Today is the start of the long school holiday. Mama and my brother deserve a long relaxing break after working so hard over the last few months. Papa also has 22 days of paid leave still unutilised for this year. Since everyone is in a jolly mood, it looks like we are going to be doing a lot of travelling leading up to the New Year 2009.
On Thursday before the holiday, my brother made my parents proud by getting excellent result in the UPSR public examination. There are 46,640 other students all over the country who obtained straight As like him. In Kedah, the three top schools based on the most number of students with straight As are SJKC Keat Hwa in Alor Setar, SK Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin in Kubang Pasu and SK Ibrahim in Sungai Petani. My brother’s school, which is named after the grandfather of our Father of Modern Malaysia, is no longer one of the State’s premiere schools, which is rather sad really.
After he got back from school, his former Standard One to Three classmates from SK Bandar Baru Darulaman came over and later they all cycled to the eaterie by the murky river near our house to celebrate their exam success.
To kick off the holiday, on Friday we made a day trip to Penang, and had a jolly good time at the cinema. My siblings watched Madagascar 2, whilst my parents and I watched Wayang, and we were the only audience in Box 4 for the 4.30pm show. And that was a shame really because the movie is good, albeit the dialogue is almost exclusively in Kelantanese. It tells the story of Pok Awe, who keeps the dying art of wayang kulit alive in a quaint little kampong by the sea. Together with his wife, they raise up two orphaned kids, Awi and Melor, who have not only developed a special affinity with the fine art and each other, but are special in their own ways. Awi, the blind boy, is able to “melihat tanpa memandang” and Melor, the girl with sengau voice, later surpasses Pok Awe in the intricate craft of puppet-making.
The acting by the main casts is superb all-around. Particularly Ida Nerina, Best Actress at the 13th Malaysian Film Festival in 1997 for Layar Lara, who plays the loyal and serene wife of Pok Awe to the hilt. She is amazingly versatile as a Kelantanese Mak Cik and gorgeous without any make up. Papa chuckled when she uttered do-oh. Mama chuckled too at some other instances.
Unfortunately the movie has its fair share of cringe moments. The most glaring is the brief but unnecessary cameo appearance by the producer. The silly antics shown by the UiTM undergraduates during the fine art lectures given by Pok Awe, Melor and Awi are too much to bear. Their blur and terpingga-pingga (bewildered) looks are irritating, to say the least, and dredge the awful memory of Cinta Antara Benua.
One of the subtle messages that Wayang exudes is this: Do not be fooled by the lebai appearance (or tudung lingkup for that matter). The holier than thou appearance may be all wayang.
Note: Wayang kulit is a shadow puppetry play theatre. The two-dimensional shadow puppet is crafted from cow or buffalo hide and is gently presses on the translucent screen. The light bulb suspended behind the white cloth screen emanates a bright glow to project the shadows of the puppets on the screens. The shadow master cum storyteller, or tok dalang, conducts the whole show from behind the screen by sitting cross-legged and reciting the tale by moving the figures to the sounds of drums, gongs and flutes that, at dramatic moments, rise to a crescendo. Hearing the storyteller change his voice to suit the different characters is one of the highlights of the show. The puppet characters and stories are usually adapted from ancient epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, and thus the art is often associated with Hinduism. In 2003, UNESCO recognized wayang kulit as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. There has been call by Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, a spiritual leader and the present Chief Minister of Kelantan to “mewayangkulitkan” local personalities such as Tok Kenali, and perhaps Tok Janggut.