Why we are actually Hollywood material

1MDB makes the Great Train Robbery of 1963 look like a tale from a Thomas the Tank Engine book

The stuff of Hollywood

Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa reminded Malaysians that “we are not Hollywood” and not in Europe, where steamy drama scenes are aired on local TV stations.

He was responding to a 23-second teaser video clip of a sexually suggestive scene from an unreleased TV drama Perempuan Itu (That Girl), which went viral on social media recently.

The drama is scheduled to be aired during Ramadan.

The phrase “we are not Hollywood” nor European – but Eastern people – implies that Malaysians are comparatively not a “permissive” lot because we supposedly stand on higher moral ground.

It appears that there is a moral distinction that Malaysians, particularly creative people in the entertainment industry, are supposed to guard jealously.

The drama, co-directed by Ain Sharif and Isma Yusof and starring Zul Ariffin, Mimi Lana and Siti Hariesa, has also earned the ire of the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for religious affairs, Idris Ahmad, to the extent he strongly recommended Annuar’s ministry adopt the Department of Islamic Development’s (Jakim’s) guidelines on content censorship of Islamic broadcasting material.

The Jakim regulation is part of the licensing conditions for TV and radio stations and for producers of films, dramas, advertisements and audio-visual materials – which may be perceived by certain quarters as creeping censorship that could stifle artistic creativity.

Annuar added that scenes incompatible with Malay and Islamic values should not reach the point where his ministry would be forced to step in and reprimand the parties concerned.

As a result, Zul Ariffin is now being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act for having uploaded the clip on a social media platform, a measure that critics consider excessive and unjust given the heavy penalty under the law.

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The actor has since apologised for circulating the “obscene” clip that, incidentally, would not be included in the final cut.

Contrary to Annuar’s contention, Malaysia is ‘Hollywood’ in the sense that it already has the very ingredients that make up Hollywood – ones that directly or otherwise thumb their nose at certain aspects of Malay-Islamic and Malaysian traditions.

That is, if the concept of morality is rightly stretched beyond the rigid and narrow confines of sex and femme fatale, which are often the primary obsession and concerns of certain politicians and preachers. Sex somehow makes them become animated.

To be sure, we have all the elements and formulas that are necessary for the making of award-winning thrillers.

Why, we have in our political domain and high places a laundry list of backstabbings, betrayals, defections, a craze for power, money and status, hypocrisy, heists, money laundering, corruption cases, slander, character assassinations, racial and religious exploitation, murder and last but not least, sex.

For example, we have had the biggest “heist” in the world, the 1MDB scandal, being executed not too long ago – which makes the Great Train Robbery of 1963 look like a tale from a Thomas the Tank Engine book. This was a robbery of involving a mere £2.6m (£56m or RM310m in today’s money) from a Royal Mail train heading from Glasgow to London.

Certain politicians and religious leaders in our country would shudder at the thought of women exposing some parts of their svelte bodies. But they don’t care two hoots when certain prominent individuals bared their guts and audacity to steal money from our public funds.

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In fact, a few such unscrupulous people ironically have been hailed as heroes, as if to indicate that crime does pay handsomely.

There are too many betrayals as well: the one that occurred at a Sheraton Hotel in the Klang Valley had calamitous consequences.

That said, the elements mentioned above could actually be put to good use through the narratives of a film or TV drama so that Malaysian viewers can learn some lessons.

In this regard, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia as well as the National Film Development Corporation could provide necessary assistance for such creative endeavours for a good cause.

It is not to glorify such heinous behaviour or to encourage people to imitate those bad examples. The dramas or films of this nature are meant to be instructive.

Surely, producing and screening dramas or movies that depict such human failings and immorality would not be considered as an act of being un-Malaysian. – The Malaysian Insight



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