Sheih on Sheih: Persona Non Grata years
Posted on April 27, 2008
I going back after I make big money.
Why Money? Wanna Bribe you way to freedom.
No. I’m going to fight for justice.
Man… You still believe in justice? Am I drunk already?
You can do the same. We make big buck. You go back to Singapore, get a lawyer to fight your case. You said you are innocent… Justice is yours.
No… Justice only for those who have plenty…
(Excerpt from Persona Non Grata)
Person not wanted? Yes. That is how I always consider my accidental venture into the film industry.
When I join Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1990, my aim was to major in Journalism and to minor in Political Science. Those days, I used to have lots of hair on my head and I only cut it once a year when I have to meet my father. Eventually those hairs, which I foolishly thought would last forever, took the better of me.
USM those days used to have a very strict regulations and one of it was in regards of the hair. You will not able to enter the library without passing the security personnel who will make sure you obey all the rules and regulations. As the director of Security is my good buddy whom I held so much respect, I choose not to be sent to him again and again for advice. Due to the nature of the discipline in Journalism and Political Science, which requires me to spend much time in the library, I decided to look elsewhere which brought me to a person that until today is so special to me.
His name is Muhammad Hatta, thirty-something and just arrived back from Chicago with Master of Fine Arts. This former producer from National Film Board and began his academic career in USM in 1990 attracted me to the film world. He is a hell of an experimental persona whom until today I considered as my blood brother. His laid-back attitude and the time we spent talking about all sort of things under the cherry tree in front of the Communication’s school convinced me that I want to be just like him.
Since than, I took filmmaking religiously. I scored straight A for all my film subjects. I spent more times sleeping in the film studio compared to my dorm. Film have given me everything even a wife.
In 1993, film brought me out of the country to Tokyo when my student work was selected as the best 20 pieces out of 169 participations from all over the world. For a kampong boy from Pondok Panchor and a former driver for ‘Gemullah Tok Wakil Pengkalan Chepa’, this was a monumental personal success.
I remembered when Hatta came to my tutorial class and told me that “Karamnya Bahtera Merdeka a.k.a The Cries of an Independent Child” has achieved what deem impossible amongst the local varsity those days, we hugged each other and I screamed in front of my hostel, Desa Fajar; “Tokyo Here I come!!!”
When I finished my movie Persona Non Grata in 2006, I choose to have it premiered in USM. Persona Non Grata was first screened to public in the same hall that I shot “Karamnya Bahtera Merdeka” and among the hundreds who were there were Associate Professor Muhammad Hatta, Tuan Nor Rizan Khalid the still Director of Security and my mentor retired Professor R. Karthigesu. Those were the three persons most responsible in guided my way into the real world. Unfortunately, these three are the best of persons and they taught me all the best and lovely things in life. But the real life outside the gate of Minden, is not that lovely.
Deep inside me, I kept it to myself that by having screened Persona Non Grata and viewed by them during the same lifetime, mean that I have completed my cycle of my own world of film venture. I can now leave the industry without any regret. I may now venture into searching the Utopia.
Utopia, where I can clean myself and wash all my sins away. I never shared this ever with anyone not even my wife, because that night, after the premier, she whispered to me, “I’m proud of you”. She may want me to carry on with it. But my heart is no more there. It is just happened like that, however I just cannot find a reason to justify it. Though I knew, when I was hit by the economic misfortune in 1998, I have missed the train.
Nevertheless, I cannot hide it from God. Immediately my life was thrown into such an agony, mentally and financially. Everything that I venture into within the industry and the entire offer that I received never materialise. For once, I actually lost everything I had owned during those 14 years in the industry.
As I always said before, God works in such a mysterious way and He did it once more. If 1998 was the lowest point in my life, this time around, it is much deeper than it. Basically, I was physically grounded for an entire 8 months. It was so surreal that you just wake up one morning and realised that you have lost those passions that keeps on burning all those years.
Someone, many years before once hold my palm and said, one day you will go away, far away to work, you will meet a Minister and your life will climb to its peak never to fall down again. The Almighty is Great! Yes, I never doubted it.
I thought when I shot my movie in Bangkok that is the faraway land. However, here I am, deeper than the shit-hole. I am totally confused. Out of the confusion, I took up blogging. I knew that I do not have the strength any more. I knew that this time around even my marriage might crumble for it has been surviving on borrowed time. What had hit me had made it difficult for all and it seems to hurt them the most. I have betrayed the trust of everybody who had kept such a high hope on me. Now, I have left with nothing to offer to them anymore accept for the much abused, thank you and I am sorry.
I started Kickdefella somewhere in July 2006 to kick myself. I alienated myself and live in my own cyber world. Then suddenly, someone posted a comment and with that comment, he brought me out of my alienation. He gave me hope and made me felt wanted. That made me realised that I can still make a different in this world and I still have in me something to offer. I might have missed the train to fame but I still had with me a valid ticket to board another train to Utopia.
With that, I strived to keep my end of the bargain. I apply for all sorts of jobs that available online as long as it had nothing to do with directing or writing script and one day, I got the offer not to direct or to write but to teach film.
I joined UTAR in October 2006 and live a double personality. I again took my new career religiously, as I believed that I have found my Utopia, only to be disturbed when Bro Bakaq of Penarik Beca cycled into my life slowly but surely.
One night, over telephone conversation with the famed Penarik Beca, he shoot me a jackpot question, “Awat hang tak join PAS?”
I never answered that question until today, but that particular night, over Marlboro on my end and Gudang Garam on Bakaq’s end, I did say this, “Orang PAS cuma sorang aje yang aku teringin nak jumpa, Husam. Teringin benar aku nak jumpa dia”.
“Hang nak nomboq dia aku bagi”, “Isss, hang ni, takkan aku nak call dia, dia sapa, aku sapa…”, “Takpa, aku bagi nomboq hang kat dia, boleh?”. Bakaq suddenly eagerly ends our telephone conversation immediately.
The next day, while I am about to leave the staff room for my Friday afternoon break, my mobile rang. It was an unfamiliar number. As I was still in a lot of debts, it worried me to answer all those unfamiliar numbers. Nevertheless, I did answer that call.
“Husam sini!” That was his word. Yes, I was bloody damn shocked. It was YB. Dato’ Paduka Haji Husam Musa at the other end of the line. Surreal but real!