KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 ― The word controversy normally pops up when one mentions Namewee.
The Muar-born filmmaker and rapper has been known to ruffle more than a few feathers with his music videos and occasionally even the name of his movies irks people.
But at the heart of it, Namewee said he is trying to capture the essence of Malaysia.
Case in point in his latest movie Nasi Lemak 1.0, which is a prequel to his 2011 Nasi Lemak 2.0.
This is because the film which boasted an array of multiracial talents such as Datuk AC Mizal, Datuk David Arumugam along with Namewee himself will also be taking audiences back in time to the era of the Sultanate of Malacca.
Asked about why he chose to do a film on the Sultanate of Malacca era, Namewee said that he wanted to highlight the origins of Malaysia and its people.
“We just want to share how all of us started living together, what makes Malaysia the country it is now.
“Because this era marks when the Chinese people started coming, the Indians and even the Malays also initially came from somewhere else previously,” he said.
Namewee also said that it was never his intention to create controversies as he was just acknowledging existing issues in Malaysia.
“The Banglasia and Babi movie, they all have the same message of harmony and bringing everyone together, only the genres are what’s different.
“They’ve banned my previous movies because they deemed it as sensitive but for me, those incidents really occurred in our society, maybe that’s why it’s sensitive.
“I’m not purposely trying to create something sensitive, I’m raising up the issues here. I feel like it’s my responsibility as a director and a musician to bring up these issues so we can understand and solve it together,” he said.
He added that his 2020 movie, Babi, which has caused an uproar, has also resulted in more Malaysians wanting to watch his movie even more.
“Response from the public on my work has been getting better especially after the whole Babi kerfuffle.
“Now, I can feel that Malaysians are ready to watch these kinds of movies, movies related to real events. We can see it in the comments, the people are ready for it, only the government is not ready I guess,” he said,
He added that the filmmakers followed Malaysia’s historical background for Nasi Lemak 1.0 but tweaked it as it was a comedy.
“We might’ve adjusted the narrative quite a bit but in terms of costumes, props, all of them are historically accurate. It wasn’t easy but all of the props and costumes were made by us,” Namewee told Malay Mail.
As the movie takes place over 600 years ago, Namewee shared that they had to continuously keep an eye out on the costumes, props, and the details in the background for any continuity error.
“We need to look out for cables, plugs and anything from the present time, because this film takes place in the past.
“We also had to sort out the outfits to match that era. For example, the Chinese have a lot of dynasties and so do their outfits and we need to be careful with it or else people might get angry.
“During our time making this film, me, our art director, image designer along with our prop team, all of us had to relearn history again,” he said, adding that they also referred to a historical outfit catalogue that could only be found in Muzium Negara.
Aside from that, Namewee also shared that they had also hired local Orang Asli from the Tadom Hills area in Banting to help them build a whole village set.
The film’s producer, Joko Toh or his real name Toh Han Boon, who has worked with Namewee for some time, said that Nasi Lemak 1.0 will have the same message that they’ve been putting forward in their works the last 12 years.
“We want to send a message of unity, patriotism, harmony and mutual respect. It has been the same since the first Nasi Lemak 2.0, Hantu Gangster, Kara King, Banglasia and other music videos that we’ve released.
“Because it's important to keep reminding Malaysians of who we are, how beautiful we are and how unique we are,” he said.
Even though making a film which involves many races was their choice however, Joko admitted that it came with its own sets of difficulties as there are boundaries and limitations that they had to respect.
And not to mention enduring the casual skeptic views of fellow peers regarding their film.
“Prior to making the film, there were some producers and directors who came to us and said that the film isn’t going to work.
“They told us not to waste our time and our money but then, if we don’t do it, who else is willing to do it?
“If we don’t do something special for our country, then who will?” Joko said, adding that he is also grateful for some of the big names in the local entertainment industry who are involved in the film.
Aside from that, Namewee also expressed his gratitude after Nasi Lemak 1.0 was listed on the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia’s (Finas) Must-Watch-Films list (Skim Wajib Tayang).
This came as a surprise as some of Namewee’s films such as Banglasia previously were banned by the same body due to sensitivity issues.
“We can see, and we are grateful that they (Finas) have improved a lot compared to last time. Nobody would’ve thought that my film would make it to Finas’s list.
“Thank you so much to Finas Malaysia but I do hope to see more integrity amongst other authorized bodies in the future in terms of content creativity because at the end of the day, the contents are fictional,” he said.
Namewee’s Nasi Lemak 1.0 will be hitting local cinemas from January 27.
In the prequel, Chef Huang (played by Namewee) finds himself in the ultimate kitchen battle against his competitors Gong Xining and Lan Ciao but inadvertently goes 600 years back in time to the days of the Malacca Sultanate.
Karen Kong and Dennis Lau are reprising their roles.
New additions to the cast include Delimawati, Wak Doyok, Saiful Apek, Yassin Senario, Yumi Wong, Amoi-Amoi, Vikar, Sanjna and cameos by Jinnyboy and The Leng Sisters.
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