KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — A lesson Datin Sofia Jane learnt as a young actor was to stand her ground, something she said she gained from watching the older generation “not take any nonsense from anybody”.
As she got older, the award-winning actor realised that her predecessors were right in being assertive and she found that even being just a little aggressive would lead to people backing down.
“There are a lot of bullies in this world and they come in many forms. Once you know they’re just bullies and nothing else, you realise that ‘I can say what I want and I don’t need people telling me what to do or how to dress or whatever’,” she related to Malay Mail in a recent interview.
“Of course, people will always say that there are limits to what you can say or do, but really? Because there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the bullying that they do,” she added.
When asked if she has any words for the younger crop of actors, especially female ones, Sofia suggested they realise that their path and career are fully in their own hands.
“You need that direction. You need to know where you want to go and what you want to do with it,” she said.
The sense of direction will come in useful in situations where young actors find themselves not being taken seriously despite getting the job and the paycheque, as it will help provide a long-term focus against any criticism, she said.
Lacking a strong sense of direction leads to actors being steered away from what they truly wish to do, she added.
“People will always want to put a limit on what you can say or do,” she said, commenting on being under the spotlight and how scary it can be to feel like everyone has a piece of you.
She also cautioned against the financial pitfalls of the local industry, where the value of an actress rarely correlates to their acting skills and experience.
Instead, she suggested that what determines how high an actress can set her appearance rate may instead be determined by popularity and social media presence.
Sofia Jane will appear in the independent film 'Maryam Dari Pagi Ke Malam' chronicling an older woman's quest to get married amid religious bureaucracy and patriarchy. — Picture by Choo Choy May
“We’re still stuck in a place where we don’t know what the minimum rate is!” she said, referring to the unregulated industry and lack of unionisation which see actors not having comparable wages, making the situation akin to “each person for themselves”.
“We just put a price on ourselves and hopefully we get what we want,” she said, speaking of the pay established older actresses such as herself receive from acting gigs.
On the other hand, she laments the situation those who are not as established find themselves in, saying that they are often bullied into accepting lower rates for their work.
Therefore, she said that young actresses need to prioritise themselves with regards to what they want to do and the roles they want to play, cautioning against complying with what other people want for the sake of avoiding or not knowing how to deal with confrontation.
She also emphasised the importance of women who are emotionally and mentally stronger reaching out to those who are not as stoic, extending a helping hand to them and validating their emotions.
“It’s okay to feel,” she said. “That’s the whole thing about film, isn’t it? It’s about life.”
Among other projects, Sofia will appear next in Maryam Dari Pagi Ke Malam directed by Badrul Hisham Ismail.
In Maryam, Sofia plays a gallery owner in her 50s from a noble Malay family who wishes to marry Damien, her younger partner from Sierra Leone, but faces opposition from her father (Omar Abdullah).
Producers Anomalous Films and Rhu Graha said the 90-minute film will playfully dissect the tensions, contradictions and irony that surround polite society in Malaysia.
Currently in post-production, it also stars other renowned names in the industry such as Roslan Madun, Azman Hassan, Pekin Ibrahim and Bella Rahim in supporting roles.