Thursday, March 31, 2011

Village People: The Hart Foundation


I finally managed to get a foundation to back me up in getting the funds. When all hope seemed lost, I got a call and just like that, the project is on like Donkey Kong.

Woo hoo!

Vagabond: Romance of the Three Kingdoms

I went through my 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms' phase a few years ago.

The tales of Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhuge Liang, Lu Bu, Zhou Yu, Sima Yi, Cao Cao seemed so fantastical and heroic.

Another friend of mine has been playing games based on the saga, and he has started reading up on the actual text, which I skimmed through and threw away in frustration.

Have also been interviewing old, retired Special Branch officers recently, for a documentary. The sense that I get from these people is that it is possible to live a life of honour and be straight as a rod, and still come out alive at the other end.

And that this country - perhaps others as well - was built on the actions and deeds of a few good men (and women) who fought for what they believe in, not with hate but with an honest intensity that brings tears to my eyes.

If I were in China during the Three Kingdoms period, I think I would have died in two days. I am not born to lie and cheat and be as crafty as the generals there. But I may have had better luck with the old Malaysia. Simpler times, with values I respect.

The old SB guys, they put a lot of stock in dedication to work, and doing all you can. Not showboating or one upmanship or living in spite and hatred. In fact, the SBs all had good things to say about the enemies they faced. Even those who tried to kill them on a regular basis.

One guy said to me, "When you see bodies of dead people, you realise how things work and it instills in you a sense of gratitude and appreciation of life."

Lots of bad things have been said about the SB guys and the police, but my experience of them is very similar to the generals and warlords of the Three Kingdoms period.

They have given me a lift in my spirits, to continue on my path as a vagabond. Samurai Spirit!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


No one watched that movie Kids and took anything from it.

I worry for my nephews. Thank God I don't have kids. These slickers, they mix it in wit some gangsta, and they think they street.

Well, this is the jungle, broseph! We don't have pussy gangs runnin' around. We have motherfuckin' hordes from the bushes and the swamps. The ghettos ain't mean shit here. No fucking gangs. We got crazy people rushing at you with whatever they can grab.

You think you street? Fuck you. Grab all the streets you want. It's the jungle motherfuckers you have to worry about.

Piss off some wannabe gangs in KL, what they gonna do? Run you over with a Kancil? A Datsun 120Y? Hell, even my dead grandmother can outrun that piece of shit.

Those guys got shit to lose. Come to the outside world, ma brosephs. The outskirts. The fringes of society. And civilisation. Where AIDS is like chicken-shit flu. People dying left right and center.

When people got nothing to lose, then you should be scared. The failure of the economy and the distribution of wealth will one day cause the motherfuckers to rise and kill you. Fuck scratching your cars, they be slicing your throat.

I worry for my nephews. They grew up in the swamp, same as me. Granted, it's paved and shit, but it's the swamp still. I stayed out of it. Call me a pussy. I'll be the pussy with a job and my kidneys intact.

You stupid slickers better be gettin' down to those villages. I can show you one in Kuantan where the young folks are all gone. Left are the old and the very young. The youth almost all got wiped out by AIDS.

You think these people have anything left to lose? What, they gonna worry about their car loans and mortgages? Suck my dick while I'm pissin'.

Stupid politicians believe they can be bought with a little money. True, to some extent. But can you pay for all of them, when they wisen up and demand what they believe to be theirs?

If we fail to alleviate poverty in this cunt-ry, we shall fail as a society and those jungle motherfuckers will ride into town and pillage whatever's left.

Heed mah words, brosephs. A storm be comin'.

Jejak Kelana: Penat Jerih

Gila penat. AKu keluar rumah pukul 12 tengahari, balik pukul 12 tengah malam.

Tapi berbaloi.



Friday, March 25, 2011

Vagabond: So You Think You Can Write?

I just finished watching So You Think You Can Dance Season 7. Was crying like a bitch. It was all so inspiring.

My goal is to one day elevate my work - my writing - to an artform. Right now, it's just work. I enjoy most of it, and I have had some small success in doing certain things, but I will never be satisfied until I manage to do a work that is so compelling, I can die happy.

Not by any other people's standard, but by my own and I am my own harshest critic.

I have sacrificed and let go of many things for this dream. I want to do things that I can enjoy with the rest of the world.

Malaysia is such a small place, but it is a good training ground. A lab, a greenhouse. One day, I hope to bring my shit to the world, and no longer work in such a confined space.

Telling stories, has not changed in these few thousand years. You're basically at a corner, hoping for people to throw you a coin or two for a small performance or a tale.

I hope to be that spinner of tales. And my great blessing is that I have been given the opportunity to do so. Watch out for the next few very unique projects.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vagabond: Sex, Lies, Videotape

The sex was a wonderful gift that showed up one day, unexpected.

The lies and the video, fortunately, was not mine.

The whole country is reeling from yet another Anwar sex scandal.

On Monday, a few journalists were invited to watch a video at Carcosa Seri Negara. It allegedly showed Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim having sex with an alleged PRC prostitute.

Honestly, at this stage, I don't care much about politicians like Anwar. Nothing personal, just not my thing.

I do feel bad for the family, though. This is yet another bump on a very tiresome and perilous ride - the price to pay for loving someone.

Whether Anwar did all those things - fuck a man, a woman, his driver, an old guy, a young guy, a prostitute - doesn't really matter right now. His family would also have to deal with all this shit.

Love him or hate him, Anwar is a strong man. He can take care of himself. Wan Azizah is even stronger. But what of the young ones?

Whether Anwar is the most moral man to have ever called himself a politician, or the worst kind who fucks anything that walks - does anyone care anymore?

There has been suggestions, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a tape of him fucking a goat, a chicken or a stingray released tomorrow by Datuk Q. I don't care.

It would be easy to want to believe that he didn't do it. And who knows - maybe he didn't. It's easy to paint Datuk T as the obvious bad guys in this movie.

But if he did, fucking those people meant he betrayed their trust, and I don't know what's worse - being the target of a conspiracy, or betrayed by the ones you love.

Oh well. I feel sorry for the family. No matter who is the evil one in this - his attackers or Anwar himself.

All I can say is that, as a writer, I will write. Dancers should dance. Artists should draw. Singers should sing. The world moves on, and keeps on spinning.

I hope the family is given the strength to weather through this. Aside from that, I really, really don't give a fuck.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Am back on Twitter.


Felt bored. Too much work. Turning in.

A Brunch With Death

I met Death just now, at around 10.30pm. Hardly brunch, but the title fits.

Shared with her my findings and discoveries - my quite surprised but sheer delight on how Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa turned out, particularly on how a lot of the public received it.

I must admit that not many or perhaps none of my work has ever reached the masses on this scale. I must say that I am very thankful to the KRU brothers, the cast and crew, as well as the marketeers who have done a splendid job selling the movie. Hopefully, it will continue its strong performance at the cinemas.

Also shared some other revelations.

"Didn't I tell you, months ago, that this and that would happen?"

"No," I told Death. "You told me a little over a year ago, on the phone, while nursing a flu."

People like me and Death, we sometimes get our dates wrong in our predictions - and sometimes, the reaction of the people (whom I honestly thought at the beginning would not be as enthusiastic about Merong as they are right now). However, all our predictions, when we play clairvoyant on events, are never far off the mark.

Death kept me around, even when I was of no use to her, and I so enjoy her company.

My enthusiasm on how some things are going very, very right caught on, and we had a merry laugh.

However, I went home with the full knowledge that overcelebrating past successes and victories is just as wasteful and dangerous as dwelling on the evils of yesterday.

I do not know what tomorrow will bring, though I always hazard a guess. And to ensure that the good parts of the prophecy come true, I will work on the present.

I have tons to do. A script to finish. An article to write. Preparation after preparation for some things that would start in April, another in July.

I know that my life works for me, and Death is in agreement. We also agree on Prof Farnsworth from Futurama.

"The evil, I can understand, but the STUPIDITY! Oooohhh!"

So, a comforting end to a wondrous week. May there be more weeks like this one.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vagabond: This Drill! Is Mah SOUL!

I was going to take a nap, when suddenly, a spirit welled up inside me and I found myself feeling like a pumped-up professional wrestling superstar on a 'roid rage.

I have decided long ago, to not be a victim. A lot of victims end up 'not being a victim' by victimising other people (which still means they are victims because their actions and their very beings are influenced by others).

I aim to make the best of the opportunities in front of me.

Having exorcised all ghosts and worries of the past, I face whatever that's in front of me with renewed vigour and a permanent erection.

I got nothing to lose, motherfucker. And everything to win. It's all or nothing.

Jejak Kelana: Menulis Selepas Berak

Ada orang tanya aku, kenapa aku menulis pasal penulisan.

"Kau, penulis paling best dalam dunia ke? Banyak sangat ke ilmu ko?"

Tentulah, jawapannya tidak. Neil Gaiman adalah penulis paling hebat dalam dunia. Tiadalah yang sehebat Gaiman, melainkan Gaiman sahaja hendaknya.

Aku cakap banyak, pasal aku memang kurang ilmu. Aku percaya yang satu-satunya cara untuk mengembangkan ilmu aku adalah dengan berkongsi apa saja yang aku ada. Lagi banyak aku kongsi, lagi banyak aku dapat.

Hidup ni, takleh tamak sangat, beb. Jangan pulak biarkan diri diambil kesempatan dek orang lain. Pandai-pandailah kau menilai.

Tapi, kalau pasal ilmu, aku percaya yang lagi banyak ko kongsi, memang lagi banyak ko dapat. Aku mula dengan sekelumit ilmu di dada. Sekarang, ada la dua-tiga kelumit.

Kalau ilmu aku dah penuh, aku senyap je. Tau-tau, billionaire. Ye la, kalau aku terer sangat, aku takdelah duduk kat apartment kecik je. Aku beli apartment harga 8 juta kat sebelah KLCC nu. Aku beli sekampung pelacur. Aku tak naik kereta. AKu naik heli.

Bila kau kongsi apa yang kau tahu, kau boleh tengok sendiri sejauh mana pengetahuan kau. Kau jugak boleh kembangkan pengetahuan kau dengan input orang lain.

Aku percaya yang aku akan sentiasa mengembangkan pengetahuan dan skill aku sampai aku mati. Aku menuntut ilmu setiap hari. Menuju tahap kesempurnaan yang tak mungkin dicapai.

Dan aku tahu, selagi niat aku murni lagi suci, aku takkan perlu rasa resah, ingat saat indah.

Malam ni, aku akan bekerja keras. Lantak pi lah orang nak parti mabuk-mabuk. Nak beromen sampai terkeluar bijik mata.

Aku dah memilih jalan pedang. Kau ingat aku takut?

Jejak Kelana: Batasan

Aku kadang-kadang kesian, tengok orang yang struggle, menggapai dan menggenggam erat, berebut-rebut, ketar kepala, apa yang dia fikir menjadi haknya.

Diorang tak faham, yang apabila kau mengenengahkan tenaga atau perasaan kedekut dan terdesak, hasilnya takkan seberapa.

Mula-mula, aku pun tak paham benda ni, tapi lama-lama, aku fikir yang kalau kau jenis yang tamak, atau berkelakuan tamak, apa yang jadi adalah tamak itu sendiri menguasai dan mendominasi keadaan kau. Lepas tu, kerja kau jadi macam sial.

