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.
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.