The last time Mawi starred in a film was in the 2010 release Magika. So, when director Syamsul Yusof offered him a role in the upcoming Munafik 2, Mawi was understandably hesitant.

“This is only my third film as an actor, so I was worried whether I could carry the role,” shared the Akademi Fantasia Season 3 (2005) breakout star, who nabbed the champion title that year.

At this photo shoot at Dash Box Hotel in Cyberjaya, the 37-year-old was almost unrecognisable, having shed his AF image of short-cropped hair. Presently, he wears his hair long, with a ponytail no less, and is dressed in a more laid-back outfit.

“I was anxious because the way Syamsul asked me to be in the movie was so casual, and he’s this big-time director and it’s a big film,” added the Kluang, Johor-born artiste whose full name is Asmawi Ani.

But since Syamsul said that he could see Mawi in the role, he accepted his friend’s offer. The two became fast friends after collaborating on the song Kalah Dalam Menang for the 2016 hit film Munafik.

They’ve also duetted on the single Bukan Propaganda and are collaborating again for Munafik 2’s soundtrack, Menangislah.

In Munafik 2, Mawi plays Azhar, someone who helps Syamsul’s character when the latter faces a cult leader who’s spreading misguided teachings of Islam.

“I am different in this role than the Mawi you know,” mentioned Mawi who has gone into directing and producing telemovies and dramas under his production company Mawi World Entertainment.

He also runs a business with his wife, and does hosting gigs as well as guests as a radio deejay at times.

1. What was most challenging about filming Munafik 2?

I play a boatman in the film. But I have never steered a boat before, and I had to do it for Munafik 2, at night, with very little light!

Besides me, there were other people on the boat including the cameraman and the camera. So, that was challenging for me … I was just hoping I wouldn’t fall over because the water at Tasik Chini seems deep.

Mawi

Mawi has been friends with Syamsul since they’ve worked together on the song Kalah Dalam Menang. Photo: The Star/M. Azhar Arif

2. You are in the midst of editing the first film you’ve directed for the big-screen. What can you tell us about it?

It’s a light comedy about three friends coming to KL to become rock stars only to be met with multiple challenges. It stars Hazama, Along Cham and Joey; I have a supporting role as well.

We’ve done 70% of editing, but there’s still dubbing and music to complete. We’re hoping to release it early next year.

It’s still untitled at the moment as I want to find the most suitable one. A lot of people have given me suggestions – through social media – on what the title should be, which is kind of cool I think.

3. Having worked with people like Datuk M. Nasir and Syamsul Yusof, who are masters in their respective fields, what have you learned from them?

They are in a category of their own because they don’t follow a trend, they start the trend. They are creative, the best and unique – those are their strengths.

What I know (from working with them) is, I can learn from them but I can’t be them. Mawi is Mawi. If you copy them, you won’t get anywhere.

Before I started directing my film, I asked Syamsul a lot of questions. And it was Syamsul’s vote of confidence in my story that gave me the courage to direct.

Mawi performing with Datuk M. Nasir at an event back in 2005. Photo: Filepic

4. You started a food court at your hometown some years back. How did that come about?

When I was younger I liked to hang out at places where there were a lot of food stalls.

I liked the atmosphere of just sitting there and talking with my friends while trying different kinds of food.

When I got some land, I decided to open a food court. It’s still there, until today.

Mawi being announced by host Aznil Nawawi as the winner of Akademi Fantasia 3 in 2005. Photo: The Star/Glenn Guan

5. Did you think you’d be doing all of this when you participated in Akademi Fantasia 13 years ago?

I never did. There are so many avenues to try in the entertainment industry, not only singing. So I am trying them out.

My radio deejay days actually started even before AF; I was a deejay at weddings and I worked as a deejay at a supermarket spinning music for the shoppers. I did all that.

With anything I do now, I just hope the public is receptive of the stuff I put out.

Munafik 2 opens in cinemas nationwide on Aug 30.