Orang tamak selalu rugi? Ya, aku percaya pepatah tu.

Kalau kau buat apa-apa dengan hati yang lapang dan terbuka, aku rasa pintu rezeki kau takkan pernah sempit. Pasal membuat kerja dengan ikhlas dan tenang menjadikan kerja kau lagi bagus.

Tapi, perlu diingat, jangan sampai mudah dipergunakan orang lain. Akan adalah manusia sampah-sarap dan manusia tamak dan terdesak yang akan cuba mempergunakan kau.

Aku biasanya, layan je, sebab aku taknak kedekut masa aku. Tapi, kalau kau nak suruh aku beriya-iya, demi sampah-sarap, aku takkan buat.

Simple je. Aku buat kerja dengan orang yang jujur dan terus-terang. Kalau jenis yang konar kanan tak lepas, konar kiri pun sangkut, cakap belit-belit, dan mengangungkan penipuan sebagai tanda kebijaksanaan dia yang tak seberapa, sori la beb.

Aku tak fikir kalau kau berjaya menipu tu, tanda kau pandai. Bagi aku, menipu tu bodoh. Pasal Kebenaran akan keluar jua, akhirnya, dan bila kantoi menipu, sapa bodoh? Mak kau jugak, pasal tak tanam kau masa lahir dulu.

Aku malas nak peduli la, benda-benda macam ni. Aku buat kerja aku, sudah. Pergilah mampus benda dan orang lain. Ada aku kisah?

Virtual Insanity

It's 7.49 am and I am still awake.

An old friend dropped by last night and we talked till morning. Business plans, old memories and tales of wonder and yore.

The guy's an old coder, so we got to talking about programming. Been a long time, brah.

To this day, whenever I go to any website, I see lines of codes. I am still impressed with elegant solutions to complex problems. The best websites would have, even though with thousands of lines of source code on display, only a maximum of 100 lines.

Most people don't understand this. Oh well. I have given up trying to explain that technology is not sorcery nor black magic, but pure logic.

Fuck all that shit. I'm meeting a hardcore coder next week, in a long shot to create systems that could be sold for millions.

Cheers, bra!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Vagabond: Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down

Spent the entire day today looking at footages for my next project. I'm supposed to piece these visuals together to tell a complete and fun story.

Means I'll be spending the weekend writing the finalised script.

Yeah, I've done editing before. I also have some experiencing producing, and though I am most known for my scriptwriting, I am also a competent editor.

I got a few things lined up. A part-time job in PJ - maybe twice a week - and a movie I'm doing. I got a few documentaries to do. A couple of TV series, and maybe get involved in another mainstream movie.

I'm also thinking of doing a short movie. May be using Kickstarter to get funds for the project.

And I STILL wanna do comics.

One day, I'll be on my way. But as long as I'm here, fuck you too, bitch.

There ain't no grave that can hold my body down.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jejak Kelana: Langkah Pagi

AKu baru bangun. Ada orang call aku, suruh buat dialog je. Projek filem. Jalan cerita dah siap. Tapi, aku fikir, kalau aku tulis, aku takkan buat dialog sahaja.

Entahlah. Tengoklah esok macamana.

Sins of the Forefathers

I woke up suddenly, at 5.35am.

Went to bed around two hours ago, after spending the night writing. I dreamed that I was in black and white. That was it. That's all I remember. Just me in black and white.

Been talking to some old people recently. Old fighters. Old soldiers.

You know, I'm not like, draping a cape all over myself, but I sometimes think of all those people who came before us. They fought for Independence, they fought for a lot of shit. And for what?

So that the rich can prey on the poor? So that we can all self-destruct? I mean, I pity those people.

My grandfather fought for Independence alongside Tun Razak. They were first cousins. All he wanted as a reward, was to stay at his own home, surrounded by his stupid durian trees.

And drink water with shaved cucumber. Cause in the old days, they didn't have refrigerators. One of the best ways to cool your drink was to plonk down shaved cucumbers in the glass.

Going further back, my ancestors travelled all the way from Makasar, Pattani and Guangdong, on ships, on foot, for what?

To sleep on a brick?

I got family in China. My aunt and uncle made the trip around 10 years back to retrace the family tree. Met descendants of the Foong family. We're Cantonese, obviously. The Foongs plant tea or some shit. I forgot. Used to be landowners. Now, farmers.

On my mother's side, it's a bit mixed up. I got one ancestor who was a travelling preacher from Pattani. He had super powers like heat vision and shit. His children became cattle herders and after World War 2, landowners.

I set to inherit some land in Jerantut and Kuantan. But I can't sell them. Nope. Those are 'tanah pusaka'. I can't fucking let go of that shit. Best I could do is generate income from it.

I have some ideas, as I always do, but no capital and no manpower.

Sometimes, I do feel like packing everything up and going back to Pahang and start agricultural shit. Inherit the family business, you know? My family, both on the Chinese and Malay side, we grow things. I HATE growing things.

I have some experience in the matter. Kangkong (morning glory) is the easiest vegetable to plant. Just grab a handful of seed, and just fucking spread them around.

My land in Kuantan, is swamp land. Perfect for these vegetables. Cucumbers grow extra-large there, so does eggplant. I've sat by and complained incessantly as my father planted long beans and shit. The old man has a green thumb. Everything he grows, always get extra large and abundant.

We used to rear chickens and quail, and they grew big. We had a fish pond, and the fish were heavy and huge. There were ducks, and in my early childhood, cows.

Quail is interesting. In order for you to turn a profit, you need at least 5,000-10,000 of the birds. You need an incubator, and a means to separate male and female chicks. The money comes from quail eggs. The meat is a sideline business.

But the economics are dumb, really.

An acre of land can yield tapioca worth 8000 bucks in 10 months. Not enough, certainly, unless you have a means of processing and then marketing the thing.

There's also bio-terrorism. My father had a rambutan orchard with the real gula batu rambutans. In order to protect the trees from monkeys, he introduced some giant fire ants to the area. To this day, the fire ants thrive on the fruits of the rambutans.

But really, what the hell was all that for? All the fighting, all the struggle, if we get robbed everyday by the rich?

What If... Malaysia has Nuclear Power?

First of all, I do think nuclear power is a very good idea, and would open the door for electric cars.

The problem is, I believe that any nuclear project might go to somebody's nephew or son-in-law whose credentials in nuclear energy would be he read a Spider-Man comic book once, when he was a kid.

Unless the nuclear energy project goes to me, I am against it, because having it here could mean all Malaysians would get superpowers.

Imagine that.

Bitten by a radioactive politician, Kamal becomes... Super-Liar-Man!

He saw his parents gunned down before his very eyes. Now, Maniappan Kuppusamy dresses up as a Bangladeshi at night to fight crime.

Born different, his powers activated on the onset of puberty, Phua Tin Sai was embedded with a thick skull and razor-sharp Apektium claws.

Oh well. No one ever listens to what I have to say anyway. Carry on!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vagabond: Being Creative

I've met lots and lots of 'creative people'. Some, are really, really good. Some, are bad. They are neither good nor bad. It's just that they were lucky or unlucky enough to do creative projects that actually get completed.

I've done great creative work, and I've done some bad ones.

I notice, though, that most people who want to get in the 'creative industry', be it TV, film, music, whatever, have this idea that a job in the 'creative industry' means sitting around, looking good and 'being creative'.

And they define 'being creative' as spouting and throwing ideas as they enjoy a drink by the pool, served by bikini-clad Russian hookers.

Dude, that's the mafia.

The reality is that 'being creative' is a lot of hard work. If you want an easy job, be a lawyer or a doctor or a pilot. All those jobs involve sitting by the pool and sipping drinks served by bikini-clad Russian hookers.

The industry requires you to listen. A LOT. Cause it is so wide and vague that you won't really know what your client or collaborators need or what they're saying unless you're prepared to listen.

That's rule number one. LISTEN.

Number two is, read. READ. Read, in the name of thy Lawd!

Ideas and the execution of ideas come from a confluence of things coming together in a proverbial soup inside your head. You got to have material, and material comes from everywhere. Open your ears and listen. Open your eyes and read.

Read books. Read people. Read situations. No matter what you wanna do - draw, sing, write, act, you have to be present.

Number three, you gotta do it. You have to work. Artists need to draw. Writers, need to write. Actors need to act. Singers need to sing. That's the only way to improve your craft. If you're not willing to spend hours, days, weeks, months and even years doing what you want to do, then don't do it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get this drink off this lovely Russian lady who's wearing a bikini that seems like it was made from leftovers at a panty factory.

Jejak Kelana: Jalan Pedang

Inilah jalan pedang. Hidup dengan pedang, mati pun dengan pedang.


Vagabond: Worry

In my travels, I have seen the future. And what a strange future it is.

Call me Hugh Jackman and suck my Australian dick.

I'm a worry-wort. I worry all the time, about everything. However, I always find a way to get out of that rut.

It always happens like this:

1. I'm in a state of worry. The world is going to end! La di da!

2. SOmeone would contact me about their worries and fears, looking for advice or sympathy. I listen, and take what was being discussed, to better see my own predicament.

3. A shift happens, as I chose to be present for other people, my own worries take a backseat.

4. Something happens to take away all my worries. And it always happens after the shift.

Today, I was worried because things are not happening according to schedule. Some things got pushed back, some things have new deadlines. They are happening, but not in a way I can control. Finding my own choleric, control-freak nature and bringing it out is traumatic. I used to be so comfortable allowing things to unfold on their own, I am at an unfamiliar stage where I make things happen and become a primum mobile - a prime mover.

I was worried. It clouded everything I did, and a sombre cloud of despair followed me all around. I generally stay away from people, when in that mood. I was out for blood. DO NOT fuck with me when in that mood.

So then I got a distress call. People were in trouble. Only thing I had to do was to shut up and be present.

This being present bullshit totally spun the whole world in a tilt-a-whirl, and you can see things from a bird's eye perspective.

I can feel the wind on me, the ground beneath my feet. And my form? Perfect. (Spear on jaw of wolf).

As soon as the perspective shifted, I got a call from a close business associate whom I respect. My work apparently is good enough to warrant possible future collaborations, and I am happy.

You see, I am constantly reminded of Kung Fu Panda.

The old tortoise, he said, "Yesterday, is history. Tomorrow, is a mystery. But today, is a gift. That's why it's called 'the present'."

Remember, it's THE present, and not A present.

There is no way anyone can determine the outcome of the future, other than preparing for it in the present. Setting things up, planning, without getting so lost in the future that your present work loses the attention and focus it needs.

And yesterday, the past, well, be it good or bad, there is no way you should allow it to influence your present, and hence the future. You can have the biggest success or the most embarrassing failure, but that does not mean that your present and your future need to carry that baggage.

Lots of people talk about 'living in the moment', but their definition of living in the moment is sometimes limited to external stuff like taking drugs, drinking, splurging or fucking. There's a lot more to it than mere action. There's a more fundamental, basic principle underneath that.

Don't panic! Worrying is a route to cancer. Don't be irresponsible, but don't allow anything other than yourself to affect you. Cause no one and no thing can.


Jejak Kelana: Pengembaraan Belum Bermula

Pengembaraan aku satu Malaysia nampak macam tertunda tak tau bila. Nak buat camana? Bukan aku yang ngeluorkan duit.

Kalau tertunda, pastu tak tau sampai bila, baik aku ambik kesempatan ni, menulis.

