Friday, April 23, 2010

MAKING "PERANG KELANG" (PART TWO)

We presented the storyline for 1870 based on historical research and a story arc that I thought would be interesting. This was the first presentation, so we wanted to impress Astro, because we heard that other producers who were invited to pitch for the projects went all out.

So we tried to approach the whole project like a presentation for a TV commercial, with production design research, nicely produced proposals and a little video. The presentation went without a hitch and we were told to wait for the outcome.

We waited and waited, and meanwhile, RTM announced the successful proposals for 2010 that went through a pitching process. Or proposal for a suspense-horror series entitled Detik 12 Malam was approved.

So while waiting for 1870 to be approved or rejected, we focused on producing Detik 12 Malam.

A month later, we were invited again for another presentation. This time, we had a more detailed storyline presented to Astro.

And then we waited. Meanwhile, production for Detik 12 Malam has begun in earnest.

The third presentation for Astro was an interesting one. Whilst the panel liked the project, they wanted us to focus on one character with which the story can revolve around and that figure should be Tengku Kudin.

video
The Video Montage Made For Presentation

Now, there are two schools of thought.

One was that Kudin was a nuisance in Selangor’s history and he was an outsider (from Kedah) who came to Selangor and caused a whole load of problems by being too pally with the British. It also seemed that he cleverly found his way into the Selangor court and wangled his way into becoming the state's Viceroy. He borrowed from many parties (including the British) to finance his unpopular war with Raja Mahadi. He also managed to Kapitan Yap Ah Loy to fight on his side. With Yap Ah Loy, the tide of the Selangor Civil War swung to his favour.
The other version was that being a Western educated person, he came to Selangor to seek his fortune and was instrumental turning Selangor into a progressive state.

He was well liked enough by the then Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Abdul Samad, that he was married to his daughter and then was offered, firstly the control of Langat, and then Klang and then the whole of Selangor as the court’s Wakil Mutlak.

I preferred the first version. However, Astro preferred the latter and after agreeing and wrote a story arc that made Tengku Kudin the protagonist in the whole incident.

The new story arc was approved by them, and as a formality, they actually asked me if somehow I could get the current Sultan of Selangor to give his stamp of approval on the story. We all feared that since the story was based on characters that involved his ancestors it would only be fair to let His Highness see the story and get his ‘royal blessing’.

That was a difficult task, but luckily I knew someone who works for Tuanku and got him to submit the proposal for His Highness’s perusal and hopefully approval.

A week later, I was surprised when I got an email that stated His Highness, the Tuanku’s wishes. In short, he didn’t like the treatment of the incident and said that Kudin shouldn’t be revered as a hero.

I quickly informed Astro and submitted a new story arc using my previous approach. However, this time, I made the political intrigue so convoluted that the characters in the incident all had their own agendas. I also created two main fictional characters whose lives are entwined with the events of the civil war, and that most of the events unfolded from their point of view.

And after all that, I got a call from Astro last week, and with a huge sigh of relief, was informed that my new story had been approved. The production has been officially 'greenlighted'.

Now, I can get my writers to start writing the story beats and the full teleplay. My production team can now finalise the locations, the production design, and begin casting the production.

It was just the beginning of a bigger adventure.

What had happened before this was the easy part. Now the difficult part begins.
Sets, costumes, casting, locations, pre-production, meals, travel, accommodation, funds, crew, creative personnel and everything need to fall in place before we begin out shoot sometime in June.

The last time I felt this way was when Astro approved my script entitled Kuala Selangor XI about ten years ago. Unfortunately, before shoot began, I left the company that was producing it. Kuala Selangor was a dream project that came true which I didn’t end up directing.

