Keronchong for Pak Bakar by Abdul Nizam Hamid

`Keronchong' in the title loosely refers to a song, like a tribute in the form of song. Pak is father and Bakar is the dedicated cinematographer in subject. Told uncompromisingly in tribute style, the aptly titled documentary lets us into the world of Pak Bakar and his craft.

His craft is fascinating, passionate, sometimes mysterious and esoteric and at other times seem like a parable to his own life. But for all the time we peered at his wrinkles accentuated by partial sunlight in the room, he was still inscrutable and remained like what he has always been, a technician by choice, a faithful part of a now disbanded team and a facilitator to P Ramlee's dreams.
By contrast, from the soulful outpourings of Nizam, the filmmaker, heard in his letters to Pak Bakar, we are led deeper into Nizam's world than Pak Bakar - his takes on life, friendship and love and the influence of his parents and the lessons he has lived through. Meandering through a stream of different emotions from to yearning to regret, it made Pak Bakar's technical obssessions seem so dry in comparison.

Perhaps, everytime you point a camera at your subject, it is natural of human beings to already give you `a 50% discount' on their behaviour. Perhaps, this was a two-man story or in the spirit of the title, a duet. But eventually, it was Nizam's personal story that was stronger. One that covered his fascination, his obssession, his reverence, his influences, his nostalgic indulgence, his poetic rationalisation of life and his own lessons for himself.
Panorama Crosstalk #5

J : I have to state some facts and elicit some truths............The turn out for Keronchong was quite good but you are not sure if half the crowd was here to watch `After The Rain’ by Mr 881.
Or is it P Ramlee’s drawing power?
S : Actually, Pak Bakar himself is quite an attraction.
J : I see. Is Pak Bakar really that famous?
S : I've no idea really, but I suppose it's akin to celebrating Christopher Doyle for his lensing of some WKW films. (beat) so you have Doyle, and you have Pak Bakar who hails from yesteryear and gave us the P. Ramlee movie classics.
J : Okay that explains it. (pause) I felt a bit heartache watching the film actually and it is not because of Pak Bakar’s forgotten state.
S : Was it the travelling shots to Malaysia?
J : No , the narrator's eulogistic reading style.
S : Well, he said it was his 3rd letter to Pak Bakar.
J : OK, maybe now I appreciate the desperation. It adds more irony to the fact that Pak Bakar stays just above him.
S : It’s called fate.
J : But it could been less Chinese Poetry style, it was very si ge lang song (melodramatic way of reciting Chinese poetry).

S : Haha, yes i get what you mean. (pause) What I thought was strange was that the docu ended very abruptly. Just *poof* and it's over!
J : Really? I thought the final P Ramlee montage was an indication. They were mostly made up of tracking shots which are little grander than the usual stationary shots.
S : Mmm (pondering)…still a bit abrupt.
J : Ok, but about time though. It seemed Nizam could not get Pak Bakar to share enough about his own self in front of the camera. Cos, I have no doubts, behind the camera , they had a real deep session going.S : I guess like what Nizam said – 1. You have to gain his trust for him to open up. 2. Once that is established, it is less likely u want to stick a camera each time you're talking.
J : I once interviewed an umbrella seller who has been selling them at Sungei road for ages but I could hardly get her to talk anything beyond her umbrellas.
S : Probably you had to try harder, or buy her umbrellas la.
J : Did that.
S : Did she speak more to you after that?
J : Yes, started sharing even more about the umbrellas! (sudden brainwave) That is why the fact that Pak Bakar kept talking about the equipment struck me. But you know, after a while, I noticed you could interpolate certain things about his life as well from his technical talk.
S : Which is?
J : For instance, when he said the new Mitchell cameras arrived, he never touched them. A allusion to the passing of his era, and hence, that of being left behind by time.
S : Hmmmm... you might have a point there. But surprisingly he chose to do so. There shouldn't be a lack of suitors for his skills I guess.
J : As in learn how to shoot the old-fashioned way?



S : That, as well as his artistic eye. I mean, being the cinematographer for P. Ramlee should open a lot of doors, rite?
J : But you must be a fan of this genre of movies. I guess it is rather niche by now.
S : I've not seen enough P. Ramlee movies to begin with. But they're readily available in the shops in VCD format.


J : And recently, I seem to be seeing, hearing P Ramlee everywhere, either directly or being cross-referenced. E.g. The Perspectives Film Festival by NTU.
S : I think if anyone were to do a festival of films from the past, you can be sure there's gonna be at least a P Ramlee movie somewhere. And those who have seen them before, will turn up in droves to watch it again, on the big screen. At least that's how I feel about it.
J : Think it's time we break this ice-berg slowly then.
S : (nods)
J : Then perhaps, I can finally understand Nizam's HUGE indulgence.



Check out the recent Perspectives Film Festival at www.ntu.edu.sg/sci/perspectives/

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