The sound of si­lence

To por­tray his deaf char­ac­ter in Pekak, Zahiril Adzim ig­nores his co- stars.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SHOWBIZ - By ANGELIN YEOH en­ter­tain­ment@ thes­tar. com. my

AC­TOR Zahiril Adzim faced one of the big­gest chal­lenges of his ca­reer when he was given the script for Pekak. In the film he plays Uda, a deaf drug dealer, whose only rea­son for the job is to save up enough cash for a cochlear im­plant. Zahril re­alised he has no dia­logue in the movie di­rected by Mohd Khairul Azri.

“As an ac­tor, I rely on dia­logue to ex­press my char­ac­ter’s mo­ti­va­tion, thoughts and so on. Sud­denly I didn’t have any dia­logue be­cause my char­ac­ter does not speak. I pan­icked. I was un­sure about how to act as Uda,” he said dur­ing an in­ter­view in Kuala Lumpur.

The 32- year- old ac­tor – who fa­mously trained in­ten­sively for two months just to play a to­moi fighter in Buno­han – also shared that it was dif­fi­cult to pre­tend to be deaf. He found him­self eas­ily dis­tracted by the slight­est of sound. Luck­ily for him, Khairul came to the res­cue.

“He gave me this de­vice to put in my ears so I can block out the noise. All I could hear was a slight buzzing sound. Ini­tially, it was scary be­cause I felt com­pletely iso­lated. I had to learn to get used to the si­lence. I would have the de­vice on while I was driv­ing and at home to pre­pare for my role.”

Zahiril also picked up sign lan­guage from his fa­ther who is a spe­cial needs teacher. He even learned how to read lips from a friend.

“I in­ter­viewed a deaf per­son to un­der­stand what it’s like to be in his shoes. He showed me how to read lips. He also shared his prob­lem in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with others. I felt sad while learn­ing about his story.”

His friend’s story as well as the con­nec­tion to his fa­ther’s ca­reer made Zahiril more de­ter­mined than ever to com­mit to his char­ac­ter. On set, he iso­lated him­self from co- stars Iedil Pu­tra, Amerul Af­fendi, Shar­i­fah Sak­i­nah and even Shar­i­fah Amani who plays his love in­ter­est Dara. On the first day on set, Zahiril had his noise can­cel­la­tion de­vice on that he wasn’t aware when Amani greeted him.

“I think she felt of­fended. She asked the di­rec­tor what’s wrong with me and he ex­plained that I’m in char­ac­ter. Then dur­ing meal breaks, she tried to com­mu­ni­cate us­ing hand ges­tures. I laughed at her.”

De­spite the ini­tial mis­un­der­stand­ing, Zahiril was happy to be able to act with Amani, say­ing that he’s been a fan of hers since Sepet.

Zahiril em­bod­ied Uda’s long­ing for Dara so well that the ac­tor re­fused to be present on set when Amani had to shoot a heartwrench­ing scene. “I couldn’t bear it. I fin­ished my scenes and asked the di­rec­tor to let me go home. I was afraid to watch what hap­pens to Dara. I’m re­ally sen­si­tive and get eas­ily at­tached to the char­ac­ters I play. When I read about Uda’s emo­tional tur­moil, I cried for him as well.”

Be­sides be­ing bold in its choice of the main char­ac­ter, Pekak also does not at­tempt to hide view­ers from graphic de­pic­tion of some of the char­ac­ters’ he­do­nis­tic be­haviours. The movie fea­tures some racy dia­logue too. It’s no sur­prise that Pekak is rated for view­ers above 18 years old only, which hardly ap­plies to lo­cal films.

Zahiril ap­plauds Khairul on ex­plor­ing these themes, es­pe­cially since this is Khairul’s di­rec­to­rial de­but.

“It’s im­por­tant to show the ugly side of life in movies,” Zahiril elab­o­rated. “Hope­fully, through these scenes, view­ers would know how to pro­tect them­selves from harm in real life – like if a friend of­fers them drugs, they’d think twice af­ter see­ing Pekak. I saw the need for such a topic and I’m re­ally thank­ful that Khairul chose to be re­al­is­tic.”

Zahiril’s com­mit­ment to his role and Khairul’s bold ap­proach paid off. On Aug 28, Pekak won two awards at the In­ter­na­tional Mo­ti­va­tional Film Fes­ti­val ( IMFF) Bridge Of Arts at Ros­tov- on- Don, Rus­sia. Khairul re­ceived an award for Best Script while Zahiril picked up the nod for Best Ac­tor.

Pekak is cur­rently show­ing at cine­mas na­tion­wide. For GSC show­times, see next page.

uda ( por­trayed by Zahiril) works as a drug dealer to earn money so he can get a cochlear im­plant. — pho­tos: Grand Bril­liance

Zahiril has been a fan of Amani since Sepet and was only too happy to share scenes with her.

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