Now, I hope the disappointment of not doing Kuala Selangor will be forgotten and that 1870 will be something that I can be proud of. Something that everyone involved, from the runners, to the production supervisors, from the gaffers to the Director of Photography, from the extras to the lead actors, would be proud of.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

MAKING "PERANG KELANG"

I will be starting a journal in this blog, of my journey in creating the 8-part historical teleseries tentatively called "1870: Setahil Timah, Segumpal Darah" (1870: A Tahil of Tin, A Clump of Blood).
I began this journey at the end of 2009, when my company, Manjafilms were invited to talk about producing some programmes for Astro. Being a small company, we entered the discussions with the usual telefilm, teleseries and serials proposals.
However, when the meeting ended we were actually offered to produce a Suatu Ketika series.
Now, to say that I was surprised and elated would be an understatement. I mean, I loved the fact that Astro was commissioning Suatu Ketika series for the industry. For once, there was a station willing to actually fund a production based on content.
That is why SK (Suatu Ketika) is currently the Jewel of Malaysian local TV.
From that slot, they have commissioned high quality dramas like Warkah Terkahir (the story of Rosly Dhoby), Tangkal Besi (fictionalised story of Botak Chin), Sybil (the story of Sybil Karthigesu) (which was something I dearly wanted to do) and Dendam Kesuma (the story of Tun Fatimah).
I was offered a few subjects, but the one that caught my eye was the Klang Civil War (also known as the Selangor Civil War) of 1864-1873. This particular incident, if you guys are still familiar with our history, involved many interesting personalities - two of which are very very important - Raja Mahadi and Tengku Kudin.
I immediately went into research mode which I love doing. Went to libraries and book stores grabbing everything and anything about that incident and era. Also scoured the net for third party research and information.
The incident or the civil war was a massive event that turned the course of history drastically, especially for Selangor. It began in 1863 and ended just seven years later.
The war began in Klang, continued to Kuala Selengor, to Kuala Lumpur and ended with the final battle in Rawang.
It also involved another colorful character - Kapitan Yap Ah Loy.
Without Yap Ah Loy's involvement in the affair, Tengku Kudin would have lost the war to Raja Mahadi, and maybe would have delayed the British interference in the Malays states by a few decades.
Thousands died in the civil war. Warlords who were rich before the war, became paupers after. The British who were, in my opinion, manipulating Kudin, gained the most mileage in the whole affair. At the end of the war, they intimidated the Selangor court so much that the Sultan had to acquiesce to British intervention, and hence the creation of the British Resident's post in the Selangor government in 1875 or so.
I also discovered many interesting items that happened in the war including the Kanching massacre, the fact that the Kapitan China was a post that holds his subjects' (the chinese) lives and death in his hands, and the debut of rocket warfare in the Malay States (that ended the war).
There was also the tragic incident of the British imposing their might on the legal system during that time. Twelve innocent men were accused of piracy and were executed after a sham trial by the British. Sadly, the Sultan had to abide by the decision and even offered the use of his kris to execute the 'guilty' men. Even Frank Swettenham in his writings confirmed the innocence of those tried.
The Selangor Civil War is a massive historical event, and a massive production if I were to undertake it but it is a challenge that I welcome as a producer, writer and director.
After the research had been done, including research on costumes, production design and stuff, I wrote a rough treatment or storyline for the series.
Completed a full proposal and submitted. Hoping for the best, and expecting the worse.
(To be continued....)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

MOVIES TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2010

By the end of April, the battle for international box office coins begins with the release of the much anticipated Iron Man 2. In Asia, it begins next week with the release of Ip Man 2 starring Donnie Yuen and Sammo Hung.
What else is in store for us this coming summer season?
Well, there's a huge word-of-mouth buzz about a movie called Kick Ass that stars Nicholas Cage. Having seen the trailer, it is one of the must-see movies of 2010.
Below is a sampling of some of the titles coming out of Hollywood for us this summer.

Robin Hood
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Mark Strong, Danny Huston
Director: Ridley Scott

summer-2010-movies-robin-hood.jpg

Shrek Forever After
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews
Director: Mike Mitchell

summer-2010-movies-shrek-4.jpg

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
Director: Mike Newell

summer-2010-movies-prince-of-persia.jpg

Sex And The City 2
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth
Director: Michael Patrick King

summer-2010-movies-sex-and-the-city-2.jpg

Killers
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Catherine O’Hara, Tom Selleck
Director: Robert Luketic

summer-2010-movies-killers.jpg

The A-Team
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Jessica Biel
Director: Joe Carnahan

summer-2010-movies-the-a-team.jpg

Get Him To The Greek
Starring: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs, Elisabeth Moss
Director: Nicholas Stoller

