The cast of Tanglin make up four main families in the drama - the Tongs, Lims, Bhaskars and Rahmans.
Video: Tan Shi Qi
25 cast members (and growing), 4 families, and a double-storey custom-built set to house the neighbourhood (of three houses, a clinic and a café): that’s how massive a production Tanglin is. In case you haven’t heard, Channel 5 has something new up its sleeves – a longform drama called Tanglin that we think of as the fraternal twin sister of the other long-running Channel 8 drama, 118, except that it is filmed in an entirely different spoken language – English.
While both are set in old neighbourhoods of Singapore, the 199-episode Ch5 drama (it’s not a comedy series, we’re told) is “same same but different” from its Mandarin-speaking twin sister. 118 revolves around a traditional kopitiam that serves kopi-o, roti (bread) and wanton noodles, while in Tanglin, our main characters run a Western-style café that serves espresso, cupcakes and other breakfast chow.
In both shows, the café (or coffeeshop) serves as the main meeting point for the families in the neighbourhood, in Tanglin’s case, the families are the Tongs, Lims, Bhaskars and Rahmans.
The new kids in the neighbourhood: The Bhaskars, an affluent Indian family with a private practice of their own.
And unlike other dramas done previously, to quote Mathialagan (head of the Bhaskar family) on it, all four families in the drama are given “equal screentime and emphasis” in the storyline for the first time.
Mathialagan’s onscreen son, James Kumar, who plays a surgeon called Arjun, added at the press conference that characters from other races are seldom explored in depth on Channel 5 shows, which will not be the case for Tanglin that is an onscreen take of Singapore’s melting pot of culture.
It will be a true-blue representation of different racial cultures with a Malay wedding on the cards in the Rahman household and a forced match-making session lined up for the oldest son in the Bhaskar family (we are told it is a part of the Indian culture that is still practiced - although rarely - today).
On the other end of the spectrum we have the Tongs and the Lims, Tanglin’s two biggest families that are related by marriage (Adam Chen, who plays the oldest son in the Tong family, married into the Lim family years ago), not blood.
The Tongs' seemingly peaceful life is interrupted with a new mysterious stranger (Jay Lim played by Nat Ho) working and living - under the same roof - with them.
The two families, which are made up by familiar faces such as Constance Song, Richard Low, Eden Ang, Darryl Yong, James Seah and Charlie Goh – just to name a few, also marks the return of Wee Soon Hui, who is best remembered for her motherly, nurturing role as ‘Ah Ma’ in Ch5’s Growing Up.
The thespian, who had also participated in a Ch5 telemovie called Sunset early this year, is making a full comeback to acting as Tong Li Yan, a widow, after an 18-year hiatus. With her youngest daughter due to leave Singapore for university in America, Soon Hui figured there was no better time to get back into acting, plus it helped that the offer came at the right timing too, she shared.
Just a few days ago, Soon Hui even brought her 20-year-old daughter to the set of Tanglin for a look and feel of a real TV production set and even introduced her five onscreen kids to her daughter – in what was called a “strange” meeting between siblings, as Charlie (he plays Eddie, the youngest Tong family member) marveled, at a roundtable interview with the cast, “And all of the sudden, I have a younger sister!”
The Lim family. Don't be surprised if you hear Michael (played by Eden Ang) calling his same-age Junior College schoolmate "uncle".
Unlike the easygoing atmosphere in the Tong household, tension runs high over at the Lims because of Richard’s patriarchal character Lim Kwong San. He shares a semi-estranged relationship with his daughter, Xue Ling (played by Constance) as the latter tries to prove her worth in his company and fight against her father’s gender stereotypes.
Thankfully, comic relief for this typical Chinese family comes in the form of Xue Ling’s henpecked and “good for nothing” househusband Adam and the bubbly Bee Li (played by Margaret Lim), who is wife to Kwong San and mother to Xue Ling.
The last missing jigsaw puzzle that would complete Tanglin is the Rahmans, a close-kit Malay family consisting of three roses (Salmah, Nadiah and Norleena who are played by Masturah Ahmad, Effaeza Ul Haq and Syirah Jusni respectively) and a thorn (Sulaiman played by Fauzie Laily).
The zany and boisterous Rahmans are laugh-a-minute funny - both in real life and on the show.
From sussing out the latest goss in the neighbourhood to seeking procreating tips and “positions” (so that her newly-married daughter and son in-law would bear her a grandchild soon), it’s safe to say that there will never be a dull day in Tanglin with Salmah, gossipmonger and resident know-it-all, around.
Intrigued by what these four families have to offer? Catch Tanglin’s debut episode on Channel 5, June 30 at 8 pm and subsequent episodes on weeknights at 8.30 pm.
Click here for more information about the characters and families of Tanglin.
WATCH: Meet the Tongs, Lims, Bhaskars and Rahmans!
Taiwan-based Nat Ho returns to Singapore to film Tanglin