Sunday 29 July 2007

Serialisation begins

I have broken up the text of Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things into several parts for serialisation in Off The Edge magazine. I feel like Dickens, or Saharil!

Part 1 is in the August issue, now on sale for RM6. There are, as usual, other goodies in the magazine as well dong.

Saturday 28 July 2007

What I saw in New Delhi

Just got back from the 9th Osian's CINEFAN Festival of Asian & Arab Cinema! A delirious smorgasbord. This is what I saw, and those in bold are the ones I particularly enjoyed:

1. SANSHO THE BAILIFF (Kenji Mizoguchi/Japan/1954)

2. THE WATER MAGICIAN (Kenji Mizoguchi/ Japan/ 1933) (with live benshi performance!)

3. CAIRO STATION (Youssef Chahine/ Egypt/ 1958)

4. OPERA JAWA (Garin Nugroho/ Indonesia-Austria/ 2006)

5. A LITTLE KISS (Bahman Farmanara/ Iran/ 2005)

6. THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING ( Marwan Hamed/ Egypt/ 2006)

7.HEAVENLY KINGS ( Daniel Wu/ Hong Kong/ 2006)

8. WOVEN STORIES OF THE OTHER (Sherad Anthony Sanchez/ The Philippines/ 2007)

9. CROSSING THE DUST (Shawkat Amin Korki/ Iraq-Kurdistan-France/ 2006)

10. WOOL 100% (Mai Tominaga/ Japan/ 2006)

12. DRIVING WITH MY WIFE'S LOVER ( Kim Tai-Sik / Korea/ 2006)

13. FISHERMAN'S DAUGHTER ( Salinda Perera/ Sri Lanka/ 2007)

14. SHE AND HE (Elyes Baccar/ Tunisia/ 2006)

15. THE END OF THE ROAD (Afsaneh Monadi/ Iran/ 2007)

16. THE LAST DINING TABLE (Roh Gyeong-Tae/ Korea/ 2006)

17. RAAMI (Babak Shirinsefat/ Iran-Azerbaijan/ 2006)

18. FALAFEL (Michel Kammoun/ Lebanon-France/ 2006)

19. STRANGERS (Anand L Rai/ India/ 2007)

Thursday 26 July 2007

NST: 26 July

Ruby in the sky

You’ve heard of sky juice, of course. And if you haven’t, you probably would flunk one of those “How Malaysian Are You?” quizzes. The slang term for water seems to be unique to our shores. There is also another Malaysian original, Sky Kingdom. This is, or was, a commune of people on the East Coast who had some esoteric beliefs, not least of which was a fondness for giant teapots.

Well, there is also such a thing as a sky book. This is the kind of tome that makes ideal reading when you are in a plane. As I am such a jet-setter (but with unfortunately not the bank balance that the phrase might signify), I tend to do lots of reading thousands of feet about the ground. For the latest trip I took along a wonderful Malaysian book, As I Was Passing.

It is a compilation of columns by Sri Delima, which literally means “the glow of the ruby.” It even has a sequel, called (wait for it) As I Was Passing II. Both volumes have been recently reissued under the author’s real name, Adibah Amin, with different covers and rather large font-size. Some younger Malaysians, shame on them, would recognise Adibah solely through her hilarious turn as the priggish disciplinarian Cikgu Bedah in the film Adik Manja, her only foray into acting. If that is the case, they should check out these books at once.

I took along the original 1976 volume with me. It has been out of print for over a decade but I had purchased it at a charming second-hand bookstore, where I always feel the need to buy and to sneeze. The reissue is of course a good thing. The original is however more petite, and the fact that the author’s name isn’t explicitly mentioned somehow jibes with the self-deprecating wit contained within. The previous owner of my copy even left a name: “Khoo Mea Lee, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 1976.” Where is Khoo now?

As I Was Passing
is priceless Malaysiana. It is the closest that prose has come to the magic of Lat. When you first read it, you are all aglow with the warmth of nostalgia. But there is an irony here: Many of the articles in it also seem to express nostalgia for an earlier age. One of the earliest and best pieces, “The Sweet Face at the Window” has a foreign-educated young man returning to his village to lament, “I have not changed , but everything else has.” The final paragraph of this article packs a real emotional punch, and we cotton on that Adibah is more tough-minded than a mere nostalgist.

Others, such as Kee Thuan Chye recently in The Star, have commented on Adibah’s embrace of cultural differences and how she sees plurality as a blessing rather than a threat. Her accounts of celebrating Deepavali, Christmas and Chinese New Year can attest to this. Kee says that Adibah’s benevolence and healthy curiosity are precisely what this country now needs to avoid descending further into factionalism.

What makes her writing special is that although she never seems to preach or hector, hers is an inherently moral vision. This isn’t the morality that is informed by petty spite and bitterness, but a luminous humanism born out of an acute awareness and love of her surroundings.

The fact that she was a woman in a male-dominated profession (journalism) is crucial to her persona, too. Many a piece would lacerate, oh so subtly, the male ego -- although she does seem to have a soft spot for a certain type of rogue. There are also criticisms of prudes, chauvinists and busybodies but delivered in an inimitable way, without malice, like in a modern folk-tale. Her criticisms are gentle enough that “ants would not die under her tread” -- a saying she uses more than once.

You can image some very serious readers using her column as a respite from the “hard news” of the day. But I wonder if some of her articles will then live in the reader’s memory long after the seemingly urgent news had gone with the wind.

