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The rain in Taiping

ACTRESS Susan Lankester needs no introduction to entertainment fans.

For her acting debut in the 1983 movie ‘Mekanik’, she was nominated Best Supporting Actress at the 4th Malaysia Film Festival (FFM4).

The oft-repeated line her Eurasian character Nina said in the film — “Orang putih ke, orang coklat ke, orang hitam ke, orang biru ke, kita orang Malaysia kan?” — probably follows her until today. So much so, during her speech at a recent media preview of the film ‘Rain Town’, she said “I’m not going to repeat that (line) again.”

Truth be told, apart from her unique appearance (as a result of her Chinese-Scottish parentage), the catchy line was probably what has made Lankester memorable, especially those aged 50 and above today.

Fast-forward four decades later, Lankester has assumed various roles apart from being a film and TV actress, with the list that includes being a theatre performer, producer, director, contractor, landscape designer, interior decorator, and activist.

She has also recorded and released an album in 1993, titled ‘Takdir’. She also collaborated with the late Tan Sri S.M. Salim, for the song ‘Dilema’.

"Rain Town"

‘Rain Town’ opens in cinemas on Feb 8. Photo courtesy of Current Pictures Sdn Bhd

Not just another Eurasian role

In ‘Rain Town’, a film produced in Cantonese and directed by Tunku Mona Riza Tunku Khalid, Lankester, 61, plays the role of the Eurasian Aileen Choo, who is married to Chew Kim Wah’s Mr Choo.

Their grown-up children, Isaac, Alex and Ruby, are played by Fabian Loo, Wilson Lee and Pauline Tan respectively.

The film tells the story of the Choos, who live in the idyllic town of Taiping, Perak.

Mr Choo is a lantern maker who ruthlessly attempts to control the dreams and happiness of his children in order to pursue his own desires while maintaining some form of dignity.

When the children begin to explore their own paths in life, an assumingly all-knowing father intervenes relentlessly, preventing them from realising their dreams, which ultimately plunge them into despair.

Trying hard to find comfort in their own world, the children’s lives spiral into a vicious cycle, which results in life-threatening consequences.

With every decision forced against the children’s wishes, Mr Choo slowly tears apart the fragile fabric of the family.

When a tragedy befalls his wife Aileen, the family struggle becomes even more heart-wrenching as the conflicts escalate.

How will they bridge their differences and repair their irreconcilable differences?

Honouring her mother

Lankester says when offered to play Aileen, what has really driven her to accept the offer was a way of her trying to honour the memory of her mother.

“I’ve never played the role of a mother before. So this is my way of honouring my mother who died six years ago.

“I even emulate a lot of her personality, especially in the more challenging scenes.

“She helped me to shape Aileen character into someone whom viewers can easily relate to, although the character is very complex,” recounts Lankester, teary-eyed as she speaks.

As to working in her first Cantonese film, Lankester says that it has been a great experience for her, although it was a little stressful trying to follow the script so not to mispronounce her words seeing that she isn’t fluent in the dialect.

“I am happy that the movie is made in Cantonese. ‘Rain Town’ is helping to revive the dialect,” she says, hoping that it could also help her speak the dialect better.

Making a movie in Cantonese

Meanwhile, Tunku Mona, who is both the director and the film’s executive producer has created quite a buzz with this film — she doesn’t even speak the dialect to begin with!

After making a mark on the international stage through ‘Redha’, Tunku Mona is unlocking another achievement with this film.

During filming, which took place in Taiping, she had to rely on an interpreter.

“I enjoy new challenges and I am not neglecting the Malay language, but it is good to use other languages to develop our film industry.

“I do not just work using different languages but go through the fascinating process from different perspectives through interaction and learning.

“Although there is a sense of fear and apprehension, I am satisfied with the results.”

‘Rain Town’ received international recognition as the Most Anticipated Language Film at the 36th China Golden Rooster Awards held in conjunction with the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival in Xiamen, China, last November.

Produced by Current Pictures Sdn Bhd, it also represented Malaysia at the 10th Silk Road International Film Festival in Fuzhou, China, the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, the Asian World Film Festival, the 54th International Film Festival of India and the Medan Film Festival in the same month.

‘Rain Town’ will open cinemas on Feb 8, 2024 in conjunction with Chinese New Year.

The Rain in Taiping

‘Rain Town’ cast and crew with director Tunku Mona Riza Tunku Khalid (fifth from right). NSTP/Rohanis Shukri

NST By Tahir Alhamzah – February 3, 2024