Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I would like to wish all my friends, relatives and readers Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri dan Maaf Zahir Batin. For those outside Malaysia, I wish them all Eid Mubarak.
After a month of contemplation, jihad against all that is sinful and compiling brownie points, tomorrow (1st October 2008) is when everything falls into place - a celebration of our victory.
I'm hardly what you may call pious or even religious, but what I try to do is to go through life without doing harm to others, by being honest, by doing good things, helping the needy and loving my family.
I have friends from all walks of life - Muslims, Christians, Hindus, atheists, Buddhists, Taoists, agnostics, Malays, Indians, Chinese, Eurasians, Westerners, males, females, in-betweens. As long as they are my friends, I treat them as they treat me.
We should not hate anyone because of their color or creed. We should not detest them because of their religious inclinations. For example, I know of many Muslims Malays that are untrustworthy, and I also know of many non-Muslims whom I would also trust more.
It is a funny world.
We need to make this world a great place for our children and their children. They face uncertain times - and these uncertain times are not the makings of religion or race - but by men who have attained positions by varied means and have made the climate as such. We need them (our children) to be prepared, to be good citizens and good people. We need them to grow up and be more civil, honest and truthful. But it is up to us to make sure that the world they live in is somewhat ideal for them.
With that, once again, to those whom toes I have trod on, slighted in any way, I humbly apologise and ask for forgiveness. Let's start anew and hope that tomorrow begins a better future for all of us.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I'm not going to write much about Paul Newman. Even as I'm writing this, tributes are pouring in by the thousands in many other blogs all over the world. But I will say that the movie world will be a sadder place without Newman.
In fact, just two days ago, I was watching Color of Money directed by Martin Scorsese. Tom Cruise seemed insignificant compared to this screen giant.
Amongst my favourite Newman movies include Cool Hand Luke, The Sting,
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (one of the best buddy movies ever made), The Verdict, The Hustler, Road To Perdition and Absence of Malice.
Rest In Peace, Butch, I do hope what you said (as John Rooney in Road to Perdition) isn't true:
"There are only murderers in this room! Michael! Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see heaven." .


During my first year as a producer in TV3, we always thought of producing things that were different from the usual fare you saw on TV. So when the station's first Hari Raya came in 1984, we at TV3, wanted to be different even when it comes to getting the Prime Minister's message on air.
I decided to get the management to agree to allow me to shoot the then Prime Minister,Tun Dr Mahathir, and his wife, Tun Dr Hasmah, at their official residence. I didn't want us to take the official feed from RTM - with the PM behind the rostrum reading a prepared text.
I wanted the people or the public to get a glimpse of Tun as a father figure, without the trappings of authority.
Surprisingly, we got the greenlight to do just that. So, about two weeks into Ramadhan, we were allowed to go to the official residence of the Prime Minister and I got to direct this great man. It would be my first of many contacts with him.
When we reached the house, we decided that the living room would be where we would shoot the Prime Minister.
What I wanted was for Tun and his wife to be seated on the sofa with a table in front of them. On the table, I wanted a stack of Hari Raya cards that they had received from the rakyat.
When Tun appeared in the same room, it was like a dream come true. My hands must have been wet and clammy when I shook hands with him. I cannot remember much of the details, but Tun and his wife were already dressed in baju Melayu and baju kurong, and they were very much at ease.
They waited for my directions - jeez...imagine me directing the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Anyway, I told them that I wanted them to talk to the public in the most informal manner. Greet the public, pick up a card or two, read them, and then wish the viewers a Selamat Hari Raya.
The moment I most remembered was when Tun Hasmah shed tears reading one of the cards before wishing the viewers a wonderful Raya. That was something we couldn't have planned.It was a gem.
The shoot took about an hour. Just like that, it was over.
When the Raya message was aired over TV3 on Raya, I remembered it causing quite a stir. The Ministry of Information and RTM must have popped a blood vessel. We had upped the ante. We caught them with their pants down and they didn't like it.
For the first time, the Malaysian TV viewers were given a glimpse of the Prime Minister and his wife in a different light, and it was brought to them by the first private TV station in Malaysia, and not RTM.
Somehow, that didn't ring right for many parties. So, it was the last such message from the Prime Minister. Since then, it was always the official bland Raya message behind the rostrum in between flags, over and over again. Don't know why they don't want the PM to be seen as just another human being, as another Malaysian.
Whatever the reason was, the memories I took home from the shoot will always be amongst my most treasured moments as a TV producer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Don't forget to catch tonight's (Thursday 9pm TV2) episode of Bilik No.13.
This episode entitled PETI (crate) stars Kee Thuan Chye and Sue Tan as a couple who are facing financial and marital problems.
Kee plays the role of a small time contractor who in his time of need, inherited an empty 'peti' or crate from his rich uncle who had recently passed away. He becomes the laughing stock of his wife and his mother-in-law who think that the uncle really hated Kee and gave him a worthless crate.
Kee soon found out that the crate is 'magical'. All the box needs is live animals to be sacrificed. In return, the crate conjures up money and jewelry for Kee.
Suddenly, all of Kee's problems are solved. All he had to do was catnap neighborhood cats to be the sacrificed without anyone knowing.
Not really caring where he got the money from, Kee's wife is also happy, as she could now gamble the money away.
However, Kee's flirtation with a kopitiam girl causes his marriage to flounder, and without him knowing about it, Kee's wife threw away the box in anger.
Check out the episode. It's not that scary but some scenes may be quite gross.


