Threaded with care
Five directors, one movie. That’s how Cuak weaves the romantic tapestry.
IS she the one, or should you run? This is the story of Adam who suffers from a bad case of wedding jitters. In fact, he experiences more than a fair bit of nervousness before his marriage to Brenda. It all goes to pieces moments at the couple’s akad nikah (solemnisation) ceremony.
With meddlesome friends, insane in-laws, a suspicious stepbrother and unresolved exgirlfriend issues, it’s no wonder the quirky Adam has second thoughts about his marriage.
That’s the gist of the movie Cuak, a cleverly stitched film that features five directors pulling together and weaving the frantic tale of Adam, played by the animated Ghafir Akbar. His love interest – the headstrong and confident Brenda – is played by the multi-talented Dawn Cheong.
Apart from romance, Cuak, which roughly translates into “second thoughts”, is also filled with action, mystery and drama.
“This film is really an experiment. The idea behind Cuak has been in my mind since 2005. It is about getting very different directors together to tell one story. It’s not an anthology of short films, this is one story,” said Michael Chen, 31, the movie’s producer.
Cuak is a one-of-a-kind movie, indeed. It’s basically five young local directors – Manesh Nesaratnam, Tony Pietra Arjuna, Khairil M Bahar, Shamaine Othman and Lim Benji – on board to take viewers through five different film genres in one movie sitting. The movie was produced by Garang Indie Pictures, the independent arm of Garang Pictures.
“It’s not your standard comedy or love story, it’s a whole mix of different genres,” he added.
Cuak, as the producer proudly mentions, centres on the collaborative approach.
“This approach seems to be working best for indie-feel efforts lately such as the recent Kolumpo and can be seen as far back as Pete Teo’s 15Malaysia.
“Not only are we including several directors, but the actors, scripting and execution with the shooting of a single narrative has brought together quite a diverse bunch of artists to work together.”
But not to worry, Chen assures you that the all five segments will be put together to make one seamless narrative.
“To an audience member, I’m hoping that you won’t even realise that the genres have changed. I’m hoping that you’ll just watch it and you’ll be engaged with the story,” said Chen.
Chen also added that Cuak will resonate with all Malaysians – young and old.
“It’s the same reason why you love watching the late filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad’s movies. People will watch her films and they’re like, ‘ Yeah, that’s my story.’”
Khairil also pointed out that Cuak has characters Malaysians would recognise.
“It comes from a very honest place and the characters are people you recognise – they talk like people you know and sound like people you know. I can see people reacting to it because they relate to it. I love that people will comment that the lead is insensitive or the female lead gets angry a lot, because they’re not perfect people,” he said.
Khairil gives an example of his opening scene: “It is very Malaysian because the characters speak in multiple languages in the same sentence. Even if I subtitle it, it will not make sense to somebody who does not speak Malay.”
Here’s the five stories, as told by their respective directors, in Cuak to bring homegrown spark to this year’s Valentine’s Day at the cinemas.
Meet the in-laws
Any impending marriage will sooner or later involve a visit to the in-laws.
Adam discovers how much of a test a visit to the in-laws is, after he meets Brenda’s nymphomaniac aunt (Bernie Chan), pennypinching mother (Dong Chae Lian) and paranoid father (Patrick Teoh) with his eccentric fortune teller (Kuah Jenhan).
Director of the segment, Manesh Nesaratnam, shot the whole segment in a studio and made the room from scratch.
“I wanted to do a bit of an absurdist, dark comedy. The visuals of Sherlock (television series) and some of Tim Burton’s work is something I wanted to try out in my own piece. I’ve never done anything like this, so it was really like an experiment,” said Manesh.
When asked what was his inspiration behind his segment, the 33-year-old filmmaker revealed that meeting your future in-laws to ask for consent to marry their daughter is a terrifying experience for any guy.
“I just wanted to play with this idea of meeting your crazy in-laws. There are superstitious parents, money-conscious parents, parents who are worried if you’re going to take care of their daughter and if you’re going to be faithful. So, I exaggerated on all these characteristics and that is why I have such crazy characters in my piece,” said Manesh.
Director Tony Pietra Arjuna chose to film his segment noir style, told from Adam’s halfbrother Mikail’s (Tony Eusoff) point of view.
The story shows how Mikail, an emotionally unstable customs agent, instantly distrusts Brenda and believes that she will betray Adam the way Mikail’s ex-lover betrayed him.
“While the plot is still grounded in the two main characters, which are Adam and Brenda, essentially in my segment, Mikail is the protagonist. But not a favourable one,” said Pietra.
“It’s basically told from Mikail’s point of view. Mikail has marriage issues due to his deep rooted emotional problems, especially
Couch surfing: adam (Ghafir akbar) and brenda (dawn Cheong) in TheCouple segment by Shamaine Othman from the movie Cuak.
Cuak features the works of five local directors: (from left) Lim benji, Shamaine Othman, Khairil M bahar, Tony Pietra arjuna and Manesh nesaratnam.
brenda’s paranoid father (Patrick Teoh) with his eccentric fortune teller (Kuah Jenhan) in Manesh nesaratnam’s piece Consent.