Hung up on horror
> Author Nadia Khan works with director Shamyl Othman to bring to the small screen her chilling Gantung novel
THE NEW upcoming TV series Gantung tackles the topic of sexual promiscuity among teenagers set in a haunted hostel. The show’s eight episodes will raise some eyebrows, while trying to make your skin crawl with fear.
The TV series is based on the popular indie book by local author Nadia Khan, which was published in 2013. To date, the novel has sold nearly 40,000 copies, and was even translated into Bahasa Indonesia, where it has become a literary hit.
Besides Gantung, Nadia has written three other novels – Kelabu, Pakar and Cerpen, which is a collection of her short stories.
Gantung is about four boys who meet and become best friends while studying in an elite boarding school. Calling themselves The Four Musketeers, the four boys abide by their own special Musketeer Code.
Girls are always chasing after them and trying to win their hearts. However, a main part of their Code is that they are not allowed to have a steady girlfriend and any girl who goes out with one of them must be shared by all four.
Things get complicated when a ghostly spirit starts disturbing and haunting the boys.
Lina Tan, the producer of Gantung and founder of Red Comms, the production house behind the series, said: “I like Nadia’s writing style. I’m a big fan of her work.”
Tan felt the themes that Nadia tackles in Gantung will appeal to Malaysians, as well as regional audiences. With that in mind, Tan decided to feature a mixed cast, with rising talents from both Malaysia and Indonesia.
Among the young Malaysian actors involved in Gantung are Hafreez Adam, Ikmal Ary and Taufiq Hanafi, while actors from Indonesia include Randy Panglila, Brandon Salim, Gita Sucia and Mentari De Marelle.
Gantung will first be shown on Indonesian television early next year, before premiering on Astro’s new channel Boo (Astro channel 404), in the later part of 2017.
“This is my first attempt at adapting a novel [for the small] screen,” says Shamyl Othman, the director of Gantung.
“[But] the best thing about turning a successful novel into a TV series is that you [have] a safety net.
“The novel already has a dedicated readership, and you can be assured that they will be curious, and [will] want to watch [a live-action] adaptation.”
Shamyl is also aware that diehard fans of the novel will be judging if he has done justice to the book.
“It was simply impossible for me to condense everything from the novel into the [series],” explained Shamyl.
“There were things I had to leave out. But I made sure I did not lose the essence of the novel.”
The novel itself was not without controversy, as certain sexual encounters between characters in the novel were described in rather graphic terms.
But this might not apply to a live-action adaptation, because of far stricter censorship.
Shamyl said he and his production team cleverly used hints and innuendos to portray the more risque scenes but admitted: “You could say we have pushed the envelope in that department.”
Nadia was selected by Tan to be the head scriptwriter for the TV series to translate the essence of the novel to the small screen.
The author personally picked three other writers – Adib Zaini, Alfie Palermo and Mamu Vies – to help her with the script.
“Shamyl has read my novel many times that his copy of Gantung looks more tattered than mine,” Nadia confessed.
She added that the director and production team were in constant discussions with her, so that they would not stray too far from the novel.
Still, she admitted a few changes had to be made. “In the novel, the horror element sits in the passenger seat, while in the screen adaptation, the horror element [is at] the driver’s seat.”
She added: “It is like KFC. The novel is the original recipe while the television series is the hot and spicy [version]. [But] both are still chicken.”
Bringing the novel (right) to the small screen (left) … (clockwise, from below) Nadia; Shamyl; and lead actors (from far left) Brandon, Randy, Ikmal and Hafreez.