Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Al Jafree & Oscar Wilde
Al Jafree Md Yusop talks to theSun about his experience of turning the famous play The Importance Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde into a Malay film. Here is the full story
Headline: Al Jafree on Being Earnest
By Bissme S
The first time Al Jafree Md Yusop read Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was at the age of 15. He was immediately attracted to the material in this Irish playwright’s play, one of Wilde’s most witty and sarcastic works.
“That was the first time I realised that you can be critical and funny at the same time,” he says, adding that some of these great comedies have the ability “to make us laugh about ourselves without us realising it”.
Although Wilde wrote the play over a hundred years ago and it was first staged in 1895, it’s still relevant today, Al Jafree adds.
The scriptwriter then decided to translate Wilde’s play into into Bahasa Malaysia. However, it was only in 1991 that he was able to start work on the translation.
“[Wilde’s] play has a dry sense of humour,” says the scriptwriter-director.
“Everyone kept insisting that I would not be able to capture this essence in Bahasa Malaysia.
But I wanted to prove that Wilde’s work can be adapted into the Malay culture, in the Malay language, and in a Malay atmosphere.”
It took another 10 years before actor-director Adlin Aman Ramlie presented Al Jafree’s Bahasa Malaysia version of The Importance of Being Earnest on stage. The 2001 play received rave reviews and standing ovations.
Now, 16 years later, Al Jafree sees another of his dream finally coming true – a film version of the Wilde play based on his translated script.
“I wanted my script to reach a bigger audience, and I thought a film would be the apt medium to do that.”
This time, Al Jafree is the one helming the film, Mencari Rahmat which will likely open in cinemas at the end of the year. The film also marks his début as a feature film director. In the past, he has only directed TV dramas.
Mencari Rahmat centres on successful businessman Razak, the adopted son of a rich couple who died in a car crash, leaving him to look after his adoptive parents’ only granddaughter, his niece Ratna.
However, Razak is also a hard-partying ladies man, which he has kept hidden from Ratna. Whenever Razak needs to visit the big city for some wild party fun, he tells Ratna that he is going to see his troublesome younger brother Rahmat. In reality, Rahmat does not exist.
However, one lie leads to another, and Razak’s charade slowly gets exposed, culminating in a hilarious case of mistaken identity.
Playing Razak is veteran actor Namron. Others in the cast include Amerul Affendi, Nadia Aqilah, Sharifah Amani, Fauziah Nawi, and Azman Hassan.
As to the relevance of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in these modern times, Al Jafree says: “There is a saying that a man is born free but everywhere he goes, he is in chains. The play captures this saying aptly. There are a lot of things we don’t do because we are afraid society will judge us. Society is the worst prison known to mankind.”
Al Jafree cites the example of unwed mothers who kill their infants the moment they are born.
“The mothers kill their children not because they do not love their babies,” he says.
“[They] kill them because they are afraid society will judge them harshly.”
While the Bahasa Malaysia version of this play performed on stage was a smashing success, it might not work on screen.
Al Jafree is willing to take the risk, adding: “When a young filmmaker named George Lucas wanted to film his space opera Star Wars, not many peoplewere keen [on it]. In the end, he managed to
make the film with a modest budget. Now look at how Star Wars has grown.
“The same scepticism was shown to Steven Spielberg when he wanted to make Jawsand to Francis Ford Coppolla who wanted to make The Godfather
“Their films are now iconic in Hollywood. We need a certain kind of courage if we want to make positive changes in the Malaysian film industry.”
Al Jafree also points to directors like the late Akira Kurosawa who had adapted well-known plays like William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear into Japanese films. He adds that it is about time the Malaysian film industry follow suit