So I went to watch the movie Mat Kilau over the Raya Haji weekend. I have to say outright that I’m not a movie buff, but our Editor-In-Chief Hasnah assigned me to watch it and review it.
She said: Carole, knowing your family background and that of your husband and the fact that you were born in a tin-mining state where the Brits were running supreme, do share your thoughts about the movie.
“I don’t want a review about the action flicks, about how the races were portrayed, about who is more handsome – Fattah Amin or Adi Putra. I want to hear about how you can relate the movie to those stories your grandparents and parents have told you about life when the British colonialists were here.
“How the locals had to go underground and form groups to fight the British, and before that, the Japanese.” She’s a tough cookie that one, but I also understand what she meant as when she interviewed me for the job I had regaled to her stories of my family back in Perak.
So I went to watch with hubby in tow. He, on the other hand, is a big movie fan, but not so much the Malay movies, but he comes from a family of freedom fighters. Say anything about the Malays, Malaysia or Islam, he will have a stinging thing or two to say.
We both went without expectations despite having read all kinds of articles, comments and posts about it. You can watch the trailer here.
After the movie, this is what hubby and I have to say: “………………………………….”
Yes, we were a bit speechless, to put it mildly. Not because we were mesmerised by the sounds, the actions, the silat scenes, the blood oozing out and the killings. We actually felt that this was what our grandparents had to go through during that difficult time.
Stories of how the country’s assets were being plundered and brought back to the motherland, ie Britain, came to life. How the British colonialists’ divide and rule policy put the three main racial groups in the country into their respective income streams – the Chinese in tin mines, the Indians in rubber estates and the Malays in agricultural activities.
We learnt all these in our history classes, but I saw it came to life in the Mat Kilau movie, albeit in a diluted fashion to meet the short timeframe for a movie, but I think some of the incidences were close to the truth.
I talked to my parents (they watched the movie in our hometown last week) to ask if they knew whether those things depicted in the movie were true since it happened in Pahang and Mat Kilau was a native there and he disappeared for a while and reappeared.
Dad said what he heard was close to what the movie depicted. In fact, he added, that the character Mat Kilau as portrayed by Adi Putra had a personality as such. He was taciturn, yet caring. He took his time before making a decision. No knee-jerk reactions from him. I guess that’s why I read some comments that Adi Putra’s face had not much of a reaction all the time while the Awang character portrayed by Fattah Amin was more reactive and lively.
Mat Kilau Movie & Revival Of Malay Political Awareness
I also researched about the two main leads – Adi Putra and Fattah Amin, as well as Johan Asaari whom I had met personally on a couple of occasions.
I was actually surprised that Adi Putra is a strong Barisan Nasional activist – at least that’s what I saw on a couple of posts. I am not sure about Fattah Amin, but I was told that his equally famous wife, Fazura, is a fan of the country’s 6th prime minister, Najib Razak, or Bossku as most refer to him now. In fact, in a recent post, I saw Najib posing for a pic with Adi when he went to watch the movie for the second time. As for Johan, I know for sure he is a BN activist, very much influenced by his politician father.
The reason why I wanted to find out about their political leanings because many said that there is a revival of the nationalistic and fighting spirit in the Malays after they watch the movie.
Many felt that the movie is a must-watch for those who want back that Malay fighting spirit in time for the forthcoming GE15, to be held anytime before mid 2023.
Thus is not surprising that Mat Kilau: Kebangkitan Pahlawan, directed by Syamsul Yusof, has become the highest-grossing local film of all time in the country, breaking the record set by the director’s own horror film Munafik 2 in 2018. It opened in June and still scorches box office records till today where, barely a month in theatres, it has grossed over RM80 million, a record for Malaysian movies in here.
It has a star-studded cast of well-known screen faces as well as fast moving action flicks, bringing a revival of the Malay martial art of silat. There are a lot of Quranic verses, one of the reasons why the movie is so popular with the target group.
On the other side of the coin, however, there have been lots of brickbats from the non-Malays for the film’s portrayal of the Sikhs and Chinese as being the British lapdogs to kill and shut down any voice of dissent among the Malays. But despite the fact that almost every other day there is an article in the media discrediting the movie and the storyline, the box-office takings seem to be increasing.
So I guess it’s true what they say: Bad news is good news. Perhaps it is time the non-Malays look at the movie for what it is: An anecdote of a time in history that happened in Pahang and the Malays just want their story to be told.
After all, that’s what movies are about – whether based on fact or fiction, we want to feel a part of what we are watching. It does not matter if what we see hurts us or others, the fact is movies are not there to please everyone, let’s just say that while someone is happy with a movie, there will always be someone who doesn’t. Live with it. – New Malaysia Herald
About the writer: Carole Raymond Abdullah is a freelance writer who used to domicile in Hongkong for many years. She is now back in Malaysia, totally surprised at the turn of events in the country lately.
The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.