For my 25th wedding anniversary I ordered a Hyundai Starex for Puteh, my wife. It's a nice mini-van that can surprisingly seat 11 passengers comfortably and safely.
The sales person, Steven, delivered the dark greyish Starex this morning and she was visibly happy and elated to get her new wheels. Her previous Kia Nazaria is quite rundown already.
The Starex, I explained to my friends, is the poor-man's Alphard. Yup, really. Once you buy it, you become poor!!!
Hahaha....just joking. The Starex is value for money and quite slick. It runs on diesel so I save 5 sen to the liter against the petrol. The full tank (before tomorrow's 10 sen reduction) was around RM160. Should have waited a couple of days to put in the full tank and saved at least RM7. Hehehe.
You could also upgrade to a full-spec version for another RM25k and they would turn the van into a 7-seater, including two massage chair seats!
No, I wasn't tempted. The current spec is good enough especially when it comes with a nice LCD TV for the passengers and a DVD player.
Anyway, below a video of the Starex. Who knows, maybe you would be attracted to it and maybe buy one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Over the past couple of months, I have been hearing good things about this Hindi movie entitled Singh Is King. According to reports, as of this month, this movie became a bonafide worldwide blockbuster movie beating the previous record holder Om Shanti Om.
I'm not much of a Hindi filmgoer. In fact, the last Hindi movie which I paid to see was Dilse and the last Tamil movie - Sivaji The Boss. Both films I enjoyed tremendously, but nevertheless I don't make it a point to actually go out to see a Hindi movie. Mostly, I try to catch it on DVD when the English subtitles allow me to enjoy the movie better.
But I keep hearing good things about this Akshay Kumar movie.
So, yesterday, in between meetings, I had little much to do, so I went to the new Capital Square Cineplex in Kuala Lumpur to catch the movie.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed the movie. Don't get me wrong. Singh Is King is no cinematic masterpiece. It's not even in the same league as Lagaan or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Nevertheless, it's worth your RM9.
Best of all, about 30 percent of this movie is in English. The clear English subtitles also helped.
The movie is simple enough. It tells the story of a happy go lucky (but reckless) Sikh by the name of Happy Singh. His village has had enough of him and conspired to get him out of the village by sending him to Australia to bring back another Sikh by the name of Lucky Singh, who has become an underworld King down under.
Upon reaching Australia (not without first having a slight detour to Egypt), he meets Lucky who laughs off Happy's attempts to bring him back home. In a sudden twist of fate, Lucky gets paralysed after an assassination attempt on his life from rival gangs. During the paralysis, the rest of the gang wrongly assume that Lucky appointed Happy as his replacement. Happy is now King.
The love interest in this movie is between Akshay (Happy) and gorgeous Katrina Kaif in the role of Sonia, the daughter of a florist named Rose.
Here, the plot is completed lifted from Jackie Chan's Mister Canton and Lady Rose. Sonia's mother, Rose, has been telling her daughter that they are still rich, but unfortunately during Sonia's long overseas stay, fortunes have not been good to her and now all she has is a small flower stand in Sydney (it could be Brisbane or Melbourne too).
So, Happy being the kind hearted 'gangster' allowed Madam Rose to use his mansion so that Sonia and her fiance Puneet still think that Rose is still filthy rich.
Well, the story can get convoluted but it is 2.5 hours of sheer fun and music.
Directed by Anees Bazmee, who's only previous credit worth mentioning is Dewangee, the movie has its own kinetic energy that allows you to just sit back and laugh and enjoy the events as it unfolds. The music, too, is fun - very R&B with lots of English lyrics.
Akshay is surprisingly good in his role. He looks like a Sikh version of Magnum PI star Tom Selleck.
But, what made my eyes glued to the screen was this beautiful actress named Katrina Kaif. I haven't seen any of her previous movies, but trust me, the minute after reaching home, I got online, I checked Youtube for more videos of this gorgeous creature.
I thought no one could be more beautiful than Juhi Chowla and then I saw Katrina.
Enuff said. Go catch the movie. It's great fun.
Oh by the way, stay on til the credits - Snoop Dog sings the theme song! Serious.
Below is the music video and another clip of Akshay and Katrina dancing amongst the Egyptian ruins.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008


This is the celebrated opening scene from the movie Citizen Kane, the first feature film directed by celebrated genius Orson Welles. Maybe consider the opening scene one of the most unique, if not the best opening scene ever.
Personally, I prefer his opening scene for Othello, which to me is my favourite ever opening scene. I posted the opening scene for Othello some weeks earlier.
The problem with Citizen Kane is that we are following a reporter who is trying to find out who or what RoseBud is - the final words uttered by Kane in his Xanadu deathbed.
That's the premise of the whole movie, isn't it?
And, of course, as we all know, in the end, Rosebud is the sled he received from his mother when he was a little boy.
So, where's the problem?
Well, my problem is that when he uttered those now famous words "Rosebud", he was alone. He died alone in his room. He uttered the words, he lets go of the toy that rolled down and broke, and then the nurse came in.
So, who in the movie, knew what his last words were? He uttered it alone. No one could have heard him. So, that spoiled the whole magic for me. Unless, of course, I missed out on something in the movie. Hey, Ajimi, maybe you can help me out here.
Anyway, for those who have never seen Citizen Kane before, here's the first ten minutes of this cinematic classic.



Someone has actually been recording Bilik No. 13 and has posted it on BRIGHTCOVE.TV.
The guy has posted the first four episodes. For those overseas, especially my brother, this is great. Now they can watch the series as and when they want to.

Unfortunately, I cannot seem to embed the video code into my blog.

You guys can, however, follow the link below and watch it online.


