Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Back to Basics

My father often asks about what people in KL eat, because to him, human existence revolves around very basic needs - food, clothing, shelter.

For a long time, I thought this was backwards thinking. Surely, a maturing civilisation and the march of progress means humans - Malaysians as well, even though some are monkeys - can focus on more elaborate and sophisticated constructs and themes. Democracy, for example, or spiritual enlightenment, economic progress, luxury and value-added living.

I believe that I have come full circle by acknowledging the fact that if we, as humans and Malaysians, can go back to basics, we can finally and fully attain all these complex things.

For example, Bunohan is widely regarded as one of the best films from Malaysia in the past 30 years, if not THE best. For me, that accolade of being the best Malaysian film is Kami, the one with Sudirman in the '80s. Some people like Yasmin Ahmad movies, others KL Gangster, Ombak Rindu, Kil, Sembilu, Perempuan, Isteri dan Jalang, etc.

What these great movies have in common is  respect for the basics. Bunohan is just - to me - pure flawless textbook execution of theme, character, story and shots. Ombak Rindu played on the base instincts of the audience, while Sembilu was groundbreaking in its simple concept and cross-medium offering.

Kil's appeal to me is the earnestness and love for filmmaking the makers displayed through their craft. Yasmin Ahmad's films and Kami were a masterclass in the basic premise of appealing to your base emotions, and the thought that underneath everything, humans are good people.

In the SlamDunk manga, Anzai always harped on the importance of basic skills and basic training. Journalists always fall back on basic techniques when writing. Those who try to break the rules without knowing what rules are in place and why they are there, would usually fail miserably. Or flounder in bewilderment as to why things turn out in certain ways.

Anzai had a promising student who moved to the States, thinking, "If I breathed the air there, I would jump higher." No such thing, and he floundered because despite the amazing potential, he recklessly disregarded core basic skills.

I believe that in the race for gimmicky innovation and 'making an impact', many creative people and creative projects suffered with their basics. This makes some creative projects hollow, because the basics are the core of anything. Remove the core, and you have something that makes a loud sound but really has no substance.

I believe that lots of Malaysian films are being rejected by the Malaysian audience (on average) simply because the films are no longer well-made due to the disregard to the basics. We are all perhaps valuing ourselves much too highly to be bothered by the basics, and pride would always come before the fall.

When I first started writing, I had only one dream - to do comics properly. That was my one and only drive. I love the two great styles of storytelling in comics - Western and Japanese. I want to go back to my roots and enjoy myself - because that is my core. I'm a wanker.