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Rabu, 2 April 2014


by: Hassan Muthalib

Mamat Khalid, the Bohemian among Malaysian film directors, is at it again. With his latest venture, ZOMBI KILANG BISKUT, he is at his biting best with his forte – parody – with which he trains his sights gleefully on local issues, mores and idiosyncrasies. In Mamat Khalid’s hands, zombies are not just zombies. They are powerful signifiers that are pointers as to the problems plaguing the local entertainment industry. And it is all in the subtext!

                In the first (of a proposed trilogy), ZOMBI KAMPUNG PISANG (The Zombies of Banana Village, 2008), the local entertainment scene was his real subject, which lurked in the film’s background story. So was the gothic KALA MALAM BULAN MENGAMBANG (When the Moon Waxes Full, 2009), perhaps his most accomplished film. KALA, in a black and white mode, stilted dialogue and stylized acting, was a signifier as to the low depths that the local film industry had sunk to over the last decade or so in spite of film graduates and academics entering the film arena.

                In ZOMBI KAMPUNG PISANG, Mamat introduced for the first time, down-to-earth characters such as Husin (played by Awie), Pak Abu (the late Zami Ismail), Pak Jabit (Man Kadir) - and later Kak Limah (Delimawati). Usop Wilca (Shy8), is another character who received his moniker by being in a wheelchair but, who, at times, could miraculously regain the use of his lower limbs in times of crisis. In this, Mamat is in good company. The legendary P Ramlee made use of the characters of Ramli, Ajis and Sudin in three films (BUJANG LAPOK, PENDEKAR BUJANG LAPOK and SENIMAN BUJANG LAPOK). Yasmin Ahmad had the characters of Jason and Orked in three of her films (SEPET, GUBRA and MUKHSIN). The record of using the same characters, without doubt, goes to Japanese director, Yoji Yamada. His character of Tora-san, his sister, brother-in-law, nephew and neighbours appeared in an unbelievable 48 films! The series only ended when the lead character, Kiyoshi Atsumi, died.

                Familiarity is, of course, one of the key ingredients in the marketing of a film. When audiences recognize characters - and, more so, if they identify themselves with the characters - it makes for easier storytelling and hardly requires promoting. Like the bangsawan troupes of yesteryear, Mamat, too, uses almost invariably, the same actors from film to film, and this is prevalent especially in his zombie series. Each one of Mamat’s characters has his/her own quirks and traits.  Lines of dialogue are associated with certain characters (‘Sabor jerlah!’ and ‘Bala! Bala’), or even keeps crossing over into the next film (‘Maznah ke tu?), borrowed from a classic P Ramlee movie, making the line even funnier due to its recognition. Mamat’s films are rich with incidents from local history or sequences and songs from films of the 1950s and even from Hollywood and Japanese movies. The zombie genre itself is from Hollywood’s B-movies that were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. In ZOMBI KILANG BISKUT, there are references to films such as THE CAR THAT ATE PARIS and MAD MAX.

               But perhaps Mamat’s biggest achievement is in taking Awie, a rock singer with a macho image, and turning him into the meek-as-a-cat village boy who, at the end of the film, becomes a reluctant hero. At the hands of Mamat, Awie’s talent as a comedy actor comes brilliantly to the fore. Another actor who (this time, a film graduate), is Soffi Jikan, who shines as a character actor. He has appeared in almost every one of Mamat’s films. And in the zombie series, he has always played a negative character - no doubt depicting the kind of person that everyone has to contend with in their lives. However, in MAN LAKSA, he excellently articulated (in the subtext), the character of an artiste who perseveres in the face of extreme adversity (while waiting desperately outside an occupied toilet!). In ZOMBI KAMPUNG PISANG, he played (again in the subtext) the role of a veteran in the industry who did nothing even though he was given a prominent position to help the industry with its problems. In HANTU KAK LIMAH BALIK KE RUMAH, he was the shaman from Thailand who was brought in to exorcise the ghost of Kak Limah but ends up a cropper. This was a subversion of the role of a shaman and a parody of the flood of local horror movies that usually had his ignominious presence. And in ZOMBI KILANG BISKUT, Soffi is the manager of a biscuit factory (with a PhD, no less!) who feeds ecstasy pills to the workers as part of an experiment that he is working on.

