African student stars in Malaysian drama

Student Omar Kaiho has a knack for telling jokes.

The 29-year-old Namibian learned to speak Bahasa Malaysia when he arrived as a student here in 2013.

He enrolled at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) in Tanjung Malim, Perak, where he is currently completing his final year honours degree in education.

"I started learning BM out of curiosity. I didn't take any formal classes. I just learned on my own."

Two years later, he was so confident in his grasp of the national language that he joined a public speaking competition. With a laugh, he shared that he "won".

"I was first from behind!" he said during an interview in Kuala Lumpur, recently.

Though he actually lost the competition, Omar's ability to speak BM caught the attention of a local TV producer who approached him with a small acting role.

He was later cast in the third season of Kelas Sebelah, a 13-episode sitcom on RTM.

When his classmates found out he was acting, Omar said they were mostly supportive.

He is also careful not to let his newfound fame get to his head.

"Some have said that I'm poyo (pretentious)!" he said.

Omar's biggest role to date is the new HyppTV telemovie Cinta Kholdi, where he plays the lead character with actress Aisya Hasnaa as his heroine.

"Cinta Kholdi has a bit of everything like drama, comedy and good messages. I play a man who develops a relationship with Aisya. Then my character must prove to her conservative parents that he is a worthy future son-in-law."

Omar described his acting experience as "amazing".

He is now on the lookout for a new gig.

"I'm addicted. The more you act, the more experience you get. After this, I have another production coming up with Astro."

Omar - who can also speak Mandarin - has even recorded a BM song composed by Harry, a guitarist for local rock band Khalifah. The song is his ode to a country which has accepted him for his abilities.

"It's called Malaysia Yang Ku Cinta."

Omar hopes to do an English-language production one day.

However, he revealed that his mother hopes he would return to Namibia for good once he's done with his studies.

He and his nine siblings were raised by his mother, a single parent who worked as a cleaner.

"I always tell her I'm fighting to realise my goals. I told her … what if this is my calling? I don't know how far this will go. If it ends here, then I will take the experience home and see how we go from there."

He joked that his siblings are apparently "actors" too: "But I'm the only one doing it professionally (laughs)."

Omar admitted that he does get homesick at times.

He keeps himself going with a positive mantra.

"I always tell myself that I'm a grown man. As long as I'm alive and always call home, I'm fine. Don't be a mama's boy!"

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