Saturday, July 01, 2006

In Praise Of Mongrels.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
I was just thinking only recently. Lately, I’ve been urged, both directly and indirectly, to stop messing about with our “culture” and start preserving it.

Granted, the demands were made mostly by people of questionable intellectual agility. But one must be fair, mustn’t one, and give all suggestions due consideration.

And so, after two whole seconds of deep thought, I did what any decent self-respecting Malaysian citizen would do in such a situation. I laughed my head off.

I was then right in the middle of shooting my new film “Mukhsin. My First Love Story”, and therefore, was in the company of my barking mad film crew/friends.

“If I’m to preserve our dear culture,” I hollered at my executive producer Rosnah Kassim, “which particular culture should I preserve, given that I’m part Indonesian and part Japanese?”

“No point in asking me,” she muttered behind her famous feral grin, “I’m half Malay, half Chinese!”

That’s when we decided to make out a comprehensive list of our cast and crew’s ethnic backgrounds, paying particular attention to the “mongrels” among us.

The hero of our film, Mohd Syafie bin Naswip: Malay + Arab.

The heroine, Sharifah Aryana binti Syed Zainal Rashid: Bengali + Chinese + Arab + Malay.

As for the crew, you now know the bloods running through the confused veins of Rosnah and I, so here’s a brief run-through of some of the others.

1st Assistant Director, Pete Abdullah: Chinese + Malay.

Editor, Affandi Jamaludin: Malay + Indian.

Producer, Rayyan Harris: Malay + Chinese + Portuguese + English.

Production Assistant, Harris Zeka: Indonesian + Arab + Chinese.

Production Assistant, Pipi: Malay + Chinese.

Talent Coordinator, Zila: Indonesian + Chinese.

Assistant Art Director, Jie Suria: Malay + Thai.

Continuity, Hashim: Arab + Indonesian.

Assistant Continuity, Aegi: Chinese + Malay.

Props Assistant, Simon Langi: Iban.

Make-up Artist, Hadthim Tai: Thai + Bengali + Malay.

Wardrobe Stylist, Shahrom: Thai + Malay.

Gaffer, Anuar Kingkong: Malay + Indian.

Still Photographer, Adam Ariel Tunguia: Filipino + Kadazan + Chinese.

And there you have it. Quite possibly the most racially impure production cast and crew you’re ever likely to meet at any given film set or location. Is it any wonder we’re out “mencemar-ing” the “budaya” and “bahasa” some people are jealously guarding? We’re pretty ethnically “tercemar-ed” ourselves.

Set aside Rosnah and I (two wicked wenches often dismissed by some parties as beyond redemption and about as useful as wings on fish), I can’t help but wonder where this country would be without some “rojak” folks.

Jit Murad, the infamously irreverent local stand-up comedian, and one of my favourite people in the world, once gibed on one of his shows, “Everyone knows that in this country, any Malay of any distinction has Indian blood.” He was largely referring to himself, of course, the cheeky monkey, but I remember fondly thinking of my all-time national hero, Dr M, upon hearing Jit’s remark.

Dr Jemilah Mahmood, founder and President of MERCY Malaysia, and to my mind the greatest woman ever to walk on Malaysian soil, would proudly announce to anyone who cared to listen that she was born of a Malay father and a Chinese mother. A regular “Sepet” baby, you might say.

And yet these days, in the 21st ruddy century for goodness’ sake, you still come across social influencers who openly declare that we shouldn’t even be allowed to share the joy of each other’s festive occasions. And judging from their objections to Orked and Jason’s love affair, I could even name one or two reporters who would happily second that motion.

Ah well. I put it down to in-breeding.