The star of Mamak Cupcake likes to take risks when it comes to choosing a project to work on.
Even as she is basking in the glory of her first nomination in the 26th Malaysia Film Festival (Most Promising Actress for Kerat 14), Siti Saleha stands by a simple rule when choosing her next project. Whatever it is, there has to be a fresh element to it – if the character sounds too familiar, the 24-year-old actress has no qualms saying no to the project.
This is how the half English-half Malaysian decided to star in the new film Mamak Cupcake, a comedy directed by Ming Jin Woo and co-stars Shaheizy Sam, Azad Jazmin, Natasha Hudson and Maria Farida.
“I have never done comedy on the big screen before,” explains Saleha on her decision.
Saleha describes Mamak Cupcake as a colourful romantic comedy. It revolves around Shaheizy Sam’s character who stands to inherit his father’s restaurant although his interest lies in opening a cupcake bakery.
Fortunately for the hero, he finds a common friend in Juliana (Saleha), and possibly something else, who is facing her own set of problems with her controlling mother.
“My character Juliana is not that difficult to portray – she’s an independent and confident girl, traits I am familiar with. What attracted me was the possible fun element in playing her and to see if I can rise to the challenge of making people laugh.
“It’s hard to make people laugh,” she adds, laughing. “But I enjoyed doing this project tremendously, having fun with the dialogue and working with the director and other cast members.”
One of the first roles that Saleha got noticed for was for the popular 2011 drama series on TV3 Nora Elena, a role she is perhaps still best known for.
The winning formula in that romantic series – which had an average of 1.3 million fans tuning in – was the sizzling chemistry between the actress and Aaron Aziz; the drama propelled both of them into polularity.
Hence, it only makes sense that other filmmakers want to cash in on this pairing. She and Aaron star in the thriller Kerat 14 and the upcoming horror flick titled Tujuh.
Despite this, Saleha is adamant that she wants to take chances and work with a variety of people and not only bank on a guaranteed working partner.
“I like working with Aaron but I don’t want it to be that I am only working opposite him,” shares Saleha. As if proving that very statement, she says that her role in Tujuh is not romantically paired with Aaron. That and the fact that her character gets possessed in the film are what appealed to Saleha about Tujuh. Then, there is the film’s style.
“Tujuh is set in the 1970s, which means we got to wear that era’s clothes and hairstyle. That was fun.”
The film centres on seven friends who travel to Cameron Highlands for a holiday only to be faced with supernatural problems.
Tujuh, slated for release next year, is one of two films Saleha can be seen in soon. The other one is titled Terbaik Dari Langit, which is slated for release in the final quarter of this year.
“My character, Zelda, is a very negative person. She is always putting down her boyfriend’s job, which happens to be acting,” says Saleha about the small role in Terbaik Dari Langit in which she stars opposite Iedil Putra.
Having been acting since 18 – and doing commercials since 13 – Saleha is still waiting to try her hand on an action role.
“There is no opportunity for action-oriented female characters in Malaysia films. I love to do a film in which my character gets to kick a**,” she says.
At the same time, she is surprised that she was offereda “mum role” in the recent drama series Ramadan Jangan Pergi.
“I thought I wouldn’t be playing mum roles at least until another five years. I did the series only because the producer wanted me so I just went for it and it turned out to be an interesting experience.”
Taking risks is part of Saleha’s personality. Describing herself as an aggressive person, she says: “I am very much into activities like kickboxing, cycling and running, which I do with a bunch of friends.”
Her other favourite activity is travelling – she is often away from Malaysia visiting her mother in Britain and her boyfriend in Portugal.
In her life, both professional and personal, Saleha likes to change things up. “I don’t want to keep doing the same thing. I like to get out of the box (people put me in) and have fun,” she concludes.
> Mamak Cupcake is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.