Sunday, September 21, 2008


Today is the 20th day of fasting. For those who didn't notice it, this year is one of those rare years where the Islamic dates match the Roman calendar dates. Yup, Ramadhan and October are day for day similar.
Anyway, I have divided my breaking of fast with family and friends over the past two weeks or so.
And as usual, we do not believe in paying RM100 bucks per head to buka puasa at a hotel. There's just so much that you can stuff your face without being silly - and going to a hotel that claims to have 100 or 200 dishes for berbuka is just plain crazy (even verging on the obscene). Who would want that? Even if he wanted to, he won't be able to because he would be bloated by dish number 15.
So, we rather go to a halal Chinese seafood restaurant and order ala carte or to a banana leaf restaurant or a restaurant offering excellent western dishes.
However, this is not to say that I didn't go to restaurants or hotels that didn't serve buffets - I did but that is at the invitation of others who wanted to splurge.
My favourite for a restaurant that does serve great Ramadhan buffet is Sari Ratu Grand in Bukit Bintang. For RM49.00 (with a 10 percent discount if you have a discount card), it is well worth a go. All my favourites are there, rendang ayam, asam pedas ikan tenggiri, belado hijau, ayam pop and many otehr padang goodies. And the buffet is not lavish...I think in all there's about 20 main dishes with a table full of desert. It is more than enough.
As for halal Chinese seafood, I recommend either Unique Seafood in Section 14 in Petaling Jaya or South Seas seafood restaurant near the old Terminal Three building in Subang.
For RM50 per head you could very well have a great seafood meal.
We also had steaks for berbuka at Angus Steakhouse in the Pavilion in KL. And for those who already know the quality of the Steakhouse, there isn't much wrong that I can point out. For steaks, Angus is amongst the best in town.
I also need to congratulate and applaud the Pavilion for their effort to promote Malay culture. At about 8 in the evening, a very good Malay gamelan troupe performs there for the public for about an hour. The soothing sounds of the Malay gamelan (see pic below) to be heard in public is something quite rare these days.
Syabas Pavilion.
My daughter Adylla, who had her braces tightened yesterday, needed soft food. So I thought it would be a good time to go to the Lodge (now called the Paradize Lodge Hotel) for berbuka, as it has been sometime since I had their famous teochew porridge.
Accompaniments that aren't appetising at all
I regretted it. The porridge served there is not the porridge that I knew and loved.
For example, when we were served, the porridge itself was not piping hot - a real no-no when it comes to good porridge. This boo boo even my wife fuming mad.
To make things worse, the condiments and accompaniments served were also bland and unappetising. There was no pickled vege and the popular black bean fish. What kind of teochew porridge is this?
The service too was crap. I think the Ministry of Human Resources should check into restaurants and cafes that use foreign workers whose language skills are lacking - either English or Malay. I personally have struggled to keep my temper in check when trying to order or explain a particular requirement to a Myanmar or a Nepalese waiter or help.
A couple of days, at the Rainforest Cafe in Sunway, I asked without looking at the menu if they had Laksa Asam. The waiter nodded and off he went. About 20 minutes later he brought a bowl of something that hardly resembles laksa asam. I peeked at it and guessed it looked more like laksa sarawak. So I called this waiter - he could be Filipino or Sabahan (I can't be certain) - and asked what laksa he brought me and he said laksa sarawak. I argued that I ordered laksa asam, and he said he heard me saying laksa sarawak.
I then reminded him that I had asked for laksa asam and he said yes, but now he retracted his previous statement and said that in the first place laksa asam is not in the menu.
To all you restauranteurs out there. I know getting help locally is near impossible but please if you do need to bring it workers from Myanmar or Bangladesh or the Philippines or Indonesia or Nepal, please please please make sure they understand either English or Malay.
Anyway, if after berbuka you have a sudden yearning for chocolate, head out to this cafe called Theobroma Chocolote Lounge in the Pavilion.
Try the hot chocolate there - it's to kill for.
Zo....that's my recommendations for you guys for this Ramadhan and I do hope you enjoy breaking fast without having to break the bank.
By the way, for something different, check out this hilarious video on Youtube....just go to search and type in the words 'Bee En'. If you see a video with Hitler's lookalike give it a looksee. It's in German but the subtitles are hilarious.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Since RTM has not been promoting this series, or maybe they are of the opinion that Bilik No. 13 is no better than TV3's Kekasih Ku Seru, I have no choice but to plug and promote the series in my blog.
Tomorrow night (Thursday 9pm TV2) is the series's fifth episode. The title is Foto.
It stars Melissa Maureen and Aidyl Abadi. Yes, Aidyl Abadi my son (That's him in make-up on my right in the photo)The story is inspired by the famous Picture of Dorian Gray but with a twist.
Aidyl or Buddy, plays the role of the young director who is an upstart. He has a hobby - collecting antique picture frames and fotos.
He happens to come by a frame that appeals to him - with a picture of an old lady. Strange things begin to happen after he purchased the foto. Somehow, he begin aging rapidly. Stranger still, the old lady in the foto gets younger everyday.
Unknown to Buddy, the lady in the foto is a vampire or an aswang. She used to be a beautiful woman in the Philippines who was abused and ill treated by her aged husband. After many years of abuse, she hangs herself and her ghost is trapped in the foto.
Once Buddy brings the foto back to his apartment, the vampire is freed to feed on his soul.
Buddy gets older and she gets younger until she is released into the world once again.

The episode was shot in Melaka (Mini Malaysia). This is Aidyl's first lead role after having previously acted in minor roles in my other dramas. Can he act? You judge. It's a tough role.

My only disappointment in this episode is the special effects make-up. It was a mess.
Good effects make-up needs a lot of money and the series, cannot afford Hollywood class make up effects.

As it is, the second series was paid less than the first series. Weird huh? The first series became a success clocking in a million viewers which was why RTM ordered a second season. They even asked me to make it better and scarier. So I did. I spent a lot of money getting top artistes to act in the series. We shot in many locations KL, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Petaling Jaya. We lavished on some sets. And then in the last third of the shoot, fuel prices sky rocketed causing our funds to dry up very fast.
And yet, they paid us less at the end of the day. Meanwhile, untested new series by other producers get offered more.

Sakit hati betuiiii.


I hate coitus interruptus! Sept 16th came and when...phhhhffffttt!!! Ziltch! Nadah! Zero! Talak!
It's like watching a long TV series and suddenly, on the final episode, you had to go somewhere and miss it. Damn!
You know what I'm talking about.
Sept 16th. Malaysia Day.
As Shakespeared once said: 'Tis All Much Ado 'Bout Nothing'.


My second eldest son, Aidyl Nurhadi, turned 21 yesterday (Sept.15th), one day before Malaysia Day. Happy Birthday Hadi.
I hope and wish that all your dreams and aspirations come true.
Hadi is studying English in UIA, but is also very interested in studies in comparative religions.
One of his personal idols is Ahmad Deedat, the late great orator and debater.
There was a time when he would sit in front of the TV and watch Deedat's videos hours on end.
Hadi is also a movie fan. He watches more movies than I - as he would catch movies in KLCC or Mid-Valley on his way back from college.
I do hope that he would be interested in international diplomacy as I think he has the making of a good diplomat.
So, Hadi, here's to you on your 21st birthday. You are now a bonafide adult and a potential voter. Be wise, be honest, be true.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Many movies had great opening scenes. For the 'younger' generation, the opening scenes that may come to mind would be Star Wars and Indiana Jones. These are scenes that grab you by the throat. These are scenes once you see you know you are in for a cinematic treat.
To me, one opening scene stands out above all others. No it's not Citizen Kane. But it is by a movie directed by Orson Welles.
It is his opening scene for the movie Othello.
Just look at it below. It's in glorious black and white and it is pure cinema.


