"Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances." -- Sanford Meisner


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31 Aug - 3 Sep 2017

Art House, Old Parliament, Singapore.


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Friday, August 29, 2014

Penghulu

Utter 2013. Penghulu. Adapted from Pak Suleh (from Penghulu) by Suratman Markasan. Director: Lilian Wang.


This was my first gig in Malay, and since then, I had done other such roles in several short films, including one for Utter 2014.

Thankfully, I still remember enough of the language to plod my way with in Malay. My earliest encounter with the language was when I was four years old, when I watched "Bahasa Kenbangsaan" (National Language) on TV, just before the cartoon telecast. In my school days, everyone had to study Malay - our National Language (and still is)! :) Back then, Chinese people mostly spoke Malay to the other races and among themselves, they spoke their own Southern Chinese dialects of Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese,... etc. Only the folks in Chinese medium schools spoke Mandarin, and then, in its uncorrupted form! 

I am glad to have lived through the era of linguistic diversity in Singapore. There was more character and the different languages curiously relay emotions specific to each ethnic group.

Then in the late 70s, there were grand efforts by the government to standardise the spoken language among the Chinese to Mandarin; while English rapidly moved to centre stage. By 1980, Malay was relegated to be spoken mostly among the Malays.

Today, young Chinese speaks only Mandarin and English (well kinda, more so Singlish). Japanese, Korean and other Asian language dramas are allowed on TV, but not Chinese dialect dramas. Mandarin is now officially my 'mother tongue', though my mother doesn't speak a word of Mandarin. Meanwhile people from China now purportedly speak better mother tongue than I do in my mother country Singapore. Isn't it funny?! lol




The 1970s was also the era when many Singaporeans were evicted from their kampong dwellings of attap huts and patchy agricultural subsistence, to (in comparison) sterile government built apartments that now dots the Singapore skyline. Those were major changes to move from literally living on the ground to living in suspended concrete dwellings in the sky.

"Penghulu" depicts such maladjustments of a village chief, who laments the change and the lost of his familiar casual and happier days in the village. I like the screenplay very much as it captured the slow soothing life of the Penghulu and contrasts it to his mundane and sedate life in the modern apartment.

Nostalgia is sweet, however be careful... as it can also rob us of our present.


Here is the trailer for this year's Singapore Writer's Festival...



If you like to watch some of my Hokkien short films, click here.

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