Like Lat and a few others such as Usman Awang, her humanism is wedded to sensual appreciation.

Her descriptions of rituals, including the ones specific to her family, offer pleasure because, very often, they are about pleasure. At the risk of seeming like a perv, As I Was Passing is quite erotic.

The article on Hari Raya does not need to use theological dogma but richly describes how the day unfolded in her childhood, including how her “big brothers and boy-cousins” would stroll “through the kampung with faithful [her] in tow, softly strumming their guitars, seemingly unaware of glowing eyes behind fluttering window-curtains.”

Her accounts of dondang sayang and learning Hindi through songs are just two more examples of how much she appreciates the crucial naughtiness of life.

When she describes how addictive personal home phones are, it’s strikingly similar to how we now treat the Internet; when she predicts that latah will soon die out, you wonder why this has not been proven true at all; and when she says that the word ‘saya’ came from ‘sahaya’ (slave), you wonder why you never knew that.

Adibah is also known as a translator, and she demonstrates this in more ways than one. She translates her joy, intelligence and occasional exasperation to her readers in exquisitely fleet-footed words; she translates across communities and belief-systems in the spirit of sharing; and in the process translates back some home truths that no longer feel hackneyed or corny.

Her articles almost never mention people by name. When she would indirectly refer to a politician or poet or some other public personality, you are left to wonder who they are. The fact that her articles are not dated or footnoted also makes you want to know more about the specific circumstances that prompted certain allusions.

For example, “Dear Monster Revisited” describes a Deepavali visit to a formerly feared, but now gruffly affectionate, headmaster. He makes a reference to “the new forms of tyranny around and within us” and it ends with a description of his “sad, yet...trusting eyes.”

I wonder if some kind of socio-political trauma caused these sad eyes. After all, Malaysia in the 1970s went through many changes; not necessarily the physical ones of the subsequent decade, but certainly institutional ones that continue to have an impact today. But it would not be Sri Delima’s style to “ungkit” as to the causes; her (seemingly) more modest aim is to heal.

If you are reading her books for the first time, I envy you.

Monday 23 July 2007

Proofreading party

Does anyone want to help me proofread Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things? The date is Thursday, August 2 in a quite place in KL. The reading should be done within one day and one place as it's not such a hefty volume. (Preferably you should not have a day-job!) Just email me ( )

Thursday 19 July 2007

NST: 19 July

Salaam to the south

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, back when he was still living in Iran, made a film called Salaam Cinema. It shows many Iranians auditioning for a film. It offered a charming glimpse at the hopes and dreams of ordinary, movie-mad Iranians. OK, I must confess: I never actually saw Salaam Cinema, but that’s not going to stop me from commenting on it.

This is a prelude to saying that I spent the last weekend quite agreeably holding auditions in Johor Bahru. Now, I blush to say that this was the first time as an adult I had ever been to JB. Well, I had no reason to go before this, did I?

So we had the auditions and were pleasantly surprised when almost 100 people turned up, despite minimal publicity. Many of them are involved in theatre productions and performed their lines with booming gusto. One had played Datok Onn and Hussein Onn in different plays and would soon, I am sure, get a crack at the third generation. Of particular interest were the young man who did uncanny impersonations of Que Haidar and Ako Mustapha, as well as the teacher from a religious school who acted out his own monologue in which he begged his step-mother to beat him. (Don’t ask).

Along the way, we chatted with the people who came. Quite a few worked in Singapore and had to wake up at 4 to cross the border; others were thinking of moving to KL; some spoke of the changes, the good and bad, their city had undergone.

The last time I had been in JB was in early childhood, and I always managed to be asleep as buses passed the city on the way to the checkpoint for Singapore trips, so I was not quite sure what to expect.

It does have some of the characteristics of a border town -- a place of flash and transience and opportunity -- that is as much a mental as physical state, beloved of certain people. Do Singaporeans see it the way we see Golok? Although I remember an entertaining chapter in Rehman Rashid’s A Malaysian Journey that described JB as somewhat dodgy, it must have cleaned up in the meantime -- or I wasn’t looking in the right places. There is even a waterfront eatery that seems to have been uprooted by tornado from Hartamas.

The movie we auditioned for is set entirely in JB. I am not sure if it will be the first, but it’s safe to say that previous JB movies, if they exist, do not number in the dozens. I certainly don’t recall seeing any, which accounts partly for my own lack of mental images.

My friend says it’s easy to differentiate JB folks form visiting Singaporeans based on how many colours they wear. And for sure there are local particularities that I might pick up on the more I go there. (We are shooting in September).

This is why it seemed particularly apt to cast, whenever possible, JB actors themselves. Aside from the fact that we will save on the accommodation budget (hah!) a local will be able to provide a certain verisimilitude, especially as this story is so specific to its locale.

But tell that to the KL-based aspiring actor who seemed quite peeved by our decision to hold auditions only in JB. He said that he was being deprived of an income and that we were being selfish! Not knowing him at all, I assumed he is the sort who thinks life owes him a living. But beyond that, there is also the sanctimoniousness of being in the centre.

I like living in the capital city, maybe because I am so used to complaining about it that I’m now too old to start complaining about a new place. In fact, I can’t really imagine living anywhere else in Malaysia. I used to think (oh, what will you think of me?) that anyone who chose to live outside KL simply has no ambition. My views have modified somewhat. But even now, if perchance I am flung into exile, I will always want to live in the largest city of whatever country I land in.

