The leading pan-regional video streaming service, VIU is premiering an all-new VIU Original Malaysian drama series, “GANJIL” that combines both fantasy and reality. “GANJIL” is a unique take on an interesting love story that blends romance and fantasy together to form a breathtaking world. The drama series features brilliant cast lineup lead by Fattah Amin, Diana Danielle, Izzue Islam and Fatin Afeefa.
“GANJIL” follows the story of a young man, Amry (Fattah Amin) and a young maiden, Nabila (Diana Danielle) who find themselves meeting the person of their dreams, quite literally in this case. The two opposite characters cross paths literally in their dreams on a special night where their dreams suddenly merge into one. They grow closer and face their fears together once the pair discover that they might be more than just an image of their own subconscious.
Directed by Datuk Yusry Abdul Halim, a visionary known for pushing boundaries of visual effects, “GANJIL” elevates the timeless romance genre with a blend of fantasy, creating a story with beautiful imagery. The 10-episode season gives an in-depth look into Amry’s and Nabila’s psyches and deepest anxieties, as the story sets the reality against the dream world that they inhabit together.
We recently had a chance to join the director and cast of “GANJIL” during the virtual interview session where they discussed the characters’ story, the chemistry between the casts and more. Check out the interview here:
1. Tell us a bit about your role and the story behind each of the characters.
Diana Danielle: I played the character named Nabila in this drama. Nabila is a single lady who is outwardly full of life, a happy and lively kind of person. She has fun working as a food reviewer, a content creator, she could be considered an influencer in a way. She dreams of owning her own café but she is someone who’s constantly afraid of taking risks because she needs to always be responsible for many things in her life. So she doesn’t want to take any other risks besides playing in the safe zone and just living her life as a food reviewer. Somehow beneath all that, viewers will be able to see how the narrative uncovers Nabila’s story that she kept hidden in order to create this perfect world. You can see how the more she tries to make it perfect, strange occurrences start developing in her dreams. So the story begins in continuous dreams, but the problems in each dream can be solved when the dream is interpreted correctly. So, that’s basically what Nabila is in the story.
Fattah Amin: My character, Amry is an engineer, who is working in an IT company. He is a total opposite of Nabila’s character. He is an introvert, has a reserved and quiet personality. He keeps everything, every problem to himself. He actually has a lot of issues with his family. At the same time, Amry is very talented in drawing and painting. He met Nabila in a strange and bizarre dream when it started occurring. The dreams he had somehow impacted his reality and it continues until… that’s it. I cannot say further or I might spoil the whole storyline.
Izzue Islam: In “GANJIL”, I played the role Ihsan. Ihsan is a happy-go-lucky guy, he has a loud personality and he is Nabila’s best friend. He is also a so-called partner-in-crime with Nabila. He is also Nabila’s videographer and photographer. At the same time, Ihsan also has feelings for Nabila and he keeps the feelings to himself as he cannot proclaim it to her due to the many ongoing issues happening in Nabila’s life, with her bizarre dreams that she keeps telling Ihsan and all that stuff. Overall, he is a good friend and a great listener for Nabila.
Yusry Abdul Halim: The story is about two individuals, two strangers, Nabila (Diana Danielle) and Amry (Fattah Amin) who never met each other, living their own lives in reality. They both have their own personal problems in real life that they need to deal with. Nabila has a best friend, Ihsan, and their relationship will make viewers wonder, ‘why aren’t they together?’, that sort of relationship. At the same time, Amry also has a female colleague (played by Fatin Afeefa) who has feelings for him and wants to be with him. So these two strangers in real life end up meeting in a dream. And they are giving each other tips to solve their respective problems in real life. Amry and Nabila both become totally dependent on each other to uncover their problems. And the dreamland won’t allow them to meet unless they settle their burden. So that is what the audiences need to understand, and roughly, that is what the story is all about.
2. What kind of unique elements that viewers can expect from this drama that sets it apart from other local drama series?
Yusry Abdul Halim: I think first and foremost, the drama itself is an original VIU series. The selection of dramas in VIU itself is different from anywhere else, any other dramas. We know for a fact that they are looking for projects that have never been done before. I would say this kind of story, the core storyline is very original. VIU is looking for film directors and film actors that can contribute to a series. So our challenge is kind of like lengthening a film into a drama series. At its core, “GANJIL” is actually a film based genre. So, we drag out the storyline to fit it into a 10 episodes series. So it’s different in that sense, I would say.
3. What were the limitations in producing “GANJIL” for this digital platform? Was there more freedom in terms of producing the piece?
Yusry Abdul Halim: If you ask me, I would say in terms of technicalities, this is actually harder than producing a film. We are aware that previously the resolution for a film would be in 2k, or in film resolution. But VIU wanted a 4k resolution for “GANJIL”. So, this might sound technical, but this series takes up more time and effort in planning every single scene to make it clearer and sharper. Because we’re talking about doubling the size of resolution to 4k which is larger than a film screened in a cinema.
