When Allan SMSed me late last night, I was shell-shocked and couldn't believe the 4 words staring out from the screen. Knowing him not as a prankster, and especially so in the past few days when we were all praying for you, I was dumbfounded, as with many of your fans from around the world when they heard of the news.
It was only earlier this month when you shared your slate of activities with me when I asked, since having follow your blog I noticed that you've been travelling quite frequently. You were scheduled to speak in Jogja for an advertising conference, then off to Japan for the final location check for Wasurenagusa. For sure you were very happy, and excited too especially with your first Japanese production, together with the Singapore ones in Go! Thaddeus, as well as Monte Carlo which was mooted way back in 2006, now that 13 Little Pictures may get some money to have the film made.
The first time my friends and I had heard of Monte Carlo, was during the period when you were here for the Gubra World Premiere. It was about the time when we first met, and I still remember the time, where it was late in the evening, and you were doing the press rounds in Singapore. Thomas of Lighthouse Pictures had contacted the movieXclusive team that we're the unfortunate last group and due to schedules being overrun, had to conduct our interview over dinner. Shaiful had written about it, and clearly your big magnanimous heart and down to earth sincerity had won us all over. You were most definitely without airs, and had taken a keen interest in each and every one of us in the big group (in fact one of the, if not the biggest MX had deployed for events) during the interview, never being a one-way street of questions and answers, but we were made to feel like old friends catching up with each other over good food.
I became a fan after Sepet, having to watch the film only earlier in the day and falling deeply in love with it. It's most surreal to have watched a film that have touched me so much, then meeting up almost immediately with the creative force behind it. In fact, all of us had such a great time during those initial few days, that we wondered if we'd ever have the opportunity to meet up again, so much so that we quickly printed that group photo, autographed it at the back with our contact details, and gave it to you before you left for home. But I guess we made all clicked, and you extended an invitation to visit you on the set of Mukhsin, Muallaf, and Talentime which I wasn't able to make it. I can't thank you enough for that chance in being on a real film set, and watching first hand how movie magic got created by you, the cast and your jolly film crew, and not to mention being taken care of by everyone on top of having to shoot a film!
My day job had also given me some opportunities to travel up to KL, and we would contact each other to see if schedules do permit us to meet. Most of the time it was quite uncanny that when I'm in KL, you would happen to be in Singapore or elsewhere for other engagements, but you never fail to call me on my Malaysian number to chat. We did meet up one of those times of course, and it happened to be opposite the hotel I was staying at (which I believe was near your home too), and we've had a short chat session together with musician Hardish Singh. I remembered I had passed you a CD of the pictures and video I've taken on the set of Mukhsin, and you were telling me that if the coffeeshop proprietor had agreed, you would play the Mukhsin screener DVD on the premise's TV.
Last year was a tremendous year, where the Singapore Asian Civilizations Museum hosted its very first Retrospect of your films from Sepet to Mukhsin, and who could forget that technical glitch midway through Mukhsin. But you managed to hold court during the long period of technical difficulty, engaging the audience with meaningful banter, that you've probably saved the Museum tremendous blushes. There's this magical magnetism about you, that when you speak, people listen because you touch their hearts, through your films, your explanations, and your sincerity. When it was announced that the film had to be re-screened early next morning, more than half of the audience turned up to continue where they left off. And you were such a tease too in telling the audience that you have the screener DVD of Muallaf in your bag, that they almost begged for it to be played in place of Mukhsin :-)
I am always amazed at your energy levels too. Having to travel to Singapore for that retrospect, holding a Q&A session, and then taking us (myself, Richard, local filmmaker Sanif Olek, Sherman Ong, organizing representative Grace Lau, and new found friends/fans Christopher Gomez and Vanessa Ching) to dinner, followed by that late night DVD shopping at Mustafa, where almost everyone went hunting for your DVDs, and getting you to autograph them for keepsakes. It was one of the longest hang-out sessions we had, until almost past 3am which we grudgingly decided to let you go so that you will look good for a television interview the next day. Knowing that you're always game for a bawdy joke or comment, then allow me to indulge in an episode which you probably weren't aware of. I suppose you still carry around that small "sauce-bottle" that Grace had gotten at Mustafa for you, for washing purposes in case toilets you visit anywhere in the world turn out to be not so sanitary. Imagine her being tickled pink at knowing that you actually DO carry it around and DO use it, when I saw you whisk it out when you were here for the Muallaf Q&A, and told her about it.
As you told me to, I have set aside some funds to get to Japan to visit you on the Wasurenagusa set, and also to hit the screening of Talentime at the Tokyo International Film Festival this year. I had missed last year's Muallaf festival screening at Tokyo because tickets were already sold out very early, and that is a testament to your popularity since Sepet had took home Best Asian Film at an earlier edition of the festival. I hope to be able to watch Talentime with the Japanese audience, though this time we will definitely be missing your presence amongst us. If I do make it there, I will let you know how it went, just like how I told you of the audience's reaction right after Mukhsin's screening in Hong Kong, which was a rousing applause at the end of it.
The other bit of information you're always interested to know, will of course be whether I've fallen in love again. It's always something that you'll bring up each time we chatted, grilling me about what's keeping me, and what I look for most in a woman, apart from big tits and long legs (haha, I'm quoting you on that one!), though I can never forget your encouraging words when I tend to drift into indifference and nonchalance, that my ex-es were just the wrong ones who had to bugger off to make way for the right one. If I do meet her, I'll introduce Yasmin Ahmad to her, that here's an exceptionally wonderful lady that I've come across earlier in my life.
Shaiful mentioned at his site that he and I still remember that you told us to get our hands dirty in making a feature film as opposed to experimenting with shorts. And we learnt that so long as the story we want to tell is from the heart and sincere, let there be no detractors or criticisms put us down or discourage us. I guess this one would be a fine comedy, and hopefully it'll make you laugh:
You've left behind a series of beloved ads and a handful of heartwarming films, and for sure they will all be appreciated by generations to come, with keen lessons and observations to be learnt from, positive attributes such as Love, Forgiveness and Tolerance.
Rest in peace Kak Min. You are sorely missed, and for sure you're at a much better place now.
Forever missing your generosity and laughter,