Sunday, August 24, 2008

Anatomy of a medical series

Sunday August 24, 2008

A new local TV series aims to provide American-style quality with Malaysian-style flavour.

A LOCALLY produced medical drama that’s like the Emmy- and Golden Globes-winning Grey’s Anatomy? Could that actually happen?

Well, Ntv7 likes to think so. At a recent launch press conference, the channel’s new series, Ampang Medikal, was likened to Anatomy, with its producer saying it offers similar challenges, emotional setbacks, and predicaments doctors in the popular American drama have had to face.

In fact, just like Meredith Grey was at one stage on Anatomy, Ampang Medikal’s lead character, Dr Siti Ayeesah, is torn also between two lovers.

Rusdiana Rusdi, 23, (also known as Diana, currently host of Ntv7’s Whoa!) plays Dr Siti, a reserved woman who upholds traditional values. Yet, she finds herself attracted to two men, paediatrician Dr Jeffrey (played by Mohd Fazlie Abdul Rahim) and surgeon Dr Idris (Nasrizal Ngasri).

As if her complicated love life isn’t enough to contend with, Dr Siti is also going through one of the hardest periods in the journey towards becoming a doctor: the housemanship. Sharing her time at the Ampang Medikal hospital are colleagues Dr Melissa (Julia Ziegler), Sui Chen (Chelsia Ng), and Dr Rajesh (Jag Dave Singh).

‘Ampang Medikal’ premiered on Thursday. You can catch the show every week on that day at 8.30pm on Ntv7. To catch repeats on-line, go to

Well, the elements do sound very similar those that comprise Anatomy, right down to the mixed bunch of people making up an ensemble cast.

But Ampang Medikal isn’t quite the complete clone of the American show, executive producer Keith Chong of Niche Films Sdn Bhd, maintains.

“The exciting thing is the fact that it is a local drama that upholds our own cultural values and beliefs. The show portrays diversity and aims to project the fact that, whatever race one is, one’s blood is still red.”

One reason medical dramas of all forms are so popular with viewers all over the world is that they strike a universal chord, as Chong points out: “All people get sick at some point, most go to hospitals to seek help at some point in their lives. Health problems are generally of interest to all people, no matter what background they come from.”

Apart from that, Chong, thinks the show also has all the ingredients of a great drama: “It has relationships issues, medical issues, concerned family members, death, of course, and many other intricate problems doctors have to deal with,” he says.

For instance, one of the episodes deals with an increasingly common situation in our society today, that of estranged generations: when Dr Siti delivers the bad news of a terminal diagnosis to a patient, she gets to know him better and discovers that he was once a famous, widely travelled photo-journalist who is now alone and estranged from his family.

Impressed by how kind and caring and cheerful the man remains in the face of his terminal illness, Dr Siti decides to find his son and reunite him with his dying father.

“There are some truly heart-rending moments that will leave you wanting more,” says Rusdiana, adding that the series has many interesting subplots such as the difficulties people living with HIV/AIDS face.

And, of course, heart-pounding emergency case scenarios are not left out. Those are particularly difficult for the actors, as they have to spit out all that medical jargon really quickly!

“It has not been easy learning the medical terms and jargon, but I get advise from friends in the medical profession when I need help,” Rusdiana smiles.

“The most difficult part is being serious and professional. Dr Siti is a totally different role from my hosting one, which requires me to be fresh and bubbly.” This has given her the opportunity to grow as an actress, she says.

As the show’s narrator, the young actress does carry a fair bit of weight on her shoulders. But she’s confident she’s up to the job of keeping viewers interested, especially with some help from the complex plotlines on the series and the ensemble acting it requires.

There’s the story arc revolving around Dr Manah (Nor Aliyah Lee), for instance, who is a respected and established cardiologist with great leadership qualities at the hospital but whose personal life is a total wreck. After discovering that her husband has been unfaithful, Dr Manah divorces him, then finds herself vulnerable to the charms of neurologist Dr Amir Shah Stephens (Azhar Sulaiman). What she doesn’t know is that Dr Amir has a dark secret....

And that, there, is exactly what this series is all about to Azhar: the chemistry between the characters.

“It’s what makes the show come alive,” says the actor who loves watching medical dramas.

He was excited when he first heard about Ampang Medikal and was eager to audition for a part: “It’s the first time I’m acting as a doctor and I find it very challenging,” he says, adding, like Rusdiana, that “The hard part is familiarising one’s self with the medical words and terms.”

He adds earnestly that, “It’s going to be a great show. It has really been a good experience for me.”

Interestingly, Azhar’s involvement in Ampang Medikal has sparked a new venture in his life: he recently set up a production house offering quality mock hospital equipment after realising there is a dire need for it in the local film industry.

“It is not easy to get permission to shoot in hospitals (Ampang Medikal managed to shoot some scenes in Assunta Hospital in Petaling Jaya but could do so only on weekends) and I realised that there is a need for such facilities,” the canny actor explains.

The production house – called, appropriately enough, Emergency Room – in Plaza Damas in Sri Hartamas, KL, even has a realistic-looking emergency room!

‘Ampang Medikal’ premiered on Thursday. You can catch the show every week on that day at 8.30pm on Ntv7. To catch repeats on-line, go to

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kak Julia mmg sesuai jadi,bkn dokter perubatan @dokter gigi.Kak Julia Sesuai jd dokter cinta.hahaha......