A towel, an apron and a larger-than-life character. What comes to mind when you put these three words in the same sentence?

Unless you’re from Mars or some other planet where there is no access to the Internet, I’m sure that the name ‘Babu Sinur’ would have popped into your mind.

‘Babu Sinur’ is a beloved Bruneian comedy persona that Kai Japar created a few years back.

Towards the end of this week’s #Neue9to5 interview, I came to the crystal-clear realisation that he’s so much more than just THAT character.

Kai jokingly told Neue that he’s just an “average Joe”, but we all know that is not the case :)

I can honestly say that judging from the tone of the interview, Kai is a Bruneian who is truly dedicated to promoting the local culture and creative art scene.

He first fell in love with the performing arts scene when he was a dancer back in 2008. Over the years, he’s ventured into other creative gigs like theatre and acting. In fact, he was part of the cast who performed in last weekend’s theatrical performance ‘Kastela’ that took place at the Royal Brunei Recreation Club in Berakas.

“My life changed 360 degrees when I first introduced to the world my comedic persona ‘Babu Sinur’ back in 2014,” he said.

When asked what makes him different from others, he said: “Well, there’s no other like me … appearance wise that is. Haha!”

Without further ado, let’s see how he tackles this week’s questions.The First 9 Questions

1. How was life like before you introduced the world to ‘Babu Sinur’?

The pressure was definitely less back then, especially when no one really knew me as I’d always be hiding behind the curtain.

Back then life was simple for ‘Kai Japar’.

Wow! It just occurred to me that I’ve been dancing for almost 11 years now.

2. What was your inspiration behind this character?

The biggest inspiration came from my mom. The people in our village would call her ‘Babu Sinur’.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple … that’s her name!

My mom is a very outgoing person – one who is full of personality.

My portrayal of ‘Babu Sinur’ is a dedication to my amazing mom.

You could say that it’s to celebrate her journey as a great human being.

Another inspiration came from the late Kudil, a local comedian who was not afraid of using ‘Bahasa Melayu Kedayan’ in his acts.

This is the reason why I decided to use ‘Bahasa Melayu Brunei’ as my medium of expression whenever I portray ‘Babu Sinur’.

I want to appreciate our language (Bahasa Melayu Brunei). After all, language is part of our identity.

Then there’s Debra Wilson, an American actress and comedian known for her sassiness and skits in ‘Mad TV’, a sketch comedy television series. It was her “in-your-face” attitude and “flamboyant-ness” that inspired me to create an edgy character that was truly unique.

And last but certainly not least, the inspiration for ‘Babu Sinur’ came from the lives of my neighbours, as well as my childhood memories of when I was living in Brunei’s water village, Kampong Ayer.

3. How different is Kai Japar (you) from your persona ‘Babu Sinur’?

Me and ‘Babu Sinur’ are two very different personalities … like a total 360!

I am a very shy person, to be honest with you.

But I can get hyper and talkative whenever I am with my closest peers.

Hmm … come to think of it … perhaps I am slowly becoming the ‘Babu Sinur’ character! (Well, not completely lah! Haha!)

4. What advice would you give to anyone who wishes to follow in your footsteps?

Be responsible and always give yourself the chance to learn more so that you can improve your craft.

Always do your homework and research before you create any form of content.

Be mentally prepared for the waves of criticism that may come crashing down on you.

Be humble and be different.

Do explore areas that have not been pursued before and step up your own creativity to spice up your content.

5. In your opinion, what are the challenges facing content creators in Brunei?

I would have to say, authenticity and diversity.

People tend to do things that are obvious or mainstream. Look, I’m not saying that’s “bad”, but it would be great if people could think and create something “out of the box”.

I believe there are still gaps that have yet to be explored.

That said, content creators should challenge themselves and take a leap of faith.

My hope is that the general public (audience) would be more appreciative of our local content creators, particularly those who have put in a lot of hard work and effort into their craft.

It’s important to educate others about just how much time and effort is involved in the creative process.

6. Tell us about someone who truly inspires you in life? 

As much as I love my mom, I have to say that the ‘one’ who really inspired me the most is myself.

I know, I know … This may sound kind of arrogant and full of myself. But allow me to explain myself.

It’s truly amazing just how much you yourself can inspire ‘you’.

Every single day, you have got to give yourself the chance to explore and do something out of your comfort zone.

