Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yasmin Ahmad's Films -- The Book, And My Other Thoughts

So, I finally picked up this book and despite being slow reader, finished it in just a couple of days. Hurrah for me.

I must say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read in recent times. Of course I’ve been a fan of its author Amir Muhammad for sometime now (although when I first read his columns in the NST, I thought: “Who the hell is this guy? Macam bagus je”), and the book was hard to put down and simply a delight to read.

I enjoyed the witty approach to the whole thing, and the trivia and other nuggets of info which came from personal knowledge are quite priceless. And although it’s a book about films, it’s not littered with too many film jargons and technical discussion.

But it did make me understand and see that stuff that I probably overlooked in Yasmin’s works before. And that’s the coolest part.

I must admit that I'm not the biggest fan you could find of Yasmin's films and commercials. I like most of them, but there was always that tinge of (forgive me) pretentiousness in her portrayal of people, and that sense of over-optimism, that bothered me quite a bit.

But that doesn't mean I was one of those who condoned the apparent personal attacks made on her by certain members of the media. I believe in freedom of expression (chewah), and it's always better to talk about stuff than shutting people up. If I really can't agree with someone, indifference will be my answer. Buat tak tau jelah, you know. Agree to disagree, and move on.

I never really knew Yasmin. The first time I met her was when she gave a talk at a media prima management retreat in 2007. I thought she was genuine with a lot of useful anecdotes to share. And that was the thing that struck me the most about her; someone who’s not “kedekut ilmu”.

Then I bumped into her at the premieres of “Mukhsin” and “Talentime”. But the last time I spoke to her was at a press conference organized. We had put together a contest in conjunction with the release of “Talentime”, and she had turned up for the PC and prize-giving ceremony.

I gave a speech that day and afterwards, she actually said to me: “Your speech was so funny!” I don’t think she’s the type who would say something she didn’t mean, so I took it as a nice compliment.

(Ironically, I found out later that she had a brother, Muzaffar, who was a schoolmate of mine. We actually hung out quite a bit, but I never got to know his other family members.)

Anyway, here are my own notes on her films:

I remember watching it on TV3 with great anticipation. And because of the hype, I had expected to see another masterpiece ala “Maria” (starring Fatimah Abu Bakar and the late Mustaffa Noor), which I thoroughly enjoyed.

But I didn’t like “Rabun”. More specifically, I didn’t like the camera angles (or the lack of it). So I was disappointed. I thought the story was cute, and I wasn’t offended by scenes of elderly people getting fresh with each other, but I didn’t quite understand the execution. It was different, alright. But not in a good way, in my mind.

I can’t quite recall where I saw this first, but most probably it was at a cinema. And I quite liked “Sepet”. The acting was admirable, and it was so different from everything else that was playing then. And I totally bought into the hype of this being the dawn of a new era for Malaysian cinema.

Again, I wasn’t offended or shocked by its content. Having grown up in a place like JB (which was exposed to other cultures via Singapore TV), the whole theme of inter-ethnic love and relationship wasn’t such a big deal for me.

The wacky family dynamics and idiosyncracies were nothing new to me as well, since I come from a mixed family background; my late mom being a non-malay convert herself, we always had a unique sense of openness and self-expression in our own household.

I found “Gubra” (which I’m sure I watched on TV, and not in the cinema), to be the funniest of Yasmin’s films. Adibah Noor as the maid was a hoot and the first few minutes of the film was a joy to watch.

What I didn’t like was the subplots, which included one with prostitutes. I felt like there were some wrong messages being sent out somewhere in there, and it sort of renewed my skepticism of her over-optimistic worldview.

I also didn’t like how some religious exceptions were portrayed as the rule. This is also always the MO of certain people who try hard to justify what is haram as halal. They know who they are.

I went to the premiere of “Mukhsin” at Mid Valley after being invited by the Grand Brilliance peeps. And this was the most “dreamy” of the lot. I liked the simplicity of the storyline and the boy who played the title character did a superb job.

But I must admit, when it ended, I wanted SOMETHING MORE to happen. Well, something DID happen; the cast and crew actually sang and danced (including some Media Prima finance people!) as the credits rolled, but I wanted a real closure. So I left the cinema feeling a tad disappointed.

Haven’t watched it yet and probably I never will.

I saw “Talentime” twice. First, at the Sri Pentas theatrette when GB played the film just for me and some colleagues. At the end of it, I remember going: “Wow, I was really touched. This film would win awards, but probably won’t make money”.

The film featured a family speaking not only in English, but Yorkshire English! “Macam mana orang kampung nak relate ni?” I thought.

But I personally liked it, especially the songs. But like Amir pointed out in the book, there are quite a number of “tak logic” things about it; like how a school could get male students to pick up female students on motorbikes for gigs. Gila ke apa?

I was in Gold Coast, Australia, attending a new media symposium when I got the call about what had happened to her. “Bro, Yasmin passed away. She just collapsed here at Sri Pentas, and died,” said none other than 8TV big wig Ahmad Izham Omar.

Of course at that point, she hadn’t passed away, but after a few days in coma, the time came for her to meet her Maker.

I did shed a tear. Ever since both my parents passed on, I always feel a certain kind of sadness upon hearing such news, knowing very well what kind of effect it would have on the people the deceased left behind.

It also made me think about my own life, and what I would leave behind when I’m gone one day.

This book had quite the same effect on me.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin