Perhaps it is this superficial features
that have won her opportunities in the local show business industry, which has not
been particularly kind to fresh faces, especially faces from across the Causeway.
Or perhaps, it is her aura that has predestined her to be Malaysia's new silver screen
star. Growing up, her aspirations were quite simple - finish her diploma in computer
studies and then, work towards some sort of entrepreneurship.
But the aura that surrounds her would not allow
that. At 18, she was spotted at Orchard Road by a talent scout from a teenage magazine.
In her trademark "short hair, T-shirt, and jeans and looking like a tomboy as
usual," she was asked if she wanted to model for the magazine.
She declined, but later called them up out of
curiosity and also because she "wanted to earn some extra money." On her
first modelling stint, she made covergirl. That was her first crack at the limelight.
She earned a thousand Singapore dollars, several gifts and hampers, and enough exposure
to lead her on to another plateau.
Next, she was spotted by producers from Singapore
Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), and was asked to host a SBC magazine programme. In
1992, a year after she posed for the teen magazine, she went for the audition and
got her first television job. Her forth-nightly Potret Keluarga series continue to
run with audience reaching numbers as high as 300,000, while her modelling career
continued the way it started.
Then in August 1994, the Norish Karman aura would
take over again. A local female Bahasa Malaysia magazine featured her on the front
cover and that quickly developed into another big career opportunity for her. Mahadi
J Murad, one of Malaysia's most respected new-generation directors, saw her on the
cover of the magazine and instantly picked her for the lead role of the eventually,
hugely successful period movie, Sayang Salmah.
She was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress
at the 12th Malaysian Film Festival the following year. Although she did not win
the award, she did win another starring role in Datuk Rahim Razali's latest film,
That's two starring roles in her first two major
motion pictures. The first one won her critical acclaim, although the local media
is still on a wait-and-see mode to see how she performs in Iman...Alone. The movie
is set to be released at the end of the year.
Her rise has been nothing less than meteoric,
and is leaving even herself to wonder what has made her so spot-able. "I have
thought about it, but it has never been that in depth. Sometimes, in life, we can't
question things too much. Just let it happen," she says.
Pressed to think about it further, she talks
about luck and how opportunities had been opened to her that gave her the vital breaks.
She made sure that the breaks were not squandered by working hard and ensuring high-quality
Then, she arrives at another conclusion. "Maybe
it is more than luck. Maybe the word is 'gifted'. Some people are gifted to be an
academic genius. Why can't people also look at this as a gift from God too?"
Norish, whose father is of Indonesian lineage
and mother of Arabic, thinks that her physical appeal are just superficial features,
and it really have been her intangible qualities that has won her so many assignments.
Her confidence is certainly not lacking. She may still
be considered a new face in Malaysia, but she wants people to know that there's a
lot more to her than the starring roles that she had taken in her first two movies.
"I would rather say that I have a lot more to learn than say that I am fresh,"
Norish says. "(Being in front of the) Camera is nothing new to me. Meeting up
with new people is nothing new to me. Communicating with people from all walks of
life is nothing new to me since I am also a broadcast journalist."
"So, I am not new in that sense," she
says in a spontaneous attempt to prove her credibility.
She tries to defend her ground ferociously, and
it probably has to do with the initial hostility shown by the Malaysian press towards
her. During one press conference, she was curtly told by a group of Malay media reporters
present to speak in Malay since no English media reporters were around that could
excuse her from responding in English. She obliged, but she has become more careful
The Singapore passport that she holds has also
subjected her to some shoddy treatment by the Malaysian media, which has largely
been very protective of the local film industry from foreign invasion (Norish also
holds a Malaysian permanent residence status). She has had to feel her way through
it, and must have put in quite a bit of thought before she came to this explanation,
in what appears to be a superb demarch: "Singapore is my country, and Malaysia
is my hometown."
"We (family) are always visiting Malaysia.
Now, I am working here," she says. "Malaysia is not new to me. My father
is Malaysian, and we are supposed to know that part of him too."
She has remained resilient and upright since
coming "back" to Malaysia to pursue an acting career. Often she may often
come across as almost hubristic, or just merely self-assuring, depending on how one
looks at it.