Sejak pilem Merong tu keluo, ada la pulok oghang duk ngantor aku emel, tanya pasal menulis. Ada jugok yang nok ngantor idea, suruh aku buat skrip.

Kira kerja susah, dia dah buat la. Kerja senang, menulis, aku la yang buat. Share 50-50.


Kalau setakat idea, makcik buat kopi pun ada idea.

"Anak makcik tu, dulu hebat dia belajor. Dapat nombor 12 dalam kelas corot. Kira tak corot la tu. Ada 20 orang lagi bodoh daripada dia. Kalau ko kira satu Malaysia, mau nak 20 juta orang yang otaknya tak sebagus anak makcik. Lepas tu, dapat kerja despatch, jadi mat rempit. Abissss..."

Tu idea cerita kutip 10 juta tu. Sapa nak? Aku kasi nombor telepon makcik tu.

Aku baru buat tiga pilem je la. Bukannya aku buat 100. Bukannya aku ada duit nak buat pilem pun.

AKu menulis, apa yang menarik untuk aku tulis. Kalau pilem, pilem lah. Kalau dokumentari, dokumentari lah. Kalau komik datang, maka komiklah.

AKu belajar dengan hanya tengok orang aje. Mana ada kelas menulis kat Malaysia ni. Takde yang aku boleh rekomen lah, pasal aku tak pergi pun. Kelas menulis, kelas darjah satu sampai darjah enam la.

AKu start dulu, berangan nak buat komik je. Sampai ke hari ni, lapan tahun kemudian, aku takde buat komik yang aku nak. Asyik orang ajak suruh buat mende lain.

Komik yang aku nak buat, komik syok sendiri. Aku sorang je paham. Tak boleh jual punya. Ada la kot, 2-3 orang member nak jaga hati, beli, lepas tu komplen pasal mahal. Pastu tak paham.

Itu omputih panggil vanity project. Kita cakap projek syok sendiri je. Hanya untuk orang kaya-kaya yang mampu rugi, asalkan puas hati.

AKu tak kaya, jadi takleh nak buat komik syok sendiri lagi. Nak cari duit untuk bayar nasi campur Restoran Mahbub kat Lucky Garden, dengan rokok Marlboro Menthol Lights (Philip Morris tanak ambik aku kerja ke?), aku buat kerja untuk orang.

Sampai bila pun aku tak tau. Tapi, aku tak komplen. Pasal dalam batasan yang ada, aku syok sendiri dalam tu je. Dalam kawasan yang tu.

Tunggulah, aku menang loteri, nanti aku buat la komik syok sendiri.

The Pigeon Hole

I read interviews of authors and writers. One thing you won't learn in any school, is these people's experience in marketing themselves.

Robert J Sawyer, the Canadian sci-fi author often explained his success as merely a wise geograpgic and cultural move. While droves of Canadian sci-fi writers claim to be American or become Americans and even move to America, he stuck his gun and maintained his branding as a 'Canadian sci-fi writer'.

In the end, there were only a dozen or so 'Canadian sci-fi authors', including him. This put him in a prime position to then get known on the global platform.

Neil Gaiman, meanwhile, is a very special case. He has refused to position himself as any kind of writer. While Stephen King has excelled in the novel medium, Frank Miller in the hard-boiled, gritty urban crime genre, Brian Michael Bendis striving - and succeeding, perhaps surpassing - to be the Quentin Tarantino of the comics world, Gaiman has remained a writing chameleon.

And yet, as explained by Alan Moore or another God of Comics, most of the giant American comics publishers took British comic writers who were 'award-winning', but since the pool is around a dozen or so, and they award themselves the accolades, every major comic book writer in England was a recipient of an award or another.

History showed, though, that the likes of Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Moore, Gaiman, et al, are perhaps some of the best comics writers in the history of the medium.

Sawyer was advocating positioning, and Gaiman's actions demonstrated a writer who could redefine himself and his work many times over. What has Gaiman not written?

He has done comics, novels, short stories, documentaries, novels, TV (Neverwhere), film (Mirrormask, Beowulf), short films and even translations.

There is no set formula, really.

Me? I'd like to do as many varied things as possible. Test out lots of shit, and see how they unfold.

The Devil Doesn't Like to be Surprised

I was writing away happily on my patched-up keyboard, when suddenly there was a knock at the door.

Thinking I have finally angered some spirits, I went and opened the door. There they were, grinning like motherfuckers. Not ghosts, but dumbass motherfuckers.

Yeah, I do have weird friends. But even the weirdest give me a call first before showing up at my door.

I mean, imagine if I have Emma Watson and Emma Roberts making out on my couch. Or Jessica Alba is shaving her pubes in my bathroom. Or Natalie Portman is having a water-birth in a tub which I do not have.

Huh? THINK, motherfucker! You don't just fucking show up. Call me first, bitches!

I mean, I don't have Emma Watson and Emma Roberts making out on my couch, but imagine if they DID?

Here's what I hate:

1. Fax machines
2. People who come without contacting me first
3. People who move shit around in calendars

When I say we're meeting up on Friday, we're meeting up Friday. End of fucking discussion. If you have to cancel, a simple heads up will do.

"I'm sorry, I can't meet you tomorrow." Or "I'm sorry, I can't meet up with you today. I got shit to do."

At least you called.

"Hey, Amir, I got an hour to kill, so I'm thinking of dropping by. I'll be there in 10 minutes." I'm fine with this. I also miss some appointments and have been late by a few hours before. No one's perfect, yes.

Do not move things around and DO NOT show up at my door unannounced. Unless you're Emma Watson and Emma Roberts, and you want to make out on my couch. Even then, blowjobs first, talk later.

Just cause I meditate, and all new age and shit, doesn't mean I can't open a can of whoop ass on your mother. I STILL have that machete in my kitchen, just in case a race riot ever happens.

How about I race riot on your face?

Thankfully, the ones who showed up, I haven't seen in years. So I let you off this one time. Pass me the bottle, brah!

The Demon Writer of Bangsar

I got two surprise deadlines tonight. No way to wriggle out of them. Time to focus.

In the SlamDunk comics, Takehiko Inoue dedicated a few chapters on baseketball basic skills.

Never forget the basics.

In writing, the basics are speed, accuracy and flow. These two deadlines will test each of the basics in different ways.

So, if I finish both of them on time, I'll be back here to run my mouth again.

I got Chrysanthemum tea, three packs of cigarettes and Johnny Cash. Barring a blackout, I'll go and write up a storm.

Ain't no grave, can hold my body down.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Village People: One Step Forward...

I am a bit frustrated with the development on the house-building project.

I have yet to locate a foundation to house the project under. I have already identified certain donors, and I believe that I can get - right now - maybe a third of the funds.

However, without a foundation, I am uneasy with asking for donations of any kind.

I am up at 4.25am, because I got a call just half an hour ago from a friend - yes, I have strange ones - who updated me that the foundation he works for has also said no, because they target million-dollar projects. This one, which aims to collect just a paltry RM30K, is not in their league.

Oh well, I guess I would have to go through all this crap before I can find viable partners. If I manage to pull this off - after all the drama and frustration - I will be able to perhaps replicate the process for future projects.

The first one is always the hardest.

I hope tomorrow will bode well for the project. I'm expecting some news from another fund. I will also spend Tuesday in my quest.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hikmat Baru Lepas Mandi

Aku baru mandi, lepas dua hari. Siap gosok gigi lagi. Lepas ni, aku nak tidur lah.

Esok kena bangun awal, beb. Aku, rehat pun tak cukup beberapa hari ni. Mujur jugak aku punya trip jelajah Malaysia tu tunda dua hari. Aku rasa, kalau esok aku kena pergi, aku akan tertidur dalam kereta dan terlepas banyak benda.

Aku akan dapatkan rehat secukupnya, mungkin hari Selasa. Aku nak tidur satu hari, kot? Dengan beberapa perkara nak buat. Hari Selasa ni, aku nak gunakan untuk mencari yayasan bagi menaung projek kebajikan aku.

Aku tak lupa projek ni. Aku rasa, macam aku dah cukup bertuah lahir dengan nasib yang best. Aku memang selalu nasib baik. Apalah salahnya aku cuba menolong orang yang kurang bernasib baik? Ni kira zakat nasib baik aku la.

Mandi sudah, berak pun sudah, dengan mengeluarkan tahi yang sihat dari jubur yang sihat.

Okaylah, aku nak pergi tidur la. Bye!

Jejak Kelana: Menulis Sebelum Berak

Ari ni, dengan tak mandi sejak dua hari, aku pergi keluar, lepak dengan member aku. Lepas lunch, dengan satu family la pulak. Bukan keluarga aku. Keluarga orang lain.

Lepas tu, lepak dengan orang lain pulak. Terserempak dengan kawan lama.

Sambil tu, tak mandi lagi ni.

Tapau nasik kat Mahbub, pastu balik. Dah makan, sekarang nak berak. Mungkin mandi sekali.

Sebelum berak, aku menulis.

Trip pergi jelajah satu Malaysia sudah ditangguh ke hari Rabu. Jadi, aku free lagi dua hari - Isnin dan Selasa.

Boleh aku hantar dobi dulu - lupa nak hantar semalam, sebenarnya. Dan boleh pergi temuramah orang esok untuk projek dokumentari aku. Projek dokumentari aku buat dengan satu team yang best gila. Harap aku dapat memuaskan kehendak kreatif dan intelektual aku sendiri dengan projek ini, sebelum aku melawak dalam skrip filem seterusnya.

Inilah hidup seorang vagabond - entah ke mana aku melangkah esok, aku sendiri pun tak tahu.

Ain't no grave, can hold my body down.

Isu Sensitif Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa: Garuda, Jentayu dan Nabi Sulaiman

Ada rakan yang bertanya, pasal unsur agama dalam Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa yang aku mengaku aku sudah tarik keluar daripada skrip filem Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.

Aku, bukanlah pengkaji yang terkedepan berkenaan sejarah dan juga Merong Mahawangsa. Aku stunt-cock filem ni je. Kalau nak tau dengan secara sahih, tanya Dr Siti Hawa Salleh yang mengarang kajian Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, dengan kompilasi RJ Wilkinson (dalam Jawi tu, mat!) dan juga kajian-kajian yang di buat dalam jurnal dan sebagainya.

Benda pertama yang aku nampak dalam HMM adalah simbolisme agama yang kuat. Sebab tu aku cakap kat Norman, tiga tahun yang lepas, "Tak yah buatlah filem ni. Nanti orang bergaduh."

Bukan apa. Garuda tu, Tuhan Hindu. Satu jelmaan Tuhan Vishnu, atau dalam terjemahan lain, menjadi tunggangan Vishnu. Jentayu pula adalah Jatayu - juga satu Jelmaan Vishnu juga, sambil Jatayu juga anak saudara Garuda. Ikut kajian aku yang tak seberapa lah.

Jadi, bila jelmaan atau tunggangan Tuhan Hindu lawan dengan Nabi Islam, apa simboliknya? Hindu lawan Islam. Ko taulah, orang dulu-dulu. Cakap sikit punya berlapik.

Terbukti, tiga bulan lepas aku cakap pasal benda ni, adalah pulak perarakan kepala lembu di Shah Alam.

