When Nabila Huda was growing up, she hardly saw her father. Her formative years were spent with her grandmother in Johor, where her father would visit her once a month.
“Sometimes I would come up to KL and spend a week, or two to three days with Papa,” Nabila, now 31, recalled.
“We would go to the movies, shop or just eat together. He hardly had free time then,” she shared.
She added that the time she spent with her father didn’t consist of much chatting. “He was a shy person, and so was I. So we didn’t talk much back then.”
Nabila’s father is singer Amy, the frontman of the popular band Search which ruled the local music charts in the 1980s and much of the 1990s.
Fortunately, it’s a different story these days.
Nabila, who is now an accomplished actress, visits her father almost every weekend where she enjoys some of her favourite dishes cooked by Amy!
What are her favourites dishes by dad? “All ... everything that he cooks! Asam pedas daging. Sambal sardin. His nasi goreng is also delicious. Papa is an amazing cook,” answered Nabila, with a happy laugh.
“We talk a lot more too. He has become my shoulder to cry on especially where work is concerned.”
Although Amy’s time as a singer is far from over – he is currently embroiled in a case resulting in the cancellation of Search 35 Years Celebration Concert – he says that his days are usually spent in the company of his family.
Amy has five children from four different marriages, with Nabila being the eldest. Amy is presently married to Norhasniza Hassan, better known as Norish, and together are parents to Alexander Zulkarnain, 12, Sania Samara, 11, and seven-year-old Qaqa At-Tameemi. He has one more daughter, who lives overseas with her mother. In 2010, Amy became a grandfather when Nabila gave birth to her daughter Keisha Laila.
“I wake up early to send the children to school. In the afternoon, I fetch them. They all have different schedules, so I am always busy fetching them individually,” shared Amy, before rattling off the kids’ various pick up times on different days, including Keisha’s.
“Early on in my career, I was just focused on my work and didn’t have much time to be with my children,” he admitted. “I am glad, today at 58, I can still watch my children grow up. It’s the best time of my life.”
For Star2’s photoshoot, Nabila turned up with her husband Mohd Izwan Johar (aka Bert), a restaurateur. Soon after, Amy arrived with Norish, Qaqa and Keisha.
As it happens, both Nabila’s and Amy’s spouses are also their respective managers, so their presence is understandable. However, even under this professional circumstance, none of them felt the need to exercise caution letting loose some good-natured ribbing as family members do.
During the shoot, Bert cracked jokes making his wife laugh, providing us with some of the more candid shots. At one point of the conversation too, Norish off-handedly said that Nabila should really launch her singing career as she can sing ... to which Nabila pouted and Amy grinned.
Nabila moaned at our interview: “I can’t sing! I don’t have that talent. Papa and mummy are always asking me to sing, even though I have told them that it’s not my passion. I love my job as an actress.
“Maybe I can sing, but I will never do it in public because I can never remember the lyrics. I can remember 10 or 20 pages of script, but not lyrics. Even Papa’s songs, when there is a sing-along, there will be a line or two I won’t remember. So I just end up humming.”
However, this is not at all why she chose to become an actress; Nabila actually stumbled into it. “I auditioned to become a model, but I am too short for it.”
She was then called to audition for a part in the straight-to-DVD film Blok 404. “I didn’t like acting at first, but after my second and third movies – all of which went straight to DVD, and with director Silver Chung – I started to enjoy acting. Now I love it.”
When Nabila told her father she got an acting job, he wasn’t too pleased. “It was because I was still very young then, only 17. But he allowed me to try it anyway,” remembered Nabila.
Amy acknowledged being surprised when his daughter chose acting. Although he is a big deal in the local entertainment scene, Amy had never allowed Nabila to be exposed to it until she was in her teens. Nabila’s first public outing with her father, the singer, was when she was 16, attending the Anugerah Industri Muzik.
Even to this day, Amy stated he hardly shows any of his children videos of him performing although they’re readily available online. “I don’t play my songs at home. So, they don’t see me as a performer. They are curious why everyone wants to take photos with me.”
One of the downsides to being famous is being under scrutiny all the time. When Nabila got in hot soup for a couple of her actions in her early 20s – including a khalwat incident which she prefers to leave in the past – she didn’t want to talk to the press about it. But, much to her chagrin, she discovered reporters would ask her father for a comment instead.
Nabila said: “My rationale was, if I gave a statement (about the incident), then the issue would become even bigger. So, I’d rather not talk about it. When they asked Papa personally, that’s not right. I used to get angry about this. Now I see it’s part of my life (as a celebrity).”
When Amy was asked why he spoke on Nabila’s behalf, he replied: “She is an artiste and I am an artiste, whether we like it or not, we are public figures. I am also her father, I have to take responsibility ... it’s my duty to face the problem.
“But as I always tell her, we are humans too. We make mistakes, we can’t run away from that. The best we can do is apologise and learn from them.”
With such a strong support system, Nabila is a much more grounded person these days with a clear focus on her family and career. At the premiere of her film Munafik back in February, she was accompanied by none other than her dad.
Amy declared: “I am proud of my eldest daughter. She works very hard and has shown marked improvements at acting from when she started. I’d say, she is now one of the best actresses in the market.”
Father knows best.