|By AZHARIAH KAMIN
Maya Karin is about to take a bigger bite into the movie scene with her forthcoming movie Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam. AZHARIAH KAMIN approaches the vampy beauty with some garlic in hand.
TALK about a charmed life. In 3½ years, Maya Karin has achieved more than what she had dared to dream in showbiz. Maya still pinches herself from time to time just to remind herself that this is all for real.
“Sometimes I do wonder (how it could all happen) but I guess it was me being at the right place and the right time. Things just fell into place for me, it is all my rezeki (fate),” said this 1.6m beauty of German, Malay, Chinese and Indian parentage in an interview at The Star office early this week.
Maya, 24, whose full name is Maya Karin Roelcke, is the eldest of three siblings. Born in October 1979 in Bayreutch, Germany, she lived most of her teenage years in Indonesia – moving around Kalimantan, Sumatra, Padang and Bandung – before settling down in Kuala Lumpur at 17. Before her career in showbiz took off, this travel bug had spent time touring Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Asia.
“I feel so contented now,” said Maya, flashing her gorgeous smile. There are plenty of reasons to smile, since her latest movie Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam, directed by Shuhaimi Baba, has received glowing praise from the media after a recent sneak preview.
Scheduled for general release on May 20, Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam, set in 1947, is about beautiful gamelan dancer Meriam (Maya) who becomes the object of desire of two men – Danial (Sahronizam) and Marsani (Azri Iskandar).
When Meriam chooses Danial, Marsani refuses to give up. The pregnant Meriam is murdered, and following her death, more murders happen in the village. The villagers suspect Meriam has returned from the dead to seek revenge in the form of a pontianak (female vampire in Malay folklore). Maya also plays the pontianak.
“I have been dreaming about the role (in Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam) since three years ago when Metrowealth’s David Teo mentioned it. I remember that day as it was the day I signed up with MIG Records as a recording artiste. David (Teo) was telling me about this project and I remember then that I wanted to be part of this project, not necessarily as the pontianak, but to be part of the team. I still remember now how strongly I felt about it then.
“I was also thinking then that I was still very new, there’s no way they would consider me. But I just kept on wishing.”
Foray into acting
“I never made a conscious step to take on a fulltime career (in entertainment). I was involved actively in theatre when I was growing up in Indonesia and when I returned to Malaysia, I did two plays called Mana Mana and In the Mind’s Eye in 1999. But I was doing it all for fun.”
Then she packed her bags and travelled across Europe and South America. When her wandering days came to a close, “I was like, ‘Oh my God, what am I supposed to do back in KL?’ I didn’t have any plans for a career or studies then. I was 20 and confused,” she recalled, laughing.
TV3’s Wavelength programme came along in 2000 and Maya grabbed it. Then her first movie role beckoned – playing the lead in Seri Dewi Malam in which Maya worked with director Aziz M. Osman. Her next movie No Problem (2001) didn’t exactly make waves, but Maya bounced back with the blockbuster Mr Cinderella 2 (2003), working alongside Erra Fazira and Yusry (of KRU). And now Maya is looking forward to more roles and challenging ones at that.
“In acting, there’s so much freedom ... compared to singing. Somehow in singing you are restricted to age and image. In movies, you can take on any image you feel like,” said Maya, whose second solo album Bukan Qalamaya is set for release next month. The first album, Erti Cinta, was out in 2002.
Maya wants to be appreciated for her work and not her image. The tabloids love her but she’s looking to cement her movie career. Despite being relatively new in movies, Maya expressed a desire to work with acclaimed director U-Wei Haji Saari (of Jogho and Kaki Bakar fame).
“ I’m intrigued by U-Wei and his work. I’ve watched his films and I’ve heard of his reputation but it is something that I like to try.”
The industry is watching.
So what roles do Maya gravitate towards?
“I don’t have any specific role in mind. But if you had noticed, in my three big films (Seri Dewi Malam, Mr Cinderella 2 and Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam), I’ve always lost my man. Such tragedy! For once, I want to keep the guy,” she chuckled.
It may come as a surprise to some that Maya is a relatively simple, homely girl. She stays away from the public eye as much as possible.
“I do as much as I have to, and that’s it. I don’t want to get too close to anyone. But, at the same time, I don’t want to p*ss people off though.
“I keep my distance and keep my work and private life apart. I think it’s better that way, not only to protect myself and other people but to keep me grounded as well.”
Above all else, Maya wants to maintain a healthy work ethic. Now that Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam is ready to meet moviegoers, Maya is itching to act again.
“I’ve received a few offers but I haven’t decided on it. And I do feel a bit scared since expectations are high after Pontianak. But at the same time, I’m not fussy. As long as I’m offered a meaty role I will consider it.”
Meat is ironically the buzzword. How about being voted one of FHM magazine’s 100 sexiest women three years in a row?
“Oh God, it was a fun award. My best ranking was my debut three years ago at 20th placing, then I slipped to 40th placing last year, then this year I’m at 25. I will strive to do my best next year!” she joked.
What makes a woman sexy?
“This is really a cliché but definitely it (sexiness) is confidence because that trait should reflect in the person. You know, the way she carries herself and the way she dresses. Plus the way she speaks, and the things she says. The way she dresses reflects whether she respects herself or not.
“Inner beauty is very important but in this day and age, physical beauty is still something that everybody notices. No matter how much you want to be politically correct, first impression is important,” says Maya who cites Gwyneth Paltrow as her example of a sexy woman.
And what makes a man sexy?
“The same thing. But there’s a thin line between arrogance and confidence,” she noted. Maya also likes her man humorous, emotionally equipped (minus the excess baggage), intelligent and charming.
“Am I seeing anyone now? I’m dating, that’s for sure but not necessarily seeing anyone!” said Maya who indicated she would love to get married when she is 27 and hopefully will be blessed with six children.
Besides promotional appearances for Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam, Maya is also busy hosting a bridal programme called Ratu Sehari on Astro Ria. Now and then, you can also see her beautiful face and gorgeous hair on a hair commercial on TV. Does she have any time left for her music?
“I’ve been working on Bukan Qalamaya for about a year, along with several acting jobs, and I’m really excited about this album as I had put so much effort into every song. I just hope my fans will appreciate my music as I still have a long way to go.
“Everything was done through trial and error for my debut two years ago (Erti Cinta). But Bukan Qalamaya was totally different. I was 100% involved in the recording. I chose the songs, the lyrics, etc. I discussed the music arrangement and if I didn’t like something, I would change it.” Among the songwriters involved in Bukan Qalamaya are Aidit Alfian, Yasin, Azmeer, Timo and Indonesian songwriter Diddy Dukun.
Maya, who’s a big Aretha Franklin fan, lists reading as a pastime. (She loves Khalil Gibran and vampire maestro Anne Rice’s books, incidentally!)
Besides the bookish, domestic lifestyle, this beauty also has a soft spot for children.
“When I was in Indonesia, I was actively involved in anything and everything to do with children. I’m crazy about children!”
In the past couple of years, Maya has volunteered time for charity work for children.
“No I don’t have any specific society or children’s organisation that I’m attached to but I try my best to help,” said Maya who lives with her family in what she described as “a house in a little kampung in Sungai Penchala, near the Mofaz circuit.”
“That house is our baby. Both my mother and I supervised the construction work. It looks very Western from outside but inside it is an East/West fusion complete with a Balinese garden.”
The home improvement TV programme offers are on the way, it seems ...