summer-2010-movies-get-him-to-the-greek.jpg

The Karate Kid
Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson
Director: Harald Zwart

summer-2010-movies-the-karate-kid.jpg

Jonah Hex
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett
Director: Jimmy Hayward

summer-2010-movies-jonah-hex.jpg

Toy Story 3
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg, Timothy Dalton
Director: Lee Unkrich

summer-2010-movies-toy-story-3.jpg

Grown Ups
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade
Director: Dennis Dugan

summer-2010-movies-grown-ups.jpg

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: David Slade

summer-2010-movies-twilight-saga-eclipse.jpg

Knight & Day
Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Grace, Paul Dano
Director: Lee Unkrich

summer-2010-movies-knight-and-day.jpg

The Last Airbender
Starring: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

summer-2010-movies-the-last-airbender.jpg

Predators
Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Danny Trejo, Alice Braga
Director: Nimród Antal

summer-2010-movies-predators.jpg

Inception
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard
Director: Christopher Nolan

summer-2010-movies-2010-inception.jpg

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci
Director: Jon Turteltaub

summer-2010-movies-sorcerers-apprentice.jpg

Dinner For Schmucks
Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis
Director: Jay Roach

summer-2010-movies-dinner-for-schmucks.jpg

Salt
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Phillip Noyce

summer-2010-movies-salt.jpg

Little Fockers
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson
Director: Paul Weitz

summer-2010-movies-little-fockers.jpg

Morning Glory
Starring: Harrison Ford, Rachel McAdams, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Diane Keaton
Director: Roger Michell

summer-2010-movies-morning-glory.jpg

The Other Guys
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes
Director: Adam McKay

summer-2010-movies-the-other-guys.jpg

The Expendables
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke
Director: Sylvester Stallone

summer-2010-movies-expendables.jpg

Priest
Starring: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q, Karl Urban, Christopher Plummer
Director: Scott Charles Stewart

summer-2010-movies-priest.jpg

And the list of upcoming Malay movies for the year? Heheheheh...this is the list...savor it...

Hooperz, Belukar, Andartu Terlampau 21 Hari Cari Suami, Lagenda Budak Setan, Kecoh Betul, Kapowww!!, Misteri Dendam Balan-Balan, Magika, Shhhh Dia Datang, The Hired Killer, Janin, Hilang, Eeee Hantu, Kantoi, Estet, Gentayangan, Sereeemmmm, Berani Punya Budak, Jibam The Movie, Taiko, Syirik, Johnny Bikin Filem, Dimensi Cinta, Kantoi, CCTV, 2Alam.

Great titles, great movies, coming from the best our local industry has to offer. NOT!!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

