After the lukewarm reception of Sumo and Los and Faun, and also the misadventure in Thailand with Brave, Adflin needed to prove, at least to his peers, that he still has it as a filmmaker. Or has he burnt out?
As an actor, he is still a crowd puller. He is still amongst the more bankable stars today having acted in box office hits like Cuci and Sepi, but as a director, there's always this nagging feeling that you need to make box office movies to be considered a good director. Not that this should be the case.
So you can imagine the trepidation he must have had with Papadom.
And you can imagine the joy and the vindication he must have felt when Papadom won five major awards at the recent Malaysian Film Festival in Kota Kinabalu - for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Score and Best Original Story.
However, for most critics and film activists, we cannot comment on the win as most of us haven't seen the movie. It will only be released next month.
S0 when the producer invited me to preview the movie and also to attend Tayangan Unggul's Berbuka Puasa do, I accepted. I usually don't attend press previews because I really believe that someone needs to pay RM10 to watch a movie in order to be free to criticise or praise it. That RM10 vindicates your opinion about the movie.
So I went to Kuala Lumpur Convention Center yesterday. Tayangan Unggul had rented the Plenary Theater to screen the movie. I didn't like the idea, because they projected the movie on a video projector. Secondly, the stage below the screen was shiny and reflected the images on the screen thus causing visual irritation.
Luckily, the sound was good.
The movie started off awkwardly. Afdlin's wig was a distraction but I forced myself to just sit back and enjoy the story. The story's premise was also a little off but I put that aside too. I mean the film begins with a Malay guy (Saadom) selling nasi kandar and makes his own papadom and then a Chinese friend likes the papadom so much he bankrolls Saadom (Afdlin) and creates a franchise of nasi kandar restaurants and a papadom factory. This is just the first act, setting up for the rest of the movie.
Saadom is so engrossed with his work and in creating his nasi kandar empire that he keeps missing his daughter's birthday thus getting an earful from his wife (Nurkhiriah) who can't seem to understand why the husband is working so hard.
So, during one of her fits telling her husband off whilst driving, she crashed and died.
Saadom felt that it was his fault, and from that day onwards, became a doting father to his now teenage daughter Miasara (Lianna Jasmey). This is where the fun starts in the movie.
Now a rich and wealthy man, Saadom spends most of his time looking after his daughter, so much so that it suffocates her.
When she got flying colours for her exams (20 As! okay), she saw it as her ticket out of her father's overly doting antics. To her, freedom is being in University, far far away from her father.
Or so she thought. (By the way, would a top scoring student enter Uitm?).
Saadom decides to watch over her even in college. He takes a job as a gardener in the college so that he can look over her and 'protect' her, without her knowledge.
That's basically the movie's premise.
Adflin's assured direction allowed this movie to flow smoothly. His dialogue is crisp, funny and refreshing. Each character stands out - even a cliche' prissy college diva - didn't screw up the collage of wonderful characters he created.
On the acting front, Adflin manages to capture a subtlety that I have yet to see in a local comedy film. Influences I see and there are many. Especially those of the Farelly Brothers'. Like the boria group popping up twice in the movie, much like the Mariachi singers in There's Something About Mary. On the other hand, the off-the-cuff dialogue is much akin to the 'nonsense' dialogue used by Chow Sing Chi in his comedies.
Whatever the influences are, what matters is that the comedy worked, and worked well.
Even the little roles that he created - like the college landscaping boss played by Harun Salim Bachik - and the bald short silat teacher played by magician-cum-actor Henzy - are wonderful and colorful but whacky characters.
I also like the subtle references that Afdlin made on the situation of the Malay film industry. By making Miasara a film student he had an excellent landscape to add his critique of the film industry.
Amongst the stars that shone in this little gem of a movie are Que Haidar, Vanida Imran and Nurkhiriah.
Those whom I thought over-acted, even in their cliched roles, are Farid Kamil. Scha and Lianna Jasmey.
Yes, Lianna Jasmey, the best actress winner at the film festival.
I guess she was just lucky that last year, there were no other outstanding actresses that gave her a run for her money. At most, she should have won Star of the Future award if there was one.
The role was one dimensional, but within the canvas that Afdlin created, Lianna's performance was nevertheless commendable, but really, it was not an award winning performance.
Papadom not only survived its shortcomings but actually relished in it. The comic timing was excellent and the pathos real. I would bet good money that many of you would shed a tear during certain scenes in the movie.
I have been waiting for a long time for a Malay feel-good movie. A really long time. Papadom is the first truly feel-good movie that we can be proud of.
Forget about Mamat Khalid's Estet for the time being. Papadom is far superior and needs your attendance at its screenings beginning October.
So if there is a Malay movie that you plan to see this year, Papadom fulfills all criteria for you to spend your hard earned ringgit on. Estet can wait.