Singapore: An 11-year old Indian boy is a star in a Singapore movie, singing Peking opera tunes and speaking most of his lines in Mandarin. Denzyl Dharma, who studies Mandarin as a second language here, plays Raja in the film, a boy from India who tries to fit into his new home in Singapore and stumbles on to a foreign art form ? Chinese opera.
The Mandarin-English movie, `Wayang Boy`, will be shown in Singapore later this year. Dharma was trained for about three months before shooting the movie last month. This is not the first time that the talented lad has done Chinese opera.
`Wayang Boy` is the feature-length extension of the 40-minute film `Wa Is For Wayang` which was screened at the Singapore Discovery Centre from October 2011 to earlier this month.
Wayang is a Javanese word for theatre performance and is widely used in Singapore and Malaysia for dramas and cinemas. The movie, made on a budget of SGD 1 million, is to raise awareness about the fading traditional art here.
Movie director Raymond Tan said of Dharma`s audition, "He recited a few verses of Martin Luther King`s famed speech, I Have A Dream. He not only memorised the speech, but also put in emotions. He tried to emote as King did in a YouTube clip he had watched."
Tan, 41, noted that the young Dharma has patience to shoot long hours. He never says he is tired or wants to stop even after 12 hours of shooting. This is unlike other child actors who have quite limited patients and would want to stop shooting and go home.
Hong Kong`s veteran film star, Law Kar Ying, who plays a teacher fighting to keep the school`s Chinese opera troupe from shutting down, is impressed with Dharma`s acting. Speaking in Cantonese-accented Mandarin, the 67-year old Law said. "Denzyl`s advantage is that he knows how to speak Mandarin. His command of Chinese is about the same as mine, which isn`t great. So the two of us can communicate really well."
Yashasvi Joseph Dharma, 43, said of his only child, "Denzyl is pretty animated at home, so I thought he could try out acting. When he went for a photo shoot at a talent agency in 2009, the photographer told me that my son was a professional ? none of the other kids were so patient during the shoot.
"Studies are important, but I don`t expect him to get fantastic scores of 90 or 100. To me, I want my son to do what he?s interested in. I think he can carve out a good career in acting," said the father who is a software company`s vice president here.
The talented Dharma is well known among his peers at the Gan Eng Seng School here. His schoolmates never asked for his autograph but request him to get one of popular Chinese actors like Kym Ng. Dharma hopes to enroll in the School of the Arts after completing his Primary School Leaving Examination. And the talented lad will be in Beijing later this year to shoot for another Chinese movie.