Saturday, November 21, 2015


By Mansor Puteh

I wish to respond to the two articles, 'Local shows mirror our culture' and 'Much to learn from local TV dramas' that were published in the NST on 13 July.

I beg to differ with what the writers of the pieces had said about the local television dramas and also feature films a task which is not too difficult to do considering that the two are not qualified to review films or television dramas from the shallow way they try to do it and with the titles that are given to their pieces.

What is most obvious is that the dramas and films do not reflect the level of awareness of many social, cultural, economic and political issues of contemporary Malaysia or even of the earlier eras that the country and our societies had developed from before an since Merdeka.

And because of that they cannot be used by serious researchers as a gauge to show how much the country and its societies had developed and progressed.

The problem is that most of those who are active in producing the dramas and films are not fully trained; with many who are not trained in screenwriting and directing at all.

So there is no depth in what they are trying to say, other than to admit that they are copycat screenwriters, producers and directors.

The acting in most of the television dramas and films is superficial and with verbose dialogue, it is not too difficult for them to be too expressive. And because of the poor quality screenplays, the acting and directing suffer as there is nothing that the director can use to bring the best from the actors.

Worse, there is no sense of place or time. And the stories are exposed in the dialogue, so basically the scripts are for radio dramas and not for television or film.

Malaysia which has many interesting areas and places that can be used as a backdrop for any production but this has never been exploited.

Just look at the serials from America that have such local features so much so that even in the remotest parts of the world the remotest parts of America is known.

Kuala Lumpur especially as well as in most of the country, the social fabric and social interaction between the Melayu (I prefer not to use Malays as they were British subjects), and their relationship between the other races and communities including the foreign workers who are now prominent features in the country, are not properly or adequately profiled.

They have changed considerably over the last few decades but this has not been reflected in the productions.

It looks like that all the productions were written, produced and directed by the same person, who created their works while sitting in their offices and not going out to search for new and original stories with unusual characters and situations.

There is no scene in any television drama or feature film that is set in the Masjid India area or the Kampung Baru area which is being redeveloped, for instance, or places that were being developed so that these productions could also record them before they are completely changed beyond recognition.

I want to see a character in any production who goes to the National Blood Center to donate blood, but this may not happen.

From the titles of the many of the television dramas one can see the dirth of original ideas that the producers can come up with that often have the words, 'Cinta', 'Sayang', Kasih', Asmara' and such like.

For a screenwriter myself and a formally trained one at that, if one sees any of these words in the title of any television drama or feature film, then one can immediately come to the conclusion that it is not a good production.

And the most common scenes that are shown in almost all the television dramas are the living room, bedroom, inside the car, restaurant and sometimes shopping complex and the most common scene of all is the boardroom where the characters are sitting and arguing about shares and how to cheat each other after their parents had died.

They are supposed to be the new middle class of Melayu but they talk like they are not civilized or cultured.

The screenwriters concerned can't even choose the proper titles for their works. And the producers as well as television stations don't care that social commentary can be used in television dramas and films, including the issue of open burning and child abuse.

There are now many local universities and institutes of higher learning that offer courses in screenwriting and film production but all of them do not give any emphasis on the liberal arts subject such as psychology, sociology, history and so on, which in the end creates screenwriters and directors who do not have these elements in their works.

No wonder, no local television drama has ever been given due recognition abroad. They are only good to be shown on Malaysian television, and can ever will.

If they are that good including the local police series ‘Gerak Khas’ then surely, they can be exported to Indonesia at the very least. But this did not happen.

Because ‘Gerak Khas’ does not exhibit seriousness and any sociological, psychological and other elements, it can only be shown on Malaysian television to a passive audience and still get a good audience rating because it is light entertainment.

This series should be pulled out. Too bad the police department continues to support the production of such series that does not do any good to cut down the rate of crimes, especially petty crimes in the country. 

My earlier television dramas, ‘Anak Ketujuh’ were shown on a station in Indonesia for which I was given quite a bit.

Compare with these three productions that were produced by TV3 and RTM in the early 1980s which have many of these elements, such as 'Basikal ku', 'Kadir dan Kim', 'Raja Bangsawan' and 'Seri Panggung' and those that are shown on television today.

Unfortunately, the four productions were all written by me.

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