I have always loved Yasmin Ahmad’s films and commercials because in many ways they actually tell the story of my life. Therefore I could easily relate to them. The message that she tries to convey time and again is ‘Why shouldn’t Malaysians, regardless of their race, be best friends? For that matter, why can’t Malaysians, Malays and Chinese, Indians, Ibans or Kadazandusuns fall in love with each other?
Filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad has a beautiful Merdeka commercial. Titled Tan Hong Ming in Love, it is about a primary school student declaring that he secretly likes his best friend Umi Kazrina and wants to go out with her on a date. He doesn’t want to ask her out because he says he is shy and his classmates would tease him.
The next scene: Umi is interviewed and asked who is her best friend. She replies that her best friend is Tan Hong Ming. Asked if she has a boyfriend, she says yes, it is Tan Hong Ming. But the surprise is when Hong Ming takes Umi’s hand and leads her away.
It is classic Yasmin. Like her award-winning film, Sepet, which explores the love between a Chinese boy and Malay girl, there is a message from her – why shouldn’t Malaysians, regardless of their race, be best friends? For that matter, why can’t Malaysians, Malays and Chinese or Indians, fall in love with each other? It should be natural and not create controversy.
Yasmin has said that her Merdeka commercial is about the expressions of honesty, embarrassment, hope, surprise and joy all within a short time frame. That certainly sums up the Malaysian story.
There is another surprise – Maybank has come up with a commercial depicting a Sarawakian student in London with the entire dialogue in Iban language. It’s beautiful because it shows no one has forgotten the other Malaysians.
Then there is also another Merdeka commercial that shows two primary schoolboys who are the best of friends. After asking a few questions about each other, Yasmin asks one boy what his friend’s race is. He replies: “Race? Racing car? I like racing car.”
The point is that this multi-ethnicity is an asset, not an obstacle, to nation building and the more our politicians realise this, the better it is for Malaysia. Our founding fathers did, and we believe the leadership believes so too.
Malaysia’s cultural, ethnic and religious diversity has been long accepted and certainly ought to be enjoyed together. Let no one tell us that the mosques, temples and churches cannot be located near each other.
Take a walk along Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling in Penang and Jonker Walk in Malacca; Malaysians have long tolerated and appreciated the beauty of each other’s religion and culture. It should not be any different today.
More than ever, Malaysians must stand up to defend and protect what Malaysia has been and should continue to be. National Day is not just about parades, fireworks, concerts and hoisting the national flag, but also a time of reflection and review.
( I will be away for the next several days so blogging will have to take a back seat. Anyways, I would like to wish all Bangsa Malaysia, Happy Independence Day with a renewed spirit, the true spirit of ’57 and Bangsa Malaysia. MERDEKA ! )