New Year, New Features: M Raihan with "Banting"

This is the second Q and A of SINdie's New Year, New Feature interview series with Mr M Raihan.  Raihan is armed with experience in doing comedy for TV, but he will be stretching his experiences into making his first ever feature film in the comedic genre, "Banting".  With "Banting", he is one of the eight selected recipients who received the New Talent Feature Film Grant. (MDA website is currently under maintenance and we will link info regards to NTFFG once it is up and alive again!) 

1. Congratulations on being selected for the New Talent Feature Grant (NTFG). Could you tell us a bit more about this film that you will be developing?

Banting is a story about a young Muslim girl who is secretly moonlighting as a professional wrestler. It’s a film about mothers and daughters, tradition versus nonconformity and finally filial piety versus following your heart. Despite the heaviness of the topic, Banting will be one heck of an awesome flick and audience will be up for some slamming-good fun!


2. As funding is slightly less of an issue now, are you hoping to push the boundaries--stylistically or technically--with what you want to achieve on this film, which you couldn't on others due to budget constraints? Anything bold the audience can expect?

The challenge for me -- whether on the TV screens and now the silver screen -- has always been finding the best way to tell a story. Working in television for almost ten years taught me how to make stories come to life on budget and in sometimes extremely tight deadlines. For most part in television, we are taking a 20-odd day shoot to make eight episodes of serialized drama (about 8 hours of screentime). I am excited to be able to take those number of days, the same resources, awesome crew and dedicate them to make a 90 minute film. Now that is exciting to me!

Stylistically (or technically), there will be some new toys that I have always wanted to experiment with but seems a little extravagant for TV. This is the chance that I’ve been waiting for to use these toys and use it to enhance the story and take it to another level.


3. Even though all of you are Singaporeans--and thus draw a great deal of your inspiration locally--do you think the programme's thematic requirement that you create specifically Singaporean content potentially restricts your vision as filmmakers?

Nope. I refuse to believe so. I believe that as filmmakers, it’s up to us to make the best film -- even if it means being extremely Singaporean --  and make it the best damn thing out there. For Banting, I am striving to make an all-out Singaporean film. So I don’t think I am being restricted at all. I think that the South Koreans are perfect examples as one of the best filmmaking community out there. 

Take the best of Korean films: The Host, Tae-Guk-Gi and Joint Security Area (my wife’s favourite film ever!) These films are incredibly “Korean” but the themes and characters easily transcend borders and connected with the worldwide audience. How about films like Billy Elliot or The Full Monty. Again, extremely British films but find incredible success beyond it’s shores. Somewhere closer to home, the late Yasmin Ahmad's films are unmistakably Malaysian but yet incredibly universal!

My greatest hope, my dream is to be able to make a Singaporean film -- one that can be proudly Singaporean -- and find huge success beyond our shores.


4. Name one single thing or incident that happened in your life that planted the seeds for the idea of this film.

One of my favourite conversations was with Oak3 Film’s Director Zaihirat Banu. We discussed and agreed that the world is in need of some fun Muslim stories. Stories that revolve around Muslims (post 9/11 -- Persepolis, Kite Runner, Towelhead!) are bound to be heavy and sometimes incredibly hard to watch. So Zai and I asked ourselves, “We are Muslims. We are a bunch of fun loving people. Why aren’t we making films about us?”

Then it was in early 2010 that I came home to find a book sitting on my dining table. The book was: “Does My Head Look Big In This?”. The book was my sister’s. And what caught my eyes was the cover: And it was a girl in a hijab. I read the back cover of the book and found something extremely interesting.

Here is a Young Adult fiction that actually has a Muslim girl as the main character! Now that is something I have not read before. Reading on, I found the story to be extremely refreshing, it is bubbly and fun -- but with a Muslim main character. I was hooked. I knew -- I just knew -- that I have to find a story that revolves around a Muslim character but is just pure fun! And professional wrestling was the perfect setting to put my main character in!

5. What are your wish for the Singapore local film industry?

Make more genre films!!!!!!!




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