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