No small feat

Emelda Rosmila talks about her chubby character, Manja, in TV3’s hit series, Manjalara. 

Emelda Rosmila piled on 10kg within two weeksto play Manja. – Pix by NORAFIFI EHSAN

Children call her the “chubby sister” and the adults root for her as she faces growing up without loving parents. 

That’s Manja for you, the chubby character in Manjalara who won over viewers’ hearts soon after the series was aired on TV3. Viewership hit a million after just a few episodes.  

For Emelda Rosmila, 27, the high ratings make all the effort of playing the lovable Manja worth it.  

She was 47kg a few months ago but had to balloon to 57kg within two weeks to play Manja.  

For her role, Emelda took about two weeks to read the script and conduct research on the character. 

Even though the 75-episode Manjalara was loosely based on the popular Venezuelan series, Mi Gorda Bella, the production team under director Kabir Bhatia of famed movie Cinta has adapted it to suit local sensitivities. 

The original 178-episode Mi Gorda Bella (2000-2003) tells the story of Valentina, a young, hefty woman who wins the affection of those around her. 

To prepare for her role, Emelda watched movies and dramas featuring overweight girls to fully understand their ups and downs. 

“I made it a point to watch a few episodes of Mi Gorda Bella because I didn’t want to end up imitating the character in the series. I wanted to come up with my own identity.” 

In Manjalara, Manja is an overweight girl who lives with her aunt’s family after the death of her parents. Her aunt is envious of the wealth she will inherit once she reaches 18. 

“Manja is the biggest role I have played to date and the positive response from viewers makes me feel really good. But it isn’t an easy role to carry,” said Emelda who has acted in more than 40 dramas.  

Emelda has to observe how chubby people talk, walk, eat and live their lives. 

“It was tough and Kabir (the director) paid attention to details and nothing escaped him.  

“Sometimes, while donning the fat suit, I got pretty upset with the teasing from friends. The worst part was when some fans came up to me and asked whether I was the real Emelda. 

“I guess the fat suit was so real that fans couldn’t see that I was wearing one. 

“But I’m happy playing Manja because she is such a lovely person, with a heart of gold.” 

Even the fat suit wasn’t enough as Emelda had to put on an extra 10kg.  

“I ate too much sometimes that I felt like throwing up. Initially, I was worried that I would not be able to shed those extra kilos. But Khabir agreed to send me for slimming sessions after we completed the shooting,” said the Ipoh-born Emelda.  

“It was great working alongside other good artistes, especially Sheila Rusly and Mustapha Kamal who taught me a lot,” said Emelda whose acting credits include dramas Gila-Gila Pengantin, Sephia, Segalanya Berubah, Marikas, Hatiku Di Sini and Jangan Tak Jadi, and movie Cinta Terakhir. 

She added that her involvement in acting was accidental. She had accompanied actress Aida Aris for a shoot seven years ago when she was roped in to replace an actress who pulled out at the last minute.  

“Aida encouraged me to give it a try. I was quite hestitant because I didn’t have any acting experience. Anyway, I decided to give it a try. That’s how my interest in acting started,” she recalled. 

From then on, Emelda was offered supporting roles, which she didn’t mind. 

“Playing small roles was fine with me because I would like to learn from scratch. I also hosted a couple of TV shows such as Interzone and Siapa Dia?, said Emelda who is now dating actor Adlin Aman Ramli. 

Emelda has learnt to cope with the glamour and glitzy aspects that come with being an actress. 

“I’m quite prepared for it, and having my sister (actress Emelia Rosnaida, who is married to artiste AC Mizal) by my side, also helped.”  

Manjalara airs on TV3 from Mondays to Thursdays at 6.30pm.