Cerita pasal Merong sendiri banyak berlegar sekitar pertaruhan/pertandingan antara Garuda dan Nabi Sulaiman. Garuda yang angkuh menyatakan yang dia mampu melawan kehendak Tuhan yang disembah Nabi Sulaiman. Dia hendak memastikan jodoh antara Putera Rom dan Puteri Cina tidak terjadi. Kalau dia kalah, dia berjanji akan meninggalkan kawasan ini. Ikut hikayatnyalah.

Jadi, kalau kau nak terjemahkan ini ke layar perak, kau akan dapat satu burung CGI yang besar, bercakap dengan orang halimunan. Pasal, imej nabi-nabi, kita tak boleh tunjuk. Suara pun tak ada.

Nabi Sulaiman pulak, ada memerintah Raja Jin Harman Syah pergi buat kerja. Nabi, burung Garuda, lepas tu Raja Jin pulak.

Aku tak pasti penerimaan orang Islam moden sekarang, dengan Nabi Islam lepak dengan Raja Jin. Walaupun banyak interaksi antara para nabi dengan kaum jin, dalam kisah-kisah Islam, aku memang musykil.

Tapi, yang paling aku kisahkan, adalah Nabi Islam lawan dengan jelmaan Tuhan Hindu. Sebenarnya, perlambangan ini, untuk memberi laluan kepada pemelukan agama Islam di akhir cerita.

Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, bagi aku, ada dua tujuan: menerangkan salasilah leluhur keturunan raja-raja Kedah, dan menerangkan peralihan kepercayaan daripada Hindu ke Islam di sini.

Ceritanya cantik apabila dibaca di penghujung, apa yang terjadi di permulaan hikayat (Nabi Islam Sulaiman menang) juga diulang apabila Phra Ong Mahawangsa memeluk Islam, diajar oleh seorang pendita Islam yang berlayar bersama Syaitan (panjang ceritanya).

Aku tak selesa menggambarkan mana-mana tokoh atau Tuhan dalam mana-mana agama. Jadi, ditarik kesemuanya keluar. Yang tinggal cuma intipatinya - sebuah kuasa lama berlawan dengan kuasa baru.

Walaupun begitu, aku meninggalkan sedikit unsur Hindu dalam HMM. Taji adalah 'talon', senjata utama burung seperti Garuda, ya, tetapi Kamawas aku bayangkan sebagai waris Anduman atau nama asalnya Hanuman. 'Mawas' dalam namanya merujuk kepada jelmaan Hanuman yang paling popular - sejenis monyet.

Setelah diterjemah secara visual melalui lakonan dan arahan, aku senang sekali melihat hasilnya apabila tidak jelas langsung yang Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa membayangkan pertelagahan antara agama, yang memang ingin dielak.

Semasa Yusry dan krew berhempas pulas menjayakan HMM di Terengganu, aku di KL bersilat dengan bebanan memastikan tanggungjawab sebagai pencerita HMM tidak akan membuah pergaduhan. Walau apa pun penerimaan masyarakat tentang filem ini, benda yang paling aku hendak elak adalah pertumpahan darah, hanya pasal sebuah filem.

Dalam hikayat, ya, ada benda ini, tapi tidak dalam filem. Yay! Jadi, kalau ada gaduh lagi, bukan pasal aku, ya?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Notes on the Run

An outpouring of positive and congratulatory wishes from people on Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. Strangers and people I have not heard from for years. Thanks! Please also spare a moment and a thought for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in one of my favourite countries - Japan. I hope there will be no more casualties. Finally, I want to sleep now, after 48 hours of work and meetings. So any talk on anything, tomorrow, ya? Oh, and I only use my 012 number now. The 019, I have already returned to my old working place.

Jejak Kelana: Novel-novel Terbengkalai Di Luar Pagar

Aku berhenti kerja, antara sebabnya aku mengimpikan menyiapkan novel-novel aku yang terbengkalai.

Aku buka balik fail-fail lama dalam komputer aku - aku tak pernah membuang apa saja fail dokumen Word sejak tahun 1996, walaupun ada yang hilang sebab virus komputer.

Ada novel yang mulanya saja sudah lucah, perihal melakukan hubungan seks dengan pelacur Siam. Kemudian, ada adegan melancap depan mayat.

Aku baca balik dan... hmmm... apa yang aku nak sampaikan dalam cerita tu, sebenarnya? Mungkin aku dah tua, tetapi kalau setakat nak bermain puting dan menggentel biji, aku dah macam lali. AKu dah 31, beb! Kena tunggu aku 40 tahun, baru nak beriya-iya memberukkan p[erempuan kot?

Senang untuk hilang, sesat dalam gaya dan struktur, tetapi membunuh mesej. AKu mungkin akan tulis balik novel itu, dan kalau kurang unsur ranjangnya, maka harus diganti dengan benda lain.


Jejak Kelana: Antara Pantun, Pantoum dan Pan... tai...

Aku membaca ulasan ini, yang dihantar kepada aku oleh seorang rakan melalui email. Klik Sini untuk membacanya.

AKu tertarik pasal dibincangkan tentang pantun, yang aku sendiri terjemahkan dalam subtitle filem Hikayat merong Mahawangsa sebagai 'pantoum'.

Pertama sekali, ya, pantoum itu wujud, dan memang berdasarkan pantun Melayu. Tapi, pantoum adalah interpretasi orang putih pasal seni puisi kita. Jadi, dari segi bentuk, memang ada kelainannya.

AKu mula mendengar perihal pantoum daripada komik dan juga cerita pendek Neil Gaiman, yang menyemarakkan keinginan aku untuk menulis sestina dan couplets.

Pada abad ke-19, (tahun 1800, sebagai rujukan kepada aku yang dah pening sikit pasal berbicara dengan seorang kenalan yang membincangkan bagaimana ada orang Rom pada abad ke 16), banyak benda seni yang dicari oleh pengamal di Eropah. Mereka terjumpa pelbagai bahan dan gerakan di Asia Tenggara. ANtaranya, pantun.

Seorang sahabat yang memang ahli muzik klasikal memberitahu aku yang gamelan memang popular di Eropah - Perancis terutamanya - pada abad ke-19, Dasar 'pandang ke Timur' sudah bermula walaupun pada abad tersebut.

Pantun amat mirip couplets dan villanellle. Terutamanya, couplets dan pantun dua kerat.

Gendang-gendut tali kecapi,
Kenyang perut, senang hati.

- pantun dua kerat Melayu

True wit is nature to advantage dress'd;
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.
— couplet tulisan Alexander Pope

Kalau dilihat meternya, atau penekanan dan ritma sebutan, memang agak sama.

GenDANG-genDUT taLI kcaPI

True WIT is NAture adVANtage dress'd
What OFT was THOUGHT, but ne'ER so well express'd

Teknik yang hampir sama, rasa aku. Kalau aku salah menilai, maafkan aku.

Jadi, pengaruh seni puisi dunia sememangnya berkait. AKu rasa belum cukup untuk cakap yang pantun Melayu mempengaruhi sajak mat salleh. Cukup kalau dikatakan pantun telah diangkat menjadi salah satu cabang bentuk puisi dunia, pada masa yang lama dahulu.

Mungkin sama dengan pengaruh gamelan kepada muzik dunia. Gamelan, apa yang aku tahu, menggunakan gaya improv, yang dibuat-buat mengikut rasa. Ini hampir sama dengan jazz, yang juga mengikut rasa dan dibuat-buat pakai syok sendiri.

Tapi, pasal muzik aku memang kurang periksa.

Saja je, nak cakap pasal pantoum, pantun dan pan...tai.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jejak Kelana: Rehat Lima Belas Minit

Gila aku bangun pagi hari ni. Ada janji yang harus aku tepati. Empat atau mungkin lima janji-temu hari ni, termasuk pergi ke pawagam untuk menonton Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa sekali lagi.

Rata-rata, mengikut laporan yang aku terima daripada rakan-taulan dan sanak saudara yang cakna sejak pagi semalam, ramai yang memuji Merong - siap tepuk tangan dalam panggung. Ada juga yang maki. Aku terima je. Terima kasihlah, meluangkan masa menonton dan mengulas filem ni.

Neil Gaiman pernah cerita, apa saja karya yang dia tulis, ada orang akan cakap, "Inilah karya ko yang paling best! Takyah tulis komik, tulis novel macam ni je!" dan akan ada yang kata, "Kenapa ko tulis sampah-sarap ni? Baik ko tulis komik balik!" Nak buat camana? Kalau semua orang boleh bersetuju dalam semua hal, takdelah perang ye tak? Takdelah PIS-M dengan UMNO Baru. Aku amat suka Sandman, tak suka American Gods. Aku suka Mirrormask, tak suka Beowulf. Minat gila Coraline dan Stardust, tak suka Eternals.

Ini sebenarnya pengalaman baru bagi aku. Dua filem yang aku tulis sebelum ni - MySpy dan Magika - takdelah kecoh macam nak rak. Merong keluar je, hambik kau, mau tak abis bateri Blackberry aku dua kali semalam. Tapi, handphone lama, jadi memang cepat habis bateri. Nak tukar, duit lebih takde. Hutang PTPTN lagi. Dahlah takde kerja, pasal aku berenti demi mengasah kerja penulisan aku. Hahahaha.

Oklah. Apa-apa hal pun, Merong dah bagi kesan kat ramai orang. Aku nak menumpukan pada apa yang ada kat depan aku sekarang - beberapa projek dan tawaran kerja yang bakal aku nilai dan pertimbangkan.

Tengoklah macam mana jadinya. AKu harap semuanya okay.


Imbas Kembali Kisah Dahulu: Sejuk Mata Pedang, Dingin Hati

Ada yang bertanya aku, kenapa menulis dalam Bahasa Inggeris, dan kenapa dalam dokumentari Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, aku Berbahasa Inggeris dan tidak berbahasa Melayu.

"Nak tunjuk power ke?"

Kalau aku nak berlagak, aku cakap Bahasa Latin (walaupun aku tak reti berbahasa Latin hahahaha!).

Sebenarnya, aku lebih senang berbahasa Inggeris. Aku menulis dalam Bahasa Inggeris, sebab bahasa ini kaya dengan bahan rujukan untuk penulisan - sama ada daripada segi maklumat mahupun gaya.

Untuk Bahasa Malaysia atau Bahasa Melayu, aku kurang dapat contoh yang baik.

Aku pernah belajar sikit pasal puisi - klasik dan moden - daripada Rahman Shaari, masa kat UM dulu.

Aku belajar apa itu gurindam - puisi panjang berlagu.


Bertahun-tahun, ku bawa namamu Maya
Dari desa ke desa, ku bawa ia
Bak luka, baru, di keningku... Mayaaa...

Itu je aku ingat. Hahahaha. Tapi lagu dan melodinya masih terpacak kukuh dalam ingatan.

Dia mengajar asas deklamasi puisi, penuh dengan nilai persembahan. Contohnya, kalau kau menyampaikan puisi dengan tema 'takut', sebab didatangi syaitan, atau pasal bakal masuk neraka, dibimbing syaitan, kau boleh buat persembahan takut.

Kalau kau menyampaikan puisi kerakyatan, dengan tema sosio-politik, kau boleh 'menyediakan pentas' dengan membuat satu pertuduhan kepada seorang 'rakan kerjasama' yang diletak dalam penonton yang kemudiannya diheret ke pentas untuk menjalani 'perbicaraan' sama ada dalam bentuk teater atau puisi. Contohnya lah.

