Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Malay Dramas of the New Generation...

So all throughout this holidays, I have been watching lots of Malay dramas online? What?!! Malay dramas?? Kangga watching Malay dramas? I use to hate Malay dramas. Always the same storyline. Husband cheating on wife, a super rich person who lives in 'maksiat' but then 'insaf' during the 'puasa' month; then dies on Raya morning, supernatural incidents with a religious message as a lesson, siblings fighting over parents' property... yawn.......

The Samarinda slot on TV3 is a very good example of typical, traditional Malay drama plot line. I can't believe people actually watch these dramas to be frank. As quoted from one of my juniors who hate Malay dramas himself, "Cerita drama Melayu ni selalu sama, bro. Yang bertukarnya - pelakon. Cerita tetap sama dari zaman 80an sampailah hari ni!"

Boy he is right!

Some might think I'm being a little too emotional about all this - but I take this issue quite seriously. These local dramas does NOT reflect today's modern, progressive, moderately religious Malaysia society at all! For instance, the husband is mostly portrayed as being the right one, and the wife is always in the wrong; partly because she chooses NOT to obey her husband's words. She is the villain because she does not go by the norm that states man are born leaders (lelaki dijadikan sebagai pemimpin)...

Alright, first of all... let me say something. Men DO make good leaders. But why can't women be their equal? Is there any scientific study saying that men are naturally superior to women in being leaders??? Or is it just something you were taught growing up, and thus you blindly choose to follow it without finding out more about it yourself? Of course, when it comes down to religious affairs such as becoming priests, imams, muftis, pastors or rabbis, there should not be any compromise in choosing men since it is required as stated by our holy scriptures. But what about other things - like the very basic ones in our life like who should be the man of the house?

So why does the media, in this case the production houses that make these kind of dramas, choose to instill this kind of 'lapuk' and 'kolot' values in our society? Hello!!!!! Wake up people!!!!!!!! It's the 21st century for crying out loud.

And what about those STUPID dramas featuring women in power as dragon ladies? In most Malay dramas, women who are successful in their careers are often seen as lousy mothers and irresponsible wives, because they pay too much attention to their work. If producers can afford to have scripts where men who are successful in their careers also being successful in their family lives, why can't they do the same thing when it comes to women? If a career woman character does not cook for her husband and 'layan' him properly, she will be labeled 'isteri derhaka'. Goodness! What mindset???!!!

So enough of this old-fashioned local TV dramas. Lets talk about the new generation Malay dramas. I'm sure right now, most of you are picturing TV shows like Kami, Realiti, Gol dan Gincu, Ghost, Frontpage and Sindarella to name a few.

But why, you might ask, did I not include Nur Kasih in this list of new generation Malay dramas? Well, doesn't it offer the same storyline that caters for a traditional audience? Men with two wives, who are forced to accept their husband's status as a polygamist as part of being a good wife (isteri solehah), women seeking their husband's PERMISSION before doing something big, women obeying their husband's every word..... Yawn........

But still, you have to give it up for director Khabir Bhatia for his outstanding Hollywood-styled cinematography, melodramatic music score, beautiful foreign shooting locations and good looking cast.

Well come on, Khabir has a way in changing his themes for each movie or TV series he directs, right? For Cinta, Sepi, Frontpage and Setem - he seemed to be projecting more secular ideas, like unmarried couples hugging and holding hands, women dying their hair, girls in skimpy outfits and all that. But in Nur Kasih, he totally understood that he was going to cater to a whole new audience. And thus, he most probably (and successfully, if I may say) compromised with his secular mentality and adopted a more (more like, extreme) conservative mentality. Hahaha... its hilarious when you think about it.

Of course, as much as I like to poke fun at Kabir's changing mentality, his drama series Frontpage is admirable, and most probably one of the most under-appreciated TV series ever produced in Malaysia. There was not much hype circulating it. The storyline was amazing. Local reporters chasing after serial killers, terrorists, gangsters, murderers and so much more. Most episodes were also inspired were inspired by true events in Malaysia, like the Mona Fandey case. A very fresh idea too, if I may say. Hats off to Kabir for this brave attempt.

