Banting Film Premiere

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(Graphics poster courtesy of Papahan Films)

Ok I know I promised you in the last entry that my next one would be my review on Anugerah Planet Muzik 2014. However, after attending the film premiere of Banting (or Slam! in English) this past Friday 24th October 2014 at the The Grand Cathay Cineplex, I have decided to prolong your wait for quite a bit as this movie takes precedence. Editing photographs I took the other night, which were less than a hundred, is much easier than going through 3500-odd photographs to be included in my entry. Hence you can regard this as sort of a filler entry before I speak about APM2014 again. Anyway I would first and foremost like to thank Papahan Films, especially Ms. Nurazleena Ramli, the person in-charge of the film’s publicity, for the kind invitation. In my ten years of entertainment blogging, this was indeed my first film premiere invite and I was honoured to attend with the missus.

So what is Banting all about??? Well, I will be paraphrasing this paragraph and the next, since I’m taking them out from what has been typed in its official website (Credits to Papahan Films). The film tells a story of a twenty-four year old Yasmin Muhammad (played by the likeable Izyan Mellyna) who barely has the most exciting life, with a strict mother and religious upbringing. Yasmin is also sick when she’s being judged all the time for wearing a Hijab or sees discrimination upon women who don it. She wonders if a Hijab girl will ever be able to do what most normal girls can do. Things change when Yasmin chances upon a professional wrestling gym and does the unthinkable: she secretly signs up as a wrestler!!! Soon, Yasmin is trading her Hijab for a mask and her awkwardness with unbridled high-flying moves as she becomes her alter-ego, the fearsome Zarith Blade!!! (The name Zarith is I believe, a tribute to director M. Raihan Halim‘s wife, Zarith Sofia

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The film cast and director seen here being photographed with guest-of-honour, Minister for Communications & Information, Mr. Yaacob Ibrahim

But “laying the smackdown” on people is not what Yasmin is meant to do in life. At least not according to her conservative and very strict mother, Halimah (played by the respected Mastura Ahmad). Yasmin hides her new passion from Halimah and for good reason. Halimah’s idea of having her good Muslim daughter clashes with the life of a professional wrestler clothes-lining and slamming people before a cheering crowd. Things take a precarious turn when Yasmin’s secret double life is threatened to be exposed. And Yasmin finds herself in her most important match ever: wrestling (a.k.a. convincing) her mother to give her the chance to keep her dream alive!!! Will she succeed??? Well, I will not divulge or give you any spoilers as the only way to find out is to watch the movie.

Honest-to-goodness, I am not good at reviewing movies. I’m also the kind who will pay scant respect to movie reviews unless I’m really sceptical of its storyline and need to read first before investing my money to watch it. So my views here might differ from those who watch movies looking at technical aspects and nitty-gritty details. As a watching audience, I want to be entertained, to have a feel-good factor even after the rolling credits are done and to smile just reminiscing about the movie. Banting ticked all three boxes in my list. I am also sure the rest who attended the film premiere, which was by the way, resembled a mini Pesta Perdana event with so many personalities in the local Malay entertainment scene in attendance, walked away with smiles on their faces and encouraging words being heard exchanged between them outside the theatre.

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It’s a wrestling movie, so a bit of fierceness being shown here by the film cast, producer and director along with Minister Yaacob Ibrahim

Banting in all honesty after watching it, is so close to my heart. I grew up watching wrestling, had great wrestling matches at the high jump mattress at Serangoon JC with my friends when we were in secondary school. I also used to wrestle my cousins on our respective beds and till now I still do practise some of the safer moves with my daughters and nephews. Up till this day, I religiously read the weekly World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) RAW reports just to keep up with what is happening in the WWE. We all know the storylines and moves in wrestling are fake, even Banting revealed a bit of that, but it keeps us entertained, like a soap opera, willing the good guys on and wishing the bad guys would just shut up and lose. Banting tried to create that and the wrestling fanboy in me was suitably impressed to an extent.

I take my hat off to the wrestling girls played by Gloria Tan, Abigail Chay, Syaza Qistina Tan, Ashley Erianah and Joanne-Marie Sim, besides Izyan Mellyna of course. Wrestling is not easy for ladies and I sometimes detect how difficult it is, even for the professional ones in WWE to execute some of their moves. They did try to create a convincing outlook in their matches and some of the moves did look great and believable. The person or persons who trained them can take heart that these girls did their utmost best and done well. Not easy to look pretty and having to suffer bumps, cuts and bruises in the process. I’m sure during the course of filming, the girls have taken slight knocks and injuries from botching their moves, but this is all part and parcel of filming, especially action scenes.

