Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Coco back in his comfort zone

source: philstar.com

Manila, Philippines - Coco Martin has returned to indie following an almost four-year hiatus from where it all began for him as an actor.

Coco last made indie films in 2009 with Kinatay (which won Brillante Mendoza the Cannes Best Director) as the most prominent. In between that time and the present, Coco, who earned the tag “indie prince” because of his body of work, has managed to cross over to the mainstream through commercially successful films and top-rating TV series including the ongoing Walang Hanggan.

But you can take the boy out of the indie country, but never the indie out of the boy. “Indie is something I will not let go of and forget because that is where I started. May utang na loob ako sa indie. I really enjoy doing it. It’s work but every time I do an indie, it doesn’t feel like work,” says the boyish-looking actor, who turns 31 this year.

Despite his busy schedule, doing an indie again wasn’t a matter of right timing; he was simply waiting for the right project. Coco found it in Santa Niña, Emmanuel Quindo Palo’s first feature film and entry to the New Breed Full Length category of this year’s Cinemalaya.

In Santa Niña, Coco plays the father of a young girl who died in 1995 when lahar submerged a town in Pampanga. Ten years later, her body is accidentally exhumed. It is discovered that her body didn’t decompose, shocking locals and leading them to believe that she is miraculous.

As so begins the crusade of Coco’s character to push for his daughter’s sainthood. “He thinks it will liberate him, it will forgive him from the ‘sin’ that they committed in the past,” explains direk Emmanuel, a seasoned TV director who’s now helming the ABS-CBN afternoon soap Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo.

He adds, “The film deals with religion, definitely (since) it’s a major part of our life as Filipino people and as a Christian country. I also want a film that is really Filipino in sensibility. And I think, well hopefully, the film captures that sensibility. And when you talk of miracles, you can’t take out religion. But I don’t want people to read my film as a religious text. The film is also about love, relationships, family.”

This is also what made Coco give his yes to Santa Niña, not just as an actor, but also as a producer — although he entrusted most of the production concerns to direk Emmanuel whom, he says, knew better.

The physical demands of his role were another story. “Napakahirap, nakaka-drain ng energy because it was really hot, there were so many people (they average more than 100 extras a day with the scenes being big by indie standards), then you have to act. Then we had to consider the budget,” Coco shares.

He also juggled the film shoot with his Walang Hanggan tapings.

His director says, “Actually, I admire his energy. He’d be coming from his Walang Hanggan tapings at around 3 a.m. Then his call-time with me is at 8 a.m. in Pampanga. He’d just take a shower and go directly to our set. Sometimes, I tell him to rest. In indie productions, we don’t have any luxuries so he would even stay under the shade of the tree, or the bahay kubo where we’d be shooting.”

For Coco though, it was worth it.

“It’s a new territory and interesting story, paano nag-struggle yung character ko, yung connection to family, (its story of) love,” he says.

“When I read the script, I couldn’t put it down. Actually, when I read scripts, as much as possible, I don’t want to read them entirely kasi ayokong ma-predict yung acting na gagawin ko. But I couldn’t stop reading it.

“Siguro this is the project I’ve long waited for. This is what I’ve been looking for. Feeling ko, kahit hindi naman ako kumita ng malaki, I know that what I’ve done is meaningful.”

When pointed out to him that Santa Niña is a departure from the daring themes of his previous films (where he did some nudity), he says, “For me, alam ko na lahat ng ginawa ko, kahit ganoon ang themes, mapag-mamalaki ko. Yung mga ginagawa namin nung mga panahon na yun, dahil hindi naman napapansin sa Pilipinas at napapansin naman siya sa abroad, hindi ko na pinapakialaman yung opinion ng ibang tao.”

He reasons he’s not in the business to cultivate a certain image, but he’s particular with his filmmography. “As long as the project is good, and I want to do it, I will do it. I don’t want to put limitations on myself because if I do that, that will be start of the end of my career.”

Direk Emmanuel, on the other hand, relates that he thought he would be having a hard time getting the likes of Coco and the rest of the cast (Alessandra de Rossi, Angel Aquino, Anita Linda, Irma Adlawan, Nanding Josef, etc.) to star in his first film.

“Since this is my first film, akala ko mahihirapan ako to look for a producer or actors but I was surprised because a lot volunteered to be part of it!” says Emmanuel. “I think our actors are aspiring for roles that they could plunge into, roles against their typecast, roles for their soul. Just like Coco. Kumbaga, he already achieved yung gusto nyang ma-achieve na halos 99 percent gustong ma-achieve ng nag-a-artista — his show is No. 1 on primetime, his last (Star Cinema) film did well, and it was as mainstream as you can get. I mean why would you go back to (indie) that doesn’t pay and is difficult to do considering his schedule?”

For Coco, money has never been an issue when doing independent films. Indies afford him a different kind of fulfillment as an actor because “there’s no compromise. Kasi ’pag mainstream nandun yung compromise kasi para sa akin, dun papasok yung negosyo,” he says, adding that “when I started out in indies, I never asked how much will I earn from a film, but I would ask what the story is all about, who is the director... Actually even with the casting, I’m not really particular. I’m more into the concept. Because for me, whoever you put in there, if the concept is good, everything will follow.”

When told that many budding actors look up to him as their inspiration, he admits that there’s also a downside to his story.

He shares that sometimes, he gets to talk to some new talents, who are trying to break in through the indie route, and he learns that “na may mga producers or directors na ginagamit ako na parang sinasabi, si Coco Martin nga naghubad, at tingnan mo ang narating. Siempre nasasaktan ako sa mga ganyan. Why do they do that? It makes me sad.”

Nevertheless, it feels good to be an inspiration to newcomers. “(Kasi) isa din akong nangarap na di pinansin, kasi maliit ako, maitim, ordinaryo naman ang itsura ko, pero nung dumadating na sa akin yung pagkakataon, nag-aral ako, ine-enjoy ko, hindi ko iniisip na artista ako o sisikat ako. I really studied how a film is made. I really try to understand the entire process. Later on, nagbunga lahat.”

Having experienced the best of both worlds, so to speak, Coco isn’t telling which weighs with more importance for him. What he is sure of is that “I will do my job well and I am focused. I don’t arrive on the set just as an artist. I cooperate in the story, with the production, because this deepens my interest in my job as an actor.”

When he’s done with a job, especially if it becomes a success, he doesn’t try to linger in its glory, but moves on to the next opportunity. “For me, it’s always ‘What’s next?’ Habang dumadating yung mga blessings, ayokong pakawalan. I cannot wait to do what’s next kasi ang tagal ko ring nag-antay.”

Catch the screenings of Santa Niña in the Cinemalaya 2012 until July 28. For details, call the CCP Box Office (832-3704), TicketWorld (891-9999) or log on to cinemalaya.org.

source: philstar.com

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