But increasingly it’s become apparent that so much of our media consciousness is KL-centric. (The fact that it’s Peninsula-centric is also obvious). It’s time I too started to listen more, which is why I took the chance to be involved in this JB movie. The writer/director grew up there.

So even though I am so KL-centred, it now gives me a twinge of sorrow that young people elsewhere, such as the ones who came for the auditions, feel the need to move to the capital. Yes, a reversal of my earlier stand; so sue me. Perhaps I have the selfish desire for KL to not become more congested, but it would also be great if most people can grow without being uprooted.

A particular concern of our educational and social policies has been the need to eliminate excessive “local” allegiances that might run counter to national cohesion. The worst-case scenario would be the mushrooming of separatist groups.
Simply put, it’s easier to rule if everyone thinks about the same things.

But the absence of community involvement, seen most blatantly since the elimination of local council elections, breeds something sad as well. If you do not take some pride in your immediate surroundings, chances are you won’t want to contribute much. And it’s precisely in the specific local communities that interesting stories can be found, and these can be fed to a wider audience, with all sorts of nourishing results.

And the stories are there, of course. Traveling around Perak two years ago for the making of Lelaki Komunis Terakhir, it was great to see how some people, mainly ethnic Chinese, went out of the way to document their own communities, either by building small museums or simply through discussions, often with no governmental support.

Johor has some of the same push, although it appears more top-down. There is even an annual Johor novel-writing competition! I don’t know of other states that have one. It was initially open only to Johor writers, but the doors have been opened to anyone who wants to write about Johor. Last year’s highest-placed entry was by Faisal Tehrani, who’s from Malacca but who would never let a small fact like that get in his way. May the contest survive for many years, and may other states follow suit.

Johor is not just the birthplace of Umno and Mawi, but Adibah Amin, Faridah Merican and Yasmin Ahmad, as well as the illustrious extended families of Ungku Aziz and Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, so the nation’s discursive landscape already owes quite a bit to the state. But it’s always good to know more, and this is an admonishment I address squarely to myself first.

Monday 16 July 2007

Surat saya kepada akhbar Metro

Kepada wartawan Abie Abdullah,

Salam sejahtera saya ucapkan. Diharap Cik/Puan Abie sihat walafiat dan cekal melaksanakan tanggungjawab di akhbar Metro. Tahniah kerana Metro khabarnya merupakan akhbar terlaris di Malaysia :-)

Saya merujuk kepada artikel Cik/Puan Abie berjudul "Filem Inggeris Undang Polemik" yang disiar di Metro Ahad semalam. Saya merupakan pembaca setia Metro Ahad kerana dahagakan gosip terkini artis-artis kegemaran saya, malah tak pernah ketinggalan kolum Dunia Mawi yang tersiar setiap minggu. Setelah membaca nukilan Mawi yang terbaru (di mana beliau menafikan sekeras-kerasnya fitnah kononnya beliau pernah hisap dadah, dan saya sebagai peminat sejati beliau sudah tentu percayakan beliau dan harap isu ini bernoktah di sini) saya pun terbaca artikel yang disebut di atas.

Malangnya saya mendapati beberapa fakta yang tidaklah begitu tepat dalam artikel itu. Filem-filem yang berjudul "Seed of Darkness" dan "Possessed" disebut berkali-kali sebagai "filem bahasa Inggeris" dan justeru itu tidak layak mendapat tempat dalam pencalonan utama Festival Filem Malaysia. Semangat patriotik pembikinnya pun dipersoal; mereka dianggap warga yang tidak menyokong usaha kerajaan kerana membuat filem dalam bahasa penjajah. Tapi saya sudahpun tonton kedua-dua filem itu dan mereka sebenarnya dalam Bahasa Cina. Tidak tahulah saya Bahasa Mandarin atau Kantonis atau Hokkien atau campuran kesemuanya (saya belajar di Sekolah Kebangsaan dan tak pandai mana-mana Bahasa Tionghua) tapi saya boleh syorkan Cik/Puan Abie bahawa mereka dalam Bahasa Cina. (Kecuali mungkin 10% dalam "Possessed", termasuk dialog Sharifah Amani sewaktu rambutnya masih panjang mengurai, dalam Bahasa Inggeris).

"Di mana kedudukan bahasa Melayu hari ini?” keluh Pengarah Urusan Kuasatek Pictures, Mohd Noor Kadir, yang mengesyorkan agar Finas mulai ini hanya bantu filem-filem Bahasa Melayu/Malaysia sahaja. Malah, judul filem-filem terbitan beliau seperti "Mr. Cinderella" dan "Mr. Cinderella 2" sudah cukup membuktikan betapa gigihnya beliau memartabatkan Bahasa Kebangsaan negara ini.

Sebenarnya, daripada tiga filem yang dipersoal di artikel tersebut, hanya "The Red Kebaya" layak digelar "filem Bahasa Inggeris". Pengarahnya pun Mat Salleh dari Britain tapi saya rasa (mungkin saya silap) bukannya Mat Salleh Britain sama yang akan bertunang dengan DIVA kesayangan saya, Ning Baizura. (Oh ya! Terima kasih juga kepada Metro kerana memberi liputan yang cukup meluas tentang pertunangan Ning).

Dengan ini saya harap kesilapan berkenaan dapat dibetulkan agar kewibawaan akhbar kegemaran saya tidaklah terjejas nanti. Terima kasih dan kalau boleh, tolong kirim salam kepada Mawi :-)

amir (peminat filem).

