Mike Masilamani – The Boy Who Speaks In Numbers

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 11.21.29 amThis week on The Grinders of WhatTheHallelujah?! we have a cool cat by the
name of Mike Masilamani, Copywriter, Creative Director, lecturer, Sunday School teacher and more recently house painter. Mike currently works at the Sydney Survivorship Centre, Concord Hospital: doing all things from organising fundraising to being the most enthusiastic guest-student of the knitting class and generally encouraging cancer survivors to regain their mojo. Mike has many “non-achievements” such as being expelled from Loyola College hostel, Chennai and failing all his subjects in his 5th semester. Undeterred he went on to join the family business and won a scholarship to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, United Kingdom. He went on to write a few sick ads, winning a couple of awards for them along the way and pioneered Sri Lanka’s first dating website. We spoke to him about his first book ‘The Boy Who Speaks In Numbers’, that follows The Boy, on his journey to a refugee camp with the Constantly Complaining Cow and the Kind Uncle who Never Speaks for company.

WTH: Hi there Mike, do you mind if I call you Mike?

Mike: Yes, I do mind.

Front cover of : The Boy who Speaks in Numbers Artwork: Matthew Frame

WTH: Congratulations on your new book. I hear your early reviews have all been great thus far. Are you excited for the launch itself?


Mike: To be honest, the only reviews have been from you and your mum and as we all know, both aren’t the most objective audience. But yes, it is an exciting turn of events – something I’ve prayed for, for many years.

WTH: The book initially was written as short story for a children’s magazine that was later performed as a play. How did this evolve into the novella it is today?

Mike: Well if you remember, I used to read parts of it to you and your brother long ago. Then, there came a point, that I couldn’t do that anymore. You two were still young and impressionable then.

At some point, I sent it to my dear buddy Tracy who runs Mind Adventure Theatre Company in Colombo who turned it into a play despite my protest that I hadn’t finished with the story. The story doesn’t end there; a couple of years after we performed it in Colombo it got invited to the Hindu Metroplus Theatre Festival in Chennai. Interestingly it got far better reviews than it did in Colombo. To be fair it had gone through some refinements.

Still later I was introduced to Nia Murphy, a designer then at Tara Books who took it back to Chennai and interested V Geetha the editorial director of Tara Books. There followed what is best described as a master class in writing from Geetha, that in no small measure contributed to what the Boy is today.

WTH: this sounds like no quick and easy feat. How long did the whole process take and did you envision the book as it is today from the beginning?


Mike: You’re right it was no quick and easy feat. I compare it to bringing up a child. I read somewhere that the Talmud says there are 3 things a man should do: plant a tree, have a child and write a book. Since I had limited success with the first two I had to try and do a better job with the third! *laughs* (…)

550604_10152149486620487_444474800_nOn a serious note, yes the story has evolved. On one-hand it got bolder in reflecting what was happening on the ground in Sri Lanka. At the same time it took on a universal resonance.

Then of course there are the illustrations. There is a story behind them too- Rathna Ramanathan, who is responsible for design at Tara spent a whole year illustrating the book herself (which rarely happens) and then decided she didn’t like them! That’s when Mathew Frame took over, responsible for the current illustrations, which I think are awesome.

All in all, I would say the project has taken 6 to 7 years.

WTH: This book was initially written for children, however has clearly taken a more mature turn with darker themes. Who would you say this book is written for?

Mike: That’s a difficult one. I would say it is for everyone rooting for a child growing up through a war. It is a fable of our times.

WTH: Writing as a discipline is a difficult one to cultivate – did this skill come naturally to you? What advice would you give our future copywriters cum authors?


Back Right: Mike Masilamani, Second generation wordsmith Front Left: Cyril Masilamani, First generation wordsmith

Mike: As you know some of the best writers have been copywriters – Salman Rushdie, Peter Carey to name just a couple. As for me, I’m fond of describing myself as a second-generation wordsmith, as my dad was not only a copywriter but also a journalist.

However none of this automatically qualifies one to be a writer -it is more the love of writing and the determination to make it as a writer. Writing can be a lonely occupation.

One practical tip for would-be writers –read your writing out aloud. Jonathan Swift and Jonathan Franzen are two authors who practice(d) this. Remember that’s how this story started-with your brother and you as my audience. At the end of the day a good novel is really about good storytelling.

WTH: Thank you for sitting with WTH this evening, how can our readers get their hands on The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers?


