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Juliana (Saleha) and Raja Chal (Faizal).
Acappan with MJ (Shaheizy) and Juliana (Saleha).
(From left) MJ (Shaheizy), Juliana (Saleha) and Ali (Azad).

Shaheizy Sam and Siti Saleha Baharum tell Dennis Chua about their fun-filled collaboration, Mamak Cupcake

“Whenever I shopped at the neighbourhood provision shop, ice-cream or food stall, the vendors would speak to me in Cantonese, which I didn’t understand,” Shaheizy Sam tells me with a grin.

“After a while, they started to teach me some words in Cantonese. Eventually, I was able to speak the dialect, and even picked up others.”

The actor put his little knowledge of Cantonese to good use in movies such as Evolusi KL Drift 2. For his movie Mamak Cupcake, Shaheizy got the opportunity to learn Tamil.

“My character Muhammad Jamaluddin or MJ, is a mamak and heir to his father’s coffee shop business,” says Shaheizy.

MJ is the hero of Grand Brilliance comedy Mamak Cupcake, directed by Woo Ming Jin and co-written by Ahmad Izham Omar and M. Zulkifli Abdul Jalil three years ago.

Ahmad Izham is Media Prima Chief Executive Officer for the television networks and Primeworks Studios’ chief executive officer, while Zulkifli is the co-founder of content company Story Beans and general manager of KL Motion Pictures.

MJ is from Penang wants to create beautiful and delicious cupcakes. “However, his father wants him to manage the family mamak restaurant,” explains Shaheizy.

MJ suggests that the eatery incorporates cupcakes into its menu, but is instantly shot down as “ridiculous” by his father who believes in cooking Indian Muslim food. MJ is ready to give up his dream but then he meets Juliana, who encourages his passion to create innovative cupcakes.

The beautiful and intelligent Juliana, played by Siti Saleha Baharum, is the daughter of Datin Nora, the organiser of a cupcake making competition.

“She encourages MJ to join the competition, despite her mother’s initial objections and blatant favouritism towards the reigning champion cupcake maker, the rich and spoilt Raja Chal (Faizal Ismail).”

MJ’s father also objects to his entry, but his brother, aspiring hip-hop singer and songwriter Ali Deen (Azad Jazmin), gives him his full support together with Teh, Nora’s former business partner who trains MJ in baking skills.

FIRST COOKING ROLE

Mamak Cupcake is Shaheizy’s first cookery movie and he is delighted to be part of it. “I love cooking and that is why I am Mamee’s brand ambassador.

“When I was a kid, I always helped my mother in the kitchen, and I’m so happy that she’s with me in this movie,” he says. His mother, actress Khaty Fauziah, plays MJ’s late mother. She appears in his dreams to guide him in his quest.

As for playing a mamak, Shaheizy was given sufficient coaching by his Ngangkong co-star Azad, who is from Penang.

“We hung out a lot in mamak stalls and restaurants and observed the workers. Azad also taught me the language, as did our co-stars Veerasingam and Acappan, accomplished actors of Tamil and Malay television dramas and movies,” he says, adding that Veerasingam and Acappan play Muhammad and the restaurant head waiter respectively.

Shaheizy loves mamak restaurants because they represent the spirit of 1Malaysia.

“Malaysians of all ethnic groups hang out in their favourite mamak restaurants and enjoy their favourite foods. It is in these restaurants that they meet new friends, learn about happenings around town and even discover new talents,” he says.

As for cupcakes, Shaheizy says he is not really a fan but names Oreo cupcake as his favourite. “I love anything with chocolate,” he says.

He identifies with his character who is an underdog with a huge heart and spirited determination.

“MJ personifies a young Malaysian who works hard to fulfil his dreams. He is true to himself and despite his father’s objections, continues to persevere. He wants to convince his father that cupcakes in mamak restaurants are a novel idea which can boost the business,” he says, adding that MJ is similar to him in that he thinks out of the box and strives to do his best in his chosen career. “And most of all, he loves his parents and brother, and wants them to succeed.”

FRESH STORY LINE

Shaheizy was impressed with the script of Mamak Cupcake when he read it.

“I’m delighted that Ming Jin had me in mind when he thought of MJ. He is a creative director who encourages us to create our characters’ back stories. For every scene of the movie, he makes sure it is aesthetically done, like a great photoshoot.”

Shaheizy, who loves fresh story lines, in confident that Malaysians will enjoy Mamak Cupcake as it is an original fun-filled journey.