Friday 13 July 2007

Off to New Delhi

I will be in New Delhi from 19-28 July as part of the jury for the Osian's Cinefan Film Festival. Although I have been there before (for the same festival last year) recommendations for places to visit there are most welcome. (The Taj Mahal is too far and is for chicks).

Oh yes, my documentary Apa Khabar Orang Kampung (Village People Radio Show) will also be shown. Although it's banned in Malaysia I would really like it if enterprising Malaysians can organise screenings for it. Ahem!

Thursday 12 July 2007

NST: 12 July

(NOTE: A few sentences were not printed or were shortened by the paper. See if you can guess which ones!)

Lagu IT and collective memory

While doing research for my upcoming book Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things, I was overcome by the need to quote from the IT song.

You know the IT song. If you were in Malaysia in the 1990s, you must know the IT song. Unless you were a Luddite who vigorously denied yourself the pleasures of TV and radio, you will definitely know the IT song.

Lagu IT (as it is known) was created by none other than the Information Minister of that time, Mohamad Rahmat. This jovial personality was sometimes known as Mat Setia, due to his admirable loyalty to the administration and also the Setia campaign some years before that. The latter campaign, which ran sometime during the late 1980s, included the relatively mirthless Jenaka Hang Setia programme on TV, and the Setia Bersama Rakyat (Semarak) nationwide roadshow. Oh yes, there was also the song Setia. It was quite a nice song, performed by the wonderful Francesca Peters. Unless you were an unrepentant cynic, your heart’s cockles would have surely been warmed by the song.

Why was there such a need to stress the importance of “loyalty” in the late 1980s? Well, this has to do with the UMNO deregistration, the setting up of Semangat 46, the constitutional crisis involving royalty, and so on lah. If you want to know more, pick up a book!

Anyway, back to the subject. Lagu IT was different from the Setia song. It didn’t warm anybody’s cockles. In fact, it probably popped a few blood vessels.

A version was sung by the wonderful Siti Nurhaliza. But as far as I know, Siti has not included it in any of her Greatest Hits CDs, or sung it at any of her Istana Budaya concerts. I don’t dare speculate as to the reasons for this omission.

This is the song that wants you, in fact commands you, to love Information Technology (IT). If you had the radio or TV continually on, chances are you would have received this hectic exhortation several times in a day. So insistent was this song on the benefits of IT that you got the sense that a refusal of IT’s charms would be tantamount to some form of treason.

It’s hard to convey how ubiquitous this song was. It either made millions rush out to buy their first modem to experience the delights of Jaring service, or it could have made people throw their computers into the nearest river. Someone should do a survey.

So I did a Google search for the lyrics. Astonishingly (hold your gasps) there were no results. I then searched Limewire, where you can download all sorts of stuff. Once again, nothing there. Even an official site called Suara Patriotisme failed to include its MP3 among the toe-tapping, spirit-rousing numbers that can be accessed.

What gives? Did I simply imagine this song in an unusually vivid and protracted nightmare? But no, there were fragments of the lyrics quoted in various sites. They all agreed that the words “Cinta IT” and “Guna IT” appeared in it somewhere. It was also agreed that the song was probably the tuneful equivalent of the famed Chinese water torture.

So, the song did exist. Phew! Many people did take note of it, although not with great affection.

So if the song was indeed known to many, why were the lyrics nowhere online? Before you dismiss this with a sclerotic “That’s why you must trust the PRINT media more than the Internet!” I should say that I even looked through the archives of this worthy organ and its sister publications, all of whom chose to be reticent on the matter.

There is an irony in this, and a lament. The irony is that it would take only a few months from the song’s unveiling to the administration’s realisation that IT wasn’t all hunky dory after all. This realization coincided with a spate of reformasi websites, which caused all kinds of concern about how they were funded and maintained. The chairman of an “anti-defamation panel” at that time even said that it takes tens of thousands of ringgit to set up each site. If he had “cinta IT” enough to do research, he would have known that most of those sites could be run for virtually nothing.

The lament has to do with collective memory. It could be said that the IT song was so annoying that nobody wanted to archive it. But it is, paradoxically, this widespread annoyance that should have ensured a form of immortality. This was our very own, public-funded equivalent of the Crazy Frog ringtone, or the Numa Numa song, or anything by Stock, Aitken and Waterman. But no one wanted to commemorate it, and this is sad.

It’s easy and respectable to be moved by the sad state of heritage-worthy buildings, but our collective memory is also composed of non-tangible things. Songs that bore their way into our consciousness, the way termites eat through wood, should be included. An architect once told me that a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory. Well, a country with no memory of annoying songs is like a man with no personality.

Then again, all sorts of things are being erased at the moment, or might be soon. A best-selling newspaper opined a few days ago that a new biography of P. Ramlee (by his son) was wrong to mention that the late entertainer was fond of mahjong. Mentioning it was equivalent to an attempt to aib (humiliate) the man. Since he is a posthumous Tan Sri, such things should just not be put into print. The son was told to just invent some other location where he hung out! This is censorship in the name of propriety. More of this, and the past will seem very boring indeed.

So anyway, I got a friend to break into the RTM archives to access Lagu IT. (Forgive us!) Oddly enough, it is listed as a 2003 song. Surely it’s older than that?