In terms of execution, because of the complexity of the story, it requires more planning. So, we started pre-production very early on. Unfortunately, after MCO started, the places that we reserved for shooting were unavailable for filming purposes. There was a lot of limitations during the production process. The whole shooting process took 121 days with breaks in between. The actors, the crew and everyone involved had to halt the process a few times in between the duration of shooting. We still completed the whole shoot despite the limitations and a few obstacles along the way.
4. What are the challenges in utilising CGI in the making of scenes in “GANJIL”? And how many percent of CGI applied in the drama?
Yusry Abdul Halim: The MCO was a bit of an obstacle for us as it frequently disturbed the shooting process. There were times when we planned, for example, a scene on a cliff; it was meant to be shot in Johor, but due to many circumstances including the forces of nature, we couldn’t shoot as planned. We ended up having to rush through the shoot because we were running out of time. We ended up shooting the cliff scene around the area at my house. It was that hard. It was that kind of planning where we had to just make do. But having said that, although MCO often interfered with our shooting process, it helped us during the post production.
Because the majority of studios were working at home, other productions were halted, so we had time to focus on post production without being interfered with by other productions. In terms of percentage of CGI, there’s a lot of CGI used in the series. In episode one alone, as far as I remember, there’s more than 100 shots that use CGI, and that’s only in episode one. Roughly, there might be more than 600 to 700 shots that include CGI, which is more than a normal film. But we use it sparingly, if needed. I always believe that CGI should come in when it’s needed. So, there were certain scenes in the script that required the use of CGI because it was too fantastical and impossible to shoot. So we resorted to CGI, because it was needed.
5. In regards to CGI, was the acting process a challenge for the lead cast?
Diana Danielle: In terms of CGI, there’s quite a few scenes where we were involved in the process but not to the extent of serious, heavy CGI works. Previously I was involved in “Magika” so there’s a lot of usage of CGI in the film so this is not my first time being a part of a project where CGI is involved. I also have been involved in advertisements and a lot of advertisements also incorporated CGI in the production. As an actor, we do need to combine our imagination with what technically is given to us. A lot of the time, even if it’s not a CGI scene, (we as actors) do need to pretend that something is in front of us or beside us, or behind us all the time. It’s just that elements that we have to work with the CGI team and follow through with their instructions a bit more carefully.
It’s always great fun because as actors, the fun part is we wouldn’t know what is going to happen. We only get to see the result when the story airs, then the outcome of the scenes will be revealed to us. So we can finally see the team’s effort in making something look so believable and realistic. Because in my head, I usually think CGI is going to be unrealistic but for “GANJIL”, when I look at the scene, I was like wow, these guys are really on a different level. So it’s really nice to see because we are also pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the acting.
I remember this one scene in “GANJIL” where all I knew was Abang Yus (Yusry Abdul Halim) directed me to jump to certain spots and then I had to tumble. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But when I saw the trailer, the result of the scene, it really worked out. I’m still in the learning process and I’m also impressed with what happens in post production.
Fattah Amin: It challenged me as an actor because as actors, we need to be ready for every challenge about the character that we play. Based on the script, on the initial read through, we had to imagine what will happen for every scene written and be well prepared. Like Diana mentioned earlier, sometimes on the set, we didn’t see the CGI, we just acted. So as actors, we need to imagine what is in front of us, what is the special effect that will be inserted in that particular scene. We took it as a challenge for us to always be ready and do the best we can to execute the scene despite not actually seeing the special effect. Like the scene on the cliff, where we had to imagine a cliff. There are certain scenes where we couldn’t imagine the result of the CGI exactly because the thing had not actually existed yet. But Abang Yus explained and guided us through the scenes, like how the CGI effect will turn out. So yeah for me, as an actor, I took it as a challenge.
Yusry Abdul Halim: I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the CGI because there’s still so much. Yes, CGI plays a role in telling the story but it’s actually character driven. So the cast really needs to do their homework, know when to step up, stand out and lay low cause it’s all about teamwork. So everyone plays their role. There’s more to this series than the CGI techniques. Because CGI can only do so much, it really relies on the actors’ performance to execute the scene well, and to make the CGI work.
6. For the cast, what drew you guys to this project?
Diana Danielle: Honestly it was my co-star, Fattah Amin. We worked together before in a project but at the time, I played a supporting role and Fattah was the main character in the drama. So I just felt like I wanted to act with someone who I never had the chance to pair with before. The second thing was of course because of Abang Yusri, he was never my director before this, so, these two people were the biggest reason that drew me in before I got the full script. I just thought that it would be a really interesting combination to try. Another thing is the storyline, I don’t know why but I always get projects involving a non-reality world and fantasy-like storyline. Maybe because of my portrayal in “Magika”, I’m not really sure, but they always relate me with a character that is out of the world. And I had fun doing these kinds of projects. So, “GANJIL” was definitely not a boring project and I thought it’s going to be really fun. It is also my first time working under VIU Original, so everything was very new to me. Personally there’s a lot of new elements for me to explore and that’s why I wanted to try it.
