Lisa Surihani and Nur Fazura talk to Bibi Nurshuhada Ramli about their close bond forged while filming Manisnya Cinta Di Cappadocia
BEYONCE’s hip-hop number Bow Down is blaring through the portable speakers in the New Straits Times Press studio where this photoshoot is taking place.
Actresses Nur Fazura and Lisa Surihani are dancing enthusiastically to the song as the photographer sets up the camera and lighting.
Fazura is mouthing the lyrics while Lisa’s expressions clearly show she enjoy dancing to the song.
Throughout the photoshoot, they chatter like schoolgirls in between takes. Outsiders would assume they’re sisters, judging by how comfortable they are around each other. The two only have male siblings so this could explain the newfound bond between them.
“Fazura’s awesome! I’m constantly inspired by how very organised, punctual and independent she is. I love that,” says Lisa, flashing Fazura a smile. Fazura smiles back at her and says, “Lisa, on the other hand, is like an Energizer bunny. Always so bubbly and cheerful!”
This sisterhood was forged when they said “yes” to playing sisters in Bernard Chauly’s upcoming romantic comedy, Manisnya Cinta Di Cappadocia. Prior to that, they were only acquaintances, acknowledging each other as peers with the same passion for acting.
Lisa says: “We’ve never hung out or worked together before. When I found out that she would be in this film as well, I was all the more interested, especially since we’re playing sisters. It’s an honour.”
“Oh, stop it,” says Fazura, bashfully. Lisa giggles.
“The more time we spent together, the tighter our friendship got. We’ve been close ever since,” says Lisa.
Among other things, she was thrilled to learn that they approach their scripts the same way. “We’d have our notes written on the side and the continuations (in-between scenes) indicated with coloured markers,” Lisa gushes.
The two share a similar trait of “suffering from something akin to obsessive-compulsive disorder”. “We’re both very particular about the orderliness of things.”
Fazura says she doesn’t have many celebrity best friends but Lisa is one. “She’s just there for me when I need her. We text each other on the phone for hours at night when I need someone to talk to.”
Nowadays, Fazura and Lisa try to find time to hang out together and spend hours chatting .
ABOUT THE FILM
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Anis Ayuni, Manisnya Cinta Di Cappadocia (MCDC) opens in cinemas on Dec 11.
Shot in Turkey last year, it is about Ifti Liyana (Fazura), who is nursing a broken heart after a recent break-up with her long-time boyfriend Fredo (Josiah Hogan). Nazim (Shaheizy Sam) finds his way into her heart but at the same time, Ifti feels pressurised when Bakhtiar (Faizal Hussein), her late sister’s husband, proposes to her.
“Ifti greatly personifies me today, more mature and relaxed. She’s not tough to play because she’s so much like me,” Fazura says.
Lisa has a smaller role as Ifti’s younger sister Izalea. “Izy is instrumental in the romantic relationship between Ifti and Nazim.”
The film also stars Fauziah Ahmad Daud, Zaibo, Sharifah Eja, Erma Fatima, Normah Damanhuri, Dian P. Ramlee, Aida Khalida and Rafidah Abdullah (who is the film’s screenwriter).
About the film, Lisa only has nice things to say. “It is a sweet, feel-good story with great cinematography.”
Lisa and Fazura say that the cast and crew have given their all to the production and they hope for the best. We want it to be talked about for a long time,” the former says.
It was obviously a challenge for the two actresses to portray sisters on the film. We hardly saw each other. If we had already been friends, we’d have our off-screen chemistry down pat,” Lisa explains. She and Fazura are thankful for the two-week acting bootcamp MCDC production house Red Films had set up for its cast before filming.
“From there, all of us learnt to create the chemistry between us that was needed for the film.
“We had to establish that we are familiar with each other, not just on the outside,” Lisa says.
Fazura has always enjoyed reading scripts written by Rafidah, who was also the screenwriter for Istanbul Aku Datang, Pisau Cukur and Gol & Gincu.
“The one she wrote for MCDC isn’t cliched, so it’s a breath of fresh air when you compare it to most scripts today.”
Lisa agrees. “Rafidah’s great at shaping up a character’s personality and providing him or her with a colourful emotional journey. That’s what you’ll get to see in Ifti.”
WORKING WITH BERNARD CHAULY
Lisa and Fazura have both worked with Bernard before — Lisa on his award-winning film Istanbul Aku Datang, and Fazura on Pisau Cukur and Gol Dan Gincu.
