Ning Baizura on playing Marina in "Mahathir: The Journey"

Ning Baizura on playing Marina in "Mahathir: The Journey"

Ning Baizura wishes to spend time with Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.
Ning Baizura wishes to spend time with Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

Having been absent from the silver screen for quite some time, finally singer-actress Ning Baizura is set to return with the Prime Minister-focused biography film "Mahathir: The Journey", playing the character Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir.

According to Ning, she has been very selective in picking the projects offered to her as she wants to look for a high-quality work rather than just act in a normal drama series.

Apart from that, Ning has also started teaching and is opening a vocal arts school that's expected to begin operation early next year, with hopes of opening more doors for new talents in the local industry.

The singer, who is known for playing Sheila in the movie "Lady Boss", was at the launching ceremony and press conference of "Mahathir: The Journey", which was recently held at Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel.

Read on for our interview with Ning Baizura.

Ning Baizura with Lisdawati, who stars in "Mahathir: The Journey" as Nurul Izzah.

Cinema Online: Hi Ning, how was it like when you were picked to play Datin Paduka Marina?

Ning: I feel very happy and proud. When I was called in to audition, they immediately made me read Marina's lines with her father. At first, I tried channelling my "Lady Boss" character but that didn't work out. I then took the time to re-read the script and redid my part. Once the audition was over, the director clapped and told me I got the part. Seeing that I haven't acted for so long, close to 10 years if I'm not mistaken, I think of this as a blessing. My husband is happy for me, too.

Why haven't you been in any project for so long?

I have been offered several projects including dramas but not one of them fulfil my taste. I've been waiting for a good project. Maybe Allah is giving me rezeki now that I have a child and a husband, so now it's time to make a comeback.

How did you prepare for your role?

Honestly, I am not sure how to play Marina but I will try to do my best. As long as I don't get to meet her, I will continue contacting her to request for some time together. Alhamdulillah, I'm lucky because she is also my fan and often comes to my shows, so I already know her though we're not very close.

My scenes will only be filmed in January so I have some time to prepare. The production team has told me to take care of my weight and diet. She also has a simple, not too extravagant appearance. Appearance wise I don't think I'll have any problems but emotion wise, I need to really understand her.

What are your hopes in portraying this character?

Of course, I am worried since this isn't a normal fictional character like the ones I've done before. I have to ensure my role will be liked by all. Once I'm confident to play the role, I will give it my best. Yusof Kelana has also put his trust in me because he wants to see me act again and he's confident of my abilities.

Out there, Marina is always seen as her father's backbone but we don't know the true story. There's one scene where she seems worried about Mahathir. Her face also shows that she is a serious and strict woman. She doesn't talk fast like me and often speaks in English. To be her, I have to eat, sleep and think like Marina.

What else are you working on at the moment?

If you take a look at my social media, I have started teaching and is set to open a vocal arts school, which is expected to open early next year. Most likely, it will become a one-stop centre to learn about vocals, acting and the basic stuff about the art world. Latest after Chinese New Year, Insya-Allah. At the moment, I already have 15 students aged 8 to 40 years old.

How did the idea for the school come about?

Back in the days for me, I never had an opportunity like this. Everything I had to learn by myself. I figure if I don't teach, all my 27 years' worth of skills and experience will "die" just like that, so it's better for me to open a centre to nurture new talents. What else do I do if not try to change our industry and the society's mentality? I will make sure that the new generation not only recognise urban music, but also traditional arts and music like gamelan and zapin.

"Mahathir: The Journey" is slotted to open in cinemas nationwide in July 2020.

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