The following is my list of favourite filmmakers and my choice of their best work.


These guys made masterpieces, but unfortunately, only one.


These guys are good, but they just missed out on my top ten .


My apologies to Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Rainer Fassbinder, Krystof Kieslowski, Ang Lee, John Ford, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, King Hu, Teguh Karya and Frederico Fellini.


Quite a number of my friends, and my parents too, were surprised at my essay in the book "March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up". They were further shocked at the statements I was quoted saying (in Malaysiakini) at the book's launch last week.
I believe I was only just voicing out what everybody else was thinking about. That's all and I hope those who read my words do not think anything beyond it.
Every week, amongst my little group of friends, talking over 'teh tarik', a few of us keep saying that these are 'dangerous times'. This is what we do. We talk amongst ourselves, we over-analyse things, we speculate and we assume. This is the modern version of the kopitiam talk of kampung elders. Dangerous times? Sounds a lot like a bad Mel Gibson movie.
Anyway, is it anything wrong , for me, or for that matter, anyone else, to say what's on their minds? Being a former journalist and currently a writer for TV and films, it's normal for me to try and understand, and then write it our or say it out publicly or privately.
Yet, it seems now we cannot bring up many subjects. It is taboo or sensitive or threatens national security. Riiighhht.
Most of my friends know I'm apolitical. I'm not a member of any political party ever before or plan to. In fact, many of my friends believe that me not being an UMNO member actually screwed my chances of being FINAS's Director-General two years ago.
Well, if that was true, than that's just too bad.
Some of my friends also think that I am a bigot or a racist. If you read my essay in the book, you would most probably agree. But I'm not overly racist. In my younger days, I've dated non-Malays before. Heck, my brother married a Chinese. Many of my wife's relatives are also Chinese. We get along well.
I also love watching Chinese movies. Some of my favourite filmmakers are Chinese and Indian. So I guess I'm not a racist per se.
On the other hand, I also believe that there's a little 'bigot' in everyone. This 'little bigot' guy in you rears up its ugly head once in a while depending on situations.
I also believe that it is not possible for anyone to not want protect his own race or feel and be proud that his race is 'better' than others'. Then again being proud and protective on one's race need not necessarily constitute one being a racist.
We are after all human.
Throughout my life, I have many times, got into arguments over which is more important - race or religion. Sometimes, to make it more confusing and interesting, I put in another item - citizenship. Think about it.
If you believe religion is most important, than race is secondary. If you put it into the national context, as long as someone is Muslim, he or she can be elected into the highest office in the land. He could either be Indian, Chinese, Eurasian or Malay. Do you think PAS will allow a non-Malay Muslim to lead the country? But this is moot as our constitution mentions that only a Malay can be the Prime Minister (if I am wrong here please do correct me).
On the other hand, if race is more important, than one assumes religion is secondary - but who in his right mind wants to go around saying Islam is less important than being a Malay. No way. Never. That would be down right wrong. Religion is always numero uno. So I guess this creates a conundrum.
What about citizenship? Well, this is the least important item in the equation. Legally, one can be granted citizenship if you fulfill and meet a set of criteria (a difficult and lengthy process - but not impossible).
Now, factor all this and put it into our political context. Imagine someone who is by birth a Malay (from Indonesia or Ceylon or South Africa or the Philippines), a Muslim and is granted citizenship as a Malaysian. Aren't these are the three main criteria for you to be elected into the the highest post in the land? This is being simplistic, but by definition you can.
So we know the main criteria for being our country's leader. Is there anywhere in the constitution that states another item? An item that states you need to be an UMNo member.
From what I know, in the constitution, the word UMNO does not appear. You don't need to be an UMNO member, or for that matter, a PAS member or PKR member, to be the Prime Minister (once again, if I am wrong, please correct me).
No, don't get me wrong. I neither hate nor reject UMNO. It was after all THE party that led our country into independance (albeit pushing aside a few other political parties that had actually preceded them in the fight for Merdeka). But that's politics. There will always be winners and losers.
So, the original UMNO has my utmost respect.
However, over our 51 years of Merdeka, many things have happened. Some bad, mostly good. We have had many leaders, many good some not so. None were perfect.
We have had a guided democracy - a shaky one at times. And with it we have had good times and bad times. But that is the nature of our economy. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
And through all of these, we have had many politicians who have forgotten what their jobs as elected members to the Parliament entail.
To me, being an elected official is simple. You work for the people. Not for anyone else. You may belong to a party, but you represent your constituents first. So if your constituents want you to disagree with an issue that the party proposes, you have to be bipartisan and put your constituents' point forward first. That is what an MP is supposed to do.
MPs need to have conscience - and their constitutents are their conscience. Without their constituents' votes they would not be there in the first place. They need to be able to think without being partisan. Their constituents' needs should be paramount ALL the time - not just during the campaigns prior to elections.
I gave up the notion of being a politician a long time ago when I realised that many people join political parties, not to help the people, but instead, to enrich themselves. They fight, they plot, they lie their way to the top in their quest to be in a position to win contracts to make a lot of money. This is not exclusive to UMNO. It is true to ALL political parties - including PKR, DAP, GERAKAN etc.
Being a successful politician is like getting a 'free pass jail Monopoly card'. As one, you or your relative or close friends can bid for (and secure) money making contracts. That's all there is to being a politician. It has got nothing to do with representing the needs of your constituents or helping your rakyat. It is all about power and money. And the best thing is you don't need to be educated.
I guess, that is why the rakyat cannot stomach it any longer. Everyone believe that they have been sitting on the sidelines, watching the country being raped by many of these politicians. Raped of the nation's riches. Look at some the telcos. the oil and gas companies, the timber concessionaires, the AP owners. All of them have and need political patronage.
Things need to stop or at the least, change for the better.
Unfortunately, I personally don't believe PKR or PAS is the answer. They, too, will bring the same type of personalities into the forefront. It is just like giving new politicians the keys to our riches.
You really think your life would improve if there is a change in leadership? I doubt it. Unless you're a politician in one of the driving seats, your lives will not change much. Your bank accounts will never fatten. Your future still the same. It has been the same under the past three leaders.
But if you're a politician (or know one), and if you are pally-pally with the people in power, your life will change immediately. You would become a millionaire overnight. If you're a millionaire already, you will treble or quadruple your wealth. Suddenly, you will also have many hangers on who wants to 'tompang' your success and become minor millionaires.
Meanwhile, we, the normal people, will still be driving our Myvi's. We will still tremble at the end of the month wondering if we can meet our credit card payments, if we can meet our hire purchase commitments.
It really doesn't matter if you are a honor graduate student, or if you are a talented executive in a successful firm. It doesn't matter. If you are not a politician or if you don't belong to the party in power or if you don't know anyone in power or related to one, even by marriage, you will always remain that - on the sidelines. Merit doesn't count much.
How many of you out there know for a fact that you are more educated, more talented, more professional and more honest than someone above you? Put up your hands. Yet, you know that the chances are (because you are a nobody and know no one in the various corridors of power or politics) and if you are not a card carrying member of the leading political party, your life will not change much if at all.
And the funny thing is, we, this group of apolitical citizens, make up more than 90 percent of the country's population. And yet, we are the ones left behind.
So, am I saying that we should be defeatists? Maybe. All I am saying is that we are mere pawns. Our only avenue is the voting ballots that come our way once every four or five years.
Yet, even our voting system is surprisingly skewered. You only actually vote for your MP. You don't vote for who becomes Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister is pre-selected by the 3,000 or so party members during their party's AGM, of which you have no say at all. You actually don't vote in the Prime Minister.
In fact, the Prime Minister can actually be replaced by the party anytime - all it needs is an EGM or an AGM and the members can vote in a new party President, who would then be the next Prime Minister of the country. It has got nothing to do with your votes. Your votes are all indirect.
Meanwhile, you and I, we just move on. We try to survive. We go to meet people that really matters. The civil servants. These 'little generals' of government departments who control some of the purse strings. If they don't like your face, that's it. Bye bye projects. Bye bye security.
You need to kowtow to them, lick their asses, take their abuse, act like beggars and hope that all is well.
Such is our life. This is what it means to be a rakyat.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I have just received an email from the organisers of the Pusan International Film Festival and unfortunately due to financial constraints, they could only invite filmmakers whose films are in the main competition categories. Wokkeyyyy!
So, I guess I don't have to fret too much about flying to Pusan on the second day of Hari Raya.
The funny thing is that they are willing to give me my accreditation or festival badge if I can make the trip at my own expenses. Hahahaha! I just checked the Korean Air website and the ticket to Pusan, return-economy, is around RM10,000.00!!! That's about three trips to Pattaya for golf!! No way am I going to pay that amount for air tickets - and I have not yet computed lodging and food costs, if I do go. So, Pusan is out of the question.
However, I heard FINAS does give local filmmakers funds for attending international film festivals, but I think I need to apply months ago to be able for such entitlement. The festival is about three weeks away, so I guess that's out of the question.
Never mind. As attending film festivals go, I can, however, look forward to going to the Balinale (Bali International Film Festival) in Denpasar next month, the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Jakarta around 19th-23rd November, the JakJazz Festival end of November and the Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFF) during the first week of December. What about the Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival? I guess I'll give that a miss as I don't have any information about KLIFF at all.
Anyway, back to Pusan, according to the program, Budak Lapok will get its first international screening on the 3rd of October in the afternoon. Do check the PIFF website for more details.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I would like to congratulate my friend and producer, Wafa Tan Sri Kadir, whose film Budak Lapok, a movie I wrote and directed, is one of the 9 animated feature films selected to be screen in the Ani-Asia Category of the Pusan International Film Festival - showcasing the best of Asian feature film animation.