Realiti, in my opinion, was groundbreaking. With the overflow of reality TV shows in our country, it was brilliant to have a TV series dramatizing contestants of a reality singing competition. The writers also cleverly incorporated a gay character as well, and were quite liberal in portraying him and his sexuality in a good light. But what's so clever about it? Well, they used a Chinese, non-Muslim character! Hahaha... so if any religious fanatic was to condemn the show for its portrayal of homosexuals, the producers could always defend it by saying it was a non-Muslim character in question. How smart! But then again, to have something like this in the plot of a TV series that is almost 75% in Bahasa Malaysia... now that's what I call attitude!

Gol & Gincu was cute during its days, but it did not really have a strong storyline. But the director and cast were absolutely brilliant! Director Bernard Chauly did a good job in both the movie and the TV series. He understands the mindset of youngsters nowadays and caters to that. It is quite a pity he only has two films in his resume so far - the other being Pisau Cukur. All his movies and TV series portray a modern, contemporary and moderate Malaysian society.

I really hope he makes a TV series out of Pisau Cukur as well, just like what he did with Gol & Gincu. It would be fun to see the gold diggers Fazura and Maya Karin back in action!

But note this - Bernard's shows don't end how other Malay dramas and movies do; where the characters who have done wrong 'insaf' and turn over a new leaf. Like Fazura and Maya in Pisau Cukur, they stop being other men's mistresses - which implies they might have even bedded their sugar daddies. Oh!!!!!!! Fornication is not tolerated in our society!!!! But instead of suddenly performing prayer, or wearing a 'tudung' at the end of the movie, these girls just promise themselves they will try being independent instead - like in a Hollywood movie. Even Khatijah Tan's gay son is seen with his boyfriend at the end of the movie, implying they are no longer closeted or embarrassed in being together. Goodness! How revolutionary!!!!!!!

One of my personal favourites would be Ghost. And I'm talking about Season one, not Season Two which seems to be lifted from Ghost Whisperer. Who knew Abang Naz and Kak Cheryl (as what I like to call them since they hosted kids shows back in the late 90s), Malaysia's top TV hosts can really act? The mystery and suspense is excellent and in par with anything Hollywood can produce. Sadly I did not watch the complete season for I had to attend National Service. But I am currently catching up with the show online.

And how could anyone not mention or even think about Kami: The Series? This show was a phenomenon. Everyone could relate to the show back at school! The portrayal of the teenagers in the show was extremely realistic, which is why everyone at school felt as if they were represented in the show via one of the characters. There was the bad boy, the quite one, the popular chick, the outgoing girl, the moody one... Wow! The movie as the finale to the series was just the toping of the cake.

It is sad to say that to date, there still isn't any local drama series that can inherit Kami's iconic status. Grown-ups might not know much about this show, but for youngsters like myself, this show was and still is a LEGEND!

Most of this TV series are produced by Popiah Pictures or Red Films. They use a mix of English and Bahasa Malaysia dialog, just like what is spoken by Kuala Lumpur people. They have a strong message to convey to the public as well - and their ideas are very secular mind you. Like Kami for instance, till the end of the show, the fact that the kids go clubbing at night is not condemned. Only the use of drugs and juvenile crime is portrayed negatively. Unlike your usual Malay drama, there hardly any scenes showing the characters deep in prayer to signify they have 'insaf' and learnt their lesson. Instead, the director relies more on the hear-to-heart talks between the characters to send out a message, which I think is pretty cool. But some Godly elements won't harm the flow and tonne of the show.

So, akhir kata I would like to congratulate people like Bernard Chauly, Kabir Bhatia, the guys that run Popiah Pictures and Red films for all these amazing shows you have come up with. Do carry on the good job. You guys rock

P/s: Ampun maaf kepada mereka yang mungkin tersinggung dengan isi entry ini. Adalah diperingati yang segala yang tertulis di sini hanyalah pendapat penulis semata-mata untuk dikongsi bersama dan bukan untuk menyinggung perasaan atau menyentuh sensitivit mana-mana pihak. Terima kasih.

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