Local actresses Janna Nick and Izara Aishah bonded well with Indonesian co-star Irwansyah on the set of TV3 telenovela Dia, writes Bibi Nurshuhada Ramli
LIKE most Malaysians, Janna Nick and Izara Aishah became fans of the hit Indonesian tear-jerker Heart when it was screened in Malaysia in 2006. Izara became hooked on the film soundtrack, My Heart, performed by its two stars Irwansyah and Acha Septriasa.
Janna, on the other hand, learnt to love all of Irwansyah’s solo singles. The two actresses were recently given a rare opportunity to star alongside the popular Indonesian actor in the TV3 drama series Dia.
A collaborative project featuring Malaysian and Indonesian actors, Dia marks Irwansyah’s first time working on a local TV production.
“Before this, I’ve only seen Irwansyah on screen, so meeting him for the first time was surreal. I never imagined I’d be acting with him,” says Izara.
Janna, 21, who works more closely with him on the show, says: “It’s so easy to be friends with him and build chemistry for our scenes. We had long chats and in no time we were joking around and teasing each other as if we had been long-time buddies.”
Izara, 24, adds that Irwansyah is very humble and nice, but shy at times. “He’s not the type of actor who gets things done just for the sake of it. I have to speak a bit of Bahasa Indonesia for the show. When I was struggling, he was ever so helpful. He’s my dialect coach,” Izara jokes.
However, Janna notes that there are times when Irwansyah’s Bahasa Indonesia got too difficult for her to decipher.
Likewise, Irwansyah sometimes needed help in understanding the series’ script (which is in Malay) and the crew’s direction. His fellow cast members were quick to assist.
“I’m considered a foreigner, but the local cast and crew have, thankfully, been so helpful and accommodating. I feel right at home,” he says.
Nevertheless, the three cast members valued the acting experience and didn’t let the slight language barrier dampen their spirits.
Irwansyah, for one, agreed on being part of the Malaysian production because he craves new experiences. “Malaysia is like my second home, so why not try it?”
He also notes that it’s been a while since his Malaysian fans last heard him on the radio or saw him onscreen.
“I’ve been busy in Indonesia working on my business ventures so I had to put my career as an entertainer on hold.”
Back home, Irwansyah runs a confectionery company, a production house and a property business. “I hope with Dia, they’ll forgive me,” the 31-year-old says, laughing.
Directed by Eoon Shuhaini, Dia contains 60 episodes and is expected to hit the TV screens in November.
Filming began in mid-January and is expected to complete by July. It also features Malaysian stars Adi Putra, Zamarul Hisham, Fazlina Ahmad Daud, Aleza Shadan and Farouk Hussein.
Besides Irwansyah, the Indonesian cast include Kevin Andrean and Sandrinna Michelle.
Irwansyah plays Adit, an honest Indonesian man who is forced to inherit his recently-deceased father’s business empire in Malaysia. “He is kind-hearted but keeps his feelings hidden. His mission to fulfil his father’s wishes is obstructed when various challenges come his way,” Irwansyah explains.
Janna is Aira, the daughter of Imelda’s (Izara) live-in servant. They both become friends with Adit when he comes to Malaysia for a long visit. Eventually, romance blooms between Adit and Aira but considering their different status in life, their love is forbidden.
Irwansyah recommends watching Dia from the start, as it features different timelines that span 10 years. “If you miss one or two episodes, you won’t fully understand the storyline,” he explains.
Janna agrees, adding that the show is long-running, so there are many plot points to cover. “When I read the script, I was surprised to discover many twists in the storyline. You’ll be hooked!”
Irwansyah’s initial challenge may be the language difference. “However, since I’ve stayed in Malaysia for more than a month for filming, things are looking up for me,” he says optimistically.
Eoon reveals that Irwansyah initially didn’t want to take part in Dia, because he hasn’t acted in a long time. “My co-stars were kind enough to give suggestions,” Irwansyah says. “I’m so thankful.”
For Janna, the challenge lies in coming off as great as her co-stars on screen. “These are some of the entertainment industry’s big names! Even those with supporting or small roles are legendary,” Janna says.
“My challenge was to be on par with them, but at the same time appeal more as a leading character.”
Janna has more scenes with Adi Putra but she admits she has trouble building chemistry with him. “I’ve only done two scenes with him. Maybe it will improve along the way,” she reasons.
Izara oddly finds it tiring to play Imelda, because “she keeps a cheerful front, even though she is going through heartbreak”.
“So I would smile, but at the same time, I have to somehow portray the underlying sadness within her. It’s tricky.”
MORE TO COME
Irwansyah had received other offers to star in Malaysian films and series previously. However, he and his wife plan to go for fertility treatments in Penang once his work on Dia is complete. Then only will he think about taking on other acting projects.
He has been requested to sing the soundtrack for Dia and he has asked for famed Indonesian singer-songwriter Melly Goeslaw’s help.
“I would love to perform it as a duet with Acha,” he confesses with a smile.
He and Acha became an item after filming Heart, but called it quits in 2008.
“We’ve both found our other halves, so things are well and professional, between us. No awkward feelings whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, Janna says Irwansyah has expressed his interest to collaborate with her, after hearing her single Mungkin Saja, released last year.
“Maybe he wasn’t serious at the time,” she says, laughing. “He hasn’t brought it up again since then, but we still have lots of scenes to shoot together. We’ll see how that goes.”