But anyway, thanks to me, I am now happy to say that the lyrics can be found online if someone were interested enough to do a search.

It’s not such a great feat. I didn’t save a centuries-old temple from demolition. I didn’t record a performance by the last practitioner of an art form before the said practitioner bit the dust. But in my own small way, I feel I have contributed to this thing called national heritage. And I don’t even need a posthumous title to be thanked, really.

I will leave you with some lines to ponder. No, they are not by some Dead White European Male. They are by one of us, and represent a stirring call to action. I could quote Shakespeare’s Henry V’s call to war, but how could those lines even compare to the end of the song I’ve been talking about:

Terima IT
Belajar IT
Sayang IT
Guna IT

Saturday 7 July 2007

Now showing: Chalanggai

A mainly Tamil movie in which I have (ahem!) a small acting role.

Now showing at GSC MidValley, I Utama and Gurney Plaza.

Here's a tip: When buying tickets for this or any other International Screen movies, you can use the Gold Class counter rather than line up with the unwashed masses in the queue for Transformers.

Friday 6 July 2007

Old Malay VCDs that I own

1. CINTA (BS Rajhans 31 October 1948)
2. NASIB (BS Rajhans, 25 July 1949)
3. NILAM (BS Rajhans, 28 Sep 1949)
4. RACUN DUNIA (BS Rajhans, 16 February 1950)
5. ALOHA (BS Rajhans, 1950)
6. DEWI MURNI (BS Rajhans, 1950)
7. PEMBALASAN (L Krishnan, 1950)
8. SEJOLI (BS Rajhans, 19 Jun 1951)
9. JUWITA (S. Ramanathan, 12 August 1951)
10. MATAHARI (Ramon A. Estella, 1951)
11. PERKAHWINAN RAHSIA (AR Tompel, 1951)
12. RAYUAN SUKMA (L Krishnan, 1951)
13. ALADDIN (BS Rajhans, 1952)
14. ANTARA SENYUM DAN TANGIS (L. Krishnan, 27 February 1952)
15. ANJURAN NASIB (BS Rajhans, 10 April 1952)
16. JIWA LARA (S. Ramanathan, 1952)
17. KEMBAR (S. Ramanathan, 1952)
18. MISKIN (KM Basker, 1 December 1952)
19. PATAH HATI (KM Basker, 2 August 1952)
20. SEDARAH (S. Ramanathan, 30 August 1952)
21. TAS TANGAN WANITA (L. Krishnan, 1952)
22. YATIM PIATU (BS Rajhans, 1952)
23. HATI IBLIS (KM Basker, 1953)
24. IBU (S. Ramanathan, 13 Jun 1953)
25. ISTANA IMPIAN (V. Girimaji, 1953)
26. PUTUS HARAPAN (BN Rao, 2 March 1953)
27. HUJAN PANAS (BN Rao, 15 August 1953)
28. SIAPA SALAH (BN Rao, 7 November 1953)
29. ARJUNA (V. Girimaji, 1954)
30. DARAHKU (Ramon Estella, 1954)
31. IMAN (KRS Sastry, 1954)
32. KECEWA (S. Ramanathan, 1954)
33. PANGGILAN PULAU (S. Ramanathan, 4 July 1954)
34. MERANA (BN Rao, 27 November 1954)
35. ABU HASSAN PENCURI (BN Rao, 2 May 1955)
36. MENYERAH (KM Basker, 1955)
37. PENARIK BECA (P. Ramlee, 30 October 1955)
38. RIBUT (KM Basker, 1955)
39. HANG TUAH (Phani Majumdar, 28 Januari 1956)
40. SEMERAH PADI (P. Ramlee, 14 July 1956)
41. ANAKKU SAZALI (Phani Majumdar, 27 October 1956)
42. PENCURI (KM Basker, 1956)
43. BUJANG LAPUK (P Ramlee, 30 November 1957)
44. HANTU JERANGKUNG (Dhiresh Ghosh, 1957)
45. KASIH SAYANG (Phani Majmudar, 1957)
46. MOGOK (KM Basker, 1957)
47. PANCA DELIMA (P Ramlee, 7 July 1957)
48. ANAK PONTIANAK (Ramon A. Estella, 1958)
