The Ah Boys to Men (ABTM) franchise is arguably one of the most well-loved locally produced movie series. With four movies to date, with each doing even better at the box office, we’d say that the movies, along with its cast members, have become synonymous with army-related productions.
We spoke to Joshua Tan, one of the original ABTM cast members, who chuckled that he’s more than happy to still be called Ken Chow after six years.
“I think I’m pretty much numb to it,” he quipped. “But for Lobang (Wang Weiliang), it’s to the point where we say his name and nickname interchangeably. It’s a daily occurrence for him, and we don’t know why that nickname just stuck.”
After shooting four movies, we also had to ask Joshua which is his favourite ABTM movie, though a part of us wondered if, like any proud parent, he would say that he can’t pick just one. Our worries were for naught, however, as he quickly declared Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen as the queen of his heart.
At this point we must clarify that this wasn’t a scripted answer – the whole point of doing this interview was to promote Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen, which will be aired tonight as part of the Lights. Camera. Singapore. initiative.
The #supportlocal campaign sees 28 locally produced movies (think Ilo Ilo, 1965, Pop Aye, The Faith of Anna Waters and Our Sister Mambo) being shown on Channel 5 and Toggle every Tuesday at 10pm, along with classic stage productions such as Mixed Signals, Fried Rice Paradise and Titoudao getting their very own drama adaptations.
But we digress. We asked Joshua what exactly about Frogmen he loves so much, and he was happy to share.
He explained, “I feel that it’s really epic – shot very well, spectacular, and we also had special support from the Naval Diving Unit (NDU), which isn’t easily made available. We had special access to them, which was really cool.”
One of the most memorable scenes he shot was one where they had to rescue hostages from a ship, as the actor chuckled, “Operational NDU guys came down with live weapons and handed those to us. When they were doing that, they were like, ‘This is mine, take care of it’ and I think they genuinely meant that. It was so surreal being entrusted their personal weapons, which are quite sacred to every soldier. I don’t think they wanted to do it but they did anyway.”
Rather than getting sick of shooting anything to do with ABTM, Joshua shared that he would very much like to do a sequel to Frogmen, as he thinks that there’s still a lot more left to be uncovered about the NDU.
“Not only is it my favourite, but I think that the movie only showed maybe 10 per cent of what the NDU has to offer. The other 90 per cent is classified, but if they’re willing to shed light on how they work, I’d love to be a part of it,” he explained.
After shooting four movies with the rest of the boys, he mused that he’s learned a lot from the entire experience, with the biggest life lesson of all: unity is strength.
He let on, “The boys and I are still super close, we haven’t broken up yet, we have a special bond and we’ve overcome a lot of difficult times together. We’ve had our fair share of fights and not so happy times but we enjoy a certain bond.”
Visit the Lights. Camera. Singapore. microsite for more information and to watch past films.