“Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve done this,” says Datuk Hans Isaac as he strikes a pose for the camera.
Having recently stepped back from being the man in front of the camera after a fairly successful 28 years in the film industry, the former model, actor, producer and director is now looking at different pastures.
“Sad to say that over the years, the biggest change in the local film industry was the film format evolution from 35mm analogue to digital,” says Hans.
Having since taken on bigger responsibilities behind the camera aside from the usual film cameo for his industry friends, the opportunity soon came for him in April 2019 to really make a difference through leadership as the National Film Development Corporation of Malaysia (FINAS) chairman.
His team encompassed highly qualified board directors such as Exim Bank’s chairman, a lawyer from Zane & Co, Media Prima’s head of legal, CEO of Iskandar Studios, high-ranking officers from the Multimedia Development Corporation, industry players and cinema representatives, but Hans’ tenure was cut short to only 14 months when the sudden Sheraton Move in late February of last year resulted in an abrupt change of government.
“Me and the new board of directors had worked for nine months but held the position for 14. We were side-lined for the last five months before we got terminated,” reveals Hans.
Despite that, Hans says that his board managed to do a lot of cleaning up in terms of their internal documentation, resolving 10 Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission cases from the previous occupancy, and sorting finances back in order that had the Ministry of Finance commending that it was the best audit that FINAS had ever delivered.
“It wasn’t about a witch hunt for us. We had short-term and long-term goals including working on amending the dated laws of the FINAS Act. We were focused on the restructuring of various film associations and getting new measures for the cinemas as well as tax rebates,” says Hans who said it was no easy task to achieve this, having to sit in gruelling 10 to 12-hour board meetings that took place twice a month.
“In our board meetings, I know there was an individual or two who were discussing our private matters out of the room. That got out to the industry and was utilised against us,” reveals Hans.
“But the people who went against me then, have all come back to me today and apologised saying that they’ve made a mistake. It’s sad, because these kinds of things happen so often that you’ll never be able to sustain two terms to get things done properly.”
All was not for naught though, as Hans feels thankful that even after his termination, he managed to meet the Chief Minister of Selangor to bring down the entertainment tax for cinemas in Selangor from 25 per cent to 15 per cent.
“That is my contribution to the industry. After all this, I’m not interested to pursue anything with FINAS at the moment. Let them carry out what they’ve promised to do. We will see what happens in the near future.”
Currently, Hans is focusing all of his time and energy on his grassroots movement, Kita Budak Ampang (KBA).
“I said to myself that I would not take a single ringgit from FINAS. So when I was asked to leave, I went to my accountant and asked how much FINAS had paid me for the past 14 months. I then called over some film crew members and makeup artists that were struggling due to the pandemic to our office, and distributed all the money back into the industry.”
Citing that it felt good to help those in need, Hans found that he wanted to do more and what better place to start than in his hometown Ampang that he has lived in for the past 40 years.
“KBA is not just about Ampang. It’s also about the people of Ampang helping people beyond Ampang too,” explains Hans.
Some of the initiatives undertaken by the organisation were to help B40 groups with provisions. KBA had also volunteered during the floods in Pahang, sending trucks of food and clothing to those in need.
“There are nine people who work in my office for KBA, but the volunteers that support us are in the thousands. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are right now,” he says.
The self-funded movement is currently keeping Hans’ efforts going, but he expects it to dry up soon and so he is looking for the public to support them.
“KBA can definitely continue to help a lot of people. This is a long-term thing and I have no intention of keeping this short term,” says Hans.
As a personality under the spotlight, it’s hard, Hans admits, to not have people constantly criticising or questioning his motives. Some have even touted that he is gaining favour into politics, hence all the community work and to this Hans says, is a normal reaction despite his sincerity.
“Yes, I am a member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and my job right now is simply to help the party in Ampang, the party as a whole, and to help the people of Ampang. That is all,” says Hans.
“It’s an honest statement. If an opportunity in politics comes, I will consider if it is right for me. If I can bring value to the party to help people, then I will do it,” he says.
“There could be someone else in Ampang that could be really good at this, so it could be them rather than me. I never make any promises and I don’t want to go up against my own word.”
Through his involvement in PKR, it is reported that Hans has managed to get close to 2,000 new members on board.
“I want to get more people to go out and vote in the 15th General Election. People who have been disappointed with the Sheraton Move, people who feel like their votes don’t count, this is the time we have to unite again and make a stand for what we thought was right, and was taken away from us. You don’t want to walk away and give up. Come out and practise your right,” says Hans.
“People always ask me what is Hans all about? I’m a Leo, so I’m very straight-forward. That gets me into trouble sometimes,”he says cheekily.
“I mean it well, but it may not be received very well. I can promise you though, that you will always get an honest opinion out of me,” he adds, saying also how lucky he is to have friends like Afdlin Shauki who sees the both sides of him and appreciates him for who he is.
On the entrepreneurial end, Hans has many roles to undertake. He is the managing director of Social 360, a company involved in the fields of security and insurance, and production house Tall Order. He is also an independent non-executive director of Perdana Petroleum. As if he doesn’t have enough on his plate, he also co-owns North Indian restaurant Jhann in Bukit Damansara and has just started working on a car dealership in Langkawi that rents out convertible cars.
Turning 50 this August, where does his plans to slow down and finally settle down with a family fit in?
But when it comes to divulging details about his love life, Hans who has had this aspect of his life constantly published in the media over the years seems a little hesitant.
“I choose not to speak about my love life anymore. I realised that I might have spoken about it too much before, that it always became a main topic of my life,”says Hans.
“I’m at an age where I think this doesn’t mean anything anymore. I’m not 25 years old. To be honest I think I’ve missed the boat. The people around me are all married and have children now,” he says, adding that he feels like he needs to seek people that are younger than him because they are the only ones left who are still single.
“I didn’t realise that I will be in this position, but the reality is that this is where I am at now. If I do eventually get married, I want to have kids, I want to be a father, but this needs to be done very soon,” says Hans.
For now, Hans finds simple pleasures in his active lifestyle that keeps him going. From golfing to working out four times a week, and a solid night of sleep, he diligently avoids smoking, drinking anything more than a glass or two of wine and doesn’t overeat. This, he says, gives him the drive to continue to be a workaholic, but with his eye set on retirement soon.
“You know, I really love Langkawi. I used to go every month and I see eventually one day I will probably settle down there. I’m an ocean guy and I’m all about the outdoors and relaxing on the beach,” says Hans with a laugh.
Styling & creative direction: Ibnu Aswan
Photographer: Mickey Wong @ New Storyboards Photography
Makeup artist: Ler Wan Ning
Hair stylist: Angeline Low
This story was first published Prestige Malaysia’s April 2021 issue. To read the latest issue, pick up a copy from the nearest newsstand or subscribe on Magzter. Signup to our weekly newsletter for latest news and interviews!