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Another “garang” pose, this time with the film poster backdrop in the background…

Other than the wrestling aspect of the movie, the film resonates with me because of the life being led by the lead character herself and her sister Nissa (played by Adlina Adil). Like the movie, I have two young daughters myself and it has probably given me an advanced glimpse of what the future might be in for me when they eventually grow up and be young women with their own dreams and aspirations. They will have their own interests and likes which will differ to or contrast with what we want or expect from them. We are also living in a generation where everything needs to be explained with logic and rationale, without being too strict and hard-handed, lest the kids will turn rebellious and lie at the first available opportunity. During our parents’ time, a raised eyebrow, a wave of the cane, a slight raise in tone of voice, a wag of the finger and a simple “No!!!” usually would do the trick. Now no more. And what’s more, I see some of the character traits of Yasmin (the younger daughter in the movie) similar to that of my younger one – Steely, determined, fiesty, independent and strong-willed.

A good movie needs to have a good balance in how the actors bounce off each other. I see a lot of that in this movie, from the leads right down to the supporting cast. I just find the Atok character played by legendary actor Osman Zailani, very endearing. It even made me miss my own late grandfather who defended me at the slightest opportunity when my father would flare up with me when I was younger. As for Fauzie Laily who plays Yasmin‘s BFF, Zaidy, words cannot describe how proud I am for my old friend at his achievement on becoming a film star. He brought his A-game in this movie and he has improved so much since his first stab at acting in “Teman Anugerahku” back in 2005. Watching him in the movie is just like knowing him in real life. The characters in reel and real life are just too similar, the jokes and teasings, as well as the sound advices, are what I have been accustomed to from knowing Fauzie since he was still the scrawny teen from Temasek Polytechnic. Oh by the way, I like that Fauzie looked a bit chubby in this movie. Hahaha…

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The lead actors in Banting: Fauzie Laily, Adlina Adil, Izyan Mellyna and Mastura Ahmad

While I do not need to wax lyrical on the likes of Mastura Ahmad and Adlina Adil, because we know what accomplished actresses they are both on television and theatre, I feel that as a relatively newbie in the scene, Izyan Mellyna has all the attributes to be Singapore‘s very own Sharifah Amani. I cannot describe in words why I feel this way, but if there is a reference point I can compare her to, then Sharifah Amani is the one. Ok I used the word “newbie”, but really Izyan is already an experienced hand in the scene having been a child star during the days of “Ya Alif” and also has theatre background. It’s just that television viewers have been warming up to her since the start of 2014 when Walimah, followed by TeRaSeh! 2.0, Di Luar Garisan 2 and Walimah 2 came along. Along with Nurfarhana M. Noor, Izyan Mellyna is the name and talent to watch in our local Malay entertainment scene. See them soar and progress over the years, they will only get better.

Banting, is not just your typical light-hearted comedy. It brings with it moments of anxiety, also tugs a bit on our emotions (yes some people I know cried at some of the scenes :P). Above all, it feels very Singaporean and relates so much to the average Malay family here, the challenges we face as a society, as individuals, having to chase our dreams and having to appease our older folks in matters sometimes beyond our comprehension or will. Then there are the conflicts of interests. Somehow, somewhere, for those of us who have watched this movie, we can relate to them and agree that at some point of time in our lives, we have been through those kind of situations before, whether to listen to our instincts and passion or stick to the tried-and-tested success formulas. Director M. Raihan Halim and his team at Papahan Films have done well to potray all that I have mentioned either directly or subtly in the movie.

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Executive producer Edmund D. Lim addressing the audience along with fellow executive co-producer and director, M. Raihan Halim, before the film commenced…

The film, which is brought to you by the same people who produced award-winning television shows like “Yazid Pakai Lampin“, “Mr. Perfect“, “Papa Rock” and “Step Puteri” amongst others, will hopefully usher in a new era of film-making and revive the local Malay film industry which has long been decimated since the demise of the Jalan Ampas studio. I will not go as far as to put undue pressure on M. Raihan Halim and declare that he is now the messiah of the revolution, but in a way, he has taken steps to break down the walls of barrier and shown fellow local Malay film-makers that it is possible to take the plunge and tread where others do not dare. He stands tall with his team from Papahan Films that such a move can be done. I share their pride at seeing their dream materialise and realised and I was honoured to have witnessed the momentous and ground-breaking occasion. Please do support and watch Banting when it is out officially at the theatres this Friday 31st October 2014 onwards and you will understand the same pride that most, if not all of us who came for the film premiere feel and share till now…

Ratu Episod Three Recap…

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This past Tuesday 11 December 2012, the third episode of Ratu aired live on our television screens with the theme of the week being “Sports“. A slight change in judging personnel was made with Hafeez Glamour away in Taiwan on a working-cum-leisure trip with some of his ardent radio listeners. In his place was Hanis Hussey, the guest judge of the first episode. Joining Hanis and Nuraliza Osman on the panel was Muhammad Yusoff Shah Khamaruddin, former national Silat exponent and also a one-time info-ed host on Suria. As opposed to the previous week’s episode where the contestants were put through challenges relating to Malay Culture (making traditional Malay Kuih and performing a simple Malay dance routine), the challenges this past week were aimed at testing the girls on their physical capabilities, to see how they adapt at being rugged to balance their demure and prim image.

