Thursday, August 26, 2004

Am I sentimental, or just mental?

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.

Late last year, a British book reviewer asked Arundhati Roy, the award-winning author of "The God of Small Things", why she had "slipped" into such extreme sentimentality in her then latest book. I found her reply to the question at once refreshing and reassuring.

"Why are you so afraid of your sentiments?" she said, or words to that effect.

For years I had been pooh-poohed by people in the advertising industry for the unabashedly sentimental stories I tell in my Petronas festive season commercials. Ms Roy's words reassured me that I needn't apologise for any of it.

Why? Well, try this test. Step One, look back on your life. Step Two, remove every bit of sentimentality from it. What have you left? Only the worst life imagineable, that's what.

And so, with or without Ms Roy's encouragement, Yasmin-the-Incorrigible marches on.

First it was those saccharin tear-jerking, button-pressing Petronas ads for Independence Day. Then it was "Rabun" -- that diabetic tale about a wrinkly old couple soaping each other in the garden.

Someone's mother-in-law actually told her to turn off the tele immediately while "Rabun" was showing, because she couldn't stand the sight of old people being lovey-dovey. (She doesn't seem to mind the scenes of Malay husbands shouting at, slapping around, and two-timing their wives in Malay TV dramas, though.)

And now "Sepet". Cynics and lovers of restraint and subtle cinema, please seriously consider bringing barf bags into the theatre with you -- we have a scene where young man asks young lady, "How long do you think it takes to fall in love?", to which young lady replies, "A minute."

Better still, don't go! Give it a miss. Don't waste your eight bucks, only to walk out spitting and cursing afterwards.


If, like me, you feel there just aren't enough hearts worn on sleeves these days... that crying at movies is something to be happy about simply because you still can... and that the demands of the day would be a lot more bearable if we held back from getting angry and being nasty, but jumped at every chance to be sweet and kind... then I'd like you to look out for my next sentimental Petronas commercial, and find time, if you can, to see my next film.