Fattah Amin: For me, it was because of the script. When I first saw and read the script, I instantly fell in love with the storyline. When I dig deeper into Amry’s character, he is a very interesting character, different from the roles that I have played before. And of course, the chance to collaborate with Abang Yusri as director and all the cast that I have never worked with. It’s mostly the character itself that drew me in. Amry’s character makes me feel excited to portray him even before we enter the set to shoot. Prior to starting the shoot, we had a coaching session that for me is very memorable because we rarely got the opportunity (in previous production) to learn with a coach in a coaching session before filming. The coaching session was really useful in getting me to dive deeper into the character and understand the role. There were a lot of things actually that interested me about this “GANJIL” project.
Izzue Islam: It is the same for me. I was drawn into this project because of the script, because of the lineup of cast and the team. This is also my first time working with VIU. I think the concept of “GANJIL” is really unique, and I think it will be a loss if I refuse this opportunity. With this brilliant cast and team along with the brilliant platform, it will be a total loss if I refuse this project. So when I was offered this drama, when I received the script and found out who the cast and the director were, and the role I was playing – I was automatically sold. I instantly thought that this drama would be extraordinary.
7. For Fattah Amin, Diana Danielle and Izzue Islam, how do you describe the chemistry between the three of you?
Fattah Amin: There’s not much problem in terms of my chemistry with Diana because we had this one project together, like she mentioned earlier, at the time we worked as fellow actors in a drama with Diana being the second lead character and I’m the main lead. But of course when we were on set, we needed more of that connection and chemistry together. Before we went on set and shot a scene, we did a lot of discussions, with the guidance from our director, Abang Yus who helped us to really understand the scene before we shoot. So it’s the link between these three elements, the director, the cast and of course, the crew that help to build up the chemistry among us.
Diana Danielle: Like I said earlier, I was so excited when I was given the names of my costars, Izzue and Fattah along with Abang Yus. Although we didn’t know each other really well, I know it was going to be easy to collaborate because we already have some basis of friendship. It felt like I was in a movie set, that was the best part. Everyday I came on set and felt like we were in this huge set with these amazing, professional and capable people so it was a very exciting thing to be a part of.
Izzue Islam: For my character and Diana, the chemistry were already there because we (Izzue and Diana) have worked together a few times before. So we just need to enhance it to build that connection as Nabila and Ihsan. There was also a lot of discussion with Abang Yusri in terms of which scene to highlight, which part to tone it down. As for my chemistry with Fattah, it was my first time shooting with Fattah and our characters are strangers to each other. So, when our scenes intersect, the connection as strangers that our characters have instantly builds up. We are friends off set so of course we did sit down and discuss our respective characters. I can say that each of the characters in “GANJIL” are definitely different. And like Fattah mentioned earlier, the coaching session really helped in building that connection and chemistry between the characters and for us to know our own characters.
8. When and where did the filming take place? How long did it take to finish the whole shoot?
Yusry Abdul Halim: The filming process was too long. I think it started during mid November and we concluded the shooting in March. There were also breaks in between the shoot. We couldn’t do much about it because of the government’s order. There was also a Covid scare from one of the cast. The person was in close contact with a Covid positive individual. So, yeah there were a lot of breaks. We shot the scenes mostly in KL and Selangor. During the pre-production, when we were scouting for locations, those locations were initially approved. But by the time of filming, a lot of those places didn’t allow us to film. So there were a lot of things that we needed to troubleshoot along the way. But I believe things worked out for the better in the end. I always search for the silver lining, because there are things that were not meant to be. So, we shot mainly in KL, but we did some scenes, mainly the dream sequences in a studio in Johor.
9. For Fattah Amin and Diana Danielle, how did you prepare for your role? Were there any references that you drew from in building the character?
Diana Danielle: For me, being an only child, I live in my own imagination most of the time. Like I only had myself and my own head. So, I could relate to Nabila’s loneliness and the fact that she doesn’t want to face reality because it is too boring for her. So, I could definitely relate to that sort of escapism that was happening with Nabila. I was referencing the time when I was younger, during my teen years and childhood especially where there was a lot of loneliness and conflict that was happening during that time. I developed this escapism where I just want to be in my head. So from there, I took that time and I just sort of developed it into a mature version of myself and incorporated it into the character.
Fattah Amin: I took a few references from Korean series, and a few from Hollywood movies. Before we went on set, Abang Yus himself gave me some references that I could refer to for Amry’s character. During the coaching session, we tried to search for the core of Amry’s character and relate it with characters in existing stories. So, that’s how Amry was created.
10. Describe “GANJIL” in three words.
Fattah Amin: Unique, fancy, and mimpi (dream).
Diana Danielle: Mysterious, unpredictable and special.
Izzue Islam: Fun, puzzling, and pitiable.
Watch the trailer of “GANJIL” here:
In collaboration with VIU, Maxis has brought an exclusive early-release of this fantasy drama for Maxis TV audiences on 25th September. Catch the latest Viu Original, where dreams merge with reality, and things get a little bit “GANJIL” this 30th September with two episodes released every week on Thursday until 28th October.
VIU-ers will be able to watch the series on the VIU app as well as on the web at www.viu.com.