A scene from Bila Pungguk Rindukan Bulan.
The maker of Bila Pungguk Rindukan Bulan loves using fairy tales to impart valuable lessons, writes DENNIS CHUA.
THE short film Bila Pungguk Rindukan Bulan (When the Owl Misses the Moon) may easily be confused with its feature-length namesake Pungguk Rindukan Bulan.
Its creator, Bennylita Nasuty Ramlee of Alor Star, Kedah, is well-aware of this possibility, but reminds viewers that her “masterpiece” stands on its own and has nothing to do with the Da Huang Pictures project.
“Bila Pungguk Rindukan Bulan is a 15-minute film I made last year. It contains five short stories rolled into one and four are based on traditional Malay folklore.
“There is Pungguk dan Bulan (the Owl and the Moon), Naga dan Batil Emas (the Dragon and the Pot of Gold), Orang Kenit (the Dwarfs) and Duyung dan Cermin Muka (the Mermaid and the Mirror),” she said, adding that the fifth story is a modern one about Bigfoot.
Bennylita’s film has three main stars – Sharifah Aqilah Syed Ahmad Bakhir, Hairi Safwan Aznan and Ahmad Kushahril Kamaruddin – all of whom are graduates of the National Arts, Culture and Heritage Academy (Aswara).
Bennylita has been a filmmaker since 2004. Bila Pungguk Rindukan Bulan is her second major short film. It was screened at the Kuala Lumpur Fringe Festival in Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, on July 16 as well as the Rantai Merdeka festival in Jaya One, Petaling Jaya on Aug 31.
Her first feature film, Hari Ini Hari Bodoh Saya, Cik (Today is My Silly Day, Sir), starring Ammar Aziz, was screened in last year’s Rantai Merdeka festival at the Malaysian Institute of Art as well as in the Jakarta Arts Institute, Indonesia.
“That film’s title is taken from a phrase uttered in the P. Ramlee film Labu dan Labi. It tells the story of a day when everything goes wrong in a person’s life,” she said.
Bennylita, an information technology graduate of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Bangi, pursued a diploma in film in Aswara from 2004 to 2007.
“I decided to come up with Bila Pungguk Rindukan Bulan as a tribute to Malay fairy tales. I want to preserve them for the new generation and the best way to do so is via films,” she said, adding that prior to her first major film she worked on graphic design projects for various individuals and companies.
“I would love to make more short films along the lines of this one. Traditional Malay fairy tales are very educational, just like their English counterparts, and they hold many of life’s important lessons,” she said.
Sharifah Aqilah, 21, graduated with a theatre diploma from Aswara last year and was coached by, among others, acclaimed director Nam Ron or Shahili Abdan.
A former student of Sekolah Menengah Seberang Jaya in Penang, she counts as her schoolmate popular actress Fasha Sandha. Her cousin is Diari Romeo actress Sharifah Nadia.
Sharifah Aqilah, who played the owl Arjuna in Bennylita’s short film, is also a talented singer who honed her vocal skills performing in state-level singing contests. She joined the Gang Starz Season One hip-hop group Collabra8, but left its eventual line-up due to other commitments.
“I auditioned for Akademi Fantasia in 2004 but did not meet the age requirements back then,” she said.
Among the Aswara plays Sharifah Aqilah acted in are Tartuffe, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tanda and Belalang Kenit.
She played Tan Sri Aishah Ghani in Suhaimi Baba’s 1957 – Hati Malaya last year and also appeared in the made-for-television films Kasidah Buat Laila and 3T directed by Erma Fatima and Bade Azmi, respectively.
Sharifah Aqilah is currently hosting RTM’s gardening magazine Landskap on Fridays. She has also performed with Negri Sembilan-based theatre company Ruang Damai in various theatre festivals.
“I believe in being versatile. Like my collegemate Bennylita, I would love to script and produce my own films later,” she said.
Hairi, 20, of Alor Star, is a final-year theatre student of Aswara and has appeared in several telemovies since 2002. They include Kuartet Merdeka (2002), Cinta Kristal (2004) and Bila Alif Balik Kampung (2004).
He has also starred in the plays Vertigo, Hamlet and Bangsawan Raden Galoh staged early this year, and is an acting coach with the theatre association Persatuan Penggerak Warisan Budaya (Akrab).
“I do lots of theatre work with school children, and help discover talents for the association,” he said, adding that he would love to write and direct his own plays in the near future.
Ahmad Kushahril (or Aril), 27, from Kuala Terengganu, is the son of veteran actor Kamaruddin Mohamad Noor alias Din Yellow. His father is best known for his supporting roles in the 1980s film Debu-Debu Kasih and the 1990s film Perempuan Melayu Terakhir.
The Institut Kemahiran Mara architecture and civil engineering graduate joined Aswara in 2001 and graduated with a theatre diploma in 2004.
He is an active member of the Terengganu-based theatre company Perkumpulan Teater Terengganu and has also appeared in several television advertisements.
“My most memorable advertisement was with Sharifah Aqilah some years ago. It was an anti-dadah advertisement in which she played my long-suffering wife and I was a drug addict whose teenage son followed suit,” he said.
Aril has also been a personal assistant to several Malaysian artistes and they include Farhan Azizan, Ani Mayuni, Andy of Flop Poppy and Herman Tino.
“I’ve also helped write the script of television documentaries such as Seni Warisan Melayu last year,” he said.
Aril almost clinched the role of the young Tunku Abdul Rahman in Putra – The Musical staged at Istana Budaya last year, but it eventually went to acclaimed actor Zul Huzaimy.
“It would have been great to play Bapa Malaysia, but I’m glad Zul got it. He’s my Aswara senior and among the country’s finest actors,” he said.
Aril played the antagonistic dragon (Naga) in Bennylita’s film opposite Hairi’s protagonist owl, Pungguk.
“The short film may be a children’s story but, like all fairy tales, it carries important messages for adults and society at large and that’s why I chose to star in it,” he said.
New Straits Times