By : Dennis Chua
Directed by Dr Hatta Azad Khan
Starring Eman Manan, Zul Huzaimy Marzuki, Mas Muharni, Ida Nerina, Wan Kenari, Mazlan Tahir
Awang Lah (Eman) and Esah (Ida) are excellent in their roles.
HERE is what happens when writer-director Dr Hatta Azad Khan, who helms Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Faculty of Artistic and Creative Technology, brings together two of the country’s best actors in a touching-yet-inspiring story.
The end result is the aptly-titled Wayang, which won a special jury award at the recent 21st Malaysian Film Festival and earned versatile Zul Huzaimy the Best Supporting Actor prize.
With Kelantanese Malay as its dialogue and the iconic shadow puppetry wayang kulit as its main subject, Wayang is a gem amongst local films, a spot-on critique of Malaysian society, and a portrait of a great man’s unconditional love.
Amidst the rustic villages and sandy beaches of Kota Baru, the simple-yet-poignant tale is one of a master craftsman who discovers in a blind boy the son he never had, and the apprentice who will inherit his dying craft.
Master puppeteer Awang Lah (Eman Manan) adopts a blind orphan Awi (Zul Huzaimy) after being disheartened by his own ustaz-wannabe son’s reluctance to learn shadow puppetry.
He also adopts Melor (newcomer Mas Muharni), a girl who has just lost her grandmother and who is also speech-impaired due to a nasal problem.
Both children have long admired Awang Lah’s puppetry and share a “spiritual connectedness” with every wayang puppet, sound and move in their foster father’s theatre.
Though blind, Awi is adept at memorising a great many wayang kulit stories and even improving on them, while Melor excels in creating, manipulating and developing puppets for Awang Lah’s shows.
The orphaned duo thus turn out to be his ideal apprentices and cultural heirs.
As Awi and Melor reach adulthood, their close friendship via daily engagements with puppets Sri Rama and Sita Dewi of Ramayana fame blossoms into romance, while Awang Lah begins to undergo “creative differences” with his foster son who excels in guitar pop and wants to “merge the old and new” to modernise wayang kulit.
Trouble also looms in the form of Awang Lah’s religiously literalist but horny cousin Jusoh (Wan Kenari). The dogmatic religious teacher bullies Awi and lusts after Melor, forcing the blind man to learn silat from Awang Lah’s kind brother Seman (Mazlan Tahir).
Meanwhile, Awang Lah discovers his time is running out as he has a serious heart condition. He also finds in one of his foster children a dark chapter from the past he had longed to forget.
Eman is excellent as Awang Lah, portraying the elderly tok dalang as a no-nonsense, yet loving and caring father-figure to both his apprentices.
He even educates Malaysians on a less-known fact that wayang is the Javanese equivalent of bayang or “shadow”.
Zul Huzaimy truly masters his role as the blind Awi, and it is refreshing to see him both vulnerable and romantic, after playing two memorable “princes of darkness” in Remp-It and Impak Maksima.
Nominated as Most Promising Actress in the film festival, Hatta’s faculty’s alumni Mas Muharni is brilliant as the sweet and dedicated Melor. Her Kelantanese accent is the best amongst the main actors, despite the fact that she is only part Kelantanese.
Mazlan (who starred with Zul Huzaimy in Putra — The Musical), Wan Kenari and Ida Nerina (who plays Awang Lah’s opinionated wife, Esah) also hold their own.
Brothers Mohd Arif and Mohd Afif Che Musa, who play the mischievous sons of Jusoh, also light up the show with their natural acting.
Not without its flaws, the film has its lowest point in a cliched father-son confrontation a la Ali Setan somewhere towards the end.
Wayang, Hatta’s second film after 1991’s Mat Som, has been chosen to represent Malaysia in the Indian International Film Festival at the end of this month.
This is undoubtedly the must-watch Malay movie of the year, for it is a beautiful and heartwarming story that will live on in viewers’ hearts.
Kan saya kata, cerita ni besh. Hik hik.
To Cik Ida Syarena (bukan Ida Nerina seperti kata Ipek ye tuan-tuan dan puan-puan) yang sedang dlm operasi memulihkan diri akibat patah kaki sewaktu main futsal (dengar lah kawan-kawan, bahaya main futsal tuh!), saya ucapkan, selamat maju jaya dalam kerjaya, dan semoga cepat sembuh!
Poor header maker spent most of his time yesterday and today trying to change the layout of my blog. Tapi Tuan Puteri Farinabella (wah!) asyik membantah sahaja, semuanya saya tak suka, maka dia kembalikan blog ku seperti sediakala. Padan muka saya, tu lah, orang yang tamak selalu rugi, bagai anjing dengan bayang-bayang :-D Maafkan saya wahai header maker, lepas ni tak nak mintak tukar lagi lah. Saya pasrah (seperti kata Erra fazira) dengan apa yang ada, Alhamdulillah.
Tapi tolonglah, padamkan hasrat kamu untuk ketuk kepala saya kerana telah membuat kamu menghabiskan waktu dengan percuma. (takut) I'll buy you coffee, how's that? Boleh? hihihihi...
Maafkan kami...jeng je je jeng...maafkan kami, maaf kan kami!