Thursday, 17 December 2015

REVIEW: JAGAT (Malaysia)




Films in Malaysia are mostly told in the national language Bahasa Malaysia. On some occasions, Cantonese and Mandarin films are made. It is extremely rare that a primarily Tamil-speaking movie by Malaysian filmmakers is produced. I had the pleasure of attending the media screening of one such film and here is my spoiler free review.

The film’s title is called Jagat. The word Jagat loosely means ‘brutal’ in English. The word is also a Tamil slang in Bahasa Malaysia for the word ‘jahat’ which in English means ‘bad’. The director of the film Shanjhey Kumar Perumal. The film stars Harvin Raj, Jibrail Rajhula, Tinesh Sathi Krishnan, Kuben Mahadevan, Senthi Kumaran Muniandy, Perakas Rajaram, Marup Mustapah, Steven Chua, and Aahmu Thirunyanam. All of the film’s cast are either newcomers or acting for the first time. Dato’ Seri A. Anandan and Pasupathi Sithambaram serves as producers.

How will a Tamil-speaking film fair among all the Malaysian films? Do read on…

 
Life as seen through the eyes of young Appoy (Harvin Raj)

 
SYNOPSIS (as taken from the film’s press kit):
Set in the early 1990’s, a critical period in Malaysian Indian history, the story subtly underlines the plight of the Malaysian Indian. Forsaken by the estate owners who had employed them for generations and systematically marginalized, they are forced to move to the cities and survive under harsh circumstances. Left out of the nation’s urbanization and development plans, many live in squatters and work at minimum wage jobs. The plot centers on bright but mischievous 12 years old boy, Appoy and his relationship with his father, Maniam and his uncles, Bala (an ex drug addict) and Dorai (Mexico) a local gangster.

Some fine acting from Jibrail Rajhula

SCRIPT:
Unexpected and meaningful. Since the film is primarily in a foreign language to me, the subtitles were important. The story had a good structure where we see 4 different lives intertwining to culminate in one purpose. There are a lot of underlying themes in this film which carries positive moral values. The story is rich in morality and dignity which I really liked. I am surprised at the good characterization of the main roles. Good comedic insertions throughout the film to keep the audience more engaged.

Kuben Mahadevan as Maniam, brother to Dorai and father to Appoy

ACTING:
Given the fact that all of them are newcomers, I think the actors performed reasonably well. The standout performances young child actor Harvin Raj as the lead and Jibrail Rajhula as Mexico. They brought strong purpose to their characters and should be complimented.

A scene in the film which proved to be pivotal

FILMING:
The film was produced on quite a low budget and it is represented throughout the film. As a producer and director, I can understand the restraints felt by the production team. However, there were some scenes which can be commended. I noticed the key important scenes were given more attention. This I feel is smart directing as it keeps the story going while keeping the production within budget.

Directing on the film set

PACING:
Quite slow in the beginning but it picks up well in middle towards the end.

DOWNSIDE:
The feel of a low-budget production is evident throughout the film. However…

UPSIDE:
If you can look beyond the downside, there is a good story with strong moral messages.

Gotta work hard for the money

OVERALL:
This film has one of the finest Malaysian stories I have seen in quite some time. It focuses on a minority section of the race divisions in Malaysia which it rare. Out of this rarity, a good story was told that any Malaysian of any race can be proud of.

RATING:
8 out of 10

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