updated 28 May 2014, 02:55
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Wed, Jan 08, 2014
The Sunday Times
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Sani's sister comes into her own
by Yip Wai Yee

Who: Sani Hussin, 39, and Rosita Hussin, 38, actors

For the longest time, actress Rosita Hussin was known as "Sani's sister".

Her elder brother Sani, 39, is a stage and television actor with 21 years of experience. Best known as a national service boy in army drama Soldadu (1998), for which he won a Pesta Perdana award for Best New Actor, he had already gained a following by the time Rosita started her television career in 2004.

Says the actress, 38, with a laugh: "So I was always 'Sani's sister, Sani's sister'. And when people used to call me that, I would get a little annoyed. I have a name, you know."

Before joining MediaCorp's Suria channel in 2004, she worked as a flight stewardess for eight years.

She started acting at the age of 15 and appeared in several plays staged by Malay theatre company Teater Kami.

After years of being in her brother's shadow, she was happy to be finally recognised as a performer in her own right: In 2011, she won Best Supporting Actress at Pesta Perdana for the family drama Pinggiran Ramadan (Ramadan Blessings).

"People see me as an individual, as my own person now," she says. "They started calling me by my name and make the effort to know who I am, so that's nice."

At the same awards show in 2011, Sani won the Best Supporting Actor award for the same television drama. Last year, both were nominated again for the second season of the same drama, in the same categories. But only Rosita walked away with a prize.

"It's nice to get the limelight all to myself for once," she says in jest.

"But no, I mean, the thing about awards is that it's nice if we win, but if we don't, it doesn't matter. Whether or not Sani wins an award, I'm so proud of his work. It's just that when you have a brother who's also acting, people tend to compare the two of us."

Sani agrees: "Yeah, that's how it is when you have a family member who is also in the industry. But we don't really get competitive with each other.

"But maybe that's because we're male and female, which means we get different roles. If we had been girl-girl or boy-boy, I'm not sure if that would have changed things."

He is grateful to his sister as she was the one who introduced him to acting.

A cast member had pulled out from Teater Kami's Anak Melayu (Malay Children), the 1992 play in which Rosita, then 17, was acting as "an innocent but secretly rebellious girl", she recalls. So she "dragged" her brother in as a replacement, to play the role of a gangster.

He says: "Actually, she just used me. Our mother was very strict and would nag at her for coming home late every night from drama rehearsals, so she dragged me in to be with her.

"If I came back late with her, our mother would not nag as much because she wouldn't be so worried about Rosita's safety."

As much as Sani says he "hated" the first rehearsal session - "everyone knew how to do all the facial exercises except me and I felt left out" - he realised that he not only had a knack for acting, but he also enjoyed it.

"I used to be all about sports, you know, like football and stuff like that. Arts was considered uncool," he recalls.

After treading the boards for the first time, he was hooked. So much so that he ended up going to Lasalle College of the Arts to get a diploma in drama, followed by a bachelor's degree in theatre studies from Queensland University.

Besides acting, he has directed plays too. In 2006, he helmed Pintu (Malay for "door") by Teater Ekamatra, about religious extremism and terrorism in Singapore.

"I guess I found where my heart truly lies. When I played football, I did it because that's what boys do, but my heart wasn't in it," he says.

These days, the siblings remain very close. They are the only children of a housewife and a retired marine surveyor.

Rosita is married to a leading flight steward, 40, and has three kids aged three to 12, while Sani, who is married to an administrative assistant, 35, has no children.

Says Rosita: "We meet up for coffee and we go on holidays together. But we don't really talk about work. We try to keep our work lives and our personal lives separate."

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