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CATHAY'S upcoming ensemble comedy Our Sister Mambo features the Who's Who of local cinema, television and theatre. But one "star" led to intervention from the Internal Security Department (ISD).
The film's producer and Cathay's managing director Choo Meileen recalls: "The shoot took place in my mother's house near Tanglin, and it was empty and due to undergo renovations, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect. The only concern was that it was also opposite the Prime Minister's house. We had to place a false stone wall and plants all around the perimeter to make sure Lee Hsien Loong didn't accidentally make a cameo!"
Regardless, there is still a galaxy of stars for cinema-goers to gaze upon when the comedy opens next month because Cathay has pulled out all the stops for the film, which headlines its 80th anniversary celebrations. Our Sister Mambo is set to be the exhibitor and distributor's first production in 16 years after Jack Neo's That One Not Enough (1999).
Drawing inspiration from the golden era when Cathay still ran a very lucrative studio operation, the upcoming comedy will pay tribute to two Cathay classics: Our Sister Hedy (1957) and The Greatest Civil War on Earth (1961).
Written by playwright Michael Chiang (Army Daze, Beauty World), Our Sister Mambo follows the everyday trials and tribulations of the middle-class Wong family.
Don't expect more because the project is a one-off production and Cathay has no further plans to make more films. On its significance, Ms Choo, 65, says: "Our Sister Mambo holds a very special meaning for us, and we wanted to celebrate our anniversary in a way that would make an impression and be remembered for a long time."
Chiang admits he was initially unsure about how to pay tribute to Cathay: "I wanted it to be natural, and not come off as a corporate project. I started writing, and as soon as I decided to have Mr Wong working in Cathay, it just flowed."
Playing the aforementioned patriarch character is veteran actor Moses Lim of Under One Roof fame. The 66-year-old's onscreen wife, Mrs Wong, a feisty property agent who bears an affinity for all things Korean, is played by theatre actor Audrey Luo. Though the latter is only 32, Luo says: "I've always played older roles in the theatre, so I think directors naturally trust me to play a maternal character. It might be because I'm the oldest sibling or because I love observing (older people) so I do get drawn to these roles."
Luo is just one of the many cast members playing unusual roles. The audience will also get to see a different side of Michelle Chong, who plays the titular character.
Better known for her over-the-top impersonations on TV's The Noose, Chong says: "I play a lot of roles which require me to be a little crazy, and I'm constantly trying to be funny. While Mambo isn't a completely serious character, I didn't have to play the clown, which was relaxing."
Younger members of the audience might also recognise prominent local personalities like Chef Willin Low of Wild Rocket, controversial blogger Wendy Cheng, and jazz singer Rani Singam, who are all making their big-screen debuts.
Cinephiles and older cinema-goers can look forward to former movie stars Grace Chang (Ge Lan) and Maria Menado Abdullah. Both will be making special appearances in honour of Cathay's 80th anniversary by playing themselves.
Ms Choo says: "I was very happy both these iconic actors agreed to be in the movie; it really ties the present back to the past."
Our Sister Mambo will open in theatres on July 15
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