Growing pains on Kami

The tale of a group of friends growing up and facing the trials and tribulations of life, evolves from TV to the silver screen.

Teen angst, a broken home and the meaning of true friendship - that’s what movie-goers will get when they watch the latest TV-to-movie offering, Kami.

Presented by Grand Brilliance and produced by Red Films, Kami tells the story of five teenagers on the road to self-discovery. As the local gig scene sets the backdrop for the film, it features a lot of music from local indie bands, and this concept appears to appeal very much to today’s teen.

Liyana Jasma y plays Lynn in Kami which opened for screening in cinemas nationwide last week.

Kami maintains its TV cast of Liyana Jasmay as Lynn, Syarul Ezani (Ali), Nas-T (Abu), Juliana Evans (Sofie), Zayanah Ibrahim (Adii) and Zahiril Adzim as Boy.

The film continues from where the series left off, with the characters taking their SPM examinations. Unknown to the rest, Lynn and her mother have moved from their small town home to start afresh in the city away from a persistent small-time drug dealer, Boy, for whom Lynn used to run errands to gain extra pocket money.

In the city, Lynn writes under the pseudonym “Teka Teki” (riddle) for her own, well-known fanzine called “Kami” and has recently contributed a scathing write-up on Ali’s band.

As she struggles to keep her secret identity under wraps, Lynn soon learns that all her friends are hiding some sort of secret from each other.

Kami begins with Abu’s escape from a home for juvenile delinquents and his reunion with Ali to celebrate the the end of high school, and the beginning of their journey into adult life.

Soon their freewheeling post-SPM break is interrupted when Lynn’s old life catches up with her new life and the two worlds collide, setting off a chain of events that will force all of the protagonists to face their personal demons, changing their lives forever.

Abu (left, played by Nas T) and Ali (Syarul Ezani) facing off in Kami.

Practice makes perfect

Kami the TV series aired a year ago over 8TV, and ran for 13 episodes with an estimated half a million viewers.

Initially, the film, was supposed to be released ahead of the series. It all started two years ago, when Fariza Azlina Isahak, 36, and her husband Effendee Mazlan, 35, wrote a film script about a group of teens in an indie-band setting.

In it, the teens have fun together, go to indie gigs together, and also have to make decisions which, ultimately, will affect their lives.

Fariza and Effendee approached Lina Tan of Red Films with the script.

“Initially we approached Red Films with a movie in mind. But Lina told us that a TV series has to come first. She also said that developing Kami as a series first made sense because the character development would be stronger. Besides, practice makes perfect, and any inconsistencies could then be ironed out.”

To develop it as a series, it had to be re-written specifically for television.

Fariza, co-director of Kami, said that it was more difficult to create the film as the script had to take into account viewers not familiar with the series.

“We had to establish as many facts as possible within the film so that it would stand on its own,” she said.

The movie took RM1.4mil and 27 days to make.

“It was a great learning process for us both in terms of technical and human factors,” quipped Effendee about their debut directorial effort.

Because Kami is also about teens who soak up the indie music scene and play music (one of the characters, Syarul Ezany, plays the guitar and sings with the band The Disasters), a great deal of indie music was needed for the film.

Fariza and Effendee had to go to a lot of underground and indie gigs for this purpose and it was fortunate that they were familiar with the scene. But it was difficult to rope in the bands because they are not attached to any recording company or label. The husband and wife duo had to approach each band individually.

Some of the plot lines were derived from observing real life, admitted Fariza, adding that Lynn’s drug dealing history was based on a friend’s story.

“It is not about the drugs itself; we are using that as a catalyst for the story about a friendship between five friends.” Fariza added: “Kami is for teenagers who are facing problems and it is very important for us to touch them and tell them that they are not alone.”

Liyana Jasmay, 20 (Lynn)

“The first time I read the script I got really excited and interested in Lynn’s character. Then during the casting I saw that the directors were very enthusiastic and I could feel it would be a hit series.

“My character Lynn represents many teenagers out there, you know? - part-time drug pushers who sell the drugs to their friends. I really hope that teenagers take a good look at my character and see what happens to her after being involved in drugs.”

Nas-T, 24 (Abu)

“I think through my character Abu, I have progressed somewhat in my acting skills. But I’ve still got a lot to learn and to improve,” said Nas-T who likes action movies.

“I think our characters in Kami are pretty close to the reality of teenagers out there. You know, kids from broken homes, who are involved in drugs - either selling or taking it - and also small-time thieves. I really hope that people will watch the movie and learn something from it,” said Nas-T, whose real name is Nas Muammar Zar.

Syarul Ezani, 19 (Ali)

“My character Ali is the opposite of me in many ways except that both of us are the quiet type.

“I don’t really have any of his experiences as Ali comes from a broken home and is involved in drugs,” said Syarul, who describes himself as a happy-go-lucky person.

So how did he land up in the difficult role of Ali?

“It all started when I met director Bernard Chauly who suggested that I should go for Kami’s auditions. Initially I thought it was easy and I thought I could do it but as filming started, I realised that acting is all hard work.”

Zahiril Adzim, 24 (Boy)

Playing the antagonist Boy was a challenge for theatre actor Zahiril.

“I did my research by watching movies like Fight Club. This is my debut in movie acting and I play such a nasty character! Boy was quite a difficult role to play. He is small in size but has such a domineering presence that people are scared of him,” explained Zahiril, adding that he hopes he doesn’t get typecast as the villain after this movie!

Kami is currently screening in cinemas nationwide.