Malaysian masala

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By GRACE CHEN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my Garu­uda, Pen­sil

TO trace the colour­ful trail of Malaysian made In­dian movies, we must go back to the 1960s. One could con­sider Rathapei (Bloody Lust) as the first In­dian film made by a lo­cal pro­duc­tion as it had been done by a dance troupe who recorded their per­for­mance on stage while tour­ing In­dia.

Two more projects would fol­low suit in the 1970s. One was by Felix An­thony, a pro­ducer from Ipoh with Thun Ban­gal Urangu Vathillai (Wor­ries Don’t Stop) and Anbe En Anbe (My Love).

One was a dis­as­ter. The other two never saw light of day due to lack of fund­ing.

So, credit for the first lo­cally-made In­dian movie to be­come a suc­cess has to go to Pan­chacharam Nal­liah, bet­ter known as Pan­sha, who di­rected Naan Oru Malaysian (I Am Malaysian) in 1991.

Pan­sha, an es­tab­lished film dis­trib­u­tor who then shot to fame in Adutha Veedu, a TV3 Tamil drama about hos­tile neigh­bours in 1984, re­calls what spurred him on.

“Dur­ing the 80s, many pro­duc­tion houses from In­dia did their film­ing in Malaysia. Ev­ery time they came, there was a lot of talk about col­lab­o­ra­tions with Malaysian artistes to en­cour­age the film in­dus­try. But as soon as they fin­ished pro­duc­tion, these peo­ple went back and noth­ing more was heard. So, I de­cided to do some­thing about it by mak­ing my own film,” says Pan­sha who wrote, di­rected and played the hero in the movie.

Naan Oru Malaysian made its run in three lo­ca­tions and raked in RM150,000. Pan­sha rec­ol­lects that it played to full house in Kuala Lumpur’s Fed­eral Cinema dur­ing its week-long run and even reck­oned that it would have done bet­ter if not for the tur­moil be­tween two bick­er­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties who had forced the au­thor­i­ties to cor­don off the town area which af­fected at­ten­dance at the Coli­seum The­atre in Jalan Tuanku Ab­dul Rah­man, KL. But in all, the man has no re­grets.

In 2005, Deepak Menon made Chem­man Chaalai (The Gravel Road), a Tamil film with English sub­ti­tles. The film was shown at a num­ber of film fes­ti­vals across the world in­clud­ing the In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val Rot­ter­dam, San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, Pu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, Korea, Nantes Fes­ti­val 3 Con­ti­nents, France and the Fukuoka In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in Ja­pan. A few years later, he re­leased an­other film, Cha­lang­gai (Danc­ing Bells). These were not your av­er­age Tamil movies, but rather sto­ries por­tray­ing the daily life of peo­ple as hu­manly and re­al­is­ti­cally as pos­si­ble, and met with a promis­ing re­cep­tion. How­ever be­cause they were made in dig­i­tal for­mat (which is not yet a recog­nised medium), the movies were not clas­si­fied as lo­cally made films. although lo­cally-made In­dian movies are not a dime a dozen, there have been in­roads made into the scene.

What made Naan Oru Malaysian dif­fer­ent for Deepak’s films was that it was shot on 35mm film. Ac­cord­ing to Pan­sha, the di­rec­tor and pro­ducer of Naan Oru Malaysian from Ber­jaya Film Pro­duc­tion, shoot­ing on film is a gi­ant step for the in­dus­try in terms of cost as it re­quires a huge bud­get. A can of film which has a screen­ing time of five min­utes can cost RM500. So, a full length movie span­ning two and half hours can take up to 100 cans. In truth, this means that last year’s pro­duc- tion of Ap­palam was in­deed only the sec­ond Malaysian-made In­dian movie af­ter Naan Oru Malaysian to be shot on 35mm film.

Malay di­rec­tor Afdlin Shauki’s Ap­palam was pro­duced by Tayan­gan Ung­gul, a sis­ter com­pany of Astro, and re­leased with much hype

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