Mike: The book is currently available in India at Tara Books

And can also be bought online http://www.tarabooks.com/books/. It is being launched in Colombo on the 8th of May and will be available at Barefoot bookshop there. The book will be available worldwide in November 2015 and you can pre-order it at www.amazon.com.

WTH: Looking forward to it Mike, is there anything else on the horizon we should keep a look-out for?


Mike: Stick to Dad, and thank you for asking. Yes there is a second book in the works10417757_1090896637594262_1926553296944930785_n for the same publisher, Tara Books. It’s titled The Story of Stories, and is an ancient Indian fable that I have been asked to reinterpret, beautifully illustrated by the Brazilian artist Jose Francisco Borges whose works are exhibited at the Louvre and The Smithsonian.

WTH: No big deal then. For updates on The Boy Who Speaks In Numbers check out the Facebook page www.facebook.com/theboywhospeaks and the twitter page www.twitter.com/theboywhospeaks

The Hairoine of today

10884898_10206128478836692_1054768506_nA month ago I woke up with the usual thirst for water and Instagram. With one eye still closed I scrolled through the 8 hours worth of Kardashian’s all reminding me that Kourt and Khloe will soon be taking over the Hamptons, Rihanna was back and better than ever, everyone appeared to have captured the same sunset (#SummerIsFinallyHere) and then I stumbled upon the photo of an excited blonde sporting this season’s bob. As great as she looks don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t weirdly excited that Bex had decided to change things up a little and get a new do. Bex however went a couple of extra steps to make a simple haircut into the loveliest gesture. She pledged to cut her long locks to raise money for the Cancer society and furthermore donated her cut hair to be made into a wig for cancer patients. Now my Instagram is a constant reminder of cool trends: Ripped boyfriend jeans, cyan Christian louboutins, Kylie Jenner Lips and Kendall Jenner’s bod. But Bex wore generosity effortlessly, she wore her thoughtfulness in her middle-parting and damn did she make kindness look good. Pantene – Beautiful lengths donates real hair wigs to support women with cancer. They are currently trying to reach their goal of just 10,000 ponytails. The hair donated must be at least 20cm and the steps of sending in the hair are as simple as getting the ponytail chopped as I 10866941_10206128479116699_1890947279_ndiscovered yesterday in my own attempt. Summer is indeed finally here and Bex’s chic act of kindness is the fashion statement of the season, and I sincerely hope you join her. xx WTH

From house parties to head of a music label – Johann Ponniah

859565_10151795685285031_475127984_oA low point had been reached in December of’09 when Johann Ponniah and his three flatties received a final notice from the gas company and had no way of paying their bills. In a desperate last attempt they decided to throw a house party featuring their mates; a couple of local bands and charge a cover fee.

200 people including the local cops arrived and they raised enough money to cover their gas bills for the next quarter.

Today I OH YOU records is an award winning label, promoting indie musicians through hosting the sickest warehouse parties. In 2014 Johann Ponniah was named by AMID, 38 of Australia’s power 50 music industry leaders – He also just turned 25.  

Hey Johann, Welcome to WTH.

Q: Although some would say your success eventuated from this party, you’d already left the comforts of home, decided against university in order to get a head start in the music industry, managing your first band Hunting grounds (formerly known as Howl). A bold risk for an 18 year-old – What gave you the gumption to take the leap of faith to get into the Music industry?10450043_561028717375725_6643647451007694606_o

I always knew that I wanted to work in the music industry and with musicians in general. I wasn’t sure what role I wanted to play (label, manager, booking agent etc) but I knew that I had to be in there somehow! As I finished high school I was offered an internship at a management company in Melbourne and I decided firmly in my mind that this was my chance, so I went for it. I never really thought of it as a bold leap of faith, I just didn’t have any other option.

Q. It certainly paid off but was there times (pre-success) where you hit speed bumps? How did you keep persevering?

There’s been a lot of speed bumps along the way and I’ve got no doubt that there will be plenty more, but that’s not specific to just my career so far…or the music industry in general – I think everyone faces their own specific challenges, I guess you just have to try and keep rolling with the punches!

Q: The few bands you’ve signed have all had great success- The Aria award nominations alone this year attest to the talent at I OH YOU. I mean Best Hard Rock And Heavy Metal Album taken out by DZ Deathrays – Black Rat (!!!) How much of the success of these bands, can be attributed to your input? And what exactly is your input with the bands you manage?

