Thursday, September 20, 2012


On September 18 theSun published an interview of mine where I have interviewed Shuhaimi Baba talking about her latest film Tanda Putera.  

 Title: That one day in May

Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba shares her views on her latest movie which revisits an unpleasant part of our nation’s history

BY Bissme S

Award-winning filmmaker Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba’s latest movie Tanda Putera delves into a dark yet significant chapter of Malaysia’s history.Its storyline centres on how the late Tun Abdul Razak, who was prime minister from 1970 to 1976, and his deputy, the late Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, restored racial harmony and peace in the country after the infamous racial riots of May 13, 1969. 
Award-winning actor Rusdi Ramli plays the titular role of Abdul Razak, while model-turned-actor Zizan Nin takes to the screen as Ismail. Others in the cast of local celebrities include Faezah Elai, Linda Hashim, Kavita Sidhu and Norman Hakim.
Here, Shuhaimi sheds more light on Tanda Putera, produced on a budget of RM5 million and set for a nationwide release on Nov 15.

*Why did you make this film?

I wanted the younger generation to be aware of the May 13 incident, how racial riots almost destroyed our country and why we shouldn’t let this happen again. We must now selfishly safeguard the peace of  this country.
“This is not a political film. It’s a film about humanity. No country in the world has faced a similar situation like ours, where both the prime minister and deputy prime minister had to brace a critical illness (Razak was suffering from leukaemia and Ismail had a heart problem) while having to handle tension among various racial groups.
“These leaders put the nation before their health. There were allegations that Razak had orchestrated the racial riots just to win the election. But I believe that was impossible.”

*Why do you think these allegations existed in the first place?

I don’t understand much about politics. But what I do know is that in politics, you have camps and you want to safeguard your power base, so you create conspiracy theories.
Our research shows that after Singapore left Malaysia (in 1965), there had been many efforts to destabilise this country.
The young people today do not understand that at that time, the threat of communism and radical elements were very real. It’s difficult to imagine the situation today, because our country is so peaceful now.

*Comments have been made that you make the Chinese look bad in this film. What do you have to say to that?

You cannot judge the entire film by just looking at the trailer. In the movie, I highlight the communists who create chaos but I also feature Malay gangsters who cause discord too.
There is also a rally before the 1969 election where some people are singing songs that praise Mao Tse-tung. Some are holding placards that belittle the Malays. It’s clear the rival groups are going beyond the limit.
What upset me most were the remarks I received (via Facebook). They were racist, rude and vulgar. I didn’t create those images in the film out of nothing. I have done much research [on the subject].”

*What have you learnt about Razak and Ismail while making this film?

I learnt of Razak’s great love for the people, especially the poor and the destitute. He always carried a book with him wherever he went. The book was called The Pathology of Leadership and it tells about leaders around the world who are suffering from critical illnesses and how they are dealing with it.
These leaders believed that they should not make their ailments public as it could destabilise the country. So, Razak kept his illness a secret because he didn’t want to weaken the country.
As for Ismail, I found out that he had given his Chinese maid a loan so that she could buy her own house. Apparently, she is still keeping the house in remembrance of  Ismail.
I was also always under the impression that it was Tunku Abdul Rahman who gave former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad the boot from Umno.
“But I was wrong. It was Ismail.”

*Is there any other historical event in our country that you would like to make a film on?

I would like to make a film on how Mahathir saved our country from economic disaster in 1998 when the world economy crashed.
Then there was the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim by Mahathir, which gave rise to  another dramatic chronology of events in Malaysia’s history.

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