Film and music producer Kevin Chin has been obsessed with the music of veteran Malaysian jazz- pop singer Sheila Majid for decades.
But he is no ordinary fan. To pay tribute to his idol, the 47-year-old produced Sinaran, a $1.3-million Malay musical movie filmed here, with a plot based loosely on the singer's hit songs.
The movie, which opens in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei tomorrow, was made with a regional cast and crew and was shot in Singapore locations such as Temasek Polytechnic and Kampong Glam.
The college drama follows Shila, played by award-winning Malaysian actress Lisa Surihani, who enrols in a new school and falls in love with a senior student, played by Indonesian actor Evan Sanders. Singapore actors Nadiah M. Din and Syarif Sleeq play fellow students. The film is helmed by Malaysian director Osman Ali, who was behind 2011 Malaysian box-office hit Ombak Rindu.
Chin, who was born in Malaysia but has been based here for close to three decades and is now a Singapore permanent resident, tells Life at the film premiere recently: "I have been into Sheila Majid's music ever since I was a teenager. The genre of her music, jazz-pop, was different from what other mainstream Malaysian artists were doing back then and she connected with listeners of all races."
He adds that he had the idea for a musical film based on her songs for a few years. When he pitched the idea to her, she loved it, so he started working on the script.
The first-time film-maker then formed a production company and named it and the film Sinaran, after Sheila's hit song from her 1986 album, Emosi.
His previous music works include co-producing 3 Suara, a 2011 award-winning album featuring Malaysian singers Jaclyn Victor, Ning Baizura and Shila Amzah. It won Best Duo/Group at Anugerah Planet Muzik and Best Group Vocal Performance In A Song at Anugerah Industri Muzik.
Besides producing the film and writing the script, Chin also composed a new song, Sinaran Cinta, for Sheila, 50, to sing on the movie soundtrack, which also includes new versions of her old tunes sung by contemporary pop singers Malaque Mahdaly from Singapore and Sanders.
Chin also had Sheila make a cameo as a dream figure singing the new song in the film. He convinced her to act in it, telling her that the movie would not be complete without her.
Sheila herself says that she is flattered that her music career has inspired the movie.
Having Sinaran set in a college draws parallels to her debut acting role as a student in 1985 college- based drama/comedy Ali Setan, a movie that is now a Malaysian film classic. It was also her only film role until the Sinaran cameo.
"After doing Ali Setan, I decided that I am not cut out to be an actor, I did not enjoy it," she says. "Being a first-timer, that role was a bit too heavy. Reading the script and trying to work out the feelings and emotions, I found that hard."
Filming her cameo in Sinaran 30 years later was a much more pleasant affair and she credits Lisa for making her feel "comfortable" on set. "It wasn't so tough because everyone made it easy, they know I am not an actor."
Lisa, who picked up the Best Actress (Film) accolade at Malaysian awards show Anugerah Skrin 2015 earlier this month, was just happy that she got to work with the singer as she, like the other cast and crew members, is a fan.
"We all grew up to Sheila Majid songs," says the 29-year-old who is married to popular singer and film-maker Yusry Abdul Halim. "I like how we have the new renditions of her songs in this film. It will be nice to introduce these songs to a new generation."
Sinaran is partly funded with the Media Development Authority's development assistance and production assistance grants. The amount for both grants is not available.
Mr Joachim Ng, director of the Singapore Film Commission, which is part of the Media Development Authority, says: "The Commission is happy to support Sinaran. In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of locally produced Malay language films, which highlights Singapore's diverse film-making capabilities and talents. The Commission will continue to support Singapore film-makers in their journey to create stories that resonate with audiences locally and abroad."
For Chin, getting to work with his idol for the film was so emotional that he had to excuse himself from studio duties while Sheila was recording the soundtrack.
"I arranged all the music for the film, but when it came to recording Sheila's singing, I had to get someone else to take my place. I was too awestruck by her presence, I knew that I wouldn't be effective in the studio."
•Sinaran opens tomorrow and is shown here exclusively at FilmGarde Cineplex.