Check this link: http://www.piff.org

Someone also edited the video and posted in on YouTube. Below is the viral Budal Lapok theme song.

I would actually one day write a behind-the-scenes background of the movie - whose idea it was, how it started, who was behind Matahari, how the story developed, who designed the characters and why I didn't get to do the final edit of the movie. And of course the big question - how much did the movie really cost. But not yet.

Meanwhile, I am waiting with baited breath for my official invitation to the festival. The only drawback is that the festival begins 2nd October and ends 10th October. According to my calculations, the festival begins on the 2nd day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

My dear wife, Puteh, has already given me her blessing to attend the festival - as it would be interesting for me. The last time we went to an international film festival together was in Teheran last year and she knows how much I enjoy participating in festivals.

In terms of movies entering international film festivals, this will be my third (though second one that I directed). The first was Tuah made in 1989 - it went to Montreal, Fukuoka, Tokyo and Jakarta (where it won a Jury Prize). It was supposed to go Berlin the same year, but because of the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, things went into limbo.
The second movie was Cheritera, an animated movie I produced in 1999, which was selected to represent Malaysia at the Asian Pacific Film Festival in Jakarta in 2000.
Budak Lapok will be my third feature film.

Nevertheless, from what I heard, Budak Lapok was selected without any governmental agency's assistance. According to my sources, PIFF heard about Budak Lapok, managed to contact Wafa at Matahari. She sent a preview tape and hey presto, Budak Lapok was selected. Hmmm, wonder why FINAS did not offer Budak Lapok as a possible entry.

Anyway, if any of you missed Budak Lapok, it will be shown on TV this coming festive season - though I cannot remember which TV channel. It is also available on video.
And if you happen to be in Pusan on those dates, go support Malaysian animation. Woohooo!!!


