By AZHARIAH KAMIN
ACTOR-director-scriptwriter Afdlin Shauki wanted to make the movie Papadom so he could tell his story and people could watch it. The drama revolves around a father’s love for his child and the sacrifices he makes in the name of love. With Afdlin at the helm, needless to say, there are lots of laughs along the way.
Produced by Tayangan Unggul, Papadom finds Afdlin taking on the role of the dad who obssesses so much over his daughter that he decides to leave his successful business to become a gardener at the university where she studies, just so he can keep an eye on her!
“It is a love story and a family-oriented comedy which I think we haven’t tackled here in a while,” offers Afdlin in a recent interview.
If you are a parent, this is the kind of film that will prompt you to wonder just how far you would go to protect your child. And if you are a son or a daughter then you will realise just how far your parents are willing to go to protect you simply because they love you.
But why, pray tell, is the movie called Papadom (which is a crispy thin wafer originating from India)?
“I called it Papadom because the title is catchy, short and will be understood by different races easily,” Afdlin explained. “If you notice, I have used simple words – such as Buli – for most of my movies. As for titles like Los Dan Faun and Sumolah, even foreigners can understand them.”
Afdlin went on to explain that the movie shares some traits with the crunchy snack, which adds flavour to one’s main meal.
“If you don’t have it, your meal will still be complete. But by adding papadom, the meal will taste better. A papadom is like all the little things in life – it may come in a small portion but its impact is huge and meaningful.”
And here’s the clincher – Papadom if read right could also mean Papa-dom. “Like a kingdom where the father reigns supreme,” Afdlin offers cheekily.
In Papadom, Afdlin stars as Saadom, a successful nasi kandar shop owner. He is husband to Munira (Noorkhiriah) and father to Miasara (Liyana Jasmay). Because his thriving business takes up a huge chunk of Saadom’s life, he has very little time to spend with his family.
Everything changes, however, after his wife’s untimely death.
From then on, Saadom becomes obsessively protective over his daughter. When Mia is all set for university life, Saadom panics. His plans to stay close to Mia land him in a series of unlikely and comical situations, including falling in love with Mia’s lecturer Professor Balqis (played by Vanidah Imran).
Budgeted at RM1.4mil and filmed in Penang, Shah Alam and Kuala Lumpur in late 2007, the movie has only just begun its run now because there were technical glitches to overcome along the way.
Papadom is loosely based on Afdlin’s own life as a father and a husband. Afdlin admits that he relies heavily on his producer-scriptwriter wife, Christina Orow, to raise their two young daughters – Miasara, 10, and Anaif, 8, – due to his hectic and sometimes irregular hours of work.
“I still remember how the idea came about,” the 38-year-old director says. “We were on a holiday together and I looked at my wife and wondered what I would do if she were not around. What would happen if she were suddenly taken away? What would I do as a man and a father?
“Most married men are too dependent on their wives for their family’s well-being. What happens when that source of strength is gone?”
Working on Papadom, Afdlin admits, reminded him of his responsibilities and the importance of family.
“I came to realise that in the past 10 years, I had been focusing so much on my work that I hardly spent time with my girls. In the movie, Saadom tries his best to raise his daughter and
I’m sure many fathers out there can empathise with his predicament of raising his child on his own.”
Papadom has the distinction of being a Best Picture winner even before having been screened for the general public. The movie only opened at local cinemas yesterday, but bagged the best film trophy at the 22nd Malaysian Film Festival held in Sabah, in August. The accolade will definitely give the film an added edge, and spur audiences to check out what it has in store.
Besides best film, Papadom also enabled Afdlin to win the Best Actor award and Best Original Script awards, while the film’s young leading lady, Liyana, picked up the Best Actress Award. Syed Ahmad Faizal Syed Fadzil – aka Pacai – won for Best Original Music Score.
That’s no small feat. Undoubtedly, these awards have placed a lot of pressure on Afdlin.
