,” adds Nabila.
Mama also stars Faizal Hussein as Inspector Azahari, and Eyra Hazali and Izzy Reef as Elly and Daniel respectively. Amanda Hariz, 8, plays young Alya while KRU’s Yusry Abdul Halim plays Aini’s husband in flashbacks.
The film, which opened on Feb 6, is produced by DA Motion Media, and is executive produced by Azahari Hamid and Norliza Samion.