Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Bogeyman Boogies

Anyone who is a fan of oldies Filem Malaya will recognise this particular line:

“Kajang Pak Malau kajang berlipat, kajang saya mengkuang layu, dagang Pak Malau dagang bertempat, dagang saya musafir lalu."

I have never understood its exact meaning but it was a poetry in motion, voiced immaculately and with much gusto by the late Nordin Ahmad (1932 - 1971) in Salleh Ghani’s Seri Mersing (1961).

Nordin Ahmad played Damak, a migrant who espouses the core values of integrity, honesty and sincerity (quoting from Filemkita.com).

Classical Malay films are pretty much white and black in its moral and etchical discourse, and for most of the time, it is relatively easy to spot to bad and the crooked guys who should get what’s due to them.

One film which probably detracted from this cut and dried ruling might be P. Ramlee’s excellent Semerah Padi (1956) which incidentally, also star Nordin Ahmad as the other main character in the tale of tragic love triangle.

Back to Seri Mersing.

Damak in the undated tale of the Malay heartland of old was a bogeyman of sort for the relatively close knit, know everyone community as here he was; a migrant looking to settle down in a place he desperately wants to call his own.

His hardworking, honest (and heroic) demeanour wins the love of the local beauty (played by Rosnani?) and, of course, the local lads take offence of.

A concerted effort was then made to disparage this outsider, forcing Damak and his whole family to leave and only then was his innocence surfaced.

Thus the classic line was quipped by a man who must have felt a great dissappointment that positive virtues came to naught for the sole reason of him being outside of the clique.

Sounds familiar?

Another film which tackled issue of preserving the status quo is the 1992 classic “Strictly Ballroom” starring Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice.

The comedic Australian offering saw Mercurio taking on the role as Ballroom dancer Scott Hasting who was chastised by his ballroom peers when he dared to veer from the accepted dance steps.

He later found solace, love, companionship and redemption with the off beat Paso Doble (Spanish for double step) routine.

The movie mocked every known cliché there was to mock on the issue of status quo, but did it charmingly without, I believe, insulting anyone in particular.

Here the bogeyman (so as to speak) was change from the acceptable norm, a fear that these changes would render the conservative elders moot and redundant.

This country has had its fair share of bogeyman.

The latest seems to be Mahathirism, the sanctity of the social contract agreed by our Statesmen of old and the special rights of the indigenous Bumiputra.
Much have been said and written on these matters, but a recent most refreshing look must be that of Ikim’s “Overcoming Religious Sensitivity”.

It’s a good read but I wonder if the author would ever reach his intended audience.