“Winning the Best Film award is big honour for me ... it is the most prestigious award I’ve ever won,” he says.
“However, I’m quite nervous now because I know expectations started running high after the film festival. I also realise that quite a number of movies that win at film festivals are not box office successes.
“I guess how Papadom fares at the cinemas now will be an acid test for us. Just maybe the best movie will become a box-office draw as well,” Afdlin hopes.
Nonetheless, Afdlin feels he has already triumphed in some ways. “It is the first time a dramedy (drama-comedy) has been named best film; previous winners were mostly heavy dramas that explored serious issues,” says Afdlin adding that through his career thus far, he had learned that in the movie business one cannot always please everyone.
Afdlin made his debut as an actor as part of the supporting cast for Shuhaimi Baba’s Mimpi Moon, which was followed by his role as the interpreter in the Hollywood movie Anna And
The King (starring Jodie Foster). After this, came a slew of movies including Soal Hati, Soalnya Siapa?, Buli, Biar Betul, long-running TV programme Phua Chu Kang, Baik Punya Cilok, Buli Balik, Sumolah and Sepi. This year alone, he’s starred in two flicks, Setem and Los Dan Faun.
He has certainly left his mark, winning the Best Actor award in Soal Hati (in 2001), Buli Balik (2006) and again this year.
In 2004, Afdlin made his screen debut as writer-director in Buli. For his efforts, he bagged the Most Promising New Director award, Best Screenplay and Best Original Story at the 17th Malaysian Film Festival. Since then, he’s made at least one movie a year including Biar Betul, Baik Punya Cilok, Buli Balik, Sumolah and Los Dan Faun (2009). Afdlin also directed as well as acted in a Thai film called Brave in 2007.
What are his expectations for Papadom?
“I have done my best and the rest lies in the audience’s hands. I feel like I’m giving birth (now that the movie has hit the cinemas). I have never given birth before but I watched the two births of my daughters so I kind of know what that feels like. It is just so scary because expectations are so high,” reveals Afdlin who isn’t happy just resting on his laurels.
The hardworking director has just completed his next film, Jalan Lama, a fantasy thriller which centres on two brothers (played by Hans Isaac and Que Haidar) who have to return to their kampung to attend their father’s funeral.
“As a director, this is my first try at a fantasy thriller. I guess I like being versatile and trying out different things.”
Afdlin doesn’t really have a preference when it comes to genres. “The process of making each movie is different and this is ultimately what gives me different kinds of satisfaction.
Regardless of the type of movie, the director ensures that the set is always filled with laughter and that his actors have a great time.
At the moment, however, Afdlin is a little disappointed because his movie was given a PG-13 rating by the local authorities.
The rating has comes as a big shock to the director because Papadom is a feel-good family movie, and it also means that he won’t be able to watch the movie with his children, both of whom are below 13!
The celebrity dad has taken a step away from behind the cameras recently and has been busy rehearsing for the upcoming theatrical presentation of Cuci The Musical (based on Hans Isaac’s 2007 movie) which kicks off on Oct 23 at Istana Budaya.
“Rehearsals have been fun, fun and fun. Zahim (Albakri) is an oustanding director. But it was bit weird initially. When we first started rehearsals, I had just completed directing Jalan Lama, where I was the “commanding officer” – ordering people around the film set. And then suddenly I found myself (at the Cuci rehearsals) the buruh kasar. It was bit a shock for me,” admitted Afdlin, laughing and adding that it has been fun going back to theatre as he “grew up in theatre.”
With so much succcess under his belt already, what else is left for Afdlin to conquer?
The unassuming star hopes to produce more films and that in five years’ time, his movies will penetrate the overseas market.
“I don’t think this is a difficult dream to achieve as people in the West are always interested to hear our stories ... you know, tales from a different culture? In years to come, it will surely not be enough to cater just to a Malaysian audience. Filmmakers, like myself, will need to think out of the box and cater to the world market.”
Papadom is now playing at cinemas nationwide.