If there is one thread that is apparent with those involved in Suatu Ketika, it’s that they are proud to be part of the film. Even when faced with an uphill battle, those involved stuck with the project … for almost one decade!
Suatu Ketika was eight years in the making – from the first draft, to doing research on historical facts, rewriting the final script, finding investors, casting its young actors in 2016, as well as shooting the film at locations such as Kuala Kangsar, Kuala Selangor and Banting in 2017. It opens in cinemas on Sept 12.
Set in 1952, the story sees a group of local boys coming together to play football when everything seems to be stacked against them – starting with not having basic training equipment, uniforms, shoes and even a proper football to prospects of a bleak future as the land is under British rule.
However, what these youngsters have in abundance is determination.
One boy in particular – a 12-year-old with a medical condition – works hard with his mates to go against a team made up of privileged British schoolboys.
Director Prakash Murugiah said one of the hurdles during pre-production was the historical aspect as the film is set before Merdeka. This meant they had to look into that period properly to not only get the facts in order but also the clothes, lifestyle and look of that time right.
“We had a lot of help from the late Universiti Malaya historian, Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim, on information like the language, the culture and the style from back then. We communicated with him for four years over this,” explained Prakash at a recent press meet.
Another problem was the financial aspect. As there weren’t that many local sports movie when they started, there were some resistance from investors.
“Whenever you try to introduce something new, it’s difficult for people to immediately accept it. We just needed to get one or two people to believe in our vision and everything else would fall into place,” added Prakash.
Once the final screenplay was completed, his faith was rewarded when National Film Development Corporation (Finas) and Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) decided to back the film.
With a budget of RM3.6mil, Prakash and his team then held auditions for boys aged between eight and 16 for the roles.
Some 120 children turned up and through three rounds of screen test; 12 children were shortlisted.
Prakash also got the support from actor Pekin Ibrahim, who fully believed in Suatu Ketika, so much so that he maintained the weight he gained for the movie although the shoot was delayed a few times.
“I play a teacher who’s a little chubby in the film – it’s a trait of the character and is referred to in the film, so I couldn’t afford to lose the weight. While waiting to shoot Suatu Ketika, I did a lot more directing (instead of ) acting,” recalled Pekin.
When asked why he was so committed to Suatu Ketika, Pekin answered: “The script was really good, and I felt it would be a great loss to my career if I didn’t do it.”
The same notion is echoed by singers Datuk Zainal Abidin and VIONA. Both of them were approached by the production team for the rights of their old songs to be used in the film.
Zainal shared: “They wanted the song Pantun (1994) for the film. But when they showed me clips from the movie, I told them I will write them a new song. Why? Because I think this movie will go down in history, and I don’t want to miss getting on the bandwagon. I want to be part of the history.”
He was so inspired that he wrote Ayuhlah in just one day.
Likewise, VIONA wrote her track Senja in just 20 minutes when the team originally wanted to use the track Tenangkan … (2014), which she recorded as Takahara Suiko from the band The Venopian Solitude.
“It’s a good movie, a must-watch movie,” added Zainal.
“It will have the audience leave the cinema hall with a smile on their faces. And it will help them to remember how important it is to live in harmony.
“And the way the film is crafted – its locations, the cast, the outfits – everything looks so good to me.
“I am very fussy when it comes to watching Malaysian films, and I find this film to be impressive. I believe the whole of Malaysia will also like the film,” enthused Zainal.
Becoming a family
One of the things that Prakash truly looked at while making the film was to get an easy rapport going between the actors, the crew and the youngsters who are making their film debut.
Prakash said: “We took over nine months to build a relationship with the 12 boys who play the main roles. This was to make sure their acting and their interaction with Pekin, Nam Ron, all came out naturally for the camera.
“In those nine months, they became comfortable with us and we basically became a family. After that bonding period it was easy to direct them.”
Having been on this journey for so long, Prakash – who is making his directorial debut here after serving as assistant director on projects like Stamp, Sepi and Tipu Kanan, Tipu Kiri – is more than ready for Malaysians to watch Suatu Ketika.
“In the eight years that we were trying to make this film, we have already faced all kinds of challenges. We have been disappointed so many times that we are immune to the word ‘disappointment’.”
Nonetheless, Prakash appreciates the journey, and hopes Malaysians will enjoy the film.
“I chose to make this film to highlight the message of unity; that we must stand together to achieve something.”
Suatu Ketika opens at GSC cinemas nationwide on Sept 12.