Posted: 01 Apr 2013 12:44 AM PDT
New TV series Tanah Merah aims to strike a chord with the masses with its realism.
FIVE years ago, director/producer Kabir Bhatia introduced us to FRONTPAGE, a 13-episode drama series that chronicled the adventures of journalists working in a newspaper. The series had a unique edge with stories inspired by events that made the headlines in Malaysian papers throughout our history.
Now, Khabir is back with Tanah Merah, and it looks like journalism is also a part of this brand new 13-episode series. In Tanah Merah, which is produced by Kabir, viewers can look ahead and follow the journey of a journalist who is looking for a break-out article and by pure fate, stumbles across a murder mystery.
Directed by Joeza Rasidi, Tanah Merah tells about Johanna (Aishah Hoo), an inquisitive journalist who seeks to uncover the truth behind this mystery by dwelling on the town's past.
Johanna meets Maryam (Nazeera Sardi) – a young lady whose father was killed 10 years ago in a place called Tanah Merah. Although the court has ruled that his death was a suicide, Maryam is convinced that her father was murdered and that his death was a cover-up for an undisclosed incident.
It is produced by Kabir's production company Filmscape and filmed mostly on location at Ayer Keroh Country Resort in Malacca. If the trailer is anything to go by, Tanah Merah is not your typical run-of-the-mill Malay TV series.
Apart from Aishah and Nazeera, other names featured in the series are Norman Hakim, Wan Raja, Hakim Yazid and Zara Zya.
Even though he was not directing the series, Khabir was on hand to ensure the smooth running of the filming of the new series.
"As for the viewers, Tanah Merah will keep them on the edge of their seats. They are certainly going to enjoy this series as there is always a secret to be discovered or a dead body found," said Khabir, who is clearly anticipating positive ratings for the series which starts this Thursday on Ntv7.
"This is a high quality show, so they most certainly won't be disappointed. Writing a mystery is always tricky. We spent a lot of time on the script, and our entire creative crew shared their input in this series. The entire series is set in a resort town to specifically create a realism effect while keeping a strong visual look to further enhance the mystery element. It was very challenging, but it was all worth it in the end," he added.
He also said that he and his scriptwriter wife Mira Mustaffa have been tweaking and improving the idea behind the Tanah Merah series for six to seven years.
"You know, this series is not typical mainstream fare. We were thinking along the lines of an Agatha Christie-like story and it was a big challenge for us to get the pieces right.
"We did cast new faces on purpose. For instance, Aishah Hoo who plays Johanna is a smart, everyday woman."
"And Joeza directed this series as we know he is very capable of handling this kind of storytelling. I'm very happy with everything," said Kabir.
On the surface, it may seem that Tanah Merah's theme centres around homicide and betrayal, but the producer did not fail to include elements of romance to cater to a wider demographic. For instance, in a quest to seek out information from the locals, Johanna meets Shah Amran (Hakim Yazid), who is the son of one of the top people in town, Amran Johari (Norman Hakim).
As the story goes, 30 years ago, Amran Johari and his friend Datuk Iskandar turned the secluded town around by capitalising on the real estate potential that was naturally associated with Tanah Merah.
Unfortunately, their friendship failed the test of time as the years went by. They are now rivals and will do anything to ensure the other won't acquire sole control of the town.
Datuk Iskandar's son, Ibrahim (Wan Raja) spent most of his adulthood resenting Amran and his own father because he believed that they were both conspiring against him to see him fall.
When Johanna decides to visit Ibrahim's side of Tanah Merah, his mature demeanour and good looks stirs something up in Johanna.
She falls head over heels in love with him. She finds herself in a more confusing state of mind now that she's fallen for two men.
Newcomer Hoo, who plays Johanna, gave her all to play the young and idealistic journalist in the series.
" I decided to take up the role because it really challenged me in every way. Furthermore, I couldn't possibly say no and pass up the opportunity to work with a renowned director like Joeza.
"Personally, my role as Johanna was more like Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. Johanna is naive.
"I really hope the viewers will support the series until the finale," she said.
Tanah Merah airs on Ntv7 on Thursdays at 8.30pm beginning April 4.
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