Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Today theSun run two stories on the Malay movie Tombiruo, based on best seller novel with the same name . The first story centers on the film production while the second story focuses on the author.
Headline: A Clash of Two Worlds
By Bissme S
Film production house Astro Shaw recently held a special screening of its latest film, Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba, for the media and selected guests. The RM6 million action flick, which opens in cinemas tomorrow, was favourably received by the
guests who were especially impressed by the special effects, cinematography, the fight sequences, and touching emotional
Adapted from a bestselling Malay novel by Ramlee Awang Murshid the story centres on a man named Tombiruo, who lives in the forest with his adopted father Pondoluo. Tombiruo, who wears a wooden mask to hide his disfigured face, has a strong connection with the forest, and is considered its protector, complete with magical powers.
When a logging company gets the job to clear a part of the forest for the building of a dam, the company sends in some hired thugs to drive away the local aboriginal community who opposes the project. Tombiruo and his father try to help the villagers, and in the struggle, Pondoluo is killed. The thugs escape, leaving a devastated Tombiruo swearing revenge upon them.
Playing Tombiruo is Zul Ariffin (Evolusi KL Drift 2, J Revolusi). Others in the cast include Farid
Kamil, Nabila Huda, Faizal Hussein, Hasnul Rahmat, and Michael Chen. Helming the film are not one but
two directors – Australian filmmaker Seth Larney and local actor-director Nasir Jani as associate director.
Larney is also a writer and visual effects supervisor who has worked on such Hollywood productions as Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, as well as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. At the Tombiruo screening, the film’s executive producers Najwa
Abu Bakar and Zainir Aminullah dismissed the notion that hiring a foreign director is a sign that Astro lacks faith in local directors.
“We wanted to elevate the Malaysian film industry by pairing a very good local director (in Nasir) with a very good foreign director (in Larney),” said Najwa, who is also head of Astro Shaw.
“[Larney] learns from Nasir, and Nasir learns from [Larney].”
Besides the sharing of knowledge, Najwa believes this move is an excellent marketing strategy for Tombiruo. She explained: “Astro has created box-office hits such as The Journey, Ola Bola, and Polis Evo. But these films have a difficult time
penetrating the overseas market.We want Tombiruo to travel [far].”
Both Najwa and Zainir said that discussions are already underway to distribute Tombirou internationally. Zainir, who is also the chief executive officer of production house Ideate Media, feels that Larney’s experience with effects heavy
films would help Tombiruo appeal to a global audience.
“We are looking at markets where our movies have not gone before,” he added.
Interestingly, both directors were not present for the press conference after the screening of Tombirou. There were rumours of tension between Larney and Nasir, and I could not help but speculate there might be some truth to them. Then again, I could be wrong. Perhaps, both directors were just too shy to meet the Malaysian press.
Actor Farid – who plays forest ranger Amiruddin in Tombiruo – insisted there was no clash of opinions between the two directors
on the set, and the film shoot was smooth sailing.
“Seth and Nasir have different tasks in the film,” he explains. “Seth looked into special effects, while
Nasir made sure the film did not lose its Malay identity. We should be grateful that we had two
directors on the set.”
He also applauded Astro’s move to encourage a collaboration between a foreign director and a Malaysian director.
“Our football team imports foreign players to become better,” Farid said.
“We are doing the same thing here. We are just raising the standard of our films.”
Chen, who plays the film’s antagonist, agreed.
“When I got the role, I did not know the film would have two directors,” said Chen, who is also a film producer and active in the Malaysian theatre scene.
At the start, he was worried that the film might face some rough patches. But he was wrong.
“I never had a better experience on a film set, and [it] was awesome,” he says.
“Both directors were in sync and in harmony.”
Headline: A Writer's Dream
By Bissme S
About 10 years ago, author Ramlee Awang Murshid mstarted a film production company, Layar Sunan, hoping to adapt his novels into films. Tomorrow, the 50-year-old’s dream will come true. The film adaptation of his best-selling novel Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba will be released in cinemas.The film is produced by Astro Shaw, with the cooperation of Layar Sunan.
“This could be the first time that a novelist has turned into a film producer,” says Ramlee, a native of Papar, Sabah.
Asked why he chose this unique route, he says: “There are those who have not read my novels and are not aware of my existence. I [had hoped] this production company would change [that].
“Maybe, after watching the film version of my novels, they will be tempted to pick up my books and read them.”
Tombiruo: Penunggu Rimba tells the tale of a man who is the protector of both the forest and the local aboriginal community. The book follows Tombiruo’s fierce battle with a logging company that is trying to destroy the forest. The novel has two sequels, Tombiruo: Semangat Hutan and Tombiruo Terakhir.
“There was a lot of illegal logging taking place in my hometown (in Sabah), and these novels deal with that issue,” he
“We should not abuse our environment, because nature can strike back.”
Asked if the film would be a faithful adaptation of the novel, Ramlee diplomatically replies: “It is impossible to translate
everything from the novel to the screen.You cannot compress a few hundred pages into a two-hour movie. Some parts you have to
[leave out] so the film will make a better impact. Sacrifices have to be made.”
However, Ramlee says he is happy the film has managed to capture the essence of his novel, which was written in 1998. Next year, Ramlee plans to release the series’ fourth instalment, Tombiruo Legasi. To date, Ramlee has written 35 novels, beginning with a thriller about revenge and murder titled Igauan Maut, in 1995.
At the time, he says, Malay readers were more keen to read romance novels, and his horror novels did not get a good response.
“Some bookshops refused to carry my titles,” Ramlee recalls.
But over the years, readers began to expand their interest, and his novels started selling like hotcakes. One reason for this change, says Ramlee, is because “too many romance novels were flooding the market”.
He adds:“Readers were getting tired of them. They were looking for something different. If you eat chicken every day, you will get bored with chicken.”
Asked about his inspirations, Ramlee cites his father – a prison officer – as the one who sparked his desire to be a storyteller.
“He would tell me what took place in the prison, [including] stories of criminals, in the most suspenseful manner,” says
“There was a period where he even handled the last meals the prisoners had before they were hanged.”
One of the stories that Ramlee remembers vividly is about a prisoner who was extremely depressed when he learnt his
sentence was ending.
“He had spent his whole life in the prison, and the prison had become his home,” Ramlee recalls.
“He did not want his freedom. A month after his release, he committed a robbery so he would be sent back to prison.”
Another story that has an impact on Ramlee is about a murderer who was sentenced to
“A few minutes before [his sentence was to be carried out], the prison office received a call that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong was
visiting Sabah, and no hanging was supposed to take place [that day].”
One month later, the prisoner was facing the hangman again. Ramlee says: “A few minutes before [it was to take place], the
prison office received another call that the Agong had pardoned everyone who was supposed to be hanged that day. The prisoner
escaped death twice!”
Ramlee has written about many interesting subjects, that one wonders if the next step is for him to write an autobiography.
“I have tried to write a book about my life. But my story never got completed. To write about yourself is the
most difficult thing to do. You have to true to yourself and that is not easy.”
He adds with a laugh: “I have done some naughty things in my life.”