I certainly don’t take credit for our band’s success, I feel incredibly lucky to work with the talented artists that we do and assist them with their music but they would be having success with or without me! I’m also lucky enough to work with a number of amazing people on our label who all have huge contributions to the band’s success + the band’s separate managers/agents etc.

Q: Does your day have a set routine – or is it just a blur of parties i.e. are hangovers an occupational hazard?

I crave routine. The majority of my day is spent looking at an email inbox. Not nearly as glamorous or fun as instagram may suggest.

1966295_10152274979171858_1890494178_oQ. You’re pretty modest about your DJ skills but you’ve just returned from Festival of the Sun. Would you consider yourself a professional DJ now?

Hahaha definitely not! Professional track selector perhaps.

How many other hats do you have to wear in your role as director of I OH YOU?

I OH YOU has become pretty life consuming for me, in terms of the hat metaphor…I guess it’s just one hat, that never comes off.

Q: What kind of crystal ball do you gaze into, to figure out trends? And what should we be looking out for in terms of new music?

I wish I could pick trends but I can’t! I just try to work with music that I love and hope that others will love it too.

Q. Give us hopeful kids some advice – what do you reckon is most important when pursuing anything?

Be passionate.1393548_10153568397460068_440372874_n

Thank you so much for your time Jo, Say Hi to Flume for us. Feel free to slip him our number. Have the best Christmas mate and an even better New Year!



* Johann has informed us that he will never slip us Flume’s number. Success changes people kids.

** Flume – Call me

Star of the week – Adelaide McDougall

It’s exciting to think that Kiwi creativity is shaping media the world-round. I’ve had the pleasure of being in class with Adelaide McDougall for 4 years of high school. Despite her hitting the genetic jackpot with her Gossip girl looks, in my experience remained completely level-headed with a goofy sense of humour to boot. Fittingly she has taken her movie-star qualities to the Big Apple. From Auckland city Ade has taken her love of media to Transistor Studios in New York and living my Carrie Bradshaw fantasy.


Hey Ade! How is New York treating you?10389006_10152422868585778_6747786369328963647_n


Hey Kethaki! I always find it hard to describe New York to anyone. It is so many different things. It’s like a best friend who you sort of hate sometimes (in a loving way). Above all, it’s the craziest, most exhilarating place I’ve ever been. It really is a hub of creativity. One of my favourite things to do is just walk down the street, because you can guarantee there will be someone doing something interesting and/or completely whacky.

If I had to pick a favourite aspect of New York I would say the people. I have never been so actively creative in my life, and I have all the people I have met to thank for that. Everything and everyone around me is so artistic and innovative that my mind is constantly whizzing with ideas, which is so exciting to me.



Tell us a little bit about Transistor studios, what is your role?


Transistor Studios is a post-production film company based in Brooklyn. We get involved in a lot of new age projects with lots of animation, 3D and general visual effects. Some of the well-known projects include Lupe Fiasco’s music video – “Old School Love”, and we have also done commercials for Ray Ban and IMAX.

My role is Studio Manager, which basically requires me to be a jack-of-all-trades. One of my main responsibilities is booking talent to come in and work on jobs with us. Other than that I coordinate shoots, do all the admin work and run the internship program. It’s an amazing company and I am so lucky to be working here. There is a lot of opportunity for growth, and I am learning A LOT about the film industry.



What is it about film that drew you to it?


10354232_10152527970715309_2213419676173720838_nThe film industry in New York is so interesting to me because it is so different to the film industry in LA, where all the major studios are. New York is home to multiple smaller studios, which are involved in equally creative work, but the environment is a lot more intimate, which is where I believe the greatest ideas are born. Being in NY allowed me to start at the bottom, and learn all the basics at the same time as getting the opportunity to be involved in some of the creative work. There are also so many people to meet here, and as the saying goes – it’s all about who you know!

I know you’ve had experience with modelling, have you explored this further?


I thought about it when I first arrived in New York, and I had a few opportunities to get involved in some shoots. But I decided that I wanted to be behind the camera, and that I wanted to put all my focus in film and my creativity, which hasn’t left much time for anything else!



Living away from home comes with its perks and flaws – how are you finding your independence in a new country?!

 At heart I am really a homebody and a Mummy’s girl (haha), so at first I found moving away from home really difficult. I always have days where I miss the comforts of home and my Brady bunch family, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I am amazed every day when I look at how far I have come from the girl I was last year! I have realised how huge the world is beyond our little old NZ. Every time I come across a bump in the road I just think of it as character building and an experience that I can learn from.


