The main cast of "Sepet", ten years later.
The director of "Sepet", the late
Yasmin Ahmad. (Photo: The Star)
Ten years ago, moviegoers in Malaysia were treated to a cinematic pleasure that went by the name of "Sepet". The romantic drama revolves around a young Chinese man who sells DVD for a living and a Malay girl who is still in high school. One fateful day at the market brought the two together, and they fall for each other even though they come from different backgrounds socially and culturally.
The movie brought forth intriguing messages that stirred the community, especially the conservative ones with its taboo portrayal of intimate couple interactions, portrayal of love between people of different social background and religion, as well as casual exposure of skin.
Unperturbed by the negative comments she received, the late Yasmin Ahmad, who was also the executive creative director at Leo Burnett Kuala Lumpur, only took the positive in and continued making sequels to her highly-acclaimed 2005 movie (technically 2004, but it was screened a year later in Malaysia).
"Sepet" and its sequels raised the bar high for local movies with their pleasing visual aesthetics, interesting characters and many underlying messages.
Yasmin Ahmad was a celebrated filmmaker, well known not only for her movies but also for her commercials, Petronas ones in particular; for their well thought-out cross-cultural messages that were often presented in humorous, and yet, touching ways.
Unfortunately, one day in 2009, the filmmaker suffered a stroke, leading to a brain hemorrhage that caused her sudden passing at 51. To continue her legacy, a commemorative museum, Yasmin at Kong Heng space, was opened in Ipoh, Perak, in October last year. Ipoh was used as the setting for "Sepet" and the late director had always had a soft spot for the scenic city.
In celebration of the movie's tenth anniversary in Malaysia hosted by local cinema-on-demand platform, MovieGoGo, let's take a look at the cast of "Sepet" as they were then and as they are now.
Sharifah Amani (Orked)
This petite Malay actress was the same age as her character in "Sepet" when she began her journey as Orked – a bubbly, opinionated seventeen-year-old whose best friend often teased for liking people with 'sepet' (narrowed) eyes. Named after Yasmin Ahmad's sister, Orked loves watching Chinese and Japanese films, even picking up the Chinese dialects through her frequent watching. A smart, well-read girl, she doesn't let differences in race and social status blind her with prejudice.
Now at 28, Sharifah is not just an actress anymore, she is also a screenwriter and a director. The former child actress has starred in many films and TV series since, even winning awards after "Sepet". Though there was no further information provided, the actress did reveal in a recent interview with Cinema Online that three of her upcoming short films will be shown in Tokyo. She is also planning to concentrate on making a proper feature film.
Ng Choo Seong (Jason)
A helpless romantic that falls for the love of his life in less than a minute, that's who Jason a.k.a. Ah Loong is. A DVD peddler with an abusive Chinese father and an understanding Nyonya mother, his background dictates that he should turn out a hopeless no-gooder, instead he is a hopeless intellectual romantic who loves writing poetry. The fact that he falls for a 'baju kurung' (Malay traditional dress)-wearing girl instead of her modernized friend shows how much he beholds the value of tradition and culture, even if it's not his own.
Playing Jason was Ng's only major role in a feature film. Ng, who has always worked in advertising even back when he acted in "Sepet", has no interest in the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry. He continues working in advertising, even writing the script to Yasmin's Petronas commercial, and had to turn down Yasmin several times when the filmmaker asked him to act again. Although he did appear, singing his heart out, in her 2009 Petronas Chinese New Year commercial.
Linus Chung (Keong)
(Photo credit: (left) Linus Chong's Facebook)
Moviegoers who speak Hokkien would be entertained with the dialogues spouted by Keong. A young man who values his family and friends, he is Jason's sounding board as well as one-man support group. Even though at first he does not understand why his best friend would fall for a Malay girl, but after meeting Orked himself, he sees her appeal and enjoys conversing with her as they share the same interest in movies.
Linus, a film buff who has been dabbling in movie making from a young age, found his boost after acting in "Sepet". Thankful to Yasmin for "basically showing him the ropes", Linus is now a happily-married father and director who does a whole host of corporate works. He has also recently directed the Malaysia Airlines short films, "Terbang" and "Blessings". The filmmaker is gearing up to producing a feature film of his own soon, which he hopes would turn out good and touching.
Adibah Noor (Kak Yam)
(Photo source: (right) The Star)
A live-in maid who is also Orked's mother's best friend; their love for Chinese dramas contributes to Orked's passion for Chinese films. Her frequent banter with Orked's parents shows her as a lively character with a sharp tongue and a sharper mind. Orked often shares her secrets with her, which in turn will be relayed to Orkeds' mother (a way for Orked to tell her mother without telling her mother).
This multi-talented singer-actress-emcee worked with Yasmin even before "Sepet", appearing in her commercials. She was surprised when Yasmin asked her to act in the feature. Her accepting the offer led to her subsequent reprisal of her Kak Yam role in "Gubra" and "Mukhsin". Most recently, Adibah Noor participated in the Singaporean film "Fundamentally Happy", which will have its world premiere at the 2015 Southeast Asian Film Festival this April.
Harith Iskander (Orked's father)
(Photo credit: (right) kezoom.blogspot.com)
Orked's father, or abah, is a loving father who tries hard to understand his daughter. Being the only male in the house definitely gives the man a headache or two. As his 'natural habitat' is at home, he often appears shirtless and comfortably wearing only a 'sarong'. He was once a teacher at the primary school where Orked and Jason went to when they were younger.
Stand-up comedian Harith Iskander effortlessly played the laid-back character. This highly-successful award-winning actor, director and winner of Top 10 Of Asia Magazine's "Asia's Best Stand-Up Comedian Award 2014" has done comedy programmes for TV, wrote and directed plays for theatres, and did stand-up shows internationally. His fans in Australia are in for a real treat too this coming April as the funny man will be the only Asian act to perform at the 11th Annual Sydney Comedy Festival 2015.
Cinema Online, 19 March 2015