I’ve always been a film buff, even during my primary school days. Growing up in a small town in Mentakab, Pahang, there were only two cinemas there. In Primary Two, especially, I remember escaping studies so that I could attend some of the films screening at the time—from Hindi films, to Westerns, etc.
At that time, I was already very attracted to films, but I didn’t know that I could make films, especially as a career. Then I realized, without sounding pretentious, that I knew more about films than most of my friends and relatives from the village that I grew up in. While most people were watching them for entertainment and the actors, I began to notice the sets, costumes, music etc. of the respective films. Only during my higher education, did I realize that one can study filmmaking, and I did. My relationship with film first started as an attraction, which later turned into a desire.
I love making films, but I also find it very difficult. Which is why I know I’m a filmmaker.
It tickles me when I think about all the controversy surrounding Woman, Wife and Whore. I felt that the story was very natural, and I don’t think I was being obscene at all, although some scenes from the film have been cut. I didn’t want to be controversial. I was just making a film with “real issues” that I wanted to deal with. I am still amazed and amused by the reactions to the film, especially the women who attacked it. I find them stupid.
I have done some commercial projects and TV dramas because I have to work, after all. But in whatever I do, I must be true to myself … doing stuff that I believe in. Even if I have made some mistakes, I think I made interesting mistakes. But most of my works center on themes of alienation, and being an outsider. I know how that feels like. It is something that I can identify with.
The new wave of Malaysian filmmakers is very aggressive and interesting. With digital videos, making films is cheaper now. But I worry that Malaysian filmmakers are trying to be “cute” these days. When I say “cute,” I mean they try too hard to be hip, sleek and stylish. It’s a dangerous thing to be “cute” as filmmakers need to find their own voices, and not try to be another Wong Kar Wai or Hou Hsiao-hsien.
I am still wondering when to slow or settle down. My next immediate projects are the play Wangi the Witness, to be staged in KL, and the feature film Sax and Telephone.
I would love to retire on a beach, somewhere in Trengganu, Malaysia.
There are quite a number of filmmakers that I would like to meet and have dinner with, such as British filmmaker Nicholas Roeg and Japan’s Kohei Oguri.
As a kid, I always thought that actors do their own stunts in films. I really thought they could fight! I wish I still believed that.
In whatever we do, we must always look beneath. That’s where the gems are.