Actor Soffi Jikan has carved a reputation as the go-to guy for eccentric antagonistic characters. Local movie fans remember him in KL Gangster as Ajib, the exuberant thug whose ultimate weapon is throwing insults in rapid succession.
His performance in the movie earned him a Best Supporting Actor award at the Malaysia Film Festival in 2011. Soffi has played similar roles in Bohsia 2: Jalan Kembali and the Astro telemovie Taubat Seorang Gangster.
However, in an interview with Star2.com, the lanky 45-year-old Soffi shows he is nothing like his famous on-screen persona. Behind the aviator sunglasses and long black hair that covers most of his lean face, Soffi exudes a soft-spoken calm demeanour.
That calmness fades only when he opens up about the challenges he faced when making Gangsterock Kasi Sengaat, which marks his directorial debut for a commercially-released film.
“While making this film, I reached a critical point when I was too ill. I couldn’t eat, speak and even swallow water. But I knew I had to finish this movie and not waste anyone else’s precious time,” Soffi shares.
“I’ve put so much – physically and financially – into this movie that I strongly hope that my sacrifice will pay off when the audience sees the movie.”
The action comedy film, which opens today, has Soffi starring with Saiful “Apek” Nizam, Izara Aishah, Aqasha and Sharifah Amani.
Despite the hardship he faced getting the film made, the Terengganu-born actor is keen to start directing his next film; Even if the path leading to it has somewhat shaken his confidence.
“You’d think that with more than two decades of experience in the entertainment industry, I’d be somebody. The truth is, I have nothing. I have to beg fellow actors and actresses to work with me. I have to always start from zero,” he says, crushing that hoodlum personality further as tears start rolling down his face at his own confession.
But like a true performer, he regains his composure quickly and is back to his upbeat self during the photoshoot, singing along idly to the rock songs playing in the studio. When asked to remove his dark glasses for a particular shot, he jokes about feeling self-concious without them.
“But I want to be like Jamal Abdillah. I feel more handsome with sunglasses,” he says, with a smile.
We find out what else Soffi is hiding behind his shades.
1. Gangsterock Kasi Sengaat is a story about an aspiring rocker hoping to make it big in the city. Is this film partly inspired by your own ambition to be a rocker?
You can call it a semi-biography but with a twist of fiction and entertainment. In Gangsterock, I play Shake. He plans to unite all the rockers he used to idolise to revive the rock scene in the country. Then he realises that the rockers have gone into retirement because of the huge piracy syndicate led by gangsters. In order to make his dreams come true, and also help his heroes in music, he has to bring the gangsters down.
2. The late Harun Salim Bachik is in the film as well. Tell us more about his role.
He played Zuan, a henchman to Aqasha’s gang leader role. He had one last car stunt scene to film. He asked to delay the shoot because he needed to go back to his hometown. Then sadly, he died on his way home from Penang. We had to use CGI to complete his scene. I love working with Abang Harun. He is a very intelligent actor. I miss him.
3. Is it true that you had a hard time recording the seven songs for the film’s soundtrack?
Yes, I cried and had a breakdown in the studio. With composer Edrie Hashim, you have to achieve perfection and I thought I’ll never complete it (laughs). Recording is tough! You have to get the pitching, tone and melody right. It took us eight months to do the recordings. Finally, I was able to do my last song in one take. Oh yes, I cried again when I heard the finished version of the songs.
4. What were you like as a kid?
I had a hard life. There was always no electricity at home. My seven siblings and I grew up in Kampung Sungai Kayu Ara. I used to play at a mining pool nearby and have experienced drowning a few times. I like to get into fights. I was such a troublemaker that my parents nicknamed me Api.
5. What’s the most valuable experience you gained as an actor on the set of Netflix series Marco Polo?
Oh wow, I was really impressed by the level of preparation that goes into each scene. I played Altan, a coven owner and I have four days to shoot two scenes. But before that, I had to go for wardrobe fitting sessions and each took about four hours. Then I had to do rehearsals with the director, stunt director and a few other people. As a result, I got different instructions from everyone (laughs). I gave the two scenes I did my all that I got a standing ovation from the crew on set.