DATUK Ahmad Tamimi Siregar, undeniably one of the country’s best known faces on television, cinemas and theatres, is in the kitchen.
“I am making pasta aglio olio,” announced the actor, director and producer.
The 66-year-old does not take it easy with the oil despite the fact that he has two stents in his heart. He insists olive oil is good for health, but this writer suspects he is not the type to sacrifice flavour for anything else.
Responding earlier to comments on the pressure for actors to sport six packs and actresses to be slim, the former assistant director of Istana Budaya, who has almost six decades of experience in the local performing arts scene, said it would not bother him if anyone pokes fun at his generous gut.
“I don’t care. If I’m fat, I’m fat. I think it adds character. Where are you going to find an actor like me?” said Ahmad Tamimi, who is clearly very comfortable in his own skin.
One reason why the audience don’t see him as much now is because Ahmad Tamimi is more involved behind the scenes.
“I have never slowed down,” said Ahmad Tamimi on his career.
In fact, he has gone full circle. He not only acts but directs and produces. As head of his own production company, he is also very involved in pre-production work, which includes scouting for locations and casting actors in telemovies.
The silver-haired actor later sat down to watch the editing of his latest production, Baju Raya Tak Berwarna (BRTB), a telemovie starring singer Elly Mazlien, Fadilah Mansor and himself.
The story written by Nasaruddin Abd Rasif tells of a rape victim who gives her child up to another couple to escape the stigma of being an unwed single mother.
In this RM100,000 production headed by his company, True Legacy, Ahmad Tamimi directs and produces a drama where unspoken dialogue has the ability to convey a thousand words. As the plot unfolds, so does the build-up of emotions. The audience will fish out their hankies for this one.
“This is a slow movie,” said Ahmad Tamimi, who professes to favour such a pacing.
Much of the actor’s real self is ingrained in the characters he plays in every drama – the loving husband, the concerned father. An everyday regular bloke who tries his best to make everybody happy. And it’s all carried across in his focused and intense signature acting style.
Halfway through the movie, his wife Datin Zulhaila tells editor Shamsul Zain to press pause when she spotted a hitch with the continuation.
“She is very critical of other people’s work. This is why she has to be careful with our productions,” said Ahmad Tamimi, who has been running the company with Zulhaila by his side since 1997.
But unlike the earlier productions, BRTB is by far the most frustrating project for the couple because Zulhaila is now wheelchair-dependent.
She had to be attached to an oxygen concentrator when her emphysema became serious last January. Ahmad Tamimi is now 60-year-old Zulhaila’s main caregiver.
The couple have been together for almost three decades. Ahmad Tamimi is hopeful Zulhaila’s health will improve and pampers her with massages.
Workwise, he did not mince his words when asked what he thought of the new generation of actors.
“They are more concerned about being popular. But when it comes to acting, they are not convincing. I put the blame on lack of rehearsal time. I know of big productions who only give the cast a month to rehearse. That’s not enough,” he said.
As an actor, Ahmad Tamimi says one should be versatile. Fans may know him for his acting but the man can also sing. In 2014, he cut a tribute CD to Indonesian composer, songwriter and musician Ismail Marzuki.
“So that he can be versatile, an actor should know a bit of silat, be able to dance and sing. So, if a role requires any of these disciplines, his movements would not look odd,” said Ahmad Tamimi, who has even played the part of a transgender singer in the span of his career.