Tapi, aku bukan penghibur. Aku penulis - aku lebih gemar menulis serta mengkaji struktur, gaya dan maksud penulisan.

Malangnya, sastera Melayu yang aku baca amat terhad. Aku mencuri-curi baca Kelapa Nan Sebatang, semasa di sekolah menengah.

Ini yang aku ingat, daripada cerpen Gulai Rawo. (Kalau salah, aku mintak maaf. Ingatan aku tak sekuat dulu. Aku dah tua):

Gulai lomak, masakan rawo
Tumbuk lado, segonggam godang
Kok awok raso penganen kito
Indakkan lupo jalan nan datang

Gulai Rawo mengisahkan seorang bapa yang bertungkus-lumus, berusaha keras, menangkap ikan air tawar untuk menjamu anaknya yang sudah berpindah ke bandar dan bekerja di sana, serta sudah berkahwin dengan orang bandar. Malang, usaha keras orang tua itu akhirnya tidak dihargai oleh si anak, walaupun bukan diceritakan seperti drama murahan.

Si anak tidak menderhaka, cuma seleranya sudah berubah. Si ayah tidak jatuh terjelepuk sambil menangis terisak-isak.

Sentuhan drama yang amat lembut apabila si anak hanya menjamah sedikit hidangan ikan air tawar masak lemak, dan lebih memberi fokus kepada sambal telur dan ikan bilis.

Bagi aku, itu cerita yang bagus. Tidak terpampang jelas seperti gadis tak beradab yang melukah di depan orang tua.

Novel Shit karya Sasterawan Negara Shahnon Ahmad membosankan, bagi aku. Aku lebih suka novelnya, TiVi. Tengok TV sampai lintah masuk pantat pun tak sedar. Hahahaha!

Anak Mat Lela Gila, Keluarga Gerilya, himpunan cerpen Pak Sako sebelum dan selepas perang. Novel Merpati Putih Terbang Lagi oleh Khadijah Hashim(?), Gerhana di Hati oleh wakil rakyat kawasan aku - Adam Kadir. Hanuman O (Uthaya Sankar SB) dengan cerita Kucingnya, Hizairi Othman dan yang lain.

Malangnya, aku sungguh tidak yakin untuk menulis dalam Bahasa Malaysia, atau Bahasa Melayu. Semua contoh yang aku baca, bagi aku, tidak lengkap.

Ahmad Kamal Abu Bakar menulis falsafah dan puisi barat dalam Bahasa Melayu, pasal dia terpengaruh dengan Kiekergaard dan Sartre, serta Rimbaud. Contoh yang bagus ditunjukkannya, tetapi bagi aku, aku masih tercari-cari penulisan Bahasa Melayu yang boleh dijadikan contoh sebagaimana aku menjadikan karya-karya komik agung Neil Gaiman dan Alan Moore sebagai ikutan.

Walaupun aku memulakan penulisan aku semasa umur belasan tahun dengan mengarang cerpen-cerpen Bahasa Melayu, aku hanya menumpukan pada penulisan Inggeris dalam kerjaya aku.

Mungkinkah, terletak di bahu penulis-penulis yang ada sekarang, untuk mencari gaya dan selok-belok penulisan yang sendiri? Aku pun tak pasti. Mampukah kita mengarang karya-karya agung yang tak lapuk dek zaman, seperti penulis-penulis Bahasa Melayu yang dahulu?

Hanya masa - dan Tuhan - yang mampu menentukan.

Vagabond: Where Do We Go From Here?

Some people have been asking, what's next? After Merong, of course.

Well, I quit my job to focus on my writing and production work. I'm currently doing a documentary with an extremely good team, as well as a travelogue.

I don't know what will happen tomorrow and where the wind will take me. Life as a vagabond means I do not know what happens next, and neither do I claim to know.

As far as movies go, well, there are some stories I want to tell. MySpy, Magika and Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa completes a trilogy of films I made with KRU.

One is a comedy, another is a musical and Merong is an epic action adventure, as the hype goes.

I tried my hand doing horror, but I don't think I want to. Things that scare me, REALLY scare me. Like ghosts with no reason, no motive, just existing for the sake of existing, and appearing in ALL your hiding places.

I want to do another Chow Sing Chi homage - a proper one, and I am also interested in exploitation films of the '70s. The grail is to do a Jean-Pierre Jeunet of my own, but I have some ways to go before I can take on that project.

I believe, as with Miyamoto Musashi, I need to constantly pit my work against stronger and more difficult challenges, in an effort to make better work. We shall see what happens. Maybe an opportunity will open up sometime soon. Who knows?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jejak Kelana: Ulasan Awal Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa

Aku melayan seorang tetamu semalam, sampai ke pagi. Kami tak buat maksiat!

Hahahaha. Kalau aku merapu sekarang, adalah pasal aku belum tidur lagi. Aku melayan tetamu aku sampai pagi, kemudian apabila aku cuba nak tidur, telefon aku berdering tak henti-henti. Rupa-rupanya, ulasan filem Hikayat Merong Mahwangsa telah keluar di akhbar dan juga di internet.

Ini aku senaraikan apa yang aku jumpa setakat ini:

1. Berita Harian, oleh Farihad Shalla Mahmud

2. Utusan Malaysia oleh Syazwan Zakariah

3. The Malay Mail by Eena Houzyama

4. Murai oleh Syafiqah Jalal

5. Kosmo! pasal Yusry dengan Ummi

6. Tonton Filem oleh Fadz

Ada lagi, kot, tapi aku dah tak larat, nak try pergi tidur dan padamkan Blackberry kesayangan aku.

Aku menyampaikan ucapan dan rasa terima kasih yang menggunung - kemungkinan besar, secara halimunan - kepada semua yang mengulas filem Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa ini. Yang baik, yang buruk, aku cuma tersentuh ada juga yang masih mengambil kisah untuk berkata sesuatu tentang filem ini.

Yang kurang tu, aku mintak maaf bagi pihak aku, dan akan aku gunakan untuk buat kerja yang lagi bagus. Yang lebih tu, thanks!

Bak nukilan Neil Gaiman yang aku rompak dan cabul, "To his virtues, a little kind, and to his faults, a little blind..."

Yay! Aku nak tidur pun tak boleh. Ada je orang call aku. Terima kasih lah! Iklhas!

Aku nak try tidur balik ni.

Kalau aku terima kasih jugak kat KRU, krew dan barisan pelakon, macamlah aku menang Academy Awards pulak, sebagai Best Actress atau Best Stunt-Cock, jadi aku akhiri di sini dahulu.

Aku tahu banyak lagi yang akan menyusul. Majulah sukan untuk negara. Dan jugak filem.

Jejak Kelana: Kegembiraan

Kegembiraan tidak datang daripada benda atau orang. Itu semua palsu.

Tiada apa benda atau sesiapa yang mampu membuatkan kita gembira atau sedih. Kalau ada yang mengaku, maka mungkin niatnya tidak baik, atau mungkin dia bodoh atau buta.

Kegembiraan itu datang daripada diri sendiri. Macam melancap.

Pernahkah kau pokai, tapi tertawa berdekah-dekah? Pernahkah kau tesenyum keseorangan, dalam kegelapan? Pernahkah kau rasa sunyi, walaupun dikelilingi orang yang tersayang? Pernahkah kau rasa hampa, walaupun mendapat duit yang banyak?

Rasa gembira dan sedih datang daripada diri sendiri. Tak ada benda atau sesiapa yang mampu membuatkan kita rasa apa-apa pun.

Oleh itu, buatlah apa yang berkenan di hati. Macam aku sekarang, sedang duduk sambil menulis beberapa benda yang aku perlu hantar malam ini juga.

Dan mungkin aku tak perlu melancap malam ini. Hehehe.

Jejak Kelana: Om Namma Shivaya

Aku pernah menulis yang aku menghabiskan banyak masa demi mencari ketenangan. Aku bertahun melawan rasa resah dan risau, yang orang lain memang tidak tahu langsung.

Dulu, ramai yang suruh aku sembahyang. Bagi mereka, sembahyang itu ajaib. Aku tak nafikan, dan tak juga aku setuju. Itu pandangan dan pegangan masing-masing. Walaupun aku ada jugak rasa terkilan dengan mereka yang menggunakan amalan agama demi memenuhi dan memantapkan ego sendiri. Itu, panjang ceritanya dan bukan apa yang aku ingin tulis.

Aku ingin menulis tentang ketenangan yang aku jumpa, bukan dalam mana-mana amalan agama, atau kata-kata hikmat, tapi dengan kepala sendiri.

Apa-apa perasaan dan fikiran negatif, yang membawa kepada perbuatan negatif, berasal daripada penolakan kepada hakikat dan kebenaran.

Sesuatu benda terjadi, katakan kereta kau dilanggar mat rempit. Kejadiannya hanyalah kereta kau dilanggar mat rempit. Bila masa dunia kiamat? Tapi mungkin itulah reaksi sesetengah orang.

Kenapa? Sebab perasaan yang kalau boleh, mahu mat rempit itu tidak pernah melanggar kereta kau. Malangnya, apa yang terjadi, sudah terjadi. Kau tak punya mesin masa yang mampu mengalih kereta kau, atau mengalih mat rempit itu, atau membunuhnya semasa dia bayi.

Bukan bermaksud kita wajib membiarkan mat rempit melanggar kita atau kereta kita. Pada pendapat aku, semua mat rempit patut dibunuh dengan kejam. Pakai parang tumpul. Start kat konek.

Maksud aku, walau apapun yang terjadi, reaksi kita kepada keadaan, penghakiman kita membentuk penerimaan kita kepada apa yang terjadi.

Dan usah khuatir. Sesuatu yang dilakukan dengan niat tidak baik, atau egotistikal, hanya akan memakan diri. Aku sudah mengalaminya, dan aku sudah nampak dengan mata kepala aku sendiri, bagaimana niat tidak baik akan menghancurkan si pelaku.

Kenapa? Kerana dalam niat tidak baik itu sendiri ada benih kemusnahan. Apakah yang akan lahir daripada niat tidak baik? Perlakuan yang tidak baik, hasil yang tidak baik dan akhirnya, penyudahan yang hitam dan kelam.

Penderitaan mereka yang berniat buruk datang daripada ketidakupayaan untuk berasa gembira. Kalau kita berniat buruk, jiwa kita kosong. Hampa. Jiwa yang kosong akan cuba diisi dengan pelbagai perkara yang tidak baik. Arak. Dadah. Terhegeh-hegeh macam Berukera Dari Planet Zargus. Pukul bini.

Jadi, jaga-jaga dan tenangkan hati, periksa niat kau betul-betul. Walau ada sekelumit ego di dalamnya, takkan selamat perlakuan kau.

Dengan membuka diri sendiri dan hati kepada kejadian dunia, maka kau akan jadi kebal. Tak ada perkara yang mampu mempengaruhi kau melainkan kau membenarkannya mempengaruhi kau.

AKu tau, ini bukan senang. Pengamal Zazen - satu jenis amalan tafakur Buddhism Shinto - ahli-ahli sufi, yogi-yogi Hindu dan yang lain menghabiskan masa bertahun-tahun menyempurnakan pemahaman ini.

Miyamoto Musashi, dalam buku-buku penulisannya, menggabungkan seni bermain pedang dengan fahaman ini.

