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Critics take comediennes seriously

By: - Reporter
/ 11:00 PM June 15, 2015

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Seasoned comediennes are nominated in the 38th Gawad Urian, handed out by the local critics’ group Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

Nova Villa, 69 years old and a first-time nominee in the local critics’ awards derby, is in the running for “1st Ko si 3rd.” Also vying for best actress are comediennes Eugene Domingo for “Barber’s Tales” and Ai-Ai de las Alas for “Ronda.”

It is likewise De las Alas’ first time to receive a nod from the critics’ group.

The awarding is on Tuesday night (June 16) at ABS-CBN’s Studio 10 in Quezon City.

Nova’s moment

Veteran comedienne Nova Villa is serious about doing comedy.

For the actress who left the audience in stitches in the sitcoms “Chicks to Chicks” in the 1980s, and “Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata” and “Home Along da Riles” in the 1990s, comedy is hard work.

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“It’s not easy because comedians often work without a script. Things are made even more difficult when we are made to act with non-comedians,” said Villa, who is currently seen in the GMA 7 sitcom “Pepito Manaloto.” “What if you are in a scene with a costar who messes up a punchline. As the more experienced actor, you should find a way to save the scene.”

The 69-year-old comedienne has won numerous acting awards for her comedic performances on television. She received lifetime achievement trophies from the Golden Screen Awards and the Star Awards for TV in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

“The first time I got invited to an awards show was nerve-wracking,” the veteran actress recounted. She was referring to a Star Awards ceremony in the early 1990s. “While on my way to the venue, I kept praying because I didn’t know what to say.”

The venue was packed, Villa recalled. When she won, the audience was already laughing at her as she walked up the stage. “They were still laughing while I was delivering my thank-you speech. I got distracted so I asked the presenter what was happening. She said, ‘Tita Nova ’yong medyas n’yo po nakabagsak.’”

Her stockings rolled down to her ankle. “While still onstage, I pulled it up and asked the director to edit that part. I then told the audience, ‘I just arrived from the United States. The stockings were on sale: 10 for $2. I was a hit!”

She added: “Going back to my prayer, I sought for guidance because I didn’t know what to say. People expected me to do something funny on stage. The Lord found a way for it to happen.”

Years later, Villa is once again prepping for another awards show, this time, the Gawad Urian no less.

“I don’t know much about the Urian since this is only my first dramatic film. I know that the Manunuri is into indie films, and ‘1st Ko Si 3rd’ is only my first indie. My best friend (actress) Ces Quesada told me that the Urian is handed out by a well-respected group of movie critics. I feel very important all of a sudden. I’m so happy to be nominated. I’d be doubly happy if I’d win.”

Villa related that she repeatedly turned down the offer of director Real Florido for her to play the lead in “1st Ko Si 3rd,” which premiered last year at the annual Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.

Villa portrays 65-year-old Cory who, on the first days of her retirement, runs into Third, her first love.

“Real and I talked about it for an hour on our first meeting. He said he had worked on the script for almost three years with only me in mind. He said he couldn’t think of any other actress to play the part,” said Villa.

“Aside from it being a drama film, I thought Real was too young and inexperienced. I’ve been in this business for 52 years and I know everybody. I didn’t know Real at all. I took pity on him so I decided to give him a chance. To me, he was just like the film students whom I’ve helped in their thesis films. I’ve always been accommodating to students,” she said.

Villa initially equated indie films with quickie movies that would only do the industry more harm than good. “But ‘1st Ko Si 3rd’ made me realize that it was possible to create a good movie even with limited shooting days.”

For Villa, the presence of comediennes in Urian’s best actress category is a welcome development. She explained, “These days, comedians are not just given funny roles. I’ve always been hired to do comedy and it’s only now that I’m a senior citizen that I got to do drama.”

Other best actress nominees are Nora Aunor (“Dementia”), Angeli Bayani (“Bwaya”), Hazel Orencio (“Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon”), Angelica Panganiban (“That Thing Called Tadhana”) and Eula Valdes (“Dagitab”).

Asked who she thought would be her toughest rival, Villa said: “I’ve only seen ‘Dagitab.’ I found Eula’s performance impressive. But it’s really up to the jurors.”

Villa offered this piece of advice to young actors who want to follow in her footsteps. “You first have to discover if you’re a natural comedian. It’s not something that is taught in school. It’s inborn.”

She added that, like in drama, there is a science to comedy. “A comedian is always bursting with energy. But he also needs to know how to control himself, to stop for a while and to stay in the background when a scene requires him to do so,” she pointed out. “If the audience liked your coactor’s joke, you should be sensitive enough not to ruin his moment.

“When the situation finally calls for you to deliver your own punchline, you should know the exact moment to do it,” she said.

Great comedians like the late Dolphy, Panchito, Apeng Daldal, Don Pepot, know this, said Villa—and so does she.

Ai-Ai’s heart

Ai-Ai de las Alas, who is also nominated for best actress in this year’s Urian, said she is rooting for fellow nominee and comedienne Nova Villa to bring home the coveted trophy.

“I have not seen any of the films of the other nominees so I can’t say who did well. I congratulate all of them, but I really wish that the Manunuri would give it to Tita Nova. She deserves to be recognized for her contributions to show business.”

De las Alas is nominated for her performance as a policewoman in Nick Olanka’s “Ronda,” an entry in last year’s Cinemalaya, like Villa’s “1st Ko Si Third.”

“I hope Tita Nova gets an Urian award before she retires. As for me, I sill have a lot to prove as an artist compared to her. Marami pa akong kakaining bigas,” she told the Inquirer on Monday, a day before the Gawad Urian ceremony.

This is Villa’s first Urian nomination in her 52-year acting career. This is also a first for De las Alas, who is celebrating her 25th anniversary in the business this year.

“Winning an award is important to us actors. It’s a sign that the effort we put in a particular project was noteworthy. Just like positive box-office results, I consider an acting trophy a reward for a job well done.”

De las Alas was so optimistic about “Ronda’s” potential that she agreed not just to star in it, but also to coproduce it.

“I’ve always wanted to act in an indie film. I liked the story. I’ve never played a cop before. I also learned a lot from working with (costar) Cesar Montano.”

Another comedienne, Eugene Domingo, is also nominated for a dramatic role—as the newly widowed Marilou, who inherits the town’s only barbershop from her husband—in Jun Robles Lana’s “Barber’s Tales.”

De las Alas said she was pleased that “more and more people are becoming convinced that comedians are also capable of making the audience cry.”

The actress’ first shot at drama was in Wenn V. Deramas’ “Tanging Ina.” She recalled: “I had no trouble crying. I simply used my life experiences to bring out the emotions needed for a particular scene. It’s actually easier to make the audience cry than laugh.”

She added: “What’s challenging in doing ‘dramedy’ movies like ‘Tanging Ina’ is having to continuously shift emotions from happy to sad and vice versa.”

De las Alas advised young comedians to “be grateful for your talent. It is God’s gift to you—treasure it, take care of it. Your goal should always be to share laughter with your audience, to entertain them.”

A good comedian should also be humble, said De las Alas. De las Alas pointed out: “A good comedienne has heart. She is someone who would rather make fun of herself than of other people in order to make the audience laugh.”

Originally posted: 07:53 PM June 15th, 2015

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TAGS: 1st Ko si 3rd, 38th Gawad Urian, Ai-Ai de las Alas, Barber’s Tales, best actress nominees, cinema, Entertainment, Eugene Domingo, Film, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, Movies, Nova Villa, Ronda
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