Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nam Ron

This article won me the Samad Idris Trophy this year. The annual award was presented by the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas). (To know please log theSun wins Finas award)
The article has the actor cum director Namron, talks about his latest film Gaduh, his fears on growing racial tension and his stand against the death penalty and ISA. The article appears in theSun newspaper on May 7, 2009 . Here is the full article

Headline: The power of open minds and healthy discussions

The creative work of actor cum director Shahili Abdan has been described as radical, bold and ground-breaking. The 40-year-old, who is better known as Namron, talks to Bissme S. about his latest film Gaduh, his fears on growing racial tension and his stand against the death penalty and ISA.

What inspired you to start RAT?

Very often, fresh graduates from art colleges are clueless about where to go to improve their talent. Soon enough, some of them will get frustrated and disappear, and not be heard again. They need encouragement. When I graduated, I had a lot of encouragement from Faridah Merican (The Actors Studio), Krishen Jit and Marion D’Cruz (Five Arts Centre) to continue my passion as an artist.
I want to do the same for the younger generation. So I created a platform where the younger generation can express themselves and have a chance to showcase their talent.

What is your latest project?

I just co-directed a film titled Gaduh with Brenda Danker. It highlights the racial tension between Malay and Chinese students in a school. It happened to me when I was in school. I hope Gaduh will spark a healthy discussion on racial tension.

Why do you like to highlight sensitive themes?

I believe we must be able discuss any issue with an open mind and only then will we be able to find some solutions.
Not discussing certain issues is like sweeping rubbish under the carpet. The place may look clean but we should ask: Is the place really clean? How long can we sweep it under the carpet? Sooner or later the rubbish will slip out.
We are always saying that we do not have racial tensions and we get along very well. But is that a true picture?

Some people say Malaysian audiences are not matured enough to discuss sensitive issues with an open mind.

If you say that, then I have failed as an artist and you have failed as a journalist. We should train audiences to come to that level. It is our responsibility. If artists like me and journalists like you are brave enough to discuss these so-called sensitive issues with an open mind, the audience will follow our example. Society is what we expose them to.
You find urban folk are more exposed compared to rural folk. Why is that? It is because there are underground films, theatres and music in urban areas compared to rural areas.
As a result, the urban folk are not subject to one point of view. They can see different opinions floating around.

Some people say you love to highlight sensitive themes for the sake of being controversial and cheap publicity. 

(He laughs). If I want to be controversial and get cheap publicity, all I have to do is include a kissing scene in my work. I would be famous. My face would be splashed in the newspapers. But I have not done that.
If artists always talk about safe topics, then we will never progress, we will never push boundaries and we will never find solutions to our problems.

Your works paint a picture you hate the country. Is that true?

The mentality here is if we criticise someone that means you hate someone. Criticising and hating are two different things.
If I make a political play and criticise the political system it doesn’t mean I hate my country. It is because I want the situation to improve. I want to stay in this country for a long time and I want my children to stay here for a long time, too. Therefore, I want my country to be a better place.
I don’t have an agenda. As an artist I always mingle with the crowd and I listen to their opinions. I sit in the coffee shop and listen to their conversations. What I am presenting on stage and screen is what people are thinking and talking.

Why do you like creating work that carries political themes?

The relationship between our politics and our society is very close. They influence each other very much. I like to make one thing clear: I am not a supporter of any political party. If the opposition takes over the government … Are we saying corruption will disappear? Are we saying abuse of power will stop? The opposition are not perfect. We have to keep our eyes on them as well.
In a democratic country like ours, it is the people who should have the power, not the government and not any political party. It is the people who should have the last say. It is the people who should benefit the most.
But I am glad to say the last election result showed things are changing and people are realising they have the power to make a change.
I am also glad to see we now have a two-party system. In this way any government or political party has to be on its toes, keep its record clean and aim to keep the people happy.
If the people are not happy, they can always change you in the next general election. It goes to show the government has to hear what the people want and fulfil their needs.
One good example, when Najib was appointed as the prime minister, he immediately released 13 ISA detainees. I was happy about that.
Some people will say it was not done with genuine intention, that it was more of a political move for his party to win people’s hearts. They could be right but in the end, it is the people who benefit the most.
The (detainees’) families are happy to get back their loved ones who were behind bars. It builds hope among us that there is more freedom.

What is the one single change you like to see?

Frankly, we have to re-look our racial policies. I find over the years we have become very suspicious. We do not trust each other.
Whenever I am with my own race, I sometimes hear them making unkind remarks about others. If my own race is talking like this, I guess others are doing the same.
I keep thinking why this mentality exists. We are living under one roof. We should be acting as one family. We should be able to think of ourselves as Malaysians. We should trust each other.
But we are not.Such a negative attitude is not healthy in the long run. It could be likened to a small fire in the forest. If it is not controlled, the whole forest could burn down.

You are against the Internal Security Act. You even produced a play about it. But some people say ISA is necessary for stability.

Is the ISA being used for the stability of the country or is it being used to maintain the stability of certain individuals. That is the question we should ask?
If you hear that someone is going to blow up KLCC and you detain him, that is understandable. I would say you are putting your country’s interest first. You are preventing innocent people from getting hurt.
If you are going to detain someone for writing a blog then you are making a mockery of the ISA. The ISA has been abused. Confining someone without trial can be inhumane. I am also against the death penalty. If a murderer sincerely repents then we should forgive him.

Have you gotten into trouble with the law for your work?

I have not been called up to the police station and I have not been put behind bars. I thank my lucky stars.

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