Big splash

Film producer Ahmad Puad Onah is hopeful that his latest family oriented fantasy film Duyung, starring Maya Karin as a mermaid and funnyman Saiful Apek as an environmentalist, can exceed box-office expectations when it opens in cinemas today. Ahmad, who is also the general manager of Grand Brilliance Sdn Bhd (GBSB), previously announced that he targets the film to reap as much as RM10mil in the box-office. 

It was not an empty boast when Ahmad announced this but a reflection of what he considers a real possibility even though no Malay film to date has achieved such numbers. On average, a Malay film that does well in the box-office collects around RM2mil to RM3mil but recently some films such as Cicakman and Jangan Pandang Belakang have taken in over RM5mil in the box-office. 

Ahmad Puah Onah: ‘We arelooking into taking our films toIndonesia.’

Ahmad pointed out in an interview recently that collaborative efforts or “joint ventures” between different filmmakers makes all the difference and it helps if the movie respects its audience.  

Duyung is a collaborative effort among three production companies: GBSB, LineClear Motion Pictures and KRU Films. The film’s director is Associate Professor A. Razak Mohaideen (from LineClear who has been responsible for box-office hits such as the Anak Mami films and Nana Tanjung). KRU Films, on the other hand, scored big with their superhero movie Cicakman.  

Ahmad explained why he sought other filmmakers for this project.  

“This is the first movie which involves three parties. LineClear’s strength is in production. They’re good at managing cost, managing people. KRU are good at post-production. And GBSB is good at marketing, promotions and distributions,” he said.  

To date, GBSB has been responsible for producing such films like Otai, Mukhsin, Waris Jari Hantu, Rock, Dunia Baru The Movie, Nana Tanjung 2, Salon and Cinta. 

As for the RM10mil figure, Ahmad admitted that it was “his dream” to achieve such a goal but nevertheless, where Duyung is concerned, the film has the promotional backing and a large amount of film prints sent out to cinemas all over the country to make sure that even the spill-over crowd (an industry term referring to those who are unable to watch a film because the tickets are all sold out) gets to catch the film as well. 

“For Duyung, we’re spending RM1.5mil on promotions, inclusive of DiGi (support). DiGi is spending a lot ... nearly a million on promotions in newspapers, TV, and radio.  

“If we hit the right target, RM5mil-RM6mil shouldn’t be a problem because right now we have 61 prints. It is the largest ever for a Malay movie. I think we will be overtaken by (horror film) Congkak next month but right now, it’s the biggest.”  

Maya Karinis the lovelymermaid inDuyung.

Sponsoring the movie works for Digi too. Norita Mohd Noh, head of the Malay segment at Digi, said: “By sponsoring high quality movies like Duyung, Digi hopes to create brand affinity within local communities. Road shows and other on-ground events to promote Duyung are a way for Digi to increase its presence in segment markets. 

“It is also our hope that local filmmakers will continue to produce edgy movies that can be enjoyed by all with the support from corporations.” 

The promotions for Duyung cost just as much as making the movie itself (RM1.5mil) and Ahmad believes that if people are aware that such a film is coming out and are talking about it be it through word-of-mouth or on the Internet, then people will flock to the cinemas. 

“Malay movies usually are (all about) the promotion,” declared Ahmad.  

While Ahmad stresses the importance of promotion for a film, the story presented in the film itself is equally crucial. 

“I think the audience wants something different now compared to 10 years ago, (what) with so many TV channels (available). They have so much choice but they still want to go out. These are the 13-to-25 age group. It is a social thing. They want something related to them but they don’t want the films to (point out) what’s right and wrong. They want to find out for themselves. That’s why films like Remp-It did well. 

“They don’t want to watch an educational movie, which forces (its values) down their throats. You can have all those moral issues in a film but let them find out for themselves. You give them that ... they will flock to the cinema. That’s how I see it.” 

In Duyung, Saiful plays Jimmy, a vegetarian and an environmentalist who disdains fishing as an occupation and thus becomes an outsider in his village. Jimmy believes the myth his mother told him that if the environment is looked after, then a mermaid will appear. And it does, in the form of Maya Karin, which does not bode well with the rest of the villagers. 

The film also stars Yasmin Hani, Awie, Yassin, Rosnah Mat Aris, Hafidzuddin Fazli and Abu Bakar Omar. 

Ahmad dreams of locally made movies being sold to the overseas markets but he is realistic in the sense that the local films being made right now cater to a local audience. And if a film is intended for an international audience, Ahmad acknowledges that it needs a higher budget and production quality.  

The practical man has been in the local film industry for 10 years and has the experience; he has found a way to take local movies overseas and earn a profit at the same time. How has he done this? The answer lies in “joint ventures” and it involves the critically and commercially acclaimed GBSB production Cinta which came out last year. 

“Our films still cater to Malaysian audiences ... but it’s also our dream to go beyond. So for a start, we are looking into taking our films to Indonesia.”  

And that's exactly what they've done with Cinta. 

“We produced an Indonesian-version, a remake of Cinta, we call it Love (for the Indonesian version). The story is the same except for some minor changes but the director is still Kabir (Bhatia) but the cast is Indonesian. We produced it in Indonesia and it was released there on Feb 14 and it’s doing very, very well. In the first week, we collected RM2mil and it’s still showing.” 

Duyung opens in cinemas today.