               From his very first film, Mamat’s ability to entertain while at the same time, inserting social comment into the plot as well as depicting a quintessentially Malay milieu, showed him to be different from the millennium’s slew of new and rising directors. His subtext almost always relates to the entertainment industry, be it music, television or film. It is no different with ZOMBI KILANG BISKUT. Moving away from making fun of the established industry players, he now focuses his attention (in the subtext), on the next generation of filmmakers (who are now studying film in the universities). His treatment of the story has, however, moved from the comic to one of seriousness. He now shows his concern at students today and how they are receiving their education at the hands of inept lecturers in faculties that have clearly lost their way. Students appear to be imprisoned and are being churned out as in a factory and look like zombies, i.e., a pointer to their not being critical and innovative but simply following what they are being asked to do and not to raise any questions!

                In a downplayed role, Sofi Jikan expertly portrays the evil nature of the factory manager. The seriousness of the subject matter is paralled by the acting of Mamat’s characters who, heretofore, had been comic in their renditions. Usop Wilca himself is uncharacteristically violent. It appears that Mamat has suddenly lapsed into black comedy but his hand is sure. Earlier, he had shown male students performing a rap dance on stage (a pointer to students frequently staging populist musical numbers on request). At the end of the film, Mamat sums up what he wants to say as the film story ends. As the credits roll, a box by the side shows Husin (Awie) leading students, this time, female, down a corridor resembling that of a certain faculty, in singing the populist song, Yale, Yale. It appears to be a celebratory event. It is, however, one that can be interpreted as being tragic and expressing Mamat’s despair over what is happening. The clue to this can be seen in one instance where Husin covers his face with his hands as he leads them on in the song. It is an unarticulated lament over what is happening to the young people of today and how they are being taught to be frivolous and not being academic in their studies. And at the end of the song, the students disperse. Husin turns to look at them. He then shakes his head (another unspoken lament), and silently goes off screen.

               Yes, Mamat Khalid is angry. Which is why his parody has now become dark. We, too, should be angry at what is going on in certain universities. Our young people must be saved from these purveyors of imbecilic ideologies.

               Before it is too late.    

(ZOMBI KILANG BISKUT is into its third week at the cinemas nationwide. The final song, Yale Yale,  in the credits has been made into a music video but with the lyrics muted. Here, Mamat invites viewers to sing along but also asks them to understand it as a song of despair).

Selasa, 1 April 2014


Jika sebut sahaja 'piring hitam', barangkali ada yang 'terpinga-pinga dan tertanya-tanya'. Persoalan seperti 'relevankah lagi penerbitan album dalam bentuk piring hitam sedangkan muzik sebegitu hanya layak buat lagu-lagu lama ataupun klasik'. Penerbitan album kini tertumpu pada jaringan 'media sosial' melalui perkongsian secara terus menggunakan internet ataupun kemudahan 'itunes' iaitu download secara terus tanpa perlu membuang masa dan tenaga mengunjungi kedai muzik berdekatan. Muzik ibarat satu nyawa buat manusia, ia berkembang dan popular selagi sesuatu muzik itu dimainkan atau beredar dalam dunia muzik melalui apa jua platform sekalipun.

Legasi 'piring hitam' pada era 40 hingga 80-an, digantikan dengan medium 'kaset' yang mula diminati peminat muzik lewat 90an. Apabila teknologi semakin berkembang, muzik di Malaysia mula diterbitkan syarikat rakaman dalam bentuk digital menerusi Cakera Padat (CD). Walaupun dihasilkan dalam bentuk CD, namun kaset dan piring hitam ketika itu masih lagi diminati. Apabila muzik mula dimuat naik ke laman internet menerusi rangkuman muzik secara dalam talian, peminat muzik kini boleh mengakses sesuatu bahan secara mudah dengan hanya 'satu klik'. Walaupun kita boleh memiliki 'sesuatu muzik', melalui internet namun penerbitan album secara bercetak seterusnya dipasarkan atau dijual di kedai muzik adalah masih relevan.

Di pasaran antarabangsa, penerbitan album dalam bentuk 'Piring Hitam' (vinyl records, LP) masih rancak dilakukan sehingga menjadi satu trend wajib bagi seseorang penyanyi samada artis baru mahupun yang sudah lama. Jika dibandingkan di Malaysia saat ini, penerbitan album dalam bentuk  'piring hitam' tidak lagi dilakukan memandangkan ia memerlukan kos penerbitan yang sangat tinggi. Sekiranya adapun, cuma segelintir sahaja yang sanggup melabur duit penghasilannya walaupun rakaman dalam bentuk 'piring hitam' lebih tahan lama berbanding Kaset dan CD. Harus diingat bahawa Malaysia tidak ada lagi tempat membuat piring hitam (mungkin ada tapi tak popular) ; mereka yang berminat pasti sanggup dan paling dekat penghasilannya adalah di Bangkok, Thailand.