Aku cuma percaya, kalau semua orang boleh mengenepikan ego mereka dan menerima kejadian dengan seadanya, takkan ada kejahatan yang berlaku di dunia ini.

Malangnya, aku cuma fikir, ubat paling mujarab untuk kegilaan manusia adalah beberapa biji bom nuklear.

Semusim di Syurga: Mengkarate Lipan di Kala Subuh

Gila! Memang kerja gila.

Tengah aku sibuk-sibuk buat persiapan untuk menjelajah satu Malaysia hari Isnin ni (oh, aku takde dalam dua minggu ni. Jangan rompak rumah aku dah la. AKu dengan pak guard kamceng. Nanti, dia kalari payat mak kau kang, sapa yang susah?), gila babi ramai hantar email pasal filem Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. DIorang hantar link ke review kat blog.

Baru aku tau, banyak gila blog Bahasa Melayu yang ada. Aku selama ni duk baca blog orang Malaysia tulis omputih je.

Ada member aku siap call pukul 1 pagi, pasal dia tengok pukul 9 dengan kawan-kawan, pastu diorang lepak bincang, pastu nak call aku la pulak. Bukan apa, bro. Aku tak kisah, biasanya, tapi malam semalam, aku dah berjaga 48 jam, pastu nak tido. Apa ko cakap pun, aku iyakan aje. And thanks sebab ucapkan tahniah, walaupun ko patut kasi tahniah kat krew, cast and Yusry.

Tapi yela, nombor telefon aku je ko ada, kan? And sorry, aku takde nombor telefon Ummi Nazeera. Nell Ng aku ada, tapi aku rasa dia pun tak suka kalau aku pergi lacurkan nombor telefon peribadi dia kot? Mano Maniam pun aku ada. Ko nak? Gavin Stenhouse takde. Gavin Yap, ada. Datuk Rahim Razali punya nombor, takde. Tapi, Harun Salim Bachik aku ada nombornya.

Tak pernah la aku tulis filem, orang duk bagi perhatian cam gila. Dan aku penulis skrip je. Oops, dan aku stunt-cock je. Aku tak tau apa jadi kat pengarah dia. Mau tak kena serbu.

Kalau korang suka Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, aku tak sure kalau kau jugak akan suka MySpy atau Magika. Semua aku buat, stail lain-lain. Tujuan aku, untuk mendapat sebanyak mana pengalaman yang boleh sebelum aku mampus.

Aku ada cita-cita tinggi nak bikin satu Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement) punya filem. Cerita aku dah ada. Tengoklah dalam 20 tahun lagi.

Dalam masa terdekat, aku nak try buat homage Chow Sing Chi yang lagi best daripada MySpy. Hari Jumaat, aku ada jumpa penerbit/pengarah yang nakkan cerita tu. Jadi, mungkin projek aku yang seterusnya adalah sebuah filem komedi-aksi dengan lawak Stephen Chow. Akan aku bukak hikmat 'mo lei tau' peringkat tinggi.

Aku ada jugak pergi temuduga kerja, hari Jumaat jugak. Gila busy hari Jumaat tu. Tak tau la, dapat ke idak. Harap dia tawar lumayan, supaya aku boleh fokus kat satu benda je.

Apa-apa pun, aku amat terharu dan tersentuh dengan perhatian yang Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa dapat. Bagi aku, selain krew dan barisan pelakon yang berhempas pulas sampai hitam pasal nak siapkan filem tu, penonton yang mengambil Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa sebagai filem mereka sendiri selepas ianya ditayangkan adalah bintang sebenar Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.

Aku terhibur baca apa pengalaman diorang. Ambik cuti la, tayar pancit la, tepuk tangan lah, nangis lah, salah book tiket la, panggung penuh la, buat reunion sekolah tengok Merong lah, puji, maki. Serius, aku amat hargainya.

Siap quote dialog Kamawas tu, kat Facebook, kat Twitter. Hahahaha. Aku sekarang rasa macam penulis dalam Amelie yang mengimpikan karya tulisannya diquote orang, lepas tu Amelie pergi conteng dekat dinding, apa yang dia tulis.

Ramai cakap, 'Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa terbaek'! Bagi aku, korang semua lagi terBaek!

Caption: Baek!

Jalan Syaitan Tidak Terbatas

Ramai yang bertanya kepada aku, dalam masa dua-tiga tahun ini, "Amir, kenapa manusia buat benda-benda jahat? Kenapa diorang kejam dan zalim?"

Hah! Mereka bertanya kepada seorang manusia yang dilabelkan syaitan oleh beberapa kelompok.

Bila ditanya, aku hanya mendengar, mengangguk atau menggeleng kepala. Sesungguhnya, manusia lebih kejam daripada syaitan.

Aku pernah cuba menerangkan pandangan aku, tetapi tiada siapa yang mendengar, kerana mereka ketika itu hanya mahu bercerita kisah mereka sendiri.

Bagi aku, kejahatan berpunca daripada kebencian kepada diri sendiri. Apabila kau melakukan kejahatan di muka bumi ini, seperti menipu, berbohong, mematahkan janji, memukul, menganiaya, memeras, mengkhianat, mencuri, sebenarnya semua kejahatan itu dibuat untuk mengubat kekosongan dalam diri sendiri.

Jika kita lihat, mereka yang menggunakan apa saja cara agar orang lain berasa tidak selesa dan tertekan, hanya kerana ingin menutup tekanan dan ketidakselesaan diri sendiri.

Aku mulanya bencikan mereka dengan kehangatan seribu matahari, tetapi sekarang ini, yang ada hanyalah rasa kasihan. Aku lihat mereka semua seperti orang cacat. Cacat jiwa. Kalau cacat kaki, boleh menggunakan kerusi roda atau tongkat - dan sekarang sudah ada kaki robot inovasi Israel. Cacat pendengaran, boleh memakai alat bantu dengar. Cacat jiwa, cacat roh, tak ada ubatnya. Maka terperangkaplah mereka dalam penjara kegelapan jiwa buat selama-lamanya. Matipun, mereka tidak akan sedar akan kedukaan mereka sendiri.

Bagi aku, hidup sebegitu lebih perit daripada mati. Baik mati saja. Tapi itu aku. Aku paham yang delusi mereka akan memberitahu cerita-cerita yang menyedapkan hati mereka sendiri. Entahlah. Mungkin aku yang salah? Mungkin aku yang jahat?

Gembirakah kau, membuat kejahatan? Kalau begitu, apa yang boleh dilakukan? Matilah kau dalam kebuntuan.

APa yang aku tahu, aku rasa macam nak berak. Sambil berak, aku bertafakur.

Jejak Kelana: Namida Butsu

Ada orang tanya aku, kenapa aku banyak melepaskan benda-benda yang orang lain akan gembira untuk dapat.

Aku cuma boleh cakap, itu orang lain. Mati hidup semula pun, aku takkan 'settle' untuk apa-apa yang bukan aku inginkan.

Kalau untuk tujuan menimba pengalaman atau ilmu, aku sanggup bersusah. Aku sanggup buat dan tahan macam-macam perkara. Namun, untuk menghentikan pencarian kerana aku telah mencapai apa yang orang lain - dan bukan aku - inginkan, maaf, aku tak hidup bertuhankan orang lain.

Orang putih kata, "All or nothing."

Apa yang orang lain buat, pekerjaan orang lain, bukan hal aku. Aku tak pedulikan itu semua. Takde masa aku nak membanding-banding pasal rasa tak selamat manusia sendiri. Aku sibuk dengan kerja aku.

Aku sibuk menelaah kerja orang yang aku hormati, seperti Neil Gaiman dan Alan Moore. Pergi mampus sama yang lain.

Aku takde masa nak bertanding dengan sampah-sarap atau melayan Berukera dari Planet Zargus.

Yang aku tau, sampai saat aku mati, aku akan terus menuju Kuasa Tahap Kesempurnaan - satu impian yang tak mungkin tercapai, tetapi menjadi pendorong untuk aku terus keras kepala.

Namun, aku sentiasa ingat yang keinginan itu satu racun. Aku tidak dihantui keinginan atau nafsu. Aku pergi ke Siam, untuk belajar tentang keinginan dan nafsu. Aku faham bagaimana keinginan dan nafsu oleh memusnahkan.

Bila bercita-cita, kita sering harus memeriksa niat, sama ada cita-cita itu berasal daripada niat yang baik atau ego.

Ego akan meracun kita dengan 'idea kejayaan' yang akhirnya menjadi kejayaan palsu. Kau tak mahu menulis karya-karya yang hebat, kau cuma suka idea menjadi seorang penulis. Banyak bezanya. Ramai yang bercita-cita menulis, mengarah, menerbit yang aku jumpa, tapi hanya angan-angan dan bual-bicara kosong menyedapkan hati dia sendiri.

Adakah kau cukup berani untuk menilai karya kau sendiri? Adakah kau pengkarya, atau pengecut?

Neil Gaiman bagi aku, penulis paling hebat di dunia. Adakah dia berhenti menulis? Adakah dia berehat, bersandar di rumah agam besarnya dan memerhatikan anjing dan kucing-kucingnya berlari-lari anak?

Tidak. Gaiman masih menulis. Malah, dia berkarya ke bidang yang lain pula. Daripada kewartawanan, ke komik, buku, filem dan sekarang dia ingin mengarah pula, selepas mengikut Gullihermo del Toro (betul ke aku eja ni?) mengarah Hellboy 2.

Dalam hidup juga, ramai yang 'settle'. Cukuplah. Dah okay dah. Daging, walaupun busuk, dibasuh, dimasak juga.

Hah. Pengecut.

Bukan aku suruh sesiapa jadi taksub dengan nafsu dan keinginan. Tapi, kalau kau berlaku jujur dengan diri sendiri, kau takkan buat benda-benda jahat. Kau takkan buat benda-benda yang kau taknak buat.

Tapi... itu pilihan masing-masing. Pergilah mampus.

Selagi aku mampu, aku akan terus berada atas jalan yang aku pilih sendiri, dan bukan yang orang lain pilihkan untuk aku.

Mati pun matilah. Jadi, maka jadilah.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vagabond: Labia Majora

I guess I'm going to keep writing until I fall asleep.

I must say thank you to all those whose work influenced me.

It wasn't just writers like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore (plus Grant Morrison (The Invisibles), Garth Ennis (Preacher), Brian Michael Bendis (Torso, Powers), Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, The Authority)) who opened my eyes to new possibilities.

These days, I begin to look at artists for inspiration.

People like Tsutomu Nihei, who did the depressing and claustrophobic manga - even though it is set in a Dyson Sphere SPOILER! - Blame!, Alex Ross (Marvels, Kingdom Come) with his eye and appreciation for the classic and the old, Inoue Takehiko for the intensity, the passion and the hardcore work ethic.

Eiichiro Oda (One Piece) who showed that a set style can also be reinterpreted, and old art movements like the baroque and the rennaissance can be reinjected into manga, which was becoming more rigid and repetitive.

Of course, the greats like Go Nagai and Osamu Tezuka. Go simply for demonstrating how to tap into raw emotion of lust, wrath and the old ultra-violence. Osamu for the detail and care as well as the heart in his work.

Inoue Takehiko (SlamDunk, Vagabond), for demonstrating what evolution of styles is all about, quietly, with a thunderous work of art that is Vagabond.

Kentaro Miura (Berserk) for showing that horror is not just an ugly face in the dark, but resides in all our hearts. And how dreams and nightmares are only separated by a very thin membrane.