TIRED OF BEING DESPISED FOR JUST BEING A MALAY

I have many Chinese friends. Indians too. Every fortnight, me and old schoolmates (La Salle Petaling Jaya Secondary school class of 74), would meet up for drinks and reminisce and wonder what our country has become.
We believe that we were the original 1Malaysians - we didn't need to be categorised as such as our school system were truly integrated and both BM and English make life easy for all of us to communicate especially when we wanted to curse.
We tell Bhai jokes freely and they laugh. They joke about us the lazy stupid Malays we laugh. Today, we can't. It would be insensitive. Even til today, I don't know why it is taboo to call Indians keling like we used to especially when they haven't changed the names of Tanjung Keling and Masjid Keling.
I also remember one time when we were not even allowed to say orang China, but instead call my friends orang Tionghua.
Now things seem tobe getting worse. Is it wrong now to call myself Melayu first, Malaysia second? Where does that put the Muslim aspect of my life? Do I become Muslim first, Melayu second Malaysian third? Me and my friends were even more blatant - declaring we are La Sallians first, Malaysians second.
What I am sure is that most Chinese who say they are Malaysian first and Chinese second, are hypocrites and in denial. They still send their kids to Chinese school, they are more comfortable speaking in Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese or English. They will fight tooth and nail to be allowed to put up their shop signage in Chinese calligraphy.
You go to their homes and 9 out of 10 Chinese homes would have Chinese motifs, paraphernilia, furniture, items and products. Nothing Malaysia about it.
And most of them keep to themselves - they date their own kind, they have their own circle of friends that are most Chinese and if they are corporate leaders, most of their accountants and other senior staff members would be Chinese - heck they would even bring in Singaporean Chinese to work for them instead of qualified Malays. How do they get away with this? In application forms those interested need to be well versed in English and Mandarin because they have dealings with Mandarin speaking clients from Singapore and China. So out goes the Malays.
And they would really, really ignore the need to respect our national language Bahasa Malaysia in their corporation dealings and daily life.
Yet they attack us Malays, for raising the keris, for saying I am Malay first, for the term ketuanan Melayu and many other things. It seems we Malays cannot now do anything right. We are the bane of the nation. If the Malays were to continue to be allowed to run the country, Malaysia will go to the dogs.
A simple glance at Malaysiakini and TheMalaysianInsider, one can see the vitriolic attack on Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for saying "I am a Malay first" for the past three weeks.
Previously, Hishamuddin too was attacked for raising the keris. And most recently PERKASA in its official launch also raised the kris, much to the chagrin of most non-Malay owned media. These media look at the kris with much disdain.
Nothing the Malays do now, seem right. All that we hope to do for the nation, seem to fall flat on the others. Our future as a nation now should be in the hands of Malaysians. Preferably not a Malay, for we are corrupted, we are prone to cronyism and we are racists.
I have a friend who named his children with 'Malay' names to show his 'Malaysianess'. I applaud him, but on the other hand, naming someone with Malay names do not make him Malay or a Malaysian. Firstly, most of the Malays do not have Malay names - they have Arabic names. Having Arabic names to not make us Arabic, albeit having similar names do not make one Malaysian or Malay.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot change your race...like I once said, even the Chinese tried to become Malays by talking, living and dressing like the Malays, but inevitably they are label themselves Peranakan or Babas and Nyonyas. They are called Straits Chinese. See? They themselves avoid being labeled Malays....they still have their original racial roots firmly stuck in their lives. And I don't see anything wrong with this.
So why blame the Malays for being Malays? Aren't you proud to be a Chinese Malaysian? Hey the movies that you produced recently - Woo Hoo and Ais Kacang Puppy Love - is a Chinese Malaysian movie. Is it a Malaysian movie? How many Bahasa Malaysia words are found in these two movies? How many Malays acted in it?
Why am I ranting?
Let me tell you why.
I was in Camerons recently.
Me and my family visited the Boh Plantation and were sitting in the cafe having tea and scones. There then came this Chinese family who sat at a table beside us. They look like a harmless, typical middle class Chinese Malaysian family.
My wife, who is part Chinese, is suddenly perturbed by their conversation and told me what they were talking about. She speaks Cantonese and overheard what the man told the family in Cantonese.
He said: " For all you know, the company (Boh) has been taken over by the Malays like everything else."
My wife found it amusing. I found it sickening.
This is a Chinese man in denial. If there is a race that would have taken over a corporate giant like Boh, it would be the Chinese not the Malays. But the remark when he said "like everything else" really irks me.
If he had actually opened his eyes, especially in Cameron Highlands, he would have noticed that the economy even in that little highland town is owned by the Chinese. The Malays are a minority business community in Camerons.
Even in major Malaysian cities, it is not the Malays who control the economy. Somewhere along the line, we lost our economy to the non-Malays. We are basically just holding on to our 'political' power, and nothing much else.
So where the heck did this guy find his information telling the rest of his family that the Malays are taking over 'everything else'? I really hate these bigots.
Why? Because such bigots make me turn into one too.
And I hate this. I tend to argue with my friends about this. Everyone seem to be taking sides now - so much for 1Malaysia or Malaysian Malaysia.
Why don't we just continue the legacy of our forefathers when we achieved Merdeka and move on. Drop the hypocricy. Drop the holier than thou act. Drop the I am Malaysian first, Chinese second stand. We don't mind you calling yourself Chinese first Malaysian second. It is your birth right to be Chinese in spirit and in culture. We are all Malaysian citizens. Being Malaysian is not a race. It is citizenship. Nothing else. If there is a war, we fight as brothers. We defend our country as Malaysians. But I am Malay, you are Chinese, he is Indian, the other guy Eurasian. Nothing changes.
Lets unite as one nation multiple peoples and move on.