Rahimah Rahim shows her funny side

Veteran Malay singer Rahimah Rahim (above) plays the larger- than-life queen of the "summon aunties". Director Royston Tan (far left) with actress Joi Chua (centre) and rapper Shigga Shay (right).
Director Royston Tan (far left) with actress Joi Chua (centre) and rapper Shigga Shay (right).ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Veteran Malay singer Rahimah Rahim (above) plays the larger- than-life queen of the "summon aunties". Director Royston Tan (far left) with actress Joi Chua (centre) and rapper Shigga Shay (right).
Veteran Malay singer Rahimah Rahim (above) plays the larger- than-life queen of the "summon aunties".ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

One hundred ST readers won tickets to a special screening of Royston Tan's feature film 3688 and heard about his movie-making experience

After living in Singapore for 15 years, 41-year-old Australian housewife Lanna Yeo finally watched her first movie by a Singa- porean director.

Royston Tan's new feature film 3688 made her "laugh and cry from start to end".

"I thoroughly enjoyed it because it encapsulated the history of Singapore," says Mrs Yeo, who adds that no previous home-grown film had caught her attention before.

3688, Tan's first feature film in seven years, is about a parking attendant named Fei Fei (played by Joi Chua) who harbours dreams of becoming a singer like her namesake Fong Fei-fei, the Taiwanese iconic singer who died in 2012.

Nobody came to interfere with the filming, everybody just ran away.

DIRECTOR ROYSTON TAN on how the public reacted during filming, as his cast members were wearing parking attendant costumes

Mrs Yeo's Singaporean husband, 44-year-old marketing manager Yeo Horng Chiat, says the film's old-school setting and songs by Fong might make it "difficult to strike a chord" in the younger generation.

Even then, the Yeos, who have two children aged 11 and eight, feel this could open doors for discuss- ions.

Mrs Yeo says: "This sort of film would give them a passport to start a conversation with their grandparents."

She and her husband were among 100 Straits Times readers who won tickets to a special screening of the film as part of ST170 Treats, a year-long programme of giveaways to mark the newspaper's 170th birthday.

The screening, which was held on Wednesday night at Golden Village VivoCity, saw a lively post-screening dialogue with the film's director and stars such as Chua and rapper Shigga Shay, facilitated by The Straits Times' film correspondent John Lui.

Veteran Malay singer Rahimah Rahim plays Jenny, 3688's larger- than-life queen of the "summon aunties". Asked how he came to cast her in the film, Tan says he realised that she was more than just an iconic star in the Singapore music scene while working with her on the recording for the track Bunga Sayang in short film anthology 7 Letters.

He says he found out Rahimah was actually "really, really funny" behind the scenes.

He recalls: "When we approached her to play the role, she asked, 'Can I be very naughty and bitchy?' and I said yes."

She is one of the Singapore icons featured in the film.

Tan reveals that the iconic Rediffusion radio sets that feature prominently in 3688 came from his personal stash of 12 to 14 radios. They are part of a collection of artefacts that he has amassed over the years.

"When they tear down different places, I go and collect these things, including Queenstown theatre seats, Capitol theatre seats, signs, everything. So I have a storeroom filled with a lot of these things," says the 38-year-old film- maker.

He also has a soft spot for the soon-to-be-demolished 1950s government flats in the neighbourhood of Dakota Crescent, where he shot many of the outdoor scenes for his latest movie.

"I'm not the minister, so I can't tell them 'Don't demolish things'," he says. "But once I capture all these things, they are forever immortalised in my films. That, to me, is the magic of cinema."

Another magical thing about cinema, particularly in the case of 3688, is that the power of make- believe can be very strong indeed.

Recalling "one of the most wonderful experiences" during filming, Tan says that because his cast were wearing parking attendant costumes, "nobody came to interfere with the filming, everybody just ran away".

  • 3688 is showing in cinemas.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'Rahimah Rahim shows her funny side'. Print Edition | Subscribe