Royston Tan made singer perform song 28 times for movie
Director Royston Tan made Tan Bee Keow sing same song 28 times to capture right emotion
It was the first time she ever acted.
For Malaysian getai performer Tan Bee Keow, being cast in local director Royston Tan's new Mandarin movie musical 3688 was an exciting, yet stressful experience.
Opening here on Thursday, 3688 tells the story of parking attendant Fei Fei (Joi Chua), who dreams of becoming a singer like the late Taiwanese legend Feng Fei-fei.
She joins a TV singing contest and meets strong competitor Anita (Tan), who is mean and defensive towards her.
The movie also stars local rapper Shigga Shay and veteran getai singer Liu Ling Ling.
In one scene, Tan, who was born to Indian parents and adopted as a baby by a Chinese couple in Ipoh, had to shed tears while performing emotive song Woman Flower, originally sung by the late Hong Kong icon Anita Mui.
It was a tall order for the 25-year-old, who made headlines when she joined popular Taiwanese reality TV singing competition One Million Star in 2010.
Tan told The New Paper over the phone from Kuala Lumpur, in Mandarin: "I don't usually cry in public or in front of my friends and I tend to suppress my emotions. It was very challenging as I had to cry while all the crew members and director were staring at me. I felt very stressed."
To help her get into the role, Royston, 38, made her sing the same song 28 times continuously.
He told TNP in a separate interview: "She is a very sweet girl in real life, and I felt very bad because I really tortured her. I had to break her down so that her emotions could come through in the song. I was very demanding."
He added: "She stood there for many hours in her high heels and sang the same song so many times until her hands were trembling. That's when I captured the vulnerability in her."
Tan said: "I kept trembling because I was quite scared. I didn't know if I was doing it right, or if my emotions were conveyed properly on screen. It was very tough."
Royston had noticed Tan when she was a contestant on the seventh season of One Million Star, where she captured the attention of viewers with her powerful renditions of Hokkien songs.
She made it to the top 12 before being eliminated.
When Royston was working on 3688, he thought of Tan, and spent a month tracking her down.
He said: "I was very intrigued that an Indian girl could sing so perfectly in Mandarin and Hokkien. I felt that she could add a new dimension to the film, with her beautiful voice and her exotic look."
Tan, who is based in Kuala Lumpur and works as a freelance singer, was excited and surprised at receiving Royston's call for the audition.
The soft-spoken Tan said: "I thought it was a rare and special opportunity as I have not acted in a movie before. At the same time, I felt scared and worried as I did not know if I could meet his expectations."
She added: "If I'm given another chance at acting, I wouldn't mind giving it a shot again."