AFTER a 21-year hiatus, Mahadi J. Murat (below, right) is back in the director’s chair. His latest film, Luqman (above), is set to premiere in late December. 

The story centres on a writer, Luqman Hakim (starring Wan Hanafi Su), who is upset that the younger generation does not appreciate their Malay heritage. To make matters worse, he feels jealous when his much younger wife, traditional Malay dancer Ayu Kencana (Raja IIya), gets close to young graduate Marwan Al Hadi (Josiah Hogan), who is doing his thesis on Malay culture.  Luqman lives in fear of losing Ayu to Marwan. He wants her to stop dancing, but she refuses, putting a strain on their otherwise happy marriage. Luqman is Mahadi’s fourth feature film.
His previous three films were Roda-Roda (1985), Wanita Bertudung Hitam (1992), and Sayang Salmah (1995) which won six Malaysian Film Festival awards, including best film.

Recently, Mahadi held a private screening of Luqman for close friends and selected media. He later shared some of his thoughts and views on the film industry.

You have not made a feature film for two decades. Why?
I have not remained idle during that time. I have been sharpening my skills [as a] filmmaker so I can tell my stories effectively. “I started my career as a photographer and later, as a cameraman. I have technical experience. But to be a better filmmaker … you need to study philosophy, human emotions and literature, as well as gather life experiences. I have been doing that. I took up a masters in film studies at the University of Westminster in London. I have taught subjects related to film, art and literature at several universities and colleges. Between classes, I made short films and documentaries. I have not stayed away from my craft.

What is the message you want to convey in Luqman?
All my films touch on the Malay psyche and Luqman is no different. The husband in my movie represents the older generation of Malays who want to preserve the past, while Ayu represents the younger generation who want to move forward. So my movie looks at the conflicts … between the old and the new, between the past and the present, and between the present and the future.

Some may feel that the themes you tackle in Luqman are not commercial enough.
Filmmakers must not be restricted to just making certain types of films. They have a responsibility to provide alternative movies from [the] mainstream.  There is a [substantial percentage] of audiences who are looking for different genres, and filmmakers must fulfil this need.

How many times have we met movie fans who said that they do not watch Malay movies because they do not like the [content]? We need to change that. We can only do that if we tackle different themes. Besides, the audience’s mood is difficult to predict. Look at The Journey (2014), which is about an apek tua (old Chinese man) who is busy preparing for his daughter’s wedding. Where’s the commercial appeal of this storyline? But interestingly enough, [it] became a box-office hit and touched many hearts.

What is the biggest change you would like to see taking place in the local film industry?
Recently, there was a big hooha about what kind of language we should use in our films [for them] to qualify as a Malaysian film. We must realise that we live in a multicultural and multilingual society. So, we should allow people to make a Malaysian film in any language that they want. What is important are the stories the filmmaker tells in his movies, not the language he uses.
Films should be about humanity, not languages. Let us leave politics out of films.”

What is your next film about?
I would love to do a biopic on the late legendary singer Sharifah Aini. She lived an amazing life – going from being an expert Quran reader to a singer with a versatile vocals, who could sing [everything from] traditional Malay songs to modern numbers. I am still doing research on her.

*Originally published here.

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