Update: Read my review of the show
I don’t watch local TV, except for the Noose, but now this show that’s breaking cultural barriers has intrigued me. I don’t know why, but stories like these are heartwarming to me. It shows that Singapore has progressed – well at least on TV. I always wondered why the different language channels were so segregated when there is a lot more intermarriage and interracial kids in Singapore these days. I thought that it was brilliant that pretty dimpled Silver Ang (could there be a cooler name?) would play a ethnically Chinese girl who grows up culturally Indian as she is adopted by an Indian family as a baby during WWII. Silver Ang is a blogger – so you can read about her experiences through her own words at The Silver Girl.
The TV drama is based on fact. The adoptions really happened as I have Indian friends who have Chinese grandmothers were adopted as babies (when their mothers could not take care of them) and are more Indian and eloquent when it comes to tying a sari, cooking curries, or speaking Tamil than I am. I am embarrassed to say I don’t even know how to tie a sari, let alone walk elegantly in one without it coming apart, although I have seen it done numerous times.
I have always found it fascinating when ethnicity is clearly distinguished from culture which is a learnt behaviour, as it shows that we are all the same – homo sapiens basically. I think most racism is due to stereotyping and misunderstanding. This is why I am really happy to be born in an ethnically diverse place where I see loads more similarities than differences among local Singaporeans. I wonder how many more years it will take for the Singaporean identity to be stronger than our ethnicities, the way New Yorkers identify themselves are New Yorkers first and foremost. A thousand years from now, with a lot more interracial marriages, I wonder if a new ethnic group will emerge. A truly Singaporean ethnicity – now that would be cool.
I don’t like the idea of racial harmony days or anything that points to the fact that we are different. It just feels false and I like things to be organic. It feels like just when we thought we were the same, you remind us that we are different. I am not sure if anyone else feels like this, but as a minority I do. It always felt odd and a bit like segregation to me. I didn’t like the fact that it school, because we took Tamil as a second language, all the tamil students were placed in one class. It may be good for scheduling purposes, but not too great for social interaction. It’s no wonder that you ended up with more friends from the same ethnic group. I wonder whether schools still do this. I also wish that we could have all learnt a neutral third language like French or Japanese, so that we would have an extra language in common, besides English. I feel that not understanding a language, can be quite an isolator.
This is the article that appeared in The New Paper:
I had to learn to TIE SARIS’
By Tan Kee Yun
January 13, 2011
IF THERE were an award to honour the crossover queen of local TV, Silver Ang would win it handsdown.
The dimpled 25-year-old actress-host is Singapore’s first Chinese showbiz personality to headline a Tamil-language production.
In the new drama series Vyjayanthi: My Fair Lady, which will premiere over Vasantham channel on Feb16, Ang plays the title character, Vvjayanthi, a Chinese girl adopted at birth by an Indian family,
The 26-episode show, which revolves around Vvjayanthi’s trials and tribulations, will air every Monday to Thursday at 10pm.
The drama series also stars a bevy of local Indian celebrities, including veteran Tamil movie actress Kokila, Mr Vasantham 2010 Vikneshwaran, and Oli 96.8 radio DJ Vijaya Pawade.
Ang’s latest eyebrow-raising vehicle comes less than a year after her breakthrough performance last May on Suria channel’s six-part Malay drama UMMI (Untuk Mu Mama Idaman, which means ‘To Mummy With Love’ in Malay).
‘Now, there’s only Okto (referring to the local children’s channel) left, which I haven’t yet appeared on,’ she told The New Paper in jest.
‘Seriously, I never ever thought I’d be in a Tamil drama. The experience has been surprisingly fun.’
Signed under WaWa Artistes Network, Ang was the second runner-up in the female category of Channel U’s inaugural Project Superstar reality singing competition in 2005.
Her popularity has spiked of late.
She is the only female celebrity blogger to be retained on the newly revamped Stomp Star Blog, while others such as Jamie Yeo, Dawn Yang and Maia Lee were cut.
But while she is snagging meaty lead roles on Suria and Vasantham, she has scored only bit parts on her home turf, where language is the least of her problems.
Ang takes the irony in stride, explaining that ‘over at Channel 8 and Channel U, the scene is much more competitive’.
She said: ‘There are so many artistes acting in Chinese-language dramas… It’s harder to stand out. On Suria and Vasantham, the talent pool is smalller.’
The former air stewardess was last seen playing supporting characters in Channel 8’s recently concluded mega-production Breakout, as well as the currently showing Channel 5 crime drama Point Of Entry.
Vvjayanthi is her biggest role to date.
Ang was first alerted to the role by a casting director who saw her in Suria’s UMMI.
‘She (the director) told me it would be something I’m keen on and that I should give the auditions a shot. I thought it’d be really interesting to act in a Tamil production,’ said Ang.
‘Perhaps it’s due to my previous background as a cabin crew member… Not only am I used to coming in contact with people of different races and cultures, I’m also very keen on trying new experiences,’ she added.
Her initial worries about having to speak in Tamil were quickly dispelled once production started – Ang learnt that her character was deaf and mute.
‘When I did the Suria drama last year, I had to pick up Malay, which made me quite stressed,’ she said.
‘Tamil is even harder to grasp, so I was all the moreanxious.
‘I was prepared to speak it, though, and I remember telling the producers early on, ‘I’d definitely need a language coach!’
In any case, there were other things Ang had to learn about.
She recalled: ‘On the first day of our shoot, I had to don a sari. I had no idea how to wear it and had to consult my co-stars.’
She learnt that the Indian traditional costume ‘wasn’t always tied as prettily’ as she had assumed it to be.
‘It turns out there are different ways of tying the sari, and I had to learn how to move my body naturally and comfortably while wearing it,’ she said.
‘Also, I had to get used to the body actions Indians tend to display. They move their hips a lot more than the Chinese do.’
Another daunting aspect for Ang during her filming process was learning how to react accordingly.
‘Although the cues in our script were written in English, the lines of the other actors and actresses were in Tamil,’ she said.
‘Therefore, when it came to scenes with me in the background, at times, I wouldn’t know how to react…
‘The others were talking away, but I was still in character, so I couldn’t just switch off and space out.
‘Those (scenes) were the hardest. I had to find out from my co-stars what they were saying.’
Ms Gayathiri Selvam, a producer on Vvjayanthi: My Fair Lady, praised Ang for being ‘versatile and proactive’, adding that the actress had aced the casting audition with ease.
‘Silver suited the role as she has the face of Vvjayanthi that we were looking for. Moreover, she could project her emotions very well,’ said Ms Selvam.
‘Even though she doesn’t need to speak, she grabs hold of key words and pays attention to how they are pronounced by her fellow artistes.’
Some viewers have started calling Ang the poster girl for racial harmony.
Said Ang with a laugh: ‘I don’t mind being recognised as the actress who does all these crossover projects. It’s a compliment.
‘After acting in UMMI and Vyjayanthi, I realise that being Singaporean makes everything easier.
‘Among us, there aren’t that many cultural and language barriers. Many of my co-stars are young people like myself and we converse in English.’
‘And I can now tie a sari smoothly. One of my Vvjayanthi co-stars just told me that I even tie it better than some Indian girls,’ she added proudly.