49. AZIMAT (Rolf Beyer, 1958)
50. DOKTOR (Phani Majumdar, 1958)
51. HANTU KUBUR (Chew Chen Kok, 1958)
52. KAKI KUDA (Kadir Sharma, 1958)
53. MASYARAKAT PINCANG (Phani Majumdar, 1958)
54. SARJAN HASSAN (P.Ramlee & Lamberto Avellana, 26 Aug 1958)
55. SERANGAN ORANG MINYAK (L Krishnan, 1958)
56. SUMPAH ORANG MINYAK (P. Ramlee, 20 Apr 1958)
58. BATU BELAH BATU BERTANGKUP (Jamil Sulong, 1959)
59. BAWANG PUTIH BAWANG MERAH (S Roomai Noor, 1959)
61. KORBAN FITNAH (PL Kapur, 1959)
62. MAHSURI (BN Rao, 1959)
63. MUSANG BERJANGGUT (P. Ramlee, 1 August 1959)
64. NUJUM PAK BELALANG (P. Ramlee, 26 December 1959)
65. PENDEKAR BUKANG LAPOK (P. Ramlee, 1959)
66. PUTERI GUNUNG BANANG Dhiresh Ghosh, 1959)
67. RADEN MAS (L Krishnan, 1959)
68. RAHSIA HATIKU (Naz Achnas, 1959)
69. RAJA LAKSAMANA BINTAN (Jamil Sulong, 1959)
70. RASA SAYANG EH ... (L. Krishnan, 1959)
71. ANTARA DUA DARJAT (P. Ramlee, 28 May 1960)
72. CHE MAMAT PARANG TUMPUL (S. Roomai Noor, 1960)
73. HANTU RIMAU (L. Krishnan/BN Rao/S. Roomai Noor, 1960)
74. ISI NERAKA (Jamil Sulong, 1960)
75. LELA MANJA (Jamil Sulong, 1960)
76. MEGAT TERAWIS (Dhiresh Ghosh, 1960)
77. NOOR ISLAM (KM Basker, 1960)
78. SUMPAH WANITA (Omar Rojik, 1960)
79. ALI BABA BUJANG LAPOK (P Ramlee, 31 Jan 1961)
80. GADO-GADO (S. Roomai Noor, 1961)
81. HANG JEBAT (Hussein Haniff, 1961)
82. JALAK LENTENG (Salleh Ghani, 1961)
83. PANJI SEMERANG (Omar Rojik, 1961)
84. LELA SATRIA (S. Roomai Noor, 1961)
85. PUTERI GUNUNG LEDANG (S. Roomai Noor, 1961)
86. SENIMAN BUJANG LAPOK (P Ramlee, 6 Jul 1961)
88. SI TANGGANG (Jamil Sulong, 1961)
89. SITI ZUBAIDAH (BN Rao, 1961)
90. SRI MERSING (Salleh Ghani, 1961)
92. SUMPITAN RACUN (S. Roomai Noor, 1961)
93. TAJUL ASHIKIN (M. Amin, 1961)
94. YATIM MUSTAPHA (BN Rao, 1961)
95. BADANG (S Roomai Noor, 1962)
96. BATU DURHAKA (Omar Rojik, 1962)
97. CELORENG CELORENG (S. Roomai Noor, 1962)
98. DANG ANOM (Hussein Haniff, 1962)
99. GERHANA (Jamil Sulong, 1962)
100. IBU MERTUAKU (P. Ramlee, 7 March 1962)
101. KORBAN KASIH (Hussein Haniff, 1962)
102. LABU & LABI (P. Ramlee, 29 August 1962)
103. LAILA MAJNUN (BN Rao, 1962)
104. LANCANG KUNING (M. Amin, 1962)
105. LUBALANG DAIK (Jamil Sulong, 1962)
106. MABUK KEPAYANG (Husein Haniff, 1962)
107. MATA SYAITAN (Hussein Haniff, 1962)
108. SELENDANG MERAH (L Krishnan/AR Tompel?, 1962)
109. TUN FATIMAH (Salleh Ghani, 1962)
110. BAYANGAN DI WAKTU FAJAR (Usmar Ismail, 1963)
111. CUCU DATUK MERAH (M. Amin, 1963)
112. DARAHKU (Ramon Estella, 1963)
113. DARAH MUDA (Jamil Sulong, 1963)
114. GILA TALAK (Hussein Haniff, 1963)
115. GUL BAKAWALI (BN Rao, 1963)
116. IBU AYAM (Salleh Ghani, 1963)
117. KASIH TANPA SAYANG (Omar Rojik, 1963)
118. MASUK ANGIN KELUAR ASAP (Hussein Haniff, 1963)
119. NASIB SI LABU LABI (P. Ramlee, 26 Apr 1963)
120. PILIH MENANTU (Omar Rojik, 1963)
121. RAJA BERSIONG (Ramon Estella, 1963)
122. RUMAH ITU DUNIA AKU (M. Amin, 1963)
123. AIR MATA DUYUNG (M. Amin, 1964)
124. DUA PENDEKAR (Hussein Haniff, 1964)
125. JAUH DI MATA (Fred Young, 1964)
126. KALUNG KENANGAN (Hussein Haniff, 1964)
127. MADU TIGA (P. Ramlee, 12 Feb 1964)
128. MAMBANG MODEN (Jamil Sulong, 1964)