Your life is the envy of many but I’m sure its come with its fair share of hard work and speed bumps. Can you share a speed bump with us and how you overcame/are overcoming it?

This is a tough question for me as I have had SO many speed bumps. One major slip up happened when I first arrived in New York. I had saved for months to be able to afford the lifestyle here. Being the naïve girl I was, I was emailing a man on Craigslist (equivalent to TradeMe) about an apartment that I was going to move into. We went through a lengthy process of swapping passport information and all the nitty gritty stuff. Then it came to down payment time. I dispensed over half of my savings to this man via the Internet, only to never hear from him again. That was a big blow, and my welcome to New York! I can laugh about it now, as every person in NY has a horror story like this. But it has definitely taught me to be cautious. There are as many crazy people here as there are amazing people!


You’ve overcome your speedbumps amazingly and with style no less. We wish only the best for you in your exciting new endeavours! You show those New Yorkers how it’s done. 

Follow Adelaide’s adventure: Instagram – @adelaidehelena



Star of the week!

This week’s spotlight shines down on an extraordinary lady who is well at home under it. A woman who truly does have it all: beauty, brains, drive and talent by the bucket-loads. You may also know her as the adorable KFC Krushers girl! What we may have missed about Rebecca McFadzien is that she works and continues to work extremely hard to reach her goals in order to make her dreams a reality. Rebecca has currently moved from Auckland to LA to pursue this reality.

Hi Rebecca and Welcome to WhatTheHallelujah.com!

 Thank you so much, I’m super excited to be here! 

You’ve been on every television screen in New Zealand and are further pursuing your dreams of performing in Los Angeles! What is it that made you want to pursue this avenue as a career?

It actually all happened in a single moment, one day when I was 10 years old. I had always been aware that I loved performing more than anything else, and that when I sang a song or made up a little dance that made my parents smile, it gave me the most amazing butterflies in my stomach! However it was when I was walking down a corridor towards a painting-based school holiday programme class in Dublin at the age of 10, that I really realised.

 I heard sounds of singing from a room close by, and felt compelled to go in, not knowing if I was allowed to do so. I discovered a group of kids my age who were all taking turns to sing a line from the musical “Annie”, and so when they got to me, I just went for it too! Next thing I knew, they had cast me as the lead – Annie – in their upcoming production (despite not actually being enrolled in that class)! In that moment, I knew I was going to be an actor. I had no idea that this acting thing could lead to money or fame, I just knew that telling a story and making people smile was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life!

Most people in their early 20s often struggle with pinpointing what they want to be when they “grow up”. Was this a difficult choice (did you consider different careers) for you or was it love at first sight?

 Since moving to LA, I have been asked that question a lot actually! Doing something other than acting for a career has never been an option for me – I’ve tried to consider it a few times in my life, but it’s always made me feel like “This is crazy, life is too short for that!” It was too weird to comprehend. Growing up, my family supported me in my quest to become an actor with every ounce of their being. They never questioned my love for performing, they celebrated my successes and helped me re-route when I encountered roadblocks. Never once was the possibility that I could “fail” even suggested, which in turn meant that it was never an option in my mind either. I am eternally grateful to my family for that.

 As I prepared to finish high school I was faced with the decision so many of us face – should I study at University? What should I study, and where? I was confused as to what to do next, because I had always dreamt of getting a degree but I was also ready to jump into the life of a fulltime professional actor. I tried to “keep acting as my side project” so that “I wouldn’t lose my passion for it”, and completed my first year of a BA/BCom. I had a great time studying, and got involved in a wide range of different acting projects and classes, but that year really did confirm my belief that I needed to do acting all day, every day, from then on. I auditioned for the fulltime acting degree programme at Unitec, got selected and haven’t looked back since! I have now graduated, and am living my dream!

Once you decided performing was your passion/(one of your passions) was it easy to get into the industry? What were some of the hurdles you had to jump to get your foot in the door?

Everyone I have ever spoken to regarding this says something very different, so what I’ve realised is that all I need to really need to do is listen to my heart and follow my intuition. I have found that when I am doing things that I love, I project the finest rendition of “Rebecca McFadzien” out into the universe, and this, in turn, attracts people into my life who really enrich the quality of it (both as a person and as an actor).  Also, it may sound super cliché, but it really is so important to treat everyone with respect. Some of the best directors I have worked with have been younger or less experienced than me, but that doesn’t matter!

