Bad boy Royston Tan poured acid on principal's car
Local director Royston Tan opens up about his teenage pranks, such as pouring acid on the principal's car
He has been labelled the "bad boy of Singapore cinema".
And local film-maker Royston Tan was certainly no goody-two-shoes when he was a student at Zhonghua Secondary School in the early 1990s.
The 38-year-old, who was in the Normal (Academic) stream, would pick fights, talk during lessons and submit blank test papers.
When he was 15, he even stole hydrochloric acid from the chemistry laboratory and poured it on his school principal's car just to "test the acid's effectiveness".
He told The New Paper: "It was quite effective, the first layer of paint came off. But she did not punish me. Instead, she made me own up and forgave me. I had to apologise to her afterwards."
Tan returned to his alma mater at Serangoon Avenue 3 yesterday - wearing his school uniform - to give an inspirational 45-minute talk to some 1,000 students.
He also took time to promote his latest musical, 3688, and invited its star, veteran getai singer Liu Ling Ling, to perform a Chinese song on stage.
The movie, which tells the story of parking attendant Fei Fei (Joi Chua) and her relationship with her dementia-stricken father, has raked in more than $191,000 at the local box office since opening last Thursday.
3688 is Tan's comeback film after a seven-year hiatus. His notable works include controversial gangster film 15 (2003) and getai-centric comedy 881 (2007).
Speaking to TNP after the session, Tan shared how he used to fight with his schoolmate at the basketball court during recess.
"I would go there with my classmates and he would do the same, and the two of us would start fighting with our (respective groups) behind us watching. As there wasn't enough time (as the school bell would ring soon), we would fight for about five minutes each time," he said.
"I would bite him and leave a 'victory scar' on him so that others would know that I had won the fight."
Tan was also constantly disruptive in class and was regularly told to stand outside his classroom as a form of punishment.
"Once, I kept talking while others were singing the national anthem so I was made to sing it alone on stage the next day, facing all my schoolmates."
But his principal saw something in him, and what she did made him shed tears.
Royston tears up recalling principal
Royston Tan teared up as he recalled how his school principal had helped turn his life around.
He said: "She really believed in me. Without her, I wouldn't be where I am today. She always told me that even though I wasn't the best student in school, I was the most hardworking and hard work pays off."
The former school principal now works at the Ministry of Education and was not present yesterday.
Tan said she would even wait for him under his block on weekends and drive him back to school to teach him analog film editing for his art elective programme.
Her dedication and his commitment to turn over a new leaf eventually paid off, with Tan scoring a distinction in it.
His O-level results, though not ideal, were enough to see him make it to the visual communications course at Temasek Polytechnic.
What Zhonghua Secondary School students said about Royston Tan
"I am inspired by Royston as he is our senior. He taught us that we should be humble, be true to everyone and that we can't lie to people. I am excited to watch his movie 3688 and my parents were talking about watching it together."
- Kendra Khoo, 13
"From his talk, I have learnt to be more appreciative of teachers. Without their guidance, we won't be where we are today. Just look at Royston's success and achievements now."
- Caleb Chan, 15