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Ai-Ai goes straight drama in Ronda

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - July 31, 2014 - 12:00am

This time, Ai-Ai delas Alas won’t tickle your funny bone. In Ronda, an entry in the New Breed Section of the 2014 Cinemalaya (which kicks off tomorrow; participating films may be seen at the CCP, Alabang Town Center, Trinoma and Greenbelt), Ai-Ai goes straight drama.

“Yes,” Ai-Ai- confirmed over a home-cooked dinner on a drizzly Wednesday night at her house in an uppity Quezon City subdivision. “It’s my first indie film, my first straight drama, my first time to produce an indie. Maraming ‘firsts.’ It’s also my first movie with Cesar Montano. Everybody is saying, ‘Uy, gawa tayo ng indie film,’ so I became curious. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, subukan ko nga.”

It took Ai-Ai a roundabout way to pin down Cesar for the movie.

“I kept calling him up and texting him but he never answered,” said Ai-Ai who had been telling the movie press that she was looking forward to her “torrid” love scene with Cesar. According to Cesar’s manager Shirley Pizarro (one of the 10 writers invited by Ai-Ai to her home), “Cesar was worried how the love scene would be shot,” so he avoided Ai-Ai like the plague until they found themselves on the same flight to Zamboanga for a show. “Na-corner ko siya,” recalled Ai-Ai, “at hindi na siya naka-hindi.”

Ai-Ai could have done an indie early on, when she was offered a role as a battered wife by Brillante Mendoza, but the project was not pushed through.

In Ronda (which cost P2.5 million to make), directed by relative newcomer Nick Olanka from a screenplay by Adolf Alix Jr., Ai-Ai plays a policewoman on graveyard shift (with co-star Carlos Morales as partner cop), making the rounds of Manila in the process, laying bare residents with myriad problems (drug addiction, prostitution, petty thievery, etc.) even as she herself can hardly cope with her own — a truant closet-homosexual young son (played by Julian Trono), an absentee husband (Mon Confiado as an OFW in Dubai), corrupt police superiors and her needs as a woman (temporarily relieved in a motel tryst with a guidance counselor, played by Cesar). The film takes the viewer on a virtual journey around Manila by night.

Doing the love scene was piece of cake for Ai-Ai who was the active partner and Cesar the passive one. Cesar had needed not worry about the “torrid” love scene because it was done in good taste, passionate but tender, lasting no more than five minutes on screen. Cesar’s appearance in Ronda is short but memorable.

“Only Cesar fits the role,” said Ai-Ai. “On the plane, I convinced him na siya lang ang bagay d’un, siya lang ang makakagawa n’un.”

What was difficult to shoot was the scene showing Ai-Ai chasing a young snatcher (played by Carlo Aquino) around Lawton and the Jones Bridge area, which took hours to finish, making Ai-Ai beg direk Nick after the fourth take, “Tama na, hindi na ako makatakbo.”

Since she was busy with the Kapamilya fantasy-adventure Dyesebel most of the week and could shoot for Ronda only on weekends, Ai-Ai was ready to collapse from exhaustion and lack of sleep as soon as she reported to the set. In one scene where she had to sleep, after the take those around couldn’t wake her up. It turned out that Ai-Ai had drifted into a sweet deep slumber and they let her be. “Nagising ako umaga na,” laughed Ai-Ai. “Sa gabi kami palagi nagsho-shoot kasi nga pulis akong nagro-ronda sa gabi.”

To internalize the role, Ai-Ai said she simply recalled the actuations and movements of the police bodyguards assigned to her during the resolution of her case against her ex-husband (of less than one year) Jed Salang. She also has women friends in the police service.

Direk Nick, 31, guided Ai-Ai on her maiden seven-day indie journey.

“We really got along well even if it’s our first time to work together,” related Nick.

Bona fide member of the new breed of serious directors to watch, Nick was still studying Film at UP when she directed the indie Huling Araw ng Linggo (with Johnny Delgado and Boots Anson-Roa), his first Cinemalaya entry in 2006. A Star Cinema exec saw it and was so impressed by it that she recruited Nick and, after having him trained by Marilou Diaz-Abaya for two years, asked him to direct episodes (more than one dozen so far) for Charo Santos-Concio’s long-running, top-rated drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK). A few soaps followed (one of them Apoy sa Dagat).

“Magaan siya i-direk,” Nick said of Ai-Ai. “After only the second day, we felt like we had known each other for a long time.”

After dinner, Ai-Ai invited us to watch a screening of a rough copy of Ronda, minus the soundtrack, musical scoring and other technical aspects. Even then, the movie was as good as complete. Ai-Ai is indeed different from all her previous films. She isn’t acting at all; she’s very natural even in her scene where she cracks up over her son’s tragic ending, very restrained from beginning to end. Very “un-Ai-Ai,” very likely to figure prominently during the Cinemalaya awards night.

As an indie greenhorn, Ai-Ai bore in mind what direk Nick had told her.

“Acting in an indie is different from acting in a mainstream movie, malaki ang pagkaka-iba,” observed Ai-Ai. “Sa mainstream, spoiled ka; marami kang PA (Production Assistant). Sa indie, mga-ilaw-ilaw namin, okey na kung ano lang ang nandyan. Sa mainstream, uma-anggulo ka sa kamera. Sa indie, sabi ni direk Nick, ‘Just go ahead, keep on walking even if the camera is behind you; basta, sige ka lang nang sige, natural ka lang.’”

The result is impressive.

I won’t be surprised if Ai-Ai gets hooked on indie.

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

ADOLF ALIX JR. AI-AI CESAR CINEMALAYA INDIE NICK RONDA
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