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.