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I have to apologise to the girls cos I believe some of them saw me giggling away when they were up on stage in their Silat outfits, which were sponsored by Sports Silat Academy. I was not laughing at their respective moves, but more to how they wore their outfits. Some had tied their belts slightly above their stomachs and it looked quite amusing, at least to me. Kind of reminded me of Obelix, the rotund character in the Asterix cartoon series. Ok I know I’m being slightly mean here, but that’s besides the point. I observed some were rushing through their motions and their facial expressions gave away the fact that they were calculating their steps, while some others were looking down all the time. The ones who impressed me in this segment were Nur Aqilah Kamaruddin (Aqilah) and especially Tiara Atyra. The movements they made were a combination of grace and vigour. It was the perfect balance so to speak. But I just wonder why did some have simpler routines, and others had more difficult ones???

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I cannot comment much on the futsal segment as it was done outdoors and did not show a full account on how each of them fared other than the fact that Risliani won the Ratu-of-the-match award. My only complaint for this segment was some of the girls looked like they lacked enough sleep the previous night, with tired eyes and all, with some looking battered even before the game began. It didn’t exactly look flattering on them. As for the question-and-answer segments, I noticed there were a lot of similarities and overlapping of answers from one contestant to another. What could set them apart in this case and for future episodes are probably their confidence factor and how well they deliver their speech. I noted improvements being made by Jannah Jakasha and Surya Rahmanty as compared to the previous week. Confidence was just oozing out of the former while a bit of research was evident in the latter’s answer.

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Two eliminations were made by the end of Episode Three. I was kinda shocked to know that Sheril Izzyana whom I had earmarked as a potential dark horse of the competition, was the second to be eliminated along with Natasha Tan. It was a bit of a shocker, as I was generally impressed by her showings the previous week and thought she did not do too shabby this week either. Maybe it was the Silat segment that brought down her points, we will never know. Cynics of Natasha Tan on the other hand, might criticise her for her lack of proficiency in the Malay language, but I did observe that she did try her utmost best to find the right words to say throughout the competition, even if that eventually contributed to her elimination. Her over-eagerness could have also betrayed her poise during the Q&A segment. By the way, I will not reveal who my personal favourites are or who I think can progress further as I do not have a definitive list in mind, other than whoever that I mentioned as potentially good, is reflective of their individual showings week by week.

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Eiss was the guest artiste of the week…

So what’s next for the eliminated contestants so far? I cannot give a definite insight on the two earlier ones, Ziza and Diana, as their elimination was too early for me to learn their respective strengths. In Natasha Tan, I observed that she has an infectious and bubbly personality and off-camera, she is the livewire amongst the girls. If she harbours enough interest in the scene, then maybe what she can do is polish up on her language proficiency and join any performing arts company that can hone her interest. She would actually make a good host for a children-related programme due to her personality and energy, and I mean no disrespect when I say this.  In Sheril‘s case, I noted in my last recap that she has a voice suited for radio, television hosting and even news-reading. She can also train up on hosting skills and give it a shot if there are future auditions or openings for those positions I just mentioned. It is definitely not the end of their journey once they are eliminated, provided they still have the passion for it. A fine example I can give is RIA 89.7FM‘s Dzar Ismail, whose potential was discovered when he joined Anugerah Skrin 2010 but was eliminated halfway through the competition.

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On the social media front, I have been a silent observer of some of the photographs that the contestants have uploaded in their respective accounts and read some of the comments made by their friends, family members and supporters. While freedom of speech is welcomed, there should also be a certain amount of tact and respect observed. I saw some unnecessary criticisms made towards the other contestants and though I do not wish to repeat what were said or who said them, I just hope that such comments will not affect the friendship and sisterhood that has been forged amongst the girls. It would be a huge pity that their friendship becomes strained just because some of their supporters / loved ones leave hurtful comments towards the others and in turn might breed hidden contempt and dissent amongst the rest. No doubt it is a competition, but it should not turn out to be negative in any aspects. The bond that the contestants share from my month-long observation of them is a positive one. Let’s keep it that way!!!