Laden with mean­ing

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By FIONA HO en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

A sim­ple story that re­volves around cook­ing is this year’s Deep­avali com­mer­cial by Petronas.

Some­where in a bustling mar­ket, a mother finds her­self amid a colour­ful spread and splash of bright red toma­toes, del­i­cate onions, meat and spices in ev­ery va­ri­ety. mean­while, a young boy drops a co­conut from atop a tree, to be grated for co­conut milk with his fa­ther. It is used later by the wom­en­folk of the house­hold to whip up a hearty feast that will be en­joyed by the en­tire fam­ily.

It is a sim­ple enough sce­nario, but the spirit of to­geth­er­ness it show­cases is what em­bod­ies the true sig­nif­i­cance of Deep­avali, says Datuk mo­ham­mad medan Ab­dul­lah, the man be­hind this year’s Deep­avali com­mer­cial by Petronas.

medan, the se­nior gen­eral man­ager of Petronas’ Group Cor­po­rate Af­fairs Divi­sion, says the ad, aptly ti­tled the Pur­suit Of Per­fec­tion, jux­ta­poses in­di­vid­ual ef­fort with fa­mil­ial sup­port.

“we picked a sim­ple story that re­volves around cook­ing. The com­mer­cial shows that ev­ery­one in the fam­ily has a role to play in pre­par­ing the per­fect Deep­avali meal. It takes a lot of ef­fort to make a good, sim­ple meal and ev­ery­body has to work to­gether in or­der to achieve that,” he says at an in­ter­view at the Petronas Twin Tow­ers in Kuala Lumpur.

True to the Deep­avali cel­e­bra­tions, pop­u­larly known as the fes­ti­val of lights, the com­mer­cial is founded on the con­cept of bring­ing out one’s light from within. “It’s also a cel­e­bra­tion of good over evil, and of light over dark­ness,” he elab­o­rates.

Surely it is a con­scious de­ci­sion to in­cor­po­rate food, the favourite pas­time of malaysians, into the minute-long clip as well?

“we used cook­ing as a metaphor to con­vey that there’s a light in all of us and we have to try to get that out and let it man­i­fest into some­thing good. It’s a uni­ver­sal mes­sage,” he ex­plains.

“we de­cided from the start we didn’t want to do a straight­for­ward story. In­stead, we wanted to try and take sto­ry­telling to the next level.”

The ab­sence of oil lamps quin­tes­sen­tial in most lo­cal Deep­avali com­mer­cials is tes­ta­ment to his will­ing­ness to break with the norm.

“It was an at­tempt for us to try some­thing new,” he says.

“Per­haps some might strug­gle to un­der­stand what we’re try­ing to con­vey in our ad when they see it for the first time but, ul­ti­mately, I think the mes­sages we’re try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate are clear enough.”

Among them, he ex­plains, are tra­di­tional val­ues in­nate in malaysian so­ci­ety, such as hard work and unity. “It’s also about loy­alty, co­he­sive­ness and com­ing to­gether to achieve a cer­tain goal. In this case, it’s cook­ing a per­fect meal.”

medan adds that com­mer­cials are the com­pany’s way of par­tic­i­pat­ing in lo­cal cel­e­bra­tions.

“Since 1996, Petronas has been en­gag­ing malaysians to dis­cuss lo­cal is­sues through our com­mer­cials. we’re lucky we have so many fes­ti­vals over here and we take ad­van­tage of these cel­e­bra­tions to com­mu­ni­cate mes­sages that re­flect our val­ues, as well as what we think are rel­e­vant to so­ci­ety at large. It’s a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial ex­er­cise that con­trib­utes to national aware­ness.”

he also speaks of push­ing the en­ve­lope for story-telling in com­mer­cials.

“we stretch the limit a bit for the think­ing-man in this com­mer­cial. But if you’ve no­ticed, we also went for a more ab­stract ap­proach for our merdeka-raya ad this year. All we fea­tured was a set of hands through­out the com­mer­cial, as a metaphor for unity.

“we’ve sort of moved on from the more con­ven­tion­ally di­rect ap­proach, and I be­lieve that malaysians are so­phis­ti­cated enough to com­pre­hend and ap­pre­ci­ate it.

“Plus, some of the best sto­ries were told us­ing sym­bol­ism. Some­times, it’s not so much what the story is about, at face value, but the mes­sage be­hind it. we be­lieve the Deep­avali cel­e­bra­tion brings out the light within ev­ery in­di­vid­ual and that’s what the cel­e­bra­tion re­ally is about.”

Speak­ing of story-telling, who could for­get the sim­ple but com­pelling Petronas ads by the late film di­rec­tor and scriptwriter Yas­min Ah­mad?

“what we’re do­ing now is in fact an ex­ten­sion of what Yas­min used to do,” he ad­mits. “If she were still alive, be­ing the creative per­son that she was, I be­lieve she would ex­plore all the pos­si­bil­i­ties to ex­per­i­ment and try out dif­fer­ent things as well.

“our pre­vi­ous ap­proach sent pow­er­ful mes­sages that peo­ple con­nected with, but we can’t stay at the same stage for­ever. we have to keep try­ing and ex­per­i­ment­ing with new for­mu­las that we can adopt to tell sto­ries to the na­tion.” n Pur­suit­OfPer­fec­tion airs on TV2, TV3, 8TV, and Astro’s Sun TV, Vaanavil and Velli Thi­rai.

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