Tanglin: Stories about kinship and the kampong spirit

Channel 5’s new 199-episode daily drama will revolve around four different racial families who are neighbours living in the same estate – Tanglin

The cast of Channel 5's new drama Tanglin
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 Bhaskar family in Tanglin
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 Tong family of Tanglin
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.

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