Also filmmakers Takashi Miike (Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris), for showing how diverse one theme (family) can be intepreted and reintrepeted, Michael Jai White(fuck Spawn! This guy did Black Dynamite!) and Chris Rock (Pootie Tang) for demonstrating the best use of stupidity mankind has ever seen.

Stephen Chow Sing Chi, for defining my childhood.

BJ Ward and a host of '80s voice actors who gave life to various cartoon characters. Billy West, Katey Sagal, Maurice LaMarche, Megumi Hayashibara. All these voice actors taught me to listen.

Haruhiko Mikimoto (Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, Genesis Climber Mospaeda) for creating some of the best enduring characters the world has ever seen.

Gainax. Hideaki Anno. Gonzo. Jill Thompson. Eminem. The Rock.

Man, this is starting to sound like an acceptance speech, which it is not.

I just enjoyed these people's work. I hope to someday do stuff that people will enjoy.

Vagabond: Oath

I dedicate my life to the betterment of my craft.

Vagabond: Vagina

What is the purpose of you writing?

Is it to write the best thing in the world? And how do you define that, really? Is the best novel in the world the best writing? And how do you define what is best? Sales? Awards? Personal satisfaction?

In Tron: Legacy, Jeff Bridges apologised to his computer avatar, which he created with the instruction to create a perfect system. Unfortunately, a perfect system - hence perfection - is unknowable. It is all perception.

The only answer that makes sense, to my perception, is that you write to finish what you write. That is all.

A body of work - any body of work - is derived from all the things you grind, sorry, ground, over the years. Then you step back, take a deep breath, and look behind you. All the other metaphors and sayings come into play. A journey is when you return to the same place with new eyes, blah blah blah.

I constantly strive to make my stroke - my writing - to be able to adapt to different requirements. This could mean different people - editors, directors, producers, clients - or it could just mean focusing on what I have always done, but finding new ways to do it.

I experiment with writing like crazy. Ever wonder why I keep this blog? And then disabled all the comments? I'm practically talking to myself, writing notes for myself to read, practising styles and words and phrases, sentences and paragraphs.

Because I believe that the more I write, the more the writing will be effortless. It's like lifting weights or doing cardio. First time I was on a treadmill, I could only last 15 minutes, which is shorter than even fucking.

Then, I found some gay stepmasters or some shit, and I worked on it till I could go two hours non-stop. Stepmasters are better than treadmills because they don't impact your knees.

Then I found out, I don't have to, and in fact I shouldn't do cardio for more than an hour. 20 minutes to get your heart rate in the correct burn zone, another 40 to burn. ANything more than an hour is just bullshit and you trying to hurt yourself. If you hurt yourself, you can't go to the gym for four months and that's money as well as time badly spent.

It's the same thing with everything else. The grind, baby. Not many people like the grind. They like to be told they could write, but none of the work.

Here, let me do you a favour - you can write. Hell, anyone with fingers can write. But what can you do with it?

Okay, that concludes this chapter.

Next on Vagabond: Me sleeping.

Vagabond: Writing as Swordsmanship (or Breadmaking)

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword. I believe that writers can learn a lot from swordsmen and samurais.

Not the harakiri/seppuku part. But the fiction of the samurai ethos. In these modern times, we often glorify and romanticise the samurais, basewd on existing historical works such as Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Rings, without even realising some scholars are already debunking the samurai mythos.

Yes, A Book of Five Rings, the Code of Bushido - all that jazz - was probably a lie to elevate the status of the state-funded samurais who were the only large group of people who could read and write after the pivotal Battle of Sekigahara which ended the war and united all of Japan.

However, what was a lie, could be used to further improve our writing skills. I take writing seriously. So seriously, that I am willing to sacrifice a lot of things for it. Not everything, though. As much as I love Neil Gaiman, I will not give him my ass' virginity, if he happens to be a gay rapist, for example.

In Inoue Takehiko's manga Vagabond, we see a very clear depiction of Miyamoto Musashi as a swordsman who strives for better understanding of the path of the sword.

The sword is representative of life. Any conflict, triumphs, losses, philosophies, religion, relationships, can all be defined by the sword. At least in the manga.

So I thought, why not writing? Why not baking bread? But why not writing? Really.

First, you must understand that there are no levels. Perceiving writing and writers and pushing them into separate levels is dumb and ultimately unnecessary.

Anyone can write, like how anyone with thumbs can wield a sword or bake bread. But the writing is the focus, the swordsmanship, the bread. It is no longer the person. When you commit yourself to an artform, you yourself become a non-entity and the work takes centerstage.

Performers know this. Performing means a little death. A part of yourself dies in order to tell a story or maintain an illusion. When you write, you are performing, but your costume is your words and your stage is the media on which it is written.

This is why, self-conscious writing is dull and dreary. At least to me. Have you ever seen a self-conscious actor on stage? I have seen tonnes and they suck really bad.

"What will people think of me here? How will people react to me acting like this? Will the Twitterverse be awash with bouquets ort brickbats?"

All this self-doubt, creates hesitation, creates gaps, and in the turbulent, weird world of performing, in which time behaves very strangely, a gap, a tick, an instant, a dropped rhythm is all it takes to make or break a performance. This is true on stage, in swordsmanship, cocksmanship, breadmaking and yes, in writing.

Egotistical writing - which I sometimes do - is boring. Ego merely speaks to the ego in other people.

The best kind of writing is one that speaks to the soul. Bypass all the bullshit, the constant thoughts and fiery emotions and self-serving ego, and is only done for the benefit of the work.

Like swordsmanship - if you consistently think about yourself, while having a duel, you will die faster than the guy who focuses only on the sword.

Writing - as with every other aspect and practice in life - requires a zen-like approach. Fuck the word zen. It may bring about pretentious bullshit, but you do need a mind and a composure clear of any other thing that might distract you, or you would find yourself explaining yourself every few lines. Which is not bad, for a report, but death for fiction.

I think I have written enough for now.

I'll continue this series later. Meanwhile, remember to always strive to do your best and be the best no matter what you do. Otherwise, there is no point.


Vagabond: Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa

I just came back from watching the premiere of Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa at The Curve. After which, I adjourned to Bangsar's Jalan Telawi for a birthday nightcap. I turned 31 today, and I feel like Miyamoto Musashi.

There are some great scenes in the movie. I remember writing the lines, and it still sends shivers down my spine when actors as good as Khir Rahman delivered them. Definitely, Khir delivered a standout performance as Kamawas, one of the main villains of the show. The rest of the cast also did good. Gavin had more life and panache, more character in Marcus than what his lines had on their own.

The female characters - I was initially worried at first about these characters. They had such little time to define themselves in the script, but the on screen performances of Nell Ng, Ummi Nazira and Jinglu more than made up for it.

I was also a bit concerned with the Chinese accent that was affected by the characters, but upon seeing the finished product, I don't think it was that bad.

The fight scenes - some of them were breathtaking. Yusry KRU did a marvellous job with some of the shots. They were great to behold and I enjoyed them thoroughly.

Well, what can I say? I was involved in the production - as a stunt-cock - so anything positive would be deemed as patting myself and the team on our backs. Anything negative would ignite rumours of me not getting paid (for the record, I believe KRU has paid me in full a year or two ago).

What I can share with you is the fact that Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa is the third movie I worked with KRU that is released.

Going back, when Norman asked me to write the script, I never thought it was ever going to be made. I was just happy to pocket the advance payment and get some experience and exposure in an epic action-adventure.

This is how I get my experience and sharpen my skills - I throw myself into the deep ened and do things I have never done before, and see how to solve problems along the way.

Little did I know that the experience would involve getting calls in the middle of the night for a pantun.

"Amir, I need a pantun."

And I was like, "What?"

I like pantuns, though, so it was no problem. I prefer pantuns to haikus as I think they make more sense.

And string enough pantuns together, and you get either a poem, a limerick or a sestina.

The research cumulatively took over a year, with additional information requested along the way. Tacking (the ability for a ship to turn - a vital element in sea battles), sloops and barges, and galleons and galleases. Met a ship builder - Rohani - who knew exactly what I was talking about.

I had no idea that my knowledge of ancient ship building would be called into play. In fact, there are some deleted scenes (from the script) that utilised some facts about Malay boat architecture using the sap of keruing to make the vessels seaworthy. In the west, they used tar.

It was cut because the story was getting too draggy. And no wants an ancient Malay hero to make the world safe for science, I guess.

The language problem was a joy to solve. If this was true to the period, the Romans would be speaking Latin, the Chinese would be speaking Mandarin and the 'Malays' would be speaking Bahasa Melayu Purba - a dead language.

So for the BM, I used the kind of language in the original manuscript, sans the more arcane words. The manuscript used some meters in some parts, iambic meters or pentameters, making lines have a lilting, almost rhythmic aliteration and whatnot. So the BM lines you see is basically a simplified Bahasa Melayu Klasik, because there was a concern raised if it was too classical, no one could understand it. Furthermore, Bahasa Melayu Klasik is long-winded and I sensed the scope and breadth of the story would be 'heavy' enough without the dialogues being mnore verbose than it was.

For English, since the film uses English for ALL 'foreign' characters, I went back to my roots - comics. I wrote the English dialogues, night after night, with a copy of Neil Gaiman's World Fantasy Award winning A Midsummer Night's Dream comic book on my lap.

You see, in order for me to write in a particular strong and defined style, I constantly need to read a piece written in that style.

I boast that I can copy any style - with differing levels of success - and the secret is simple. I just need a sample of the writing, and I can forge something similar.

This is why, if you are a writer, when you read something you like, try to get into the writer's head. Try to see it from their eyes. Will it be as good? No, it will be different. Because you're writing it. Not the original.

This, I learned from Neil Gaiman. He wanted to write an RA Lafferty story, and it didn't become an RA Lafferty short story. It became a Neil Gaiman trying to imitate RA Lafferty story. From there, emerged a new style. Gaiman is a writer of many styles. Like a copy-ninja.

The only writer NO ONE has ever been able to copy is Alan Moore. That man is a wizard and he should be burned at the stake.

As long as you don't lift phrases or whole passages - which is plagiarism, by the way - you can get in the mood or mode, and you can be as good as anyone.

This is why, a few weeks back, when an aspiring producer asked me, "Can you write a James Bond script?" I said "Yes."

So the languages were simplified classic BM, as well as some amount of Fakespeare.

I also did the subtitles for this movie, and most of them came out unscathed.

All in all, I do believe this movie to be one of my best film work, though considering I have only written three (actually, more, but three got made).

Congratulations to Yusry, KRU, the cast and crew of Merong Mahawangsa, as well as anyone and everyone involved in the production. I have learned so much from writing it and watching it on the big screen. Thanks for the opportunity.

Go and catch it at cinemas starting March 10!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Village People: The Project

I have been talking about it for some time. Now, I finally return from Kuantan with enough details to embark on my very first project for my village.

There is a family of nine. The main breadwinner had passed away some time ago, leaving his wife and eight children.

Their main concern is to find a place to stay. Previously, they were bunking at a shack beside the mosque.

However, for some reason, they were told to leave that shack and is now staying at a rented place for RM100 a month. They pay RM60 while the local village council pay RM40, every month.

They are in dire need of a place to stay.

The two eldest children have gotten temporary jobs and are making RM1,000 a month in total - barely enough for food and clothing.

