‘Ombak Rindu’ is a film much derided by many for vastly different reasons, but the one thing that remained common to these grievances was the characterisation of certain characters in the film. Namely, the portrayal of Izzah by Maya Karin was deemed as ultra-unrealistic. “Dah kena rape, lepas tu nak kahwin dengan mamat tu pulak,” was a common sentiment, even if the method of delivery was not exactly the same.
For my part, it was something I took with a pinch of salt. When it comes to Osman Ali’s films, the ones I have seen may lack in other areas from other angles, but greater care was taken in preserving his characters in direct contrast with others. There’s always something redeeming about each character, which is why I actually decided to make his films (or, more specifically, his characters) the area of study in my research.
Don’t let me down, Mr Director.
‘Ombak Rindu’ is a film based on a novel of the same title by Fauziah Ashari. In the story, Izzah was forced to the city by her villanous uncle, and she ended up being taken to a nightclub, and was forced to pretty much serve as a call girl. She took one call on her first night, that of Hariz (Aaron Aziz). After having taken her, so distraught was she by this experience that she begged Hariz to take her on as his wife. It was something she had wanted to do to halalise the whole affair for her, so to speak. I doubt whether Hariz was disinterested by her physically, but he treated her as if he had no interest in her whatsoever, though he did agree to keep her as a kept woman/prisoner (delete as appropriate) in his home.
Of course, then the truth comes out: Hariz is already betrothed to Mila (Lisa Surihani), who is to return from overseas and get married so that they can both consolidate their respective business empires and get down to making lots of beautiful little babies. Only one problem, though: like the proverbial goat drinking milk from its mother, Hariz has slowly but surely been weaned of the goodness and sincerity that emanated from Izzah. She continued to serve him, be patient with him, even took care of him as he did the complete opposite of to her. Now he’s in the somewhat enviable position of having two very different women eating out of the palm of his hands. Basically, it’s my long-winded way of saying this film is a long love triangle.
First of all, I don’t know why I had decided to go with the goat simile. I honestly don’t know why, but it is the image that came to mind. Perhaps my subconscious will decide to reveal the reason sooner rather than later. Ah, the pleasures of streams of consciousness. Thank you, Andrew Ng.
Secondly, the film positioned very interesting characters to play off one another. To that end, Osman Ali did not disappoint me. On the one hand, we have the very grounded Izzah, whose context of upbringing, complete with the abusive past and disjointed family, did not wean her (there’s that word again!) off the path of Islam. One could see how that became the saving grace of her life, and therefore I am not particularly surprised by her reactions. Having had some understanding of what such an event might have meant to such people in real life, it is a concept that cause the reactions in city folks/people who cared less about the small print of religion (again, delete as appropriate) the film did. To that end, I suppose it can be seen as a little stupid and somewhat unrealistic. I myself don’t agree with such a development, but the fact that it had taken place on screen piqued my interest more than just a little.
It is greatly aided by her nemesis, Mila. Of course, having just gotten back from overseas (London? Melbourne? America, even? I can’t recall now), her manner, posture and clothing, complete with the accent and liberal dosage of ‘I’ and ‘you’ even as she speaks Malay denotes her class. Naturally, she is seen as the complete opposite of Izzah, and is, in fact, a more natural fit for Hariz. I am not a particular fan of Lisa Surihani, in the sense that I do not make a special effort to watch her films, but I am told this is one of the first times she is playing an antagonistic character.
If so, then it’s bullshit. One of the mantra of scriptwriting I came across is that the protagonist of a film is the one of the main characters who suffers the most. When I read that, it was light a light bulb was switched on in my head. In that sense, I felt somewhat sympathetic to Mila’s character. She is someone who evidently had a plan and followed it, but she ended up being deceived by someone who she had trusted. Worse, Izzah was pulled into this game by the silent dalang, Hariz, and both of them suffered because of it.
The true villain of the piece, then, is the one whose face is the biggest on the poster. If ever you need a confused and truly divisive character on screen, look no further than Hariz. His is the very definition of asshole for most of the film for me. He treated Izzah horribly, and when his heart changed, he had not the guts to stand up and be counted as a man by being honest. In the end, he was portrayed as someone who came out of it smelling like a bunch of roses, but I’d identify him more as the thorn that caused a lot of hurt to the women in the film. Maybe that’s why I wanted to use the goat simile.
So, those are the things I found to be interesting and positive about the film. There’s more than can be written about the clash of class and such, which are equally interesting (note also how the environment, the rural and the urban, was used to provide a bigger context; I believe it was also explored in Osman Ali’s previous film, ‘Cun’), but it’s time I train my guns on something truly deplorable.
I cut many Malaysian films a lot of slack on certain things. I give appraisals to both the good and the bad, without truly hanging certain people and films out to dry. For the most part, I do that understanding that the filmmakers themselves may have had practical constraints on achieving their vision; realpolitik always gets in the way of realising dreams. On that level, I may mention things in passing, but I don’t go all out in picking the flaws I have noticed.
So well done to ‘Ombak Rindu’ for claiming the award for being one of the worst edited films I have ever seen. The editing of any film is crucial to dictating the flow of the story, but I’d pick many of my students ahead of Affandi Jamaludin, whose sloppy cutting betrayed the goodwill he had built with his previous works. He practically did all of Yasmin Ahmad’s features, and also ‘Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang’, but where did all that go for this film? There were many moments in the film when a character had failed to even finish his line before the shot was faded to black. You could still here Hariz’s voice on the beach on a particular scene, a crucial scene which dictated his change in character, but all you see is the beginnings of a transition. I shouted all sorts of expletives, because I had allowed myself to be drawn into the story, and more specifically the character. I may not have cried as others did, but all that went down the pan, and such scenes, occurring several times, made me want to throw things at the TV instead. I don’t know whether the call made was actually his, perhaps someone else had decided to stick their nose into the editing process, but nevertheless, the potong steam moments were just one too many for me to tolerate on such a film made by such people who should have known so much better.
What a shame, then. The movie made a ton, and most people don’t care about that, but what a shame that I felt this film could have been so much better.
And I haven’t even gotten started on the underutilisation of Bront Palarae yet…
Fikri still can’t believe this is the second highest grossing Malaysian film of all time.