Threaded with care

Five di­rec­tors, one movie. That’s how Cuak weaves the ro­man­tic ta­pes­try.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By VIC­TO­RIA BROWN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my “I also played with the idea of a man hav­ing to go through a se­ries of tests. Adam had to go through an ex­ter­mi­na­tor test. In the script, Adam had to kill a fly­ing cock­roach, a river rat and a lizard,” he sa

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.

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