Namewee in the middle with his costars of "Nasi Lemak 2.0".
Namewee first gained recognition through his controversial video uploaded onto YouTube called "Negarakuku" back in 2007. In the video, standing in front of a Malaysian flag, Namewee sings the national anthem "Negaraku" and then follows up with a rap verse expressing his views on the nations corrupted politicians and also racial discrimination. When the video went viral, the Johor born was infamously spread across the media for his 'notoriety' and was labelled 'seditious' by the government. After managing to clear things up and avoiding trouble with the law, Namewee is now making his debut as a Malaysian filmmaker. Written and directed by Namewee with the concept of 1Malaysia in mind, "Nasi Lemak 2.0" tells the story of a chef (played by Namewee) who through, Nasi Lemak, discovers that being Malaysian transcends all race and language barriers.
Interview with Namewee with Cinema Online conducted recently via email.
Q: What inspired you to make a comedy-action film that revolves around Nasi Lemak?
Namewee: I wanted to make a very local comedy (I called this a social-comedy), which incorporates my usual style, and Nasi Lemak is a well-known cuisine locally, so I used it as a metaphor for how Malaysians of any culture or race can enjoy a cuisine together.
Q: How did you manage to gather such a vast ensemble for this film? What was it like working with Adibah Noor, Dato' David Arumugam, Karen Kong, Afdlin Shauki, Reshmonu, Pete Teo & more?
Namewee: Basically, as a musician, my producer Fred Chong presented them with the script and the idea of the message we wanted to convey in this film, and they (most of the superstars are also musicians) liked the concept and most of them also know my story behind making this film, so they came onboard to support me.
Q: How does it feel when people refer to the film as a 1Malaysian film, due to the vast races of your cast & also the languages portrayed?
Namewee: I feel happy, because I believe in 1Malaysia, just that it has so far been a propaganda, a slogan, but little real action has been done, so this film is created with no support from the government, but supported by the people, and I believe this is what 1Malaysia is all about.
Namewee (left) and Dato' David Arumugam acting out a scene in "Nasi Lemak 2.0".
Q: With a reported budget of approximately RM 1 million, which could be considered a tad little for film production today, how was it like working with that. Did it impose any limitations or constrictions in filming?
Namewee: Yes, it was very tough shooting with minimal budget, we have time constraints, and small crew, so everyone must take multiple roles - for example, I had to take on the role, editor, scriptwriter, director, actor, music director and etc. It has been a tough 1-year for me, but it feels great seeing the film finally completed.
Q: "Nasi Lemak 2.0" had a special screening in Melbourne on Merdeka Day and was attended by a decent crowd despite the RM64 movie ticket. Your thoughts? Any other screenings in other countries?
Namewee: It was a great celebration there, and I truly enjoyed watching the film with Malaysians living in Melbourne. It was my first ever trip to Australia and having casts like Adibah Noor, Dennis Lau and Nadine Ann (Miss Malaysia), I think it gave the audience a memorable Merdeka also. I don't have any plans to showcase the film elsewhere, I just want to focus on Malaysia at the moment.
Q: With local movies like "KL Gangster" and "Hantu Bonceng" doing quite well at the box office, how do you see "Nasi Lemak 2.0" faring and its possible reception among audiences?
Namewee: This film is very unique, in many ways. This could really go either way for me, so I just hope that Malaysians can be more open minded, instead of judging me through my YouTube videos, give me a chance, and go watch the film in the cinema, support local made product, as I believe this is an enjoyable production which I love to share with my fellow countrymen!
"Nasi Lemak 2.0" is now showing in Malaysian cinemas!
Cinema Online, 12 September 2011