I have learnt that making “mistakes” in life will help you appreciate what it is to be human. You’ll also appreciate all the hard work you’ve done so far.

7. What have you learnt about yourself in the past few years? What were the high and low points?

I’ve learnt to listen to myself. I’ve learnt that it is important to take good care of yourself, especially mentally.

This industry can be tough. After all, we always have to keep pushing to give others the opportunity to showcase their talents and to educate the public that it is vital for everyone to appreciate local talents.

I’ve also learnt that it’s important for us to “create” opportunities rather than waiting for things to happen.

Why? Because we need to sustain this creative platform for our future generations.

The high point of my life’s journey would have to be the very early days of ‘Baby Sinur’, when the character first came to life. To me, this was the ‘birth’ of my persona.

It was indeed overwhelming, but I have absolutely no regrets pursuing this.

My low point would have to be the time when I felt that everything became too overwhelming, especially when I had to deal with hatred and criticism during the early days of ‘Babu Sinur’.

Look, I just want to say that I’m just a guy who is truly passionate about arts and creativity.

All I want is to be able to share this with the people out there and inspire them to let out their creativity and potential.

The journey was tough for me because I didn’t have anyone back then to help me deal with all the negativity.

But thank goodness I survived!

I am thankful for all the amazing people I’ve met along the way who have helped me become the person that I am today.

8. What stories on Neue’s website did you enjoy reading?

I love this “What’s Neue from 9 to 5” segment on this website! I enjoy reading about the life journey of different people and personalities. I find it very therapeutic for me!

*Editor’s note: We here at Neue believe that every person out there has a story to tell. Do you know someone who’d be great for the next interview? If you would like to nominate someone, get in touch with Neue by sending an e-mail here or getting in touch with us via Facebook or Instagram.

9. What would you like to say to all our Neue readers?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I had to say in this #Neue9to5 segment. Apologies if some of the answers were too long :)

I hope that by reading what I had to say here would motivate everyone out there that each of us have an important role to play in life … and that is to SUPPORT each other so that more local content creators can reach their full potential.

The Last 5 Questions

1. What’s your current favourite TV show? And why do you love it? Any plans of a ‘Babu Sinur’ TV sitcom?

I love Netflix’s Stranger Things because it’s just so different! So dark and edgy yet beautiful! I also love the animation ‘Family Guy’. Haha! I just love the show’s unapologetic satire.

And I would LOVE to have a TV sitcom. Hmm, we’ll see about that … after all, we have to CREATE OUR OWN opportunities, right?

Click on the photo to read Neue’s past article – “How Do You Eat Burgers? Upside Down, Of Course!”

2. What’s something that people may find surprising about you?

People think that I’m tall, especially when they’ve only seen me in videos. But more often than not, whenever people meet me in person, they’d be quite surprised that I’m not that tall. 

3. What’s up with the yellow towel?

I’ll let you in on a little secret … I actually wanted to have towels of different colours for other videos.

However, the colour ‘yellow’ was the one that really grabbed people’s attention.

There was one time when I received lots of comments asking me WHY I WASN’T USING MY YELLOW TOWEL. So yeah … yellow towel it is then! 

4. What’s your best memory from your childhood days in Brunei?

Oh my! I absolutely love my childhood memories. It was a time when technology was not the main source of entertainment.

I’m thankful that I managed to enjoy all the 80s and early 90s games and activities.

I can still remember the days when my aunt would lecture me for always coming home late.

Back then, playing fireworks during Hari Raya was amazing!

We’d stay up late, say past midnight, and welcome guests to our homes during the festivities.

However, it’s different these days … Hari Raya celebration in Kampong Ayer isn’t like the old days.

Nowadays, most open houses would be open for guests only up to 8-9pm. I do miss the days of being a kid though!

Click on the photo to read Neue’s past article – “Brunei, What Do You Miss Most During Raya?”

5. You are the director of the next blockbuster movie in Hollywood. Name 3 actors/actresses who would you would like to act alongside with. What would your movie be about?

i. Nabila Huda because she is amazing and a great actress!

ii. Johnny Depp because he is quirky and super talented!

iii. Viola Davis because I have mad respect for her passion and dedication)

And the movie would be about mental health, where we’d get to see what goes on inside the heads of patients and seeing it from their perspective. Yeah! I’d like that movie to be somewhat complicated. Haha!

Click on the photo to read Neue’s past article – “Living With A Mental Illness: Part One”