Take part in a Punjabi wedding based on book

Exlosers' (from far left) Ian Teng, Tan Tze Kia, Ivan Lo and Aadeetiya Jayashanker play socially awkward kids with superpowers in an okto adaptation of the Extraordinary Losers series by Jessica Alejandro.
Exlosers' (from far left) Ian Teng, Tan Tze Kia, Ivan Lo and Aadeetiya Jayashanker play socially awkward kids with superpowers in an okto adaptation of the Extraordinary Losers series by Jessica Alejandro.PHOTO: BOS PICTURES
Exlosers' Ian Teng, Tan Tze Kia, Ivan Lo and Aadeetiya Jayashanker play socially awkward kids with superpowers in an okto adaptation of the Extraordinary Losers series by Jessica Alejandro (above).
Exlosers' Ian Teng, Tan Tze Kia, Ivan Lo and Aadeetiya Jayashanker play socially awkward kids with superpowers in an okto adaptation of the Extraordinary Losers series by Jessica Alejandro (above).PHOTO: BOS PICTURES

Come June, audiences will get to enter the elaborate but fractured world of a book as guests at a Punjabi wedding banquet.

It is part of an upcoming theatrical-cum-film adaptation of Singaporean writer Balli Kaur Jaswal's novel, Inheritance, commissioned by the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa).

It is among a number of screen adaptations of local works coming out this year, joining two television shows based on children's books, Adeline Foo's Whoopie's World and Jessica Alejandro's Exlosers, which are both airing on okto.

Simon Tay's Singapore Literature Prize-winning novel City Of Small Blessings will also be adapted into a feature film by director Wong Chen-Hsi in the next two years.

Singaporean film-maker K. Rajagopal, who is directing the Sifa adaptation as well as Whoopie's World, conceptualised the wedding as a missing scene from Inheritance, which explores the clashes within a multi-generational Punjabi family in Singapore.

The 51-year-old says: "There are many talented writers in Singapore, and films and TV shows tend to have a faster reach in showcasing their work."

Audiences at the three-day film shoot in a bungalow will not only get to watch, but also participate in the events of the wedding. The end product will be screened in September on the last day of the festival.

Rajagopal has adapted poems by Tay and Arthur Yap, as well as Daren Shiau's novel, Heartland, into telefilms, but Inheritance will surpass all these in scale.

More light-hearted is his work on the okto adaptation of Whoopie's World. It centres on the character of Whoopie Lee, the sister of the protagonist of Foo's best-selling The Diary Of Amos Lee series, which had its own TV show in 2012.

For the show, the character of Amos was removed to give Whoopie, a secret video blogger who aspires to Internet stardom like her brother, more room to shine.

Foo, 46, the show's head writer, says: "In the book, Whoopie will do anything for a stab at fame, even eat cockroaches brewed in a herbal soup." For the show, she made her heroine a more mature character with a social conscience.

As for Alejandro, 37, who penned the award-winning Extraordinary Losers series, the leap from page to screen made it possible to delve deeper into the characters' family relationships. She had felt these issues were too intense to write about for younger readers. One character, for instance, has to cope with his father leaving, while another craves her mother's attention.

"The screenplay portrays such struggles in a way that children can relate to, since emotions on actors' faces speak a thousand words."

She and Foo hope the shows can bridge a gap between their books and a younger generation.

"Classics by Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton are losing their grip on kids who are distracted by the media and have short attention spans and very different life experiences," says Alejandro.

Foo adds: "Writing for TV brings stories into the living room of so many more kids, who may not be readers or have the money to buy books."

•Admission to Inheritance comes as part of the Sifa O.P.E.N. festival pass ($45 before booking fee). Ticket sales will begin in April via Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

•Exlosers airs on Wednesdays at 6.30pm and Whoopie's World on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8.30pm on okto. The series are available on Toggle.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Take part in a Punjabi wedding based on book'. Print Edition | Subscribe