Ali, Ah Chong and Muthu
JULY 14 — Now here’s the thing: I may be branded a heretic for saying this but I actually dislike Yasmin Ahmad’s movies. You know all those Chinese boy/Malay girl lovey-dovey and “Mukhsin” what-nots?
For one thing I find this scenario repetitive as it keeps appearing in her movies (or ads) but mostly the reason why I find it hard to love her work is because I can’t seem to relate to it.
Now some of you might think that I am a keris-wielding Malay ultra who does not have friends of other races, hence I am unable to relate to Yasmin Ahmad’s movies. I admit that I wielded the keris before and there’s this absence of guilt in me nor do I have the urge to offer an apology about it, but I actually do have a healthy number of non-Malay friends.
Yet I do not have the urge to burn Chinese/Indian schools nor do I have a complex about ridiculing my own race to prove that I am truly Malaysian. Let’s just say I am like any normal Malay kid who went to a sekolah kebangsaan (national school), hung out with a lot of non-Malay friends (to this very day) and I have once in a blue moon fallen for a non-Malay girl (well, okay, maybe more than once). Yet as a person who supposedly went through that Malaysian experience I can’t seem to relate to Yasmin’s movies.
The first thing I learned when I first started hanging out with the Chinese boys in secondary school was how to curse fluently in Cantonese, so that picturesque Petronas ad where Malay, Chinese and Indian kids play and help each other and sing songs or what not, I never experienced that.
To me “Sepet” or “Gubra” is rather artificial; instead of mirroring what multiracial Malaysia is, it is what Malaysia should be in Yasmin’s imagination. There’s nothing wrong with that since that is what movies are all about.
And that goes not just for Yasmin’s movies, but a lot of those Merdeka ads and propaganda flicks featuring Ali, Ah Chong and Muthu. Look, when I was a kid my best friend was an Indian and trust me, we didn’t sing “Ikan di laut, asam di darat” together while fishing or have many romantic gay moments.
In fact, many times we had fist fights because one of us somehow made an over the top remark about the other’s father. We would kiss and make up the very next day just like any other kid and life went on. Of course, we grew up and went our separate ways but whenever I bump into him these days, we don’t serenade each other.
Look, to me Malaysia must not just be about Ali, Ah Chong and Muthu. Two Malay “pakciks” wearing kopiahs walking to the mosque for Maghrib prayers is Malaysia, as well as a bunch of Iban boys playing football, a Sikh man riding a motorcycle without wearing a helmet, that yuppie who vehemently declares himself Malaysian yet can’t have a decent conversation in Bahasa Malaysia, or the stereotype that Malays smoke Dunhills while Chinese smoke Malboro lights.
The thing I notice is we Malaysians have this mindset and mental picture that Malaysia must be that picturesque scene where Ali, Ah Chong and Muthu do something together underneath a sappy slogan.
Of course the usual rabid fanboys would immediately go on the offensive by saying that it’s the brainwashing of Barisan Nasional albeit Umno, MCA, MIC propaganda — but trust me, if you look at Pakatan Rakyat posters or events you will see the very same thing. A ceramah will have three speakers — a Malay, Chinese and Indian. Political propaganda in Malaysia lacks creativity, I tell you.
I guess what I am trying to say is that perhaps the very reason why we have this problem when it comes to unity amongst Malaysians is that we have this artificial idealistic mental image that we try again and again to enforce on society.
Instead of accepting who we are and cultivating unity in more natural ways, we opt for something that is rather foreign. To make my point clear, unity is not just about Ali and Ah Chong walking together holding hands singing songs. Unity is when Ali and Ah Chong fight not because of race, religion but rather because they both wanted the last cookie in the jar. Unity is when Ali is friends with Ah Chong not because he is Chinese, rather because they both love football. I hope you get my idea.
It’s like that Petronas ad where Tan Hong Ming, who is probably eight or nine years old, has this crush on this Malay girl. Which is fine, but if I remember correctly eight-year-old boys dislike girls, as girls are yucky and annoying. Instead, young boys usually have crushes on their teachers instead. If it were my ad, Tan Hong Ming would have had a crush on his teacher.