The plan is to construct a house similar to Projek Perumahan Rakyat Termiskin (PPRT), at a lower cost.

A plot of land has been identified. The cost for material and manpower to build the shack is RM25,600 (in comparison, a PPRT home is over RM30,000). The house is around 432 square feet, the size of a studio apartment in KL, for nine people.

The cost is around RM59 per square foot, which is cheap, by KL standards which usually sees double that. The house will have one room, with plywood walls, one sink, and one toilet. Six windows, two doors, zinc roof, etc.

I believe that in order to make such a cramped space work for nine people, I would also need funds for some basic furniture. I'm talking about two bunk beds, nine mattresses, some open shelves, a few steel rods, a basic cabinet and a stove for the kitchen and a horde of volunteers.

I have the plans with me, as well as a letter from the village council, pictures and profile of the family in need. Also with me are the account name and number of the village council which will handle this project on that end.

I will spend some of my time finding a tax-deductible charity organisation or foundation to house this project under. I will handle the fund-raising myself, with some help of friends.

Any and all assistance will be appreciated. However, allow me some time to gather my resources first. I have approached some people a few months ago concerning this very thing.

It is not a luxury home we are building, but something out of necessity. The size of the house is limited by the available plot of land as well as funds for the material.

There are over 30 families in need of similar help in my village, according to the headman, but this family is in the most need.

A tentative timeline will be done as soon as I take stock of what resources, contacts and whatnot I have currently at my disposal.

For anything, contact me at

Friday, March 4, 2011

How Are You Involved?

I get this question a lot from people, whenever they read about Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.

"How are you involved?" asked the honestly curious.

"How are YOU involved?" asked the egotistical, spiteful, disbelieving loser whose mother was raped by a dog.

"HOW are you involved?" asked the engineer.

I used to tell them The Truth.

"I wrote the script."

Now, I think I'll have some fun. The next time someone asks, I'm gonna say, "I was Stephen Rahman-Hughes' body double and stunt cock."

Cause most women I know are going to see the movie - even those who knock 'Malay movies' - because of Stephen's pectorals.

Here's how it was on the set:

Yusry: Okay, scene between Stephen and the Twins. Get it on!

Yusry: Okay cut! Stunt cock!

O: Stunt Cock!

Elmy: Stunt Cock!

Razif: Stunt Cock!

Me: Hey, how you doin'?

Me: Hey, how you doin'?

Me: Hey, how you doin'?

Me: Hey, how you doin'?

Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa

Aku belum tengok lagi final cut movie ni. Tengok minggu depan. Tapi hype dah gila-gila dah.

Minggu lepas, aku sentiasa dengar kat radio, masa kat Langkawi. Hari ni, keluar pulak dua muka dekat The Star.

Walaupun aku belum tahu rupa produk yang siap, aku berani kata, setakat ni, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa adalah kerja penulisan skrip filem aku yang paling bagus.

Aku start dengan MySpy, yang walaupun ramai orang tak tengok pun, masih filem yang aku suka pasal lawak Chow Sing Chi ada yang keluar dan menjadi.

Magika pulak, filem muzikal, dah menang besar kat FFM.

Sekarang, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa akan keluar minggu depan.

Aku terus terang, pada mulanya aku memang bimbang pasal filem ni. Macam aku bimbang dengan mana-mana kerja aku. Tapi, lepas aku tengok rushes dan macamana Yusry dan krew serta barisan pelakon melaksanakan HMM, aku rasa diorang dah bawak ke tahap yang tinggi.

Aku harap korang semua pergi tengok la filem ni. Sekali seumur hidup untuk aku terlibat dengan projek besar macam ni.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jejak Kelana: Tidak Menyesal Membunuh Dewa

Sebagai orang gelandangan, aku telah pergi berjumpa dengan tiga orang hari ini.

Yang pertama ialah kerabat aku juga.

Dia datang, naik kuda besi.

Kerabat Bersepuluh: Wahai Tok Sukaria!

Aku: Ya?

KB: Marilah makan di Mahbub!

Aku: Mampukah tunggangan besi mu menampung beratnya daulat kita berdua?

KB: Boleh saja.

Aku: Helmet takde? Helmet?

KB: Ah! Persetankan itu semua. Berambus ke mari!

Aku: Mana mungkin aku menunggang kuda besi tak pakai helmet!

KB: Kuang hajor! Paluan Seribu Ekor Kuda!

Aku: Hikmat Badan Kebal Emas Ateis Jati!

KB: Tinju Maut Pendekar Laut - Tinju Peluru Supersonik! Angin! Api! Elektrik dan Salji!

Aku: Lepasan Arhat! Boddhisativa Menunjukkan Jalan!

KB: Cakar Pembunuh Naga Jurus ke-12 - Naga Muncul Dari Bendang!

Aku: Hikmat Mencuci Tulang Sum-sum! Tinju Fros!

KB: Cis! Kau berani pakai hikmat Ma Wing Shing?

Aku: Apasal? Tak boleh ke?

KB: Seribu Pedang Pulang ke Asal - Kesedihan Tidak Terperi!

Aku: Hikmat Golok Salji Jurus ke-12 - Sejuk Mata Pedang, Dingin Hati.

KB: Kau takkan dapat atasi kuasa dalaman aku - Lengan Unikorn Berapi!

Aku: Aku aktifkan 100% otak aku. Dan aku pakai sarira-sarira naga. Keluar! Parang Neraka! Jalan Syaitan Tidak Terbatas!

KB: Aku pakai pistol! Glock 9mm!

Aku: Okay, okay. Jom makan kat Mahbub.

Begitulah berakhirnya separuh masa pertama hari aku, dengan makan tengahari di Restoran Mahbub.

Trivial Pursuits

One of my greatest fears, having gone through several permutations, is letting my work slip.

My first story for the newspaper, was a cover story. The editor, whom I am still in contact with to this day, spent four hours sitting beside me and editing the whole thing.

As I apologised profusely for - among other things - making her life miserable and destroying her world and existence (I was a very self-centered 23 year old), she went on and restructered the paragraphs.

"I don't need someone who self-flagellates himself," she said. Which made me self-flagellate even more.

When she was done, I took a look at the story, and it was all still mine. My intro, my flow, my little jokes. My sentences, my words. It was all there. The flavour was retained. And yet it is smoother. That, my friends, is the mark of a great editor.

When the piece came out, she told me, who was beaming with pride, "You started out as a cover story writer. Your first story was a cover story. Never go down from there."

I hold on to this. Not chasing covers or becoming a glory-hound, but my work must be up to a certain standard. Regardless of what other people say. When other people say something about your work, it is almost always laced with personal politics, emotions, sentiment, all for good or for bad. Only you know how good or how bad you did. Only you can be honest with yourself. Because everyone else lies. Only you can be honest, at least to yourself.

Pushing myself and my craft is perhaps the only drug I allow in my life. I cannot let it drop. The scale might be different, the stakes either higher or lower, but it doesn't change the game one bit for me.

I will let go and sacrifice everything else - I take extreme risks - in the pursuit of satisfaction.

Otherwise, there is no point.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Optimus Optimal

Don't ask yourself bullshit questions. Instead, ask yourself, 'what would Optimus Prime do?'

Transform and roll on the floor laughing my ass off? Well, that seems quaint. For a fucking taint!

I am enjoying my freedom. Alas, I am no longer a dumb 26 year old when I first quit my first job.

I feel more... relaxed? Been working like a dog the past week, but I feel good. I feel calm. I feel like a cowboy.

My mind is as clear as a Japanese koi pond. My aches, my bruises, I don't feel any of them.

I'm choosing my projects carefully. On the top of my list are the ones where I work with people who can teach me things. Ones who can show me skills I have not yet acquired or honed.

This is why I took the job writing movies with KRU. I have never done movies before that and the best way to learn is to do it, and they were good enough to allow me in.

This was why I worked with The Malay Mail, and with NST before that. The day I stop learning and improving my craft, is the day I die.

Last year, I tried out lecturing and I think I can only get better at it. This year, I am doing a documentary and a travelogue, getting involved in ways I have never done before. It's fresh and exciting. And even before it was done, I got opportunities to perhaps try my craft with other documentaries and other setups.

I STILL want to do the website I have planned, if I can find someone - anyone - to do it with. I have also never done marketing. Not seriously. Merely opened doors and then alerted others to lock it in.

By the time I am done with this life, I would like to say that I was a student of the world, and I have learned a lot.

Cause I'm a cowboy! On a steel horse I ride! I'm wanted! (Wanted!) Dead or alive!

Jejak Kelana: Operasi Gelap di Bangsar

Aku baru balik dari kerja membuat kajian di Langkawi dengan penuh pancaroba dan espa roba, dengan tidur hanya dua jam dalam masa dua hari, dan balik naik keretapi yang sungguh menyeronokkan, apabila aku berdepan pula dengan skrip dokumentari lain yang amat menarik.

Salah satu sebab aku berhenti kerja adalah untuk menumpukan perhatian kepada projek-projek sebegini. Aku tau batasan aku, dan aku tak mampu nak mengimbal kerja tetap dan freelance yang makin mencabar.

Dokumentari aku ni, dokumentari pasal zaman 1940s-1980s di Malaysia. Adalah subjeknya. Kehendak dan keperluan produksi memang ketat, dan aku berazam memenuhi kesemuanya walaupun terpaksa mengorbankan masa tidur aku.

Projek ini, tiada jalan pintas. Memang wajib menumpukan perhatian dan usaha. AKu bergelumang dengan rakaman temuramah selama enam jam, beberapa jam visual arkib dan beratus-ratus keping gambar. Juga, tiga buah buku setebal batu-bata. Kekayaan maklumat yang jitu.

Mujurlah, ahli kumpulan ini amat senang membantu. Aku rasa seperti semua orang mahu aku berjaya dalam kerja aku, supaya kerja mereka akan senang juga.

Aku sedang menyiapkan skrip pagi tadi, apabila tiba-tiba, blackout. Cilakak punya TNB. Aku call, pastu diberitahu yang pencawang kat Bangsar dah meletup dibom pengganas komunis.

Dia cakap lagi satu atau dua jam.

Aku pun tunggulah, sambil mintak maaf kat kumpulan aku, pasal aku akan hantar lambat.

Tiba-tiba, aku dapat panggilan telefon waktu tengahari. Ada la pulak orang nak suruh aku buat tiga bijik dokumentari. Aku tak tau aku akan ambik atau tak, pasal tengok jadual, kelapangan masa dan juga bayarannya, serta subjek dokumentari. Kalau nak buat dokumentari pasal pengetip kuku, aku taknaklah kot, melainkan dia bayar aku banyak.

Tunggu punya tunggu, dah dua jam. AKu call TNB balik. Rupa-rupanya, dua pencawang pulak kena bom dengan puak pemisah Hamas.

Berapa lama? Aku tanya. Satu-dua jam lagi.

Aku baring, dah tertidur. Bangun-bangun, takde eletrik lagi. Pastu baru ada. Ada la, empat jam kot?

AKu cepat-cepat siapkan dan email. Sekarang rasa selamat dah, tapi aku perasan dokumentari tu dah jadi panjang sangat. Panjang takpe, boleh potong.

Sekarang, aku nak tumpukan pada projek yang berikutnya pulak. Projek yang mampu bawak aku pergi menjelajah satu Malaysia.

Inilah dia Jejak Kelana!