I went to my friend, Kee Thuan Chye's, book launch at the Times Bookstore in Pavilion yesterday afternoon. As I missed his well reviewed play in Singapore recently, I thought this is the least I could do - support his latest book launch - "March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up".
I took along two of my kids as I wanted them to know what's happening in the country today. Being teenagers and young adults, they have to and I am happy that they found it informative. Also met Kee's wonderful wife, Chai Wan (whom I last met at my wife's birthday party) and their daughter Soraya.
I wish all the best to Kee for his latest book. Of all the post March 8 publications in the market, I think this is the most accessible and most objective.
The book, at RM39.90, is now on sale at your nearest bookstore.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I'm getting lazy. Procrastinating. It's been a week and I haven't written much (apart from blogging). I'm supposed to be writing two screenplays. A comedy called Satay Wars and a full blown spoof called Filem Melayu.
And then there's my third feature film - bringing Bilik No. 13 to the big screen. Arggghhh.
I'm also waiting for my staff to get me costings for various things so that I can prepare a detailed production budget. What's worse, I hope to start shooting the movie in December!
My Indonesian project is also falling into place. An Indonesian producer has already sent me a synopsis to consider - a comedy with an interesting title.
The Indonesian producer isn't one of the big guys, but has done two movies recently - one a remake of Teguh Karya's masterpiece (Badai Pasti Berlalu) and the other a remaja movie about bike racing. You need big cojones to do a remake of a Teguh Karya movie.
I'm supposed to fly to Jakarta in a couple of weeks to discuss the project with the Indonesians, but I also need to sort out my own local production. It all depends on my partners.
Anyway, I need to go out. Need to clear my head. It's swirling.
I gonna prepare dinner for the family today. It's one way for me to relax. I'm trying to serve Bulgogi tonight. Looking for the sauce Ssamjung for the dish. Wonder where I can get it.
Also need lots of salad leaf.
So many things to do. So little time.
Hope you guys out there have a better weekend.
My younger brother, Asnadi, who is working in the U.S. with AT&T is having a worrisome Ramadhan weekend in New Jersey. According to weather reports, hurricane Hannah is heading his way and may bring down 5 inches of rain over the next 24 hours. For NJ that's a lot of rain water. It may cause some flooding and damage as the winds are expected to reach 100km/hr in some parts.
According to him, this is his first time experiencing a hurricane head-on. He was supposed to drive with his wife to a friend's buka puasa (a one hour drive) but if the weather worsens, they might just take a rain check (hurricane check more like it).

Saturday, September 6, 2008


My good friend Kee Thuan Chye's latest book is out - it's called "March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up". It is available at the MPH Bookstore in Mid Valley (the MPH in One Utama and The Curve have not stocked it yet).
It's only RM39.90 and is a good read for those who are very much into wondering what's in store for us here in good old Malaysia.
Why am I pushing this book? Well, apart from helping an old friend promote his book - my essay entitled "Malay Identity? Yeah Right." is in it. Hehehe. Kena angkat bakul sendiri mahhh!!
Here's two excerpts from my essay;
"...most non-Malays are trying to push for the creation of one race - Malaysians. In reality, that can never be. It is a beautiful dream. It is an idealistic dream. It is science fiction."
"In Malaysia, we Malays are unquestionably, undeniably special. But then again, we should also recognise that the other races are special too. We are equal no doubt, but because of a twist of fate in history, Malays are slightly more equal than others, at least in this land we call Tanah Melayu. See? We call it Tanah Melayu. Not Tanah Malaya or Tanah Malaysia. Accept it and everything will be fine. Trust me. I'm a Malay."
Anyway, don't take these paragraphs out of context. Read the whole piece. Buy the book.
I believe books like these should be required reading. It allows us to debate. It helps us understand issues and concerns. It could be the beginning of our departure from what our government like to call "guided democracy" to what we the rakyat wish to see - a full democracy.
Really? Be careful what you wish for, it may come true.

Friday, September 5, 2008


The funeral of Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail, or Pak Samad to friends and colleagues, was held at the Bukit Kiara Muslim Cemetery after today's Friday prayers. Many turned out to bid their last farewells. Apart from Nuraina and family, there were bloggers Kadir Jasin and Aharuddin (Rocky), newspaper head honchos Dato Manja Ismail dan Dato Hishamuddin Aun, former colleagues Swithin Monteiro, Johan Fernandez, Rejal Arbee, Hanim Melan and old friends like Mirza Tariq and Ishak Nengah. Dale Lokman was present too.
It was a solemn affair - the passing of the doyen of modern Malaysian journalism.
Al Fatihah.


