Comedienne Ai-Ai delas Alas gets to show off a seldom-seen mean and menacing side onscreen, in Louie Ignacio’s new film “School Service,” an entry in this August’s Cinemalaya fest.
Famous for her warm and wacky, maternal and martyr roles, Ai-Ai is pushing the thespic envelope by playing a dark and devious, wheelchair-bound beggar who’s a member of a child-trafficking syndicate.
“I am super bad in this movie,” she told the Inquirer. “I kidnap and sell children and force them to beg in the streets.”
She tries to understand her character Rita’s psychosis. “She’s bitter and mad at the world. She’s always hot-headed because of all her hardships in life.”
She told Direk Louie, who megged her internationally acclaimed performance in “Area,” that she always looks forward to doing indie films with him.
“I learn a lot every time,” she volunteered. “For this film, Direk Louie asked me to do something I had never done before: To express anger without saying a single word. Kailangang magwala nang tahimik (I had to go berserk quietly)!”
It was an excruciating exercise. “Ayun, I got a headache after the scene. Direk Louie keeps challenging me.”
That is precisely what compels her to do indie movies, she explained. “You can’t remain stagnant. You have to keep trying new things.”
Direk Louie related that Ai-Ai had devised a “different attack in portraying Rita. She’s really scary in this movie.”
This is her second time to field an entry in Cinemalaya, after Nick Olanka’s “Ronda” in 2014, where she was cast as a cop whose son got in trouble with the law.
In “School Service,” she goes mano a mano with director-actor Joel Lamangan, who plays her brother.
Direk Joel described Ai-Ai as a “generous” costar. “She sees to it that she gives a true and honest interpretation in each scene. As her coactor, you are enjoined to do the same. She’s a consummate professional. It is an honor to act with her.”
Ai-Ai returned the compliment, thus: “He is as good an actor as he is a director!”
Away from the cameras, Ai-Ai likewise gets to play stern taskmaster, as the new manager of the hip-hop group Ex Battalion.
“It’s like having six additional boys to raise,” she quipped. “Each of them has his own personality. But it’s actually easier to deal with boys than girls. I always worry about the safety of my daughter when she’s out at night. But with boys, I am more at ease.”
Don’t get her wrong, she’s still strict with the kids.
“I gave them a ‘Code of Conduct,’ a list of dos and don’ts,” she exclaimed. “Don’t be late. Don’t be absent without a good reason. And there’s a fine for every offense!”
Ai-Ai is helping the group mount its anniversary show at the Ynares Sports Arena on July 24. Also in the works is a big concert at the Araneta Coliseum in October.
She’s keeping them busy. She seeks to emulate the managerial savvy of her longtime rep Boy Abunda, with a little Lolit Solis and Annabelle Rama thrown in for good measure. “Kailangan may talak din (I need to be a nag, too)!”
As for her own career, she is part of “Sunday PinaSaya” and the coming talent search, “The Clash.”