Hung up on hor­ror

> Author Na­dia Khan works with di­rec­tor Shamyl Oth­man to bring to the small screen her chill­ing Gan­tung novel

The Sun (Malaysia) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY BISSME S.

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.

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