Interview conducted on 8 August 2009 during the 22nd Malaysian Film Festival at Dewan Canselor, Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
Afdlin Shauki at the 22nd Malaysian Film Festival.
Congratulations on winning the Best Film award for "Papadom"! How did you first come up with the idea behind your father-daughter relationship story?
Thank you. Essentially, it all started when I asked myself this question while I was on holiday with my family - What would happen if my wife was no longer with me? What would I do? Would I single-handedly take care of my children? It's not like I would leave them to fend by themselves. Nowadays, fathers can't seem to face this question because their wife is right there beside them. So, what if my wife wasn't there? What's going to happen? What decision am I going to make? Am I going to send them to boarding school or am I going be a father who will spend more time with the children. The hook in this story is what the father does when he is faced with the question.
Afdlin with Liyana Jasmay on the set of "Papadom".
What was that added punch you had to include in the film?
To add in that punch, the main character Saadom (Afdlin) makes a decision that is radical, whereby he drops everything including his successful Nasi Kandar shop in Penang to dedicate his time into taking care of his daughter Miasara (Liyana Jasmay), till a point where she can't take it anymore! From a person who was too busy with his business to spend time with his family, he changes into becoming the most doting father in the world.
As what was portrayed in the movie, would you do that in real life?
I am crazy enough to do that with my daughter (laughs). For someone who I care for and love, I would do whatever that is required of me to do. I would even die for that someone. That's how the story came about. I had to ask myself what I would do so I may be able to come up with an honest answer, where I can then tell the story.
A scene from "Papadom"
It seems that you are telling this story in relation to your own experience as a working father. How long have you been feeling that sense of 'too busy to be with family' situation?
I think it has been about two to ten years. The last two to three years, I kept my focus on my career and spent less time with my family. But Alhamdulillah i have an understanding wife. It's not like I don't spend time with them, it's just that it's not as much as how I would like to. As a father, I sometimes feel that I should be more in the know of what's going on in their lives. I kind of miss seeing their development during that period.
Do you have any regrets?
I don't have any regrets, as I know just like in "Papadom", Saadom is not at fault for working so hard because the main reason why he does so is for his family. So the question really isn't about who's at fault, it is to give an understanding into the lives of fathers all around the world. So many fathers do the same thing because they're doing it for their wife and kids. In "Papadom", Saadom wants to give them a better life. But what happens is, he spends too much time trying to get them a better life that he's not there with them, you know? So that's the sort of thing I want everyone to realise. I also chose to include a teenager's perspective in the movie because they have this feeling of wanting to be carefree. They surely wouldn't want their father's to be beside them all the time. The daughter is not wrong as well as she just wants what other teens want. That's the contrast between the two and it's interesting to see how they handle the relationship in the end.
When you went on stage to accept the award for Best Film, you seemed to be holding back tears. It's unusual to see you that way. There must be a reason for you to be behaving like that.
First of all, I think it's because of Yasmin Ahmad. I don't know, even though we're not close friends, but as filmmakers, we always tend to keep in touch. Just like me and Mamat Khalid and Aziz M. Osman. We'll all discuss on how to make better films in future. Personally, I feel that it's a huge loss for us in the industry. She has a very strong voice and I've always admired her stand on her beliefs. Other than that, I never thought I'd receive any awards. The story that I won for is a story close to my heart. "Papadom" is actually a story about myself.
Cinema Online, 02 October 2009