Paulini’s touch of magic

Singer Paulini has made her act­ing de­but in the drama Sis­ters of War, writes Geoff Shearer

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

PAULINI is rev­el­ling in the lit­tle touches of magic in her life, and she knows just how to find them. ‘‘ It’s when you can be your­self, and feel com­fort­able around peo­ple, that’s when you are your­self and that’s what brings that magic,’’ she says. ‘‘ It’s when you’re not scared, when you’ve not got walls up, when you re­lax.’’

The singer who shot to fame on the Aus­tralian Idol stage back in 2003, and who can now add the ti­tle ‘‘ ac­tor’’ to her re­sume hav­ing shot a role in the ABCTV tele­movie Sis­ters Of War, has en­dured a wild ride on the fame train but is now hap­pily tak­ing it a lit­tle slower, ex­plor­ing the pieces of magic in­laid in the fab­ric of day-to-day life.

She’s re­cently re­turned from a song-writ­ing and per­for­mance trip to Europe and has set­tled her­self back into work, search­ing for new and in­spi­ra­tional mu­sic ma­te­rial.

Her tweet to fans on a re­cent morn­ing says she’s back in the stu­dio ‘‘ hop­ing to come up with a lit­tle magic’’.

She laughs richly when asked, later the same day, if she did, in fact, find any.

‘‘ I did,’’ she says still chuck­ling, ‘‘ We came up with a beau­ti­ful bal­lad— an up­lift­ing song — hope­fully we can make it some­thing mag­i­cal.’’

Paulini Cu­ru­e­navuli, who was born in Suva, Fiji and moved to Aus­tralia with her fam­ily when she was four, ad­mits that to­day she is a dif­fer­ent per­son to the one au­di­ences were in­tro­duced to on the first sea­son of Idol.

Her fo­cus now is on the writ­ing and record­ing side of the mu­sic busi­ness while, of course, still de­liv­er­ing those power bal­lads in her an­gelic five-oc­tave range. Her writ­ing abil­i­ties were never more pow­er­ful than in her 2009 sin­gle Scarless, where she ad­dressed the is­sue of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. She had been in a re­la­tion­ship a few years ear­lier with rugby league star Wes Naiqama, which dis­solved amid al­le­ga­tions he phys­i­cally as­saulted her.

‘‘ Oh my God to­tally,’’ she says when asked how much she has changed over the past seven years. ‘‘ I’m still the same per­son­al­ity but I’ve ma­tured a lot. I re­ally want to take time to mas­ter my art and to pro­duce what I want and, well, find­ing my­self re­ally. I’m try­ing to cre­ate some­thing that is me and not just like ev­ery­one else out there— that’s the key.’’

Her de­but as an ac­tor in Sis­ters Of War is part of that process. Paulini plays Sis­ter Marie in the WWII drama trac­ing the true story of a group of Aus­tralian nuns and nurses held by the Ja­panese as pris­on­ers of war in Vu­napope in the then Aus­tralian Man­dated Ter­ri­tory of New Guinea.

She de­scribes her char­ac­ter, a na­tive nun, as ‘‘ car­ing, strong’’ and who be­came a life­long friend of the Aussie nuns at the small mis­sion.

In one stand­out scene, Sis­ter Marie sings a chill­ing latin re­quiem while stand­ing be­side a huge cross, af­ter death has come to the mis­sion dur­ing an air­craft at­tack. ‘‘ We had to get it trans­lated into Pa­pua New Guinean di­alect,’’ Paulini says. ‘‘ The words are quite touch­ing and talk about life’s strug­gles and how you get through them. It is such a beau­ti­ful song.

‘‘ We were film­ing at 5am, and I can’t even tell you how re­ally, re­ally beau­ti­ful it was with the sun­rise.’’

In pre­par­ing for the role, Paulini spoke with nuns who had been through sim­i­lar WWII ex­pe­ri­ences and read books on one of the film’s char­ac­ters, Sis­ter Berenice Twohill, try­ing to ‘‘ ab­sorb as much as we could’’.

The ex­pe­ri­ence, she says, was touch­ing emo­tion­ally, but didn’t quite con­vince her to con­sider a clois­tered life.

‘‘ Maybe not, maybe not,’’ she says with a laugh. ‘‘ I am a Chris­tian and it is beau­ti­ful how they, the nuns, live their lives. But, no, I don’t think I could see my­self be­ing a nun. Maybe later on, but not now! I’d have to do a lot of work to be a nun.’’

In the in­terim, there’s a dif­fer­ent piece of magic in play for her.

The first sin­gle Ro­nan Keat­ing re­leased last week off his new al­bum is a duet with Paulini ti­tled Be­lieve Again.

‘‘ I was like stoked, jump­ing up and down when I heard he picked that as his first sin­gle,’ Paulini says. ‘‘ For me it is such a bless­ing.’’ Sis­ters of War, ABC1, Sun­day, 8.30pm

Magic: A re­laxed Paulini (above) and as a nun in Sis­ters of War (be­low) . PIC­TURE: BOB BARKER

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