Saturday, April 18, 2009

Queens of Langkasuka - great movie!

Well I am still high two hours after the movie ended. One word....cool. The trailer here

First of all I am a history buff and am a sucker for movies that depicts historical events. During my schooling days, I studied about the early Malay kingdoms, Srivijaya, Majapahit, Kedah Tua (Ancient/Old Kedah) and Langkasuka. Nothing much was discussed about these kingdoms other that they were Malay and they were either Hindus or Buddhists.

To me then, it was just another bunch of place names and dates with names of dead guys to memorise for the exam. Nothing spectacular.

How wrong I was. After moving from home to KL, one of the first things I sought out were libraries. A history buff who also happens to be a book worm; betcha didn't see that coming!

It was one of the things I could afford during my college student days. That was during the days you can seriously use a hand phone crack someone's skull. The Internet was then well...still far away from these neck of the woods. And after reading through the many books, I began to see the splendour and the importance of the seemingly useless names I studied. I began to fully understand and connect the dots. Finally Hikayat Raja Pasai, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa made sense.

And yeah I do read classical Malay!

What was sad was, I learned about my country's history through the writings of foreigners. The local authors, often presented the "official" version of history; not by choice mostly.

Well, seems like nothing has changed. I watched Puteri Gunung Ledang and it was basically a chick flick with righteous warriors and a Sultan who believed in the "right" God and such. Never mind the Malaccan Sultan in that time line was rumoured to be Hindu. Nevertheless it was a good production. Too proper I would say. But I am sure the local authorities loved it that way.

Queens of Langkasuka is a Thai production, stated to have a US$20 million budget. Since Langkasuka was a Malay kingdom, one thing that struck me was how the Thais, a Buddhist people and have been unfairly accused to be genocidal towards its southern Malay populace, were so detailed in the costumes (very similar to the dresses of the northern Malay states even to this day), the court protocols and even the fighting sequences have a hint of of Pattani Silat. The characters even have Malay names, Bintang, Pari, Ungu, Biru etc.

Again, foreigners outdid us in making a movie of our heritage. It is embarrassing to say the least but boy, the Thais really really know how to spin a tale.

Queens of Langkasuka is a fantasy historical epic. Sorcery, court intrigues and a love story...cool. So don't take it too seriously, everyone looked so pretty and nice, no matter how much cannon fire they take, everyone looked so good with scarsely a hair out of place!

Sadly some time back, in their infinite wisdom, the Government wanted to ban all fantasy and ghost stories from all TV programmes, rationalising that Malaysians should not be held back by such superstitions.

There were as are now, the self-professed and self-appointed religious defenders hold that the Malays have always been Muslims and nothing else (Don't know what they have been smoking but many daily used Malay words are Sanskrit in origin). To question that line of reasoning will somehow destabilise the country and they will lock you up in ISA and throw away the key!

Sounded like crap from Stalinist Russia.

Fact is, all cultures of this world have their own stories and legends; it's the stuff that gives each culture its unique identity its unique flavour and colours.

Even the Iranian never disowned their Zoroastrian Persian Emperors, the Arabs have their fables with the Jinn and even the Germanic people have stories like Nibelungenlied that formed the basis of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf. But somehow the local firebrands are so ashamed of their glorious ancestors.

To deny your own legends and fables is to deny your culture and people!

Watch Queens of Langkasuka. See the splendour (as interpreted by the producers) of the Malay civilisation, cool fighting scenes and hey they even have a very Hindi movie-like plot, the poor guy-rich girl angle, minus the dancing and running around meadows.

2 comments:

Buje said...

what history books have you been reading mate?

msian_tux_lover said...

Recently, none. More of a wikipedia person now. Books are pretty expensive nowadays in MY. Though the last history book I bought was about Chinese emperors.