This is not going to be a normal Buzz post for several different reasons. One, is that the film in question, ‘Wayang’ is one that I have covered a fair amount in a recent article (to read it, click here). Writing about ‘Wayang’ again in the same manner that I have written the previous Buzz posts would feel…repetitive.
Another, more important reason, however, is the fact that I was partly involved in the prodouction. I am enthusiastic about this film (and as you will read later on, I am not the only one), but I still feel that there is a certain amount of objectivity that I should maintain. Yes, I do this blog for fun, but I still want to do it right, and beating my own drum doesn’t quite feel right (not in this case, anyway). Hence, I’ll limit myself to posting some screenshots from the film, with additional remarks at the bottom, and save my drum for another occasion 🙂
Awang Lah (Eman Manan) realising that Awi is actually blind.
What is ‘Wayang’ all about? The story follows Awang Lah (Eman Manan), a shadow play tok dalang (master puppeteer) idolised by a young, blind orphan, Awi. His enthusiasm for wayang kulit is infectious, and Awang Lah and his wife (Ida Nerina) adopt him. Soon after, they adopt a girl, Melor, after the death of her grandmother. All this while, Awang Lah’s brother, Jusoh (Wan Kenari), does not like Awang Lah’s activities, considering wayang kulit to be against Islam. As Awi (Zul Huzaimy) and Melor (Mas Muharni) grow up together, they begin to fall in love for each other. Jusoh eventually becomes jealous of this as well, and he strives to drive them apart. As the family drama unfolds, Awang Lah continues to perform wayang kulit shows, the stabilising influence in their lives.
How good, though, is ‘Wayang’? More to the point, how excited should we be about it? Well, no less an authority than Hassan Muthalib (who has seen it) compared its subject matter to the great films and filmmakers who are able to bridge generations, cultures and interpretations: films like Yasukiro Ozu’s ‘Tokyo Story’ and George Lucas’s ‘American Graffitti’, amongst others.
“Through Wayang, Hatta Azad Khan invites us to reflect upon ourselves,” he wrote in an email to the Malaysian Cinema mail group recently. “To the layman (those not involved in the arts), Hatta portrayed the world of those who live the arts, becoming their obsession. To the artists, they should hold strong. To the students in the traditional arts field, they are invited to return to their roots.”
“Hatta also invites students to think about the potential of traditional arts,” he continued, “and whether it can live on in the post-modern world that is becoming more chaotic and listless. What innovations should be done by them, so as to ensure that traditional arts can compete with the popular culture of the youth? Should an institute of higher education become a fort for these arts, one that protects them from being overwhelmed by development?”
Hassan finished his assessment with a quote from the Indonesian cinematic giant, Teguh Karya: “‘I put you, the audience, on the silver screen. If you can see yourself in my characters, then my work is done.’ Perhaps that is also the intention of Hatta Azad Khan in Wayang.”
With the original posting in Bahasa Malaysia, I had taken the liberty to translate the above into English. However, it is the last line of his assessment that stumped me. Stumped me, because though I can easily and literally translate it, I can’t quite grasp the same feel and meaning in the language of my former coloniser.
As my fingers hover over the keyboard, thinking of how to break that fort down, I find it ironic that his assessment of Wayang could very well describe a lot of the younger generation, certainly those whose influence of the foreign overwhelms the local, whose command of English unfairly outweighs that of Bahasa Malaysia.
“Ternyata, Wayang bukan hanya wayang. Wayang penuh dengan makna.”
Proof, if needed, that certain meanings can only be conveyed in a certain way, that certain truths, perhaps, can only be told through certain arts.
Or maybe it’s just me. 🙂
Wayang will be released in cinemas soon. Fikri can be glimpsed in a blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo in ‘Wayang’ (though you have to hold that blink for a while), which is another reason why he is excited. Evidently, so is Hassan Muthalib, the renowned Malaysian film historian. He’s also a nice guy, because he gave me permission to reprint his quotes here. Thank you, sir.