 Anyone can “make it” at any time, with any recipe they choose to follow. I like to think that I’m creating a brand new recipe for myself, that I write and add to as I go along! I have always chosen to surround myself with people that I admire, who accept and appreciate me for who I am, and who enjoy producing similar sorts of content. There are so many ways of making this actor thing work – web series, Youtube videos, blogs (like WTH!) and social media, television, films, theatre – make your recipe work for you!

 My tips for ‘getting your foot in the door’ anywhere in the world would be to remain true to yourself, and embrace your individuality and quirks. They are what make you stand out and be chosen. Introduce yourself to people you want to know – make it happen! Do something every day to meet new people and build your network – a call here, an email there. Really listen to others when they speak – take on those suggestions and criticisms, but don’t ever allow them to hurt or change you. Let them act as a ‘finishing polish’ to make your beautiful self even more shiny and sparkly than before! I choose to always wear my heart on my sleeve, but I make sure to always protect that sleeve and keep it in good condition! J

We have to know, you were nothing short of amazing on New Zealand’s longest running and most-loved soap opera ‘Shortland Street’ (a must-do as a Kiwi performer), how was the experience for you?

Being on Shortland Street was a dream come true for me! It is such a wonderful thing for us to have in New Zealand, and I am very proud to have been a part of it.  South Pacific Pictures truly is a magnificently ‘well oiled machine’, and everyone involved works so hard every single day! I have so much respect for the long-term actors on the show too, who learn new scripts and shoot on set every day! I loved performing the role of Veronica Greenwood on the show – bringing a new tidal wave of drama into the hospital with me was a lot of fun!

Celebrities such as Tina Fey and Jennifer Lawrence as of late have commented on the pressure put on young women in the Hollywood industry regarding their physical appearance – to be a certain size in particular. Have you had any experience with this yet? What are your feelings towards this issue?

 I have definitely been confronted with the expectations and ideals of looking a certain way as an actor, as a woman, and as a human being but thankfully I believe we are currently in a time of transition. We are changing the way we treat both each other and ourselves, and with new research and knowledge comes the ability to make better choices for how we look after our bodies and minds. Thanks to people such as Jennifer Lawrence, Tina Fey and Emma Watson for speaking out about these subjects, I believe that we are becoming more conscious – we are on the brink of a new beginning. Everything is changing for the better, and people are becoming more comfortable with being themselves!

I know other than working incredibly hard that you’ve somehow managed to find time to do some very cool activities/ learn new skills and make time for friends and an adoring boyfriend – What are some of your favourite hobbies and how do you manage to juggle it all?!

 You’re so sweet, thank you!  Well my two top hobbies would have to be singing and dancing. I love hip hop dancing, musical theatre and creating musical ‘mash-ups’ of my favourite songs (both new and old). I am also a total adrenaline junkie, and therefore adore bungy jumping, dragon boating, snowboarding, sailing and most recently, roller coasters (California has some pretty outstanding theme parks to explore!). My guilty pleasure would have to be visiting different cafes and trying out their coffee, salads and gluten free treats! 

You’ve recently moved to LA – How is it all going and what’s in the cards for you?

 Yes – I finally did what I have wanted to do since I was old enough to talk! Coming to LA on my own was definitely one of the scariest things I have ever done, but it has also already been one of the most rewarding and exciting! I’ve only been here for a month and already I have found a wonderful place to live, bought a cute blue car and secured a fun part time job! I am so grateful!

 I have met so many wonderful people along the way too – every person that I meet, even if it’s just to ask for directions, adds a little something to my life here in some way. I have been shown a lot of kindness and have made a lot of friends. I am currently in the process of zipping in and out of meetings with different agents, producers and casting directors, so it is a very exciting time for me! So many possibilities, so many opportunities…and all of them so vibrant!

 I am so proud of and inspired by the Kiwi actors already paving the way here in LA, and can’t wait to properly join them (and help others do the same!) I was born in the States, so I feel at home here, but I love New Zealand too, so I intend to work as an actor in both countries for the rest of my life! What’s a bit of jet lag when you’re living out your dreams, right? J

Well Rebecca we’re all in awe of your achievements and insatiable cheerfulness. You’re truly doing it in style and we hope to see you on the silver screen very soon. We’ll stay updated through http://www.rebeccamcfadzien.com!


Thanks WTH, I really appreciate that. Thank you for always making me smile with your witty writing. All the best for your future endeavours, and make sure to write me a role in your first screenplay please!  xx

All the very best