MOST people would know him as the guy who played the lead character in …Dalam Botol, but who is Arja Lee, really?
His portrayal of Rubidin/Ruby in the controversial film, plus a newspaper report saying that he shot a nude scene for it, made him the talk of the country in 2010.
However, Arja, 28, is totally over that whole episode, and is now fully focused on the final semester for his degree in acting and directing at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in Penang, after which he hopes to become a genuine triple threat in the Malaysian entertainment scene.
Before …Dalam Botol, which was the first film he had ever auditioned for, Arja was a dancer who had graduated from the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Aswara). Prior to that, he had only done some singing and musical theatre.
“I wasn’t born in an artistically-inclined family,” said Arja in an interview recently.
“I’m lucky to have this talent. In Malaysia, there are so few artistes who can dance, sing and act. Me? I can dance, I can sing, and I’m now exploring acting. Someday, I hope to be brilliant in all three artform.”
Instead of taking advantage of the hype surrounding …Dalam Botol, Arja decided to complete his studies, even turning down other movie roles that were offered to him.
These days, he spends most of his time in Penang where he lives on campus, and teaches dance part-time at a school.
“I believe a lot in education. I’m not saying you can’t be successful if you don’t study, but as long as you have the opportunity, why not grab the chance to learn more?” he said.
Once he’s done with his degree, however, Arja plans to go all out.
He has big dreams, like starting his own dance school in his hometown of Kuala Lumpur, recording his own album, taking on more challenging film roles, and even making the cover of Men’s Health magazine.
But in order to move forward, Arja is hoping to put the whole …Dalam Botol controversy behind him.
Even though he says he was misquoted by the newspaper that reported the nude scene (he says he only disrobed to get in character for a shower scene, but was not actually naked while shooting the scene that made the final cut), he still takes the incident as a “positive experience”, and apologises if his actions had offended anyone.
“I can’t argue and say that what I did wasn’t a mistake,” he said. “Maybe it would have been acceptable in another country, but I am in Malaysia, and I am a Muslim, which is why I have to say sorry.
“But I believe Malaysians will forgive you when you make your first mistake. Just make sure you don’t make a third, fourth or fifth one!”
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