Malaysia, I think, has the distinction of organising international film festivals which die after one or two editions. We cannot seem to organise an international film festival of note that is in the same league as Singapore's or Bangkok's or even Jakarta's.
For example, the second edition of the Kuala Lumpur International International Film Festival this year, to be held on the 24th of November, has yet to post its own website. It in fact shares a website with sinema malaysia at www.sinemamalaysia.com.my.
Even then, it has not been updated since April this year.
Compare that to Pusan's or Jakarta's fest website, it's like there is nothing of any value.
As festival goers, we need to know what is happening or what will be screened months before hand. Only then could we decide on our schedule.
For example, on the 19th to the 22nd of November, the Asia-Pacific Film Festival begins in Jakarta. Though not a serious film festival, it is fun to attend.
Then on the 29th, also in Jakarta, the top rated JakJazz festival begins with Yellowjackets headlining. I'm not going to miss that.
So, what has KLIFF have to offer us filmgoers and film fans so that it becomes part of our November schedule? I don't know.
But as usual, it will have awards for best regional films - the only festival to do so, I think. Awards for Best South American film, Best North American film, Best European film, Best African film and Best Asian film will be up for grabs. Why? I don't know. Maybe it is a gimmick that the organisers think will attract top filmmakers from all over the world - maybe they feel that they stand a better chance to win awards when there's more categories.
I don't really care lah but one major failure of all festivals organised in Malaysia is that there is a lack of screening for the public. International film festivals is not just about a group of international film makers screening their films for peers and jurors and going to dinners to receive their awards. It is about screening films to the public. It is about informing the public what films are in town, where it is being screened, what times and how much the tickets would be. It is a film festival, damn it. So let us film fans see it.
When I go to film festivals, I watch at least four movies a day, jumping from one screening to the other. In Teheran, the renown film festival holds screenings at two venues - one venue for industry professionals and film critics and the other for the public. I had a wonderful time.
We really want to know if KLIFF will be screening all the films in competition? Will it also have non-competition films for viewing? Heck, I don't know. The programme is not out yet.
I'm not going to criticise the management. I know them personally. But most of the successful film festivals around the world celebrates films and are managed by commissions whose leaders are passionate about movies. They visit other festivals religiously. They know the other commissioners and organisers. They know the filmmakers. They know what movies and movie makers to approach and they are excellent promoters. Who does our organisers know?
Nevertheless, as long as KLIFF has governmental backing, it will go on year after year as a footnote amongst 'insignificant; international film festivals.
I am not saying that I want KLIFF to reach to lofty heights of Berlin or Venice, but would it be something if it can be compared positively against JIFF and the Bangkok Film Festival. But I don't think that's going to happen. Just look at the poster (it could be a temporary poster though) that appeared in the sinema malaysia website.
Does it have anything referring to cinema? You might be excused if you think the poster is for another dance festival. So, you be the judge. The festival is in November - it only has just over two months to get its act into place. If not it'll be another RM3 million waste of time.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I just received a call. Tan Sri Samad Ismail, or Pak Samad to us journalists, just passed away. He was 83.
To many, he was the father of modern journalism. To me, he was Malaysian journalism.
When I started life as a cadet reporter in The New Straits Times in 1976, he was there, bellowing and screaming his head off at us young reporters. We were scared shitless. We were awed. Pak Samad was THE man. He had our most utmost respect.
But no one hated him. Every one loved Pak Samad.
There were only a handful of people in The New Straits Times editorial that I respected - Pak Samad, Pak Dahari, P.C. Shivadas and Philip Matthews. But Pak Samad being Pak Samad - he was THE one I truly respected.
I was truly honoured to have known him. To have worked under him. To have been one of his his underlings in the annals of Malaysian journalism. He made us all better journalists and persons.
As a newspaper man, he was what most movies consider cliched but truth be told, he was that newspaper editor you see. He was larger than life. No one could replace him.
When I became a filmmaker, I was always on the look out interesting stuff to turn into movies or telemovies. I happened to come across the stageplay written by Dinsman based on Pak Samad's novella Rumah Kedai Jalan Seladang. It was a very interesting piece of writing - both the script and the original story. So when I created the TV series Teater Novel, I decided to adapt both the stageplay and the novella into a telemovie which I directed. I remember talking to Pak Samad about it and he was slightly amused that I wanted to. He had no qualms about me turning the story into a TV play.
(L to R)Allahyarham Tan Sri Samad, Tan Sri Prof Awang Had Salleh and blogger at the launching of the Teater Novel project in October 1994 held at the Seri Melayu Restaurant
The telemovie when completed received five nominations - Best Drama, Best Direction, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor. It won only one - Best Actor for Meor Hashim Manap.
The project was the closest that I have worked with the great man (Pak Samad). I was honoured to be one of the few filmmakers that received his blessing to turn one of his literary works into film.
I will miss him. We will surely all miss him.
To Nuraina and family, my condolences and my prayers. I share with you your loss. The nation has lost a true son, a true journalist and a true Malaysian.
Al fatihah.


Once in a while, a movie comes out of nowhere but someone you've never heard of that makes you stop and wonder how the heck did this guy have the balls to make this movie.
It's rare for me to find such a movie. The last was Russian Ark by Alexander Sokurov made in 2002. Before that, Koyaanisqatsi.
These are movies made with a different agenda. These are true cineastes.
So what film am I talking about?
The Fall. By a director named Tarsem Singh.
In this movie he credits himself as Tarsem. But in his previous movie, The Cell, starred Jennifer Lopez, he credits himself as Tarsem Singh.
He is better known as a commercial film director.
The Fall, which took him years to make, and which was shot in more than 20 countries, with numerous production crews and without a script or storyboard (or so he claims), was considered too 'deep' and too risky for distribution. That was until David Fincher and Spike Jonze decided to champion this 'unique' vision.
The story is 'fantastic' and the cinematography outrageous.
I just saw the movie and realise that you would either like it, or you hate it. I loved it.
Below it the movie's trailer. You can find the DVD at video shops around you.


TV3 promotes its series,both local and foreign, to death. If you drive pass Jalan Lebuh Ampang, near the traffic junction leading to Concorde Hotel, there on the sidewalk is a wall of ads (about 100 meters long) of TV3's programmes. The ads are so intimidating that you will most probably just check out the series that are being displayed on this wall.
All over town, you also see ads for Kekasih Ku Seru, Ampang Medical and other programmes too. Then, in the papers, full page ads staring back at you.
So, you could see why TV3 is now the most popular TV station in the country.
RTM, however, is not beaten yet and have not surrendered. Its programming in TV2, is making waves and is why TV2 is fighting for second spot with another Media Prima TV channel, even without spending much on promotions. Imagine what it could achieve it if did.
Forget TV1 - its niche programming to promote government policies and standard atypical Malay dramas.
Now, my Bilik No 13 series, made waves in its first season, garnering a million viewers - killing off its TV3 competition in that slot (which was Saka).
This season, Bilik No 13 returns against a strong series , Kekasih Ku Seru, directed by Kabhir Bahtiar, who also helmed its current English-languaged Front Page series.
Kekasih Ku Seru is a misnomer because it is a worthy horror series.
But what do you do to compete with it. Firstly, you have a 30-minute lead in advantage - Bilik starts at 9.00pm and Kekasih Ku starts at 9.30pm.
I am confident that my series is thrilling enough for audience not to turn the channel half way to watch Kekasih Ku. In fact, I feel that audiences will actually resort to watching Bilik til its end and only then turn to Kekasih Ku to watch its conclusion later.
However, the problem is, not many know that Bilik No 13 started airing two weeks ago. Tonight is the third episode - one of the series more scary episodes - and no one knows about it because there's hardly if any promotion for it. Screening the series during Ramadhan too may have prompted RTM not to push the series but then it would have been a gross mistake to have started the series two weeks before Ramadhan. If the series do not get good ratings, would it be because the series failed or because the station failed to promote it?Tonight, Bilik No 13 is in Episode Three with the title Jangan Lupa Tutup Tingkap. It could be a controversial and sensitive episode because it is about how little kids are stolen from the rooms in kampungs because they are too stubborn to close their windows.
It stars child star Erynne Erynna of Congkak fame.
But not many people know that. Too bad.
If you're reading this before 9p.m., don't forget to catch it. TV2. But if you feel like that you ought not to miss your Tarawikh prayers then you should not because that is more important. If you have a digital recorder get someone to record it and watch it when you return home.
So, happy viewing and selamat beribadah.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Thirty years ago, in the 80s, a TV sitcom came to our homes. It was a big hit. It was one of my all time favourite shows. It was Happy Days.
From the opening credits with the rock and roll theme song to the entrance of Fonzie  and his Ayyyyyyy! to the epitome of the nerd, Richie (played by one of today's top rated movie directors Ron Howard) and to the cuddly Joanie (Erin Moran). This was TV at its best.
Created by Garry Marshall, the series was like an off-shoot of George Lucas's American Graffiti. It brought back 50s fashion and lingo back into mainstream thought.It ran for many seasons and three years ago, a special re-union show was made with the original cast.
Below is the show. I'm sure those who remember Happy Days would appreciate this re-union special - Ayyyyyyy!
(The special is two hours long and can be found on Youtube. Below are excerpts from the special)