129. MAT TIGA SUKU (Mat Sentul, 1964)
130. PANGLIMA BESI (M. Amin, 1964)
132. RAGAM P. RAMLEE (P. Ramlee, 1964)
133. SIAPA BESAR (Omar Rojik, 1964)
134. TIGA ABDUL (P. Ramlee, 22 Apr 1964)
135. TUN MANDAN (Salleh Ghani, 1964)
136. WAN PERKASA (Nordin Ahmad, 1964)
137. BUMIPUTRA (Dhiresh Ghosh, 1965)
138. CINTA KASIH SAYANG (Hussein Haniff, 1965)
139. DAJAL SUCI (Dhiresh Ghosh, 1965)
140. DAYANG SENANDONG (Jamil Sulong, 1965)
141. IKAN EMAS (M. Amin, 1965)
142. JIRAN SEKAMPUNG (Hussein Haniff, 1965)
143. KASIH IBU (Nordin Ahmad, 1965)
144. MASAM-MASAM MANIS (P. Ramlee, 21 August 1965)
145. MATA DAN HATI (M. Amin, 1965)
146. MUDA MUDI (M. Amin, 1965)
147. PUSAKA PONTIANAK (Ramon A. Estella, 1965)
148. SAYANG SI BUTA (Omar Rojik, 1965)
149. TIGA BOTAK (Mat Sentul, 1965)
150. AKSI KUCING (Omar Rojik, 1966)
151. ANAK BULUH BETONG (S Kadarisman, 1966)
152. ANAK DARA (M. Amin, 1966)
153. DAHAGA (Omar Rojik, 1966)
154. DO RE MI (P Ramlee, 1966)
155. DUA KALI LIMA (M. Amin, 1966)
156. GERAK KILAT [JEFRI ZAIN - GERAK KILAT) (Jamil Sulong, 1966)
157. GURINDAM JIWA (M. Amin, 1969)
158. NAGA TASIK CINI (Nordin Ahmad, 1966)
159. NASIB DO RE MI (P. Ramlee, 1966)
160. SABARUDDIN TUKANG KASUT (P. Ramlee, 1966)
161. UDANG DI SEBALIK BATU (Hussein Haniff, 1966)
161. NORA ZAIN - AGEN WANITA 001 (Low Wai, 1967)
163. DOSA WANITA (M. Amin, 1967)
164. JEBAK MAUT (Jamil Sulong, 1967)
165. KELUARGA 69 (P. Ramlee, 1967)
166. LAMPONG KARAM (S. Kadarisman, 1967)
167. MAT RAJA KAPUR (Mat Sentul & M. Amin, 1967)
168. MAT BOND (Mat Sentul & M. Amin, 1967)
169. PLAY BOY (Nordin Ahmad, 1967)
170. SESUDAH SUBUH (P. Ramlee, 1967)
171. AHMAD ALBAB (P. Ramlee, 1968)
172. ANAK BAPAK (P. Ramlee, 1968)
173. BAYANGAN AJAL (Low Wai, 1968)
174. GERIMIS (P. Ramlee, 1968)
175. IBULAH SYURGA (S Sudarmaji (1968)
176. JURANG BAHAYA (Low Wai, 1968/9?)
177. KEKASIH (Nordin Ahmad, 1968)
178. LAIN JALAN KE SYURGA (Jamil Sulong, 1968)
179. SI MURAI (Nordin Ahmad, 1968)
180. MAT LANUN (Mat Sentul, 1968)
181. RAJA BERSIONG (Jamil Sulong, 1968)
182. BUKAN SALAH IBU MENGANDUNG (Jins Shamsuddin, 1969)
183. ENAM JAHANAM (P. Ramlee, 1969)
184. KALAU BERPAUT DI DAHAN RAPUH (Omar Rojik, 1969)
185. KERANDA BERDARAH (Nordin Ahmad, 1969)
186. KERANDA JINGGA (Omar Rojik, 1969)
187. KERIS EMAS (M. Amin, 1969)
188. LANANG SEJAGAT (Omar Rojik, 1969)
189. MAT TOYOL (Mat Sentul, 1969)
190. PANGLIMA HARIMAU BERANTAI (S. Kadarisman, 1969)
191. SERIKANDI (M. Amin, 1969)
192. SIAL WANITA (M. Amin, 1969)
193. DI BELAKANG TABIR (Jins Shamsuddin, 1970)
194. DR RUSHDI (P Ramlee, 1970)
195. KEMBANG LAYU (S. Kadarisman, 1970)
196. LUBANG NERAKA (Nordin Ahmad, 1970)
197. MAT KARUNG GUNI (Mat Sentul, 1970)
198. PERINTAH SERI PADUKA (S. Kadarisman, 1970)
199. PUAKA (M. Amin, 1970)
200. AKU MAHU HIDUP (M.Amin, 1971)
201. ANGKARA (Omar Rojik, 1971)
202. JAHANAM (M. Amin, 1971)
203. JANGAN TINGGAL DAKU (P. Ramlee, 1971)
204. MAT MAGIC (Mat Sentul, 1971)
205. PUTUS SUDAH KASIH SAYANG (P. Ramlee, 1971)
206. SEMUSIM DI NERAKA (M. Amin, 1971)
207. LAKSAMANA DO RE MI (P. Ramlee, 1972)
208. SEMANGAT ULAR (M. Amin, 1972)

