Sunday, 13 March 2016

Going for a Nobel Prize

Brave New World (The Star)
6 January 2016

If we want gritty realism from Malaysian writers and directors, a review of the laws which impact on them would help.


AH, the mental acrobatics of our great leaders. In some speech or another, the Deputy Prime Minister challenged Malaysian authors to win the Nobel Prize for literature by the year 2057.
In the same speech he also lamented that we haven’t produced anything as successful as the Harry Potter series.
Then for good measure he also said we haven’t produced a television serial as popular as Korea’s Winter Sonata.
In one speech he has taken his listeners from thoughts of the impenetrable (at least to my little brain) Jose Saramago, to the world of a bespectacled boy wizard, swooping finally onto saccharine melodrama acted by androgynous cookie cutter-people. See what I mean; mental acrobatics.
Well, at least he was reasonable enough to give our writers 40 years to achieve this challenge of his.
In that 40 years, a lot could happen.
Perhaps one of the things that could happen is that we lose all the oppressive laws that may jolly well scare our burgeoning writers from actually writing anything close to resembling the realities of our world.
If we want gritty realism in our novels, then maybe within that 40 years someone will be able to write a story about a man using a warped legal system to steal his children away from his ex-wife.
A legal system that swathes itself in supposed religiosity while at the same time legitimising acts of sublime cruelty.
How the foundations of such a thing lies in the twisted national ethos of racial and religious superiority. An ethos which has stripped away any semblance of humanity and empathy from the bones of the nation.
Maybe someone can write something like this without fear of being cited for sedition.
Or if you want populist books to appeal to children of all ages, then why not a supernatural tale of a special bomoh school for talented children?
They can learn to cast spells and control toyols while at the same time getting up to all sorts of adolescent hijinks.
Maybe someone could write a series like that without concerns that his or her writing about the supernatural and fantastical will get the book banned for despoiling the faith of the impressionable youth.
And if we want a successful TV series, I have a wonderful idea.
The Scandinavian series The Bridge, about how a Swedish police officer has to work with a Danish officer in a cross-boundary crime, is a great show.
It was redone for the American market (American officer and Mexican officer) and the British Market (British and French; although the Brit show was called The Tunnel as there is no bridge between England and France).
So, my idea is this: let’s make a Malaysian version. If not a series, just a movie will do.
We could call it The Causeway.
We could have an uptight Singaporean policewoman having to work with a Malaysian policeman to solve the mystery of a dead body found right smack in the middle of the causeway.
Apart from the usual fun to be had with culture clashes, differing work ethics and, dare I say, sexual tension, the show can delve into high level corruption and murder most foul.
Or will this not pass the censorship laws that stifle the creative juices of our auteurs?
Now, I know some of you will smack me for being such a wuss. After all great literature and film have come out of countries with far harsher laws than ours. That is true, I will admit.
However, I can’t see how creativity can blossom if we are in a stifling environment.

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