Monday, September 1, 2008


Alan Gerard Danker - born 1957 died 30th August 2008. He was 51. He was my classmate in La Salle PJ.
When I joined La Salle in 1969, I had very few friends. Most of them non-Malays. Amongst them Justin Morais, Maria Alphonsus, Param, Tan Chee Beng and Alan Danker.
Alan as I remembered him was an affable and likable fellow. He was a sportsman and a prefect. And he had thick glasses.
He had an arresting smile and he played music.
Now he's gone. we never keep in touch much after school. But we do keep bumping into each other quite often as he was in the tourism business and somehow, we would cross each others' path in hotel lobbies, airport and even traffic light crossings. He in his tour coach and in his uniform.
I liked him. He was ok. He will be missed.
He will meet old friends now - Maria Alphonsus and Chee Beng.
For those who knew him, his funeral will be held at the Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya at 3pm after which his cortege will be taken to the Kampung Tunku crematorium.
Alan leaves behind his wife, Cindy Lai and two daughters, Bianca and Helena.


If I were a foreigner wanting to see classic Malay movies, I would surely think that since 1950s, our industry revolves only around one man - P. Ramlee. This is because of TV stations that keep screening his movies - and hardly anyone elses'.
Even if there are other filmmakers during his era, none of the movies are good enough to be screened.
Though I always get flak for trying to 'downgrade' the contribution of P.Ramlee in the overall Malay film history, I cannot stop doing it, because I believe others too contributed to the growth of the Malay films and that they too should be treated fairly and be given their rightful places.
In this month of Ramadhan, I do not want to be accused of belittling P. Ramlee - but to be sure, I knew the man. He was a family friend. He was an icon. But he was not infallible nor perfect. At the recent Congress in Johor Baru, there was even a call for a Pusat Pemikiran P. Ramlee to be set up. Huh? Since when was P. Ramlee suddenly considered an important school of thought?
And then, there was this letter in the press saying that we should emulate P. Ramlee as he was the epitome of a true Malaysian - as his movies were Malaysian. Errr..which film was that? I think there was only one movie in which he fell in love with a Indian woman (played by one Indian actress named Chandra Shanmugam) - Gerimis. In his other films, the non-Malay characters were all broad cliched characters - the apek and the mamak. Is this what the writer meant?
For your information, P. Ramlee made movies before Malaysia existed. He was a Penangite who made movies in Singapura. Even the word Malaya wasn't bandied about yet - it was too new a concept at that time. He and his friends in Malay Film Production Studios were just doing their work to the best of their abilities. In fact, I don't think P. Ramlee ever made a patriotic-themed movie or a Merdeka themed movie. (You canot consider Sergeant Hassan as Ramlee's as it was directed by Bert Avellena from the Philippines)
I asked my father how they celebrated Merdeka in Singapore - and according to him, there was no big events or celebrations. They were after all in Singapura. Hmmmm.
Anyway, I really would like for the TV stations including Astro to consider telecasting works of other filmmakers and not just P. Ramlee. In fact, whilst some people say they can watch P. Ramlee movies over and over again, I suggest that they should watch movies made by Hussin Haniff, Salleh Ghani, Jamil Sulong, Omar Rojik, Sudarmaji and many others. We could even watch the movies directed by the Indians and the Filipinos like Phani Majumdar, L. Krishnan, Bashker, Bert Avellana and Ramon Estella.
I agree that P. Ramlee was special - eventhough everyone had forgotten about him during his last few years on Earth. He was lauded by all and sundry long after he passed on - maybe we felt guilty that we allowed him to die a dejected and sad man. Maybe we are screening his films endlessly because we want to forget that we allowed this young man who at 44 ended up making bad movies like Laksamana Do Re Mi because he was conned left and right by his 'fellow filmmakers' and not given assistance by his government to make movies that he wanted to. Imagine if he had lived longer - he may even have ended up living in abject poverty.
But nevertheless, let us also not only put P. Ramlee on the pedestal. There are many others who should be praised and whom the newer generations should know off. It would be sad for the future generation not to know who Nordin Ahmad was. Talents abound and one should realise this - S. Kadarisman, Salleh Kamil, Kasmah Booty, Sarimah, M. Amin, Normadiah, Ahmad Mahmud, Saadiah, Yusoff Latiff. They were stars. They were headliners. They existed. Remember their contribution.
Not all P.Ramlee's movies were classics nor good. When he did a bad movie, it was really bad. You know of Enam Jahanam, Sesudah Suboh and Putus Sudah Kasih Sayang. But have you seen Istana Berdarah. Samseng, Raja Bersiong, Seri Mersing, Si Tanggang, Cucu Datuk Merah, Jebat, Bidasari, Sultan Mahmud Mangkat DiJulang, Singapura Di Langgar Todak, Cinta, Ribut? These are but a few titles that should be telecast again for the new generations to enjoy.
And why haven't we seen recent classics like Matinya Seorang Patriot, Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan, Sufeh-Tsofia or Yassin? Are they not good enough to be bought and screened?
Sometimes, we just wonder who is it that buys programmes in these TV stations and if they really know how to promote the love for old Malay movies.
Are we going to wait for Rahim Razali and Ahmad Yatim to pass away before we can once again enjoy and applaud their contributions to Malay films? This was what happened to P. Ramlee. When alive, Ramlee was sidelined in his 40s by others who were jealous of his talent. When dead, these very same people call him their mentors, their major influence, their friends.
History seems to be repeating itself.