“I’m sure viewers will have a treat with this movie, besides a new found love for mamak restaurants and cupcakes,” he says.

Did Shaheizy get to bake real cupcakes in the movie?

“The cupcakes were ready-made. Siti Saleha, Azad and I only did the frosting for the cakes. Nevertheless, we spent a day decorating them with out-of-this-world designs.”

Shaheizy is delighted to be starring with Siti Saleha, whom he praises as “sweet, down-to-earth and hardworking”.

“She is dedicated to her craft and I’m happy she’s won big at the recent Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian 2013,” he says.

As for Natasha Hudson, who plays Teh, Shaheizay says: “She is a humble actress who has starred with him in television dramas. She’s the most knowledgeable actor when it comes to cakes.”

FUTURE PROJECTS

In December, the multi award-winning Shaheizy will appear in Manisnya Cinta Di Cappadocia with Nur Fazura Sharifuddin. It’s a romantic comedy set in Turkey.

Next year, he will star in Pierre Andre’s action comedy Kasut Ku Kusut where his character speaks in the Perak dialect. “It’s set in Kampar and tells the story of a man whose new shoes get lost and end up on the feet of a gang leader.”

Shaheizy will also appear in a 13-episode TV drama, Ajaibnya Cinta. It is the story of a man who falls in love with four women. His co-stars are Nora Danish, Sharifah Amani, Erma Fatima and Betty Rahmad.

Next he will star in MIG Production drama Kaki Kitai where he plays “one of two best friends who struggles to survive in Kuala Lumpur.

He recently recorded upbeat duet Bangun, composed by Audi Mok, with Liyana Jasmay. “It’s a song of hope and the result of the people-powered Nescafe On Sam campaign, which called for fans to compose and submit the lyrics,” he says.

YEAR OF ADVENTURE

Nominated for The Most Promising Film Actress at the Malaysian Film Festival 2014 for her role as a woman on the run in the thriller Kerat 14 (with Aaron Aziz) last year, Siti Saleha says he loves comedies.

“Mamak Cupcake is my third movie, which was filmed two years ago for 1½ months,” says Siti Saleha who was also known for the horror comedy KL Zombi, which entered South Korea’s Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival 2014.

Siti Saleha admits that she is fun-loving. “I love comedies, but they’re more difficult compared with dramas.”

For Mamak Cupcake, she is honoured to be collaborating with Shaheizy, one of her favourite actors besides Aaron.

“Shaheizy is sweet and meticulous. He works very hard to prepare for every role, and he studiously observed the work of mamak restaurant workers.”

She would love to collaborate again with Shaheizy in action movies. “It’s an honour for me to collaborate with two ABPBH winners, Shaheizy and Aaron,” says the actress, who was named Popular Film and Popular Television Actress at ABPBH this year.

SECOND COLLABORATION

Siti Saleha first worked with the director Woo for KL Zombi (released last year). “Ming Jin is a fantastic director who is hands on. He believes in giving life to every character, and I’m delighted we’ve made Juliana realistic,” she says. “Juliana is a compassionate, honest and sensible young woman. She’s independent, strong and positive-thinking, traits which I identify with. Better still, she doesn’t fall for smear campaigns to bring down MJ.”

She is also delighted to team up with Maria Farida, who plays her mother Nora. “We are great friends, and appeared in television drama Ruby last year with another of my favourite actors Sharnaaz Ahmad,” she says.

She describes Maria as a natural comedienne who plays bad girls with gusto. “Maria lights up every scene she’s in and despite her nastiness, Nora has redeeming qualities.”

Fans of Siti Saleha are in for a treat this year, as two of her movies, Tujuh and Terbaik Dari Langit, are scheduled to be screened soon.

Terbaik Dari Langit, directed by Nik Amir Mustapha, is an adventure film starring Bront Palarae and Sharifah Amani. Meanwhile, Tujuh is a horror story by Raja Mukhriz and produced by Grand Brilliance. It is set in the 1970s and stars Pekin Ibrahim and Johan Asari who play college friends who witness the death of a young woman.

Siti Saleha will also spend a week in Jakarta to shoot Cinta Paling Agung, a television movie starring Aaron who plays a Malaysian relocated in Jakarta with his wife and their daughter.

“It’s an interesting story with a plot twist,” says Siti Saleha who is marking her second visit to Jakarta.

Next week, Siti Saleha will visit Pulau Tioman for a diving trip. “It is part of a Tourism Malaysia promotion where tourists get to dive with celebrities.”

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