Ketika tinjauan dibuat baru-baru ini, Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor antara pusat jualan dan pengumpulan 'piring hitam' yang cukup banyak. Sabtu dan Ahad, merupakan hari minggu yang sentiasa dikunjungi ramai peminat barang-barang antik, bukan sahaja tertumpu pada muzik klasik melayu, malahan mereka boleh memiliki beberapa koleksi yang agak 'rare' dan tidak pernah ada di pasaran komersial meliputi muzik antarabangsa dari zaman 30an hinggalah ke era 90an. Anneke Gronloh, Maryln Monroe, Nina Simone dan The Beatles antara beberapa nama yang 'piring hitamnya' masih laku dan panas khususnya dikalangan peminat muzik klasik tidak kira jantina, usia, warna kulit dan agama. Namun, jangan terkejut jika anda terjumpa  dicelah-celah koleksi itu ada terjual piring hitam Adele yang popular dengan lagu 'Someone Like You, Rolling In The Deep, Crazy For You, First Love' dan sebagainya. Ini merupakan antara piring hitam terkini yang mungkin dimiliki atau tidak oleh peminat sesebuah muzik.

Selain itu, peminat muzik juga boleh mendapatkan beberapa koleksi klasik yang lain, misalnya tamil, hindi, china, japan, korea dan sebagainya. Bagi dunia muzik tempatan, irama muzik boleh dikatakan popular pada era 'filem melayu klasik', di mana ketika itu nama seperti P.Ramlee, Saloma, Aziz Jaafar, Normadiah, Nona Asiah, Momo Latiff' menjadi pujaan pendengar radio dan peminat ketika itu. Kemunculan 'Ahmad Jais, Kartina Dahari, Rafeah Buang, SM Salim, Rosiah Chik, R.Ismail dan sebagainya  (hanya sekadar menyebut beberapa nama sahaja) merancakkan lagi dunia muzik pada masa itu. Muzik yang dihasilkan pada zaman itu bercorakkan 'kemelayuan' yang mempunyai 'nilai jatidiri' sehingga kini menjadi antara 'muzik malar segar' yang kian diminati dan tidak akan luput ditelan masa. 

Penghasilan muzik pada era itu hanya tertumpu pada format EP dan Piring Hitam (Long Player ; vinyl, LP). Hanya mereka yang 'berada' sahaja mampu memiliki pemain 'piring hitam' pada masa itu. Walaupun tidak lagi diterbitkan dalam bentuk 'muzik baru' ; hanya artis antarabangsa sahaja yang mengeluarkan format 'piring hitam' selain CD pada masa kini, namun 'penjualan piring hitam lama ataupun klasik', masih lagi diminati sehingga ke hari ini. Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor antara 'port' terbaik untuk mendapatkan pelbagai koleksi piring hitam dengan harga jualan sekitar RM 10 hinggalah menjengah ke harga RM 1,000 bagi sekeping atau dua piring hitam mengikut 'nama penyanyi dan popularitinya'. Namun begitu, adakah penjualan 'piring hitam' itu melanggar 'hak cipta' yang dilindungi bagi setiap karya yang diterbitkan?. Bukan ingin mempersoalkan hak penjualan atau membangkitkan benda yang lama bagi tujuan meraih simpati, namun harus diingat bahawa penjualan semula sesuatu hasil karya itu adalah melanggar akta hak cipta walaupun sesuatu bahan itu sudah lama atau sebagainya. Mungkin 'mereka' yang menjual itu sekadar berkongsi barang antik, lama, klasik yang sukar dimiliki di pasaran komersial menerusi 'piring hitam'. Jika seandainya 'piring hitam' itu misalnya pernah diterbitkan oleh EMI, Polygram, Philips, Warner Music dan sebagainnya, dihasilkan semula dan dijual pada masa kini, misalnya piring hitam P.Ramlee itu dicetak baru, nescaya ia mendapat sambutan hangat di pasaran bagi pengumpul dan peminat piring hitam. Ini mungkin satu cadangan baik yang harus difikirkan bersama bagi mengangkat, memartabatkan serta memelihara khazanah muzik tempatan yang dahulunya 'segar', akan terus 'begemerlapan' bagaikan cahaya yang menari di langit biru. 

'Muzik tanpa piring hitam', akan terus terkubur, layu umpama menunggu kematian bagi setiap yang bernafas. Industri muzik tidak lagi dihormati sekiranya penerbitan album dihentikan walaupun teknologi moden kini memerlukan penerbitan muzik secara maya. Hargailah khazanah muzik kita, tanpa yang lama, tidak akan muncul yang baru. 

Tepuk dada Tanya Selera..