Malaysian flavour

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By MICHAEL CHEANG en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

IT is hard to avoid Name­wee’s Nasi Lemak 2.0 these days. Lately, the movie has been in the news for the wrong rea­sons, with a group called Per­tubuhan Ga­gasan Rakyat Di­dahu­lukan protest­ing against the film out­side a cinema in Ipoh. The group de­manded a boy­cott of the film be­cause of its al­leged po­lit­i­cal con­no­ta­tions.

A colum­nist for a lo­cal Malay-lan­guage news­pa­per also pub­lished an ar­ti­cle crit­i­cis­ing the 26-year-old artiste-cum-film­maker, ac­cus­ing him of in­sult­ing Malaysians, and stat­ing that she would not watch the movie even if she was given tick­ets.

Never one to shy away from con­tro­versy or a chal­lenge, Name­wee re­tal­i­ated by lam­bast­ing her in an ex­ple­tive-rid­den YouTube rant, chal­leng­ing the writer to watch the movie, even of­fer­ing to buy her the tick­ets. (When con­tacted, a spokesper­son for Name­wee said that the video was to make sure the mass me­dia do not judge him and his film be­fore even watch­ing the movie.)

For­tu­nately, this neg­a­tiv­ity to­wards the movie seems to be stem­ming from a small group, and has not stopped the rest of us from flock­ing to cine­mas to watch the film. The movie has raked in more than RM5mil at the box of­fice so far and has been earn­ing rave re­views from Malaysians of all races.

Ac­cord­ing to the film’s pro­ducer Fred Chong, about 80% to 90% of the peo­ple who have watched the movie liked it.

This is par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing be­cause Name­wee’s past projects have al­ways split peo­ple down the mid­dle – you ei­ther love it or hate it.

“This time around, most peo­ple liked it. We’ve got­ten lots of pos­i­tive re­views, and feed­back from blog­gers, Face­book, Twit­ter and so on,” said Chong.

Ac­cord­ing to him, when they screened the movie in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, dur­ing a spe­cial pre­miere in con­junc­tion with Merdeka Day, many of those who watched it came up to them and said it made them feel home­sick.

“Many peo­ple also got a crav­ing for Malaysian food straight away, es­pe­cially nasi lemak!” he said with a laugh. “But one of the most com­mon feed­back we’ve re­ceived is that this is what a real 1Malaysia film should be like.”

Man­age­ment ex­ec­u­tive Daim Anuar, 27, con­curred, reck­on­ing that Name­wee got the best from all the dif­fer­ent cul­tures, and man­aged to put them all in one movie.

“It’s like he made us a part of Nasi Lemak 2.0. It wasn’t just for Chi­nese or Malays to en­joy – any­one could watch it and feel proud to be Malaysian,” he said. “It was quite an en­joy­able movie. It was very multi-racial, and showed not just our cul­ture, but what we do in the morn­ing when we get up, the traf­fic jams we put up with, how we are will­ing to line up for our favourite foods …”

Chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent Ganesh­waien Mathiala­gan, 20, thinks that the movie re­ally brings out what our coun­try is like. “Name­wee re­ally un­der­stands what is go­ing on in Malaysia. Ev­ery­one should watch this movie, es­pe­cially if you are a Malaysian or want to know more about Malaysia,” he said, adding that although the movie pokes fun at the dif­fer­ent cul­tures, it was not done in an of­fen­sive man­ner.

Med­i­cal stu­dent Tan Soon Yee, 21, is a big fan of Name­wee, and ad­mires the artiste’s courage and out­spo­ken­ness. “I like Name­wee, he dares to speak up about national is­sues and in­clude them in his songs and films. Name­wee just wants Malaysians to have fun while un­der­stand­ing the national is­sues,” said Tan, adding that when he watched the movie, he no­ticed that the cinema hall was filled with peo­ple of all races, all laugh­ing along to the jokes.

“We were all laugh­ing from the start of the movie un­til the end! I think it was funny to all of us be­cause it is so lo­calised,” he said.

The fact that the pri­mary lan­guage of the film is Man­darin with a smat­ter­ing of dif­fer­ent Chi­nese di­alects, Malay, English and Tamil was not a bar­rier to most fans.

Writer Amirul Rus­lan, 21, loved the movie so much that he went to watch it again with his fam­ily dring his mother’s birth­day. His fam­ily had never watched a non-Malay or English movie in the cinema be­fore, and to their sur­prise, they still man­aged to un­der­stand and laugh at all the jokes.

“Even though it was mostly in Man­darin, the sub­ti­tles were done well, and I could fol­low it very eas­ily,” he said.

While Amirul reck­ons that Name­wee wasn’t out to make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment with the movie, he also thinks that it’s hard not to touch on po­lit­i­cal is­sues when you are mak­ing a movie about Malaysia.

“If you watch Nasi Lemak 2.0, you’ll see that this is ac­tu­ally a very Malaysian story, and that he loves this coun­try, but is just be­ing crit­i­cal about the sit­u­a­tion here. This is Name­wee’s love let­ter to Malaysia, in his own way.”

n NasiLe­mak2.0 is play­ing in cine­mas.

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