I had no idea such a film was made. I was only made aware of it when a former colleague of mine called me up out of the blue and asked to hang out. One thing led to another, and I ended up scouting for what’s available at the cinemas. I have been out of the loop for quite a while, and quite a number of releases have passed me by, including this one. “Tu filem Sudirman tu,” my friend pointed out. I thought she meant it was a biopic on his life, and momentarily and silently cursed myself for missing out on the news of such a production. A closer inspection reveals it to be anything but; rather, the film used his songs extensively throughout, without necessarily chaining itself to the songs or the singer.
Aiman (Farah Nazirah) is a simple girl from the kampung who is not, by conventional standards, particularly attractive in relation to others. This was made clear in the opening scenes, where she was revealed to be timid and constantly put down by others. This is despite the wonderful set of pipes she has (she sings all of her own songs, apparently) and her lack of inhibition at singing at the drop of a hat, which made for a number of entertaining moments in the film. Her enemies include Rita (Kilafairy), a pretty and popular girl in school. Interestingly, Aiman is secretly attracted to Johari (Akim AF), who could have easily played around, given that he’s also subject to the attention of Rita and Lana (Nur Syazwana), one of Aiman’s best friends.
Looking for a way to be more accepted, as is the wont for youngsters, she stumbled upon a beauty contest, Ratu Impian, and decided to enter. Though her parents, Lia (Adibah Noor) and Hairil (Harun Salim Bachik) are not necessarily for it, she is strongly encouraged by her grandmother Nendad Zaimah (Fauziah Nawi), who used to be a beauty queen herself. This might just be Aiman’s ticket to what she wants, but the road to beauty pageant stardom is filled with obstacles…
What comes out from this film is a fairly surprising result. That should be a given; since I had known nothing of this film, and that the film was made by Saw Teong Hin, whose only feature film work I’ve seen is ‘Puteri Gunung Ledang’, it doesn’t quite fit as easily into the categories I had sorted out in my head. A little reading up on the film probably would have helped, but that wasn’t the situation I was in.
Given the little time I had, I had formed the opinion that there will be some sort of nostalgic overtures. For the most part, Malaysian audiences like the illusion of paying respects to the older artists and entertainers. I suppose it can be taken as a reflection of the real life values they want to portray, when the truth of most of us not really caring much for them is something not particularly looked at in greater detail. Sudirman is widely accepted as a legend in Malaysian culture, and yet the on-screen awareness and adaptation of his life and/or works remain at a bare minimum. This was something I mentioned in an interview back when Spain wasn’t even European champions: “If the Americans have Tunku Abdul Rahman as their own historical figure, they would have made at least two movies about him, no doubt about it.” On a personal level, long may that continue, for it provides the possibility of me mining it for future projects, but it remains disappointing nonetheless.
Going beyond what this film isn’t actually about, let’s have a look at what this film is about. The story’s content was something that impressed me. Granted, issues such as the desired body and beauty is something that has been explored in other films, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less relevant here. There are scenes where Aiman, flicking through magazines, can be seen to clearly desire to be like someone in the magazines. This sort of influence is a strong factor in the make up and makeup of society, one that everyone acknowledges as a potentially damaging thing but does very little about. It is somewhat ironic that Aiman seeks social acceptance and inner happiness through an event sponsored by the very magazines perpetrating such an image. The story’s theme of finding the inner beauty in you and being happy is something that could be twisted in another way, but here it is pleasantly explored in a timely fashion. Of course, it is a film, and films remains constructions, but so is the idea of what is beautiful or otherwise. Thus, it is a creative construct that looks at social constructs.
One of the constructions I had expected to come forth is the exploration of nostalgia, linked with the aforementioned paragraph about Sudirman. As it turned out, the director made the strong decision to make the songs work for the film, rather than the other way around. What that means is that the story was created with a strong beginning, middle and end, coupled with a likeable heroine, someone we can root for. Thus, the film itself does not end up being the kind of nostalgic drivel others may have served up. The songs serve the story, and I believe this to be the correct way to approach storytelling and, more specifically, filmmaking.
It helps, of course, that they have a fairly believable cast to move things along. The producers could have easily picked a more prominent name for the film, but, to my eyes at least, the actors are given the chance to become the characters they portray. This resulted in a more realistic film I could immerse myself in.
The temptation, for example, to put a more famous name in a more prominent role must have been there, but what we end up with are people who actually look the part. At the risk of sounding derogatory, the kampung characters actually look like kampung people. This is no Maya Karin in a kampung scenario, which would also have brought about its own advantages, but in this case, ‘Hoore Hoore’ was made more pleasant by its lack of pretentiousness, signifiered by the cast. Even the more recognisable names here, Adibah Noor and Aznil Nawawi, take more of a backseat role, and does not necessarily step so far outside of their comfort zones.
Of course, it is not necessarily perfect: in order to get to the show in Kuala Lumpur, Aiman would regularly travel by taxi with her grandmother. However, the way it is presented made it appear as if it is a day trip, with the return journey completed within the same day (and I do mean ‘day’). I would have thought that unless the time-space continuum was incredibly shrunk, the taxi driver must have driven really, really fast…or the kampung was really close to KL.
Putting such minor non-issues aside, this can then be accepted as a little film well made. There’s not much holes to be picked at here, and if you believe in the mantra of saving the best for last, you can guess what the final song sung by the cast members is. Once you know that answer to that, then you can have a gander at the kind of feel-good movie this is intended to be and is.
It’s like that.
Fortunately for Fikri, the actor playing Rita is not a Kilafairy (killer fairy).
Featured image credit: Sudirman Arshad Blog