The Life List: Hooq premieres comedy about terrorism with Ministry Of Funny duo

The dark comedy She's A Terrorist And I Love Her is about two men who enter into sham marriages with two women who are secretly extremists.
The dark comedy She's A Terrorist And I Love Her is about two men who enter into sham marriages with two women who are secretly extremists.PHOTO: HOOQ

SINGAPORE - A new local television series will tackle the heavy topic of terrorism through a comedy.

Hooq, a streaming platform which is a joint venture established by Singtel, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros, premieres on Jan 23 the dark comedy She's A Terrorist And I Love Her, about two men who enter into sham marriages with two women who are secretly extremists.

Here are five ways the show surprises audiences.

1. A COMEDY ABOUT TERRORISM?

While the creators of the series, Haresh Tilani and Terence Chia, emphasise that terrorism and radicalisation are no laughing matter, they wanted to address the issue in another way.

The duo, who are behind the comedy YouTube channel Ministry Of Funny, are known for tackling social issues in a humorous way. They had previously worked on counter-terrorism projects after they were among those selected as YouTube's Creators For Change in 2018.

"We've come in contact with people who have been de-radicalised, like someone who left Al-Qaeda," says Chia, 37, at an event on Jan 21 to launch the series.

Haresh, 36, who is also the star of the series, adds: "We learnt the two primary ways to de-radicalise someone is to point out the flaw in his ideology and to pull him out using relationships, so the latter is what we are focusing on."

2. TAKING PRIDE IN SINGLISH

Haresh says: "Singlish is one of the most fascinating things about Singapore. We wanted to make sure our characters speak and swear the way people do here."

Chia, who also directed the series, adds that Hooq, which funded the production, gave the team plenty of creative leeway.

"Sometimes, when we (kept ourselves in check) because we thought there were some things we could not get away with, they pushed us to go for it," says Chia.

3. BREAKING AWAY FROM STEREOTYPES

While terrorists are typically stereotyped as "big, bearded men", says Haresh, actresses Munah Bagharib and Caitanya Tan were cast to play the pair of extremist terrorists who enter Singapore illegally.

To ensure the issue is handled sensitively, no mention is made of their race, religion or country of origin in the show.

Instead, they are members of an anti-capitalist cult led by leader Kong (singer-actor Benjamin Kheng).

Munah, 31, says: "You get to see more of their backstory and how they got pushed to this point in their lives."

Tan, 32, says she studied clips of actual cult leader Comrade Bala to understand how that might appeal to people.

She says: "Sometimes, people are just in need of an answer."

4. BEST BITS WERE NOT SCRIPTED

While there was a script, the cast say the best moments are often off the cuff, with them playing off one another's energy.

Actor Noah Yap, 26, who plays Hayden - one of the men who marries a terrorist - says: "There was a lot of improv - the script was more like a skeleton, whenever there are funny moments or comedic moments, Haresh and Terence let us free-style.

"If it captures the gist of the joke and doesn't deviate from the storyline, why not?"

Asked what he did in preparation for his character, a man who yearns for love, he jokes: "Staying single for two years?"

5. IT POKES FUN AT SINGAPORE

The first two episodes of the series make fun of all things Singaporean, such as the city's embrace of meritocracy and the Singapore Police Force's body cameras.

It also works in hot-button issues such as sexism, racism and nepotism in the workplace.

• The first three episodes of She’s A Terrorist And I Love Her premiere on Hooq on Jan 23, with new episodes released every Friday from Jan 31 onwards.