“He’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to be on this project,” Lisa says, she quickly said yes when she found out that he would be directing. Lisa adds that Bernard allows his actors to explore their respective roles but critically makes sure their portrayals don’t stray from his vision of how the movie should look like.
“Besides, working with Red Films has always been satisfying because the team is really professional and knows what it wants with MCDC.”
Even though hers is just a supporting role, Lisa thinks it is still important in driving the story. “When he told me he’s happy with my acting, I was over the moon, but I have to remember that I can’t please everyone. “The most important thing is that what I do is halal and for the right reasons,” says Lisa.
She keeps in mind that what she does is not for fame but for her passion for acting. She also has to keep on learning and growing. “With the Red Films team, I get to do that. I keep learning new things. This is one of the best production teams I’ve worked with.”
Fazura comments on her co-star, who is a two-time winner of the Best Actress award at Festival Filem Malaysia, for the films Lagenda Budak Setan and Istanbul Aku Datang.
“Lisa’s a great actress, so versatile and natural. She makes it seem so effortless.”
Lisa in turn looks highly on Fazura’s acting skills. “Off-camera, she’s one funny lady, but when playing a serious role, she is focused and nails it easily.”
Fazura cherishes that she gets to play a more mature role in MCDC compared to her previous characters in Bernard’s films where she played perky young women. Previously, Fazura says that Bernard was more controlling on how she played her roles but for MCDC, the director had given her free reign on how to portray Ifti.
“I love working with Bernard and Red Films because I know how they take their work seriously.”
Next up, Lisa will be sitting on the director’s chair in a short film project.
“I don’t know if I’m ready (to become a director) but it is a great place to start. It should be a great learning experience.”
Initially, Lisa found the 2-minute short film she has to make very challenging. Nevertheless, her husband Yusry Abdul Halim encouraged her to say yes and to challenge herself.
“I have insecurities, naturally, when I think about the critics. He retorted, ‘How often do we get to say that we pleased everyone anyway?’”
She keeps his words in mind, hoping for the best. “I’m married to a director and producer so I can already imagine the stress for a beginner. However, I’m keeping an open mind. If I like the experience, there’s no reason to say no to other opportunities.”
Taking a break from work, Lisa is planning to go on holiday this month to Penang with her family, and then to Phuket with Yusry.
They both understand each other’s work requirements. “When we feel like we need to see each other, we go to the other’s film set to spend some time there.”
Lisa will star in Yusry’s upcoming film Cicakman 3, which will premiere next year. “When we go into work mode, we are very professional. He calls me by my character’s name, Linda, while I call him Director. He treats me like any other cast member. However, once we leave the set, we’re back to being husband and wife. We don’t talk about work at home.”
The actress is grateful for being able to speak her mind about working with Yusry, and vice versa. “Previously, when I was upset, I’d play the silent game. Now, we agree to disagree, which I think is a great foundation for all marriages.”
Turning 31, Fazura was involved in several controversies earlier this year, which temporarily disturbed her acting career.
“As I grow older, I’ve learnt to let bygones be bygones and not allow petty things to affect me as much.” She reveals that her life is much more peaceful with her new outlook in life, and she is extremely grateful for what she has earned.
“Before I get married, I hope to go all out in building my career. I want to be a striker, not a cheerleader.”
Meanwhile, Fazura’s celebrity life will be documented in the upcoming E! miniseries, Facing Up To Fazura, a five-episode docudrama to premier on Dec 14 at 10pm. Viewers will be treated to an in-depth and unscripted look at Fazura’s often-controversial life on and off camera.
“I had thought long and hard before agreeing to this. The production team had told me that the online bloggers who write about me really think they know who I am. They said, ‘How about revealing to them who you really are as a person, and what you are like off-camera?’”
Fazura sees this as a great opportunity for her to show everyone her loves, challenges, triumphs and joys. “I have always been a private person so having a reality show does make me a little nervous, but overall, I’m excited.”
The programme will also feature a host of cameos and guest appearances by Fazura’s famous friends and colleagues from entertainment, film and fashion worlds.
“Lisa will be featured, as well as Yuna. These are some of my friends. I’m keeping everything real.”
Manisnya Cinta Di Cappadocia opens in cinemas on Dec 11.
Facing Up To Fazura will air every Sunday beginning Dec 14 at 10pm on E! (Astro Channel 712).