working his magika
What’s retired former boy band member Edry Abdul Halim doing?
By Juliana June Rasul
November 12, 2010
Why, making a musical, of course.
Following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Cicakman director Yusry, former KRU member Edry Abdul Halim, 34, has released his directorial debut.
The colourful musical Magika, which opens here today, is chock-a-block with Malaysian stars like Ziana Zain, Diana Danielle, Mawi, Ning Baizura, and even a special appearance by M Nasir.
Taking its cue from the magical worlds of Harry Potter and The Lord Of The Rings, with some Malay folklore thrown into the mix, the story follows a young girl, Ayu (Diana), who stumbles into a fantasy world of warriors and witches when she goes in search of her lost brother.
Speaking to FiRST a week after his movie’s big win at the 23rd Malaysian Film Festival, which included a trophy for Best Film, Edry said he was ‘on cloud nine’.
‘When the film was released, I was a total newcomer to the scene, fighting for my film,’ he said. ‘And now, months later, it’s all been worth it.’
Edry also took home a trophy for Most Promising Director.
Despite the big names attached to the film, Edry was concerned that Malay movie audiences, used to horror films and action flicks, would be puzzled by the musical format.
‘Even my actors took some time to get used to it,’ he said, recalling a scene with singers Mawi and Ziana, in which they had to sing while fighting.
‘Mawi asked me, ‘So, I have to sing this line while trying to punch her?’
Make no mistake, Magika is more Andrew Lloyd Webber than Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
While Bollywood films are a big thing in Malaysia, Edry stressed that the songs in Magika are not just ‘interlude music’, which is the case for most of India’s three-hour film spectacles.
‘Everyone’s used to the Bollywood film, or the P Ramlee film, where people take a break from the scene, jump to some other location, and start singing,’ he said.
‘One of the challenges I had when making this film was wondering if the audience would look at it and ask, ‘Why must they sing during the scene?’
His fears, however, were unfounded.
The film has raked in RM3.4 million (S$1.4 million) at the Malaysian box office so far.
‘When you do something out of the box, you don’t really expect everybody to take to it easily,’ he said.
‘I think the toughest thing was convincing people that I could do it.’
In trying to ease his audience’s transition into this new format for Malaysian cinema, he decided to fill the story with figures from Malaysian history and folklore, like strongman Badang (Mawi), who becomes Ayu’s love interest, and Puteri Gunung Ledang (Ning).
Playing against type
The twist? The characters are played against type – Puteri Gunung Ledang, commonly known as a lovely fairy princess, is fat and depressed.
Ziana’s witch is not an old hag, but a rather sexy kebaya-clad lady.
‘The actors were intrigued because it was a different take on things,’ said Edry.
Assembling such a star-studded cast wasn’t that difficult for Edry, who’s known some of them since his KRU days.
And the group’s mutual friendship made sure things on set were pleasant.
‘It was like hanging out with friends,’ he said, stressing that there was ‘no diva behaviour’.
The actors probably took the lead from their humble director, who, despite his own musical past, was reluctant to go in front of the camera.
His only concession was to appear as part of a trio of singing trees – backed up, of course, by his two KRU brothers Yusry and Norman – who try to placate the protagonists with a song about family values.
‘For (Yusry) and I, our policy is, if you’re casting something, you don’t need to be on the screen. We were active, like, 18 years ago!’ he said with a laugh.
‘I think now, we’re more comfortable behind the camera, and being credited for the art.’
He dreams of doing a ‘full musical’ one day, with little to no dialogue.
‘With Magika, it’s still 60:40 – there’s still more talking. Hopefully, with the success of the film, I can explore pushing more boundaries,’ he said.