The journey continues

A sneak peak of the upcoming Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa promises a movie of epic proportions.

The progress of KRU studios’ epic fantasy action film Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, which was shot last year and is now currently in post-production, is going smoothly as witnessed by members of the media who were invited to catch a four-minute trailer at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Not many local movies have their sneak preview trailers screened at DFP. This is one epic film with the complete works – including the soundtrack. It was also no coincidence that the screening was held at DFP as the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) collaborated with the film-makers and recorded the film’s score.

This marks the first time a local film score has been jointly composed and recorded by the MPO. The original film score was composed by KRU Studios’ composers Reza Ramsey and Yudi Ashadi and later re-arranged by Ahmad Muriz Che Rose and Vivian Chua for the MPO orchestra, which featured 105 musicians.

Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa is KRU studios’ biggest film project to date with an estimated budget of RM8mil and has set its sights on the international market as well.

Powerhouse trio: KRU Studios’ (from left) Yusry Abdul Halim, Norman Abdul Halim and Edry Abdul Halim . The studio is currently producing Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.

KRU Studios president and group CEO Norman Abdul Halim announced in his speech: “Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa has been sold to 34 countries to date,” which includes such countries as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and many others.

“The film is being marketed in Cannes at the moment and we will be looking for more distributors for the film. So at the moment it’s 34 countries and counting,” said Norman.

As such, the film bears an international title: The Malay Chronicles – Bloodlines.

British-born actor Stephen Rahman Hughes (of Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical fame) stars as the title character who is charged with escorting a Roman prince on his way to marry a Chinese princess. The film also stars British-based actors Jing Lu and Gavin Stenhouse and Swedish actor Henrik Norman, as well as local actors like Khir Rahman, Datuk Rahim Razali, Nell Ng, Jehan Miskin, Vanida Imran and Mano Maniam, among others.

The trailer revealed amazing shots of different locales of ancient Rome and China and impressive period costumes. Lead actor Hughes gets into plenty of fights and the action takes place on land and sea. There were also sweeping scenes of the various ancient fleets making their way across the ocean.

Norman later revealed that this was the same trailer used to sell the movie to international distributors and it is easy to see why the film has been snapped up. Considering that everything was shot in Malaysia and that it is a period action fantasy epic film which costs around US$2mil (RM6.7mil), it is a feat to be proud of.

Even Norman noted: “The scenes you saw of ancient China that was shot in Taman Seputih (in Kuala Lumpur)!”

Though the film’s director Yusry Abdul Halim wished Norman hadn’t revealed that fact, it’s a testament of KRU Studios’ ability to make fantastic locations right here at home.

Interestingly, the CGI for the film is still in the works, including shots that were used in the trailer.

“There are still thousands of CGI shots to be done and there are also corrections that need to be done where the CGI is in place,” revealed Yusry.

Post-production is due to be completed by July or August of this year.

The film-makers also spoke about the direction they have taken with the film as it is based on the ancient text which features mythical creatures such as the Garuda. The film will be available in two different versions for the local and international market.

“It’s a unique story and the original featured the mythical bird Garuda, but it’s not shown in the film. We’ve decided to take a more realistic approach and turned the mythical bird into the name of a warship. I wanted to make it more believable and not so much steeped in fantasy,” noted Yusry.

As for the two versions of the film, Norman said: “The local version will have more Malay language, especially through the film’s narration. All the narration in the international version will be in English.”

Though Norman noted that it is not an easy film to make, he hopes that KRU Studios will be able to make more of such films.

Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa is our kind of flagship film that has a big budget and is aimed at the international market. There are a lot of opportunities to be gained by making such films and we hope to make two big films like this every five years,” he said.

Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa is slated for release locally early next year.