Updated (12 May 2010):

209. PERMATA DI PERLIMBAHAN (Haji Mahadi, 1952)
210. TAUFAN (TC Santos, 1958)
211. KANCAN TIRANA (P. Ramlee, 1969)

And I am looking for:


(updated 15 December 2007)

Thursday 5 July 2007

NST: 5 July

(NOTE: One paragraph was not printed in the paper. Guess which one!)

Sivaji and the politics of numbers

By the time you read this, the Tamil film Sivaji would have grossed about RM7 million in Malaysia. It has been screening for three weeks.

I don’t know if this is the most successful Tamil release in this country, but it is certainly more successful than any Malaysian film. The record for Malaysian film is held by Jangan Pandang Belakang, a fright-fest in which ghouls skate across the screen and flail about in the manner of R&B back-up dancers. It made RM6.4 million earlier in the year.

Now, these numbers are interesting. It’s one thing for a Hollywood film, amply endowed with international buzz, to inspire locals to choose it rather than the home-grown stuff. But a Tamil film?

True, the main actor Rajinikanth is famous, and anticipation had been running high among Tamil movie fans. When some early Malaysian screenings suffered technical glitches, some frustrated punters even went on a rampage reminiscent of those “Say No to Violence” posters of our 1999 General Elections.

But still, a Tamil film? Less than 10% of the population speaks Tamil, while almost all Malaysians speaks Malay to some degree. So how can a Tamil film, whose run has not even ended, sell more tickets than any Malay film?

If you are an upper middle-clas urban type who speaks mainly English (hands up, you shameless things!) it’s possible that Sivaji would have gone completely under your radar. After all, it’s not sponsored by any fast-food chain or telco. Then you might scratch your coiffed head that this film you’d never heard of will end up achieving around the same numbers as the first Lord of the Rings.

There are several possible reasons. Could it be that the non-Tamil speaking population has taken a sudden interest in subtitles? Or could it be that the small minority that consists of actual Tamil speakers like to watch this same film several times?

More pessimistically: Could it be that people who make Malay films, despite having had seven decades of practice, literally have no idea what our audience wants?

I suppose you can hire a market-research type to find out the reasons. But I like things to be a little mysterious. Life becomes more interesting that way. Besides, how often are market researchers right?

It’s great to live in a country where conventional wisdom can be turned on its head once in a while. For example, it’s just assumed that people would rather see a film in a language that they understand. It’s also just assumed that Hindi films would have more appeal than Tamil ones, as the former have a glossier, plusher image, but the numbers have often shown otherwise.

And is Sivaji a bit grittier than, say, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? Well, it’s about a US-based bloke who returns to India to set up a charity foundation. But there are corrupt officials and greedy businessmen in his way. He bribes his way through but then is confronted with a test of his principles. There’s also a love story somewhere. And songs by the venerable AR Rahman.

The success of Sivaji also makes one ponder the politics of numbers. It’s usually assumed that the majority will be stronger against the minority. This is true in the case of, say, an election. Leaving aside the touchy matter of how electoral boundaries are drawn, the basic premise is still: You need to get more votes than the other guy.

But there are various mechanisms through which a minority can assert itself. A talent contest where the outcome is determined by SMS votes is a case in point, since people can just vote repeatedly. (This is, of course, if we subscribe to the depressing supposition of communitarian loyalty trumping subjective criteria like, erm, talent).

You can also make the point that a numerical majority might in fact be weaker in the case of competition, because majorities tend to be complacent, lazy, and perhaps prone to unproductive bickering. After all, this has been the basis for much of our post-Independence political scare-mongering: “Stick together or else The Others will Take Advantage!”

Our previous Prime Minister caused an international furore in 2003 when he contrasted the achievements of the Jews against the Muslims, despite the huge gulf in numbers. But without libeling any race, there is something to be learned there. What’s the point of numbers if the numbers don’t work for you?

This is why the panic over apostasy strikes me as odd. (Or maybe I am the odd one). What’s the point of inflating your flock with people who want to fly away? Best to marshal your available resources the best you can.

Back in the pre-Internet era, a scarily addictive board game of my post-SRP days was called RISK, where you basically try to conquer the world. The outcome is determined through rolled dice. What makes the game frisky is that even if you have a large army of plastic battalions, you might still get beaten by a smaller force. It’s the luck of the draw. The seemingly punier guy might just have better luck or (as I sometimes darkly suspected) he has a special way of throwing the dice. This taught me that the bigger force may not always win. It also taught me that I can be a very sore loser, but that’s a different story.

The plot of Sivaji itself comments on the role of the minority (in this case, an individual who wants to make a change) pitted against against a large, corrupt force of vested interests. The individual (presumably) wins. So you can say that the plot has an ontological relationship with its success.

The added irony here, of course, is that Sivaji is not such an underdog. At US$16 million, it is reportedly the most expensive Indian film ever. But that’s often the case, is it not? Almost all blockbusters are about the triumph of the little guy against a big force. In the first blockbuster, the force was a form of marine life with big teeth and a scary theme song. But in subsequent incarnations, it has ranged from aliens to what Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex”. These blockbusters are made by large corporations, which then touchingly need the contributions of millions of you little punters to keep them solvent. And we keep obliging because they make us feel good, these blockbusters do, and feeling good is not to be sniffed at.

After all this, I blush to admit that I have yet to see Sivaji. I was supposed to watch it at the Coliseum last Sunday but was then told that the queue was too long. I shall try again this weekend.

And I hope that this mania for Tamil movies will extend to the release today of Deepak Kumaran Menon’s Chalanggai (Dancing Bells), which was made entirely by Malaysians and shot mainly in Brickfields. I have a cameo appearance in it!

But even if I were not involved, I would recommend this sweetly observed tale of youthful dreams coming up against tough choices. It is also a true lepak [hangout] movie that makes you appreciate your surroundings. Go watch.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Malay movies 1948-72

Do you have any favourite Malay movies from this period? Which are they?

If you need to refresh your memory, the estimable Filemkita has a listing of Malay films from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

Sunday 1 July 2007

Lyrics found

(it is finally here. thanks to Chong at RTM for doing the needful).

IT Agenda Baru Negara,
Malaysia Melangkah Ke Cyberjaya,
Teknologi Hebat, Penyebar Maklumat,
Mencipta Satu Bangsa Berjaya.

IT Budayalah Hidup Kita,
Kekayaan Baru Dunia,
Cintai Pada IT,
Sejahteralah Diri.

Kenal IT
Suka IT
Pelajari Setiap Hari
IT Terkini

Oh ~ IT
Guna IT
Tingkatkan Ilmu IT
Malaysia Bistari
Terima IT
Belajar IT
Sayang IT
Guna IT

And with this, the text for the manuscript can be considered complete.