Friday, October 31, 2008

Of Sharukh Khan and Datukships

I feel that there are many locals (veterans and youngsters) in the Malaysian entertainment industry who should be given priority. Some, like the late Kasmah Booty, the primadonna of early Malay movies, have passed away without any such recognition. Let us “ not feed the monkey in the jungle rather than feed our own child at home ” is an old Malay saying.

There has been much comment recently on the conferment of a datukship on Bollywood star Sharukh Khan by the Melaka state government. It is true that one cannot question the prerogative of any state to do so and it is not my intention to do this. However, the reasons highlighted for this particular recipient, focus solely on his so-called contributions to tourism and begs for comment.

It must be remembered that the choice of location to shoot any footage for a film is not the decision of the actor or actress on. This comes entirely under the purview of the producer and / or director as it is cost related. Actors are merely professionals paid to act wherever the producer or director decides.

Actually, many other stars from different countries including Hong Kong and the USA too have appeared in footage shot in Malaysia that prominently featured Malaysian scenery and iconic landmarks. Of late more Tamil rather than Hindi movies have been doing this. So do all these other Indian actors and actresses also qualify for a datukship as they are “promoting Malaysia” to the millions of overseas Tamil Indians worldwide? It is my view that most tourists visit Malaysia more to shop or see our diverse cultures and our fauna and flora - cultural tourists to be more exact.

Jackie Chan is an equally, if not a more, deserving recipient if we are to take the reasons given by the Melaka state government as a benchmark.. His films shot in Malaysia also mostly use rented local equipment and expertise unlike their Indian counterparts who use their own equipment and staff with no technique or technology spillover effect for our locals.

Many do not know that Pulau Tioman was the setting for Rodgers and Hammerstein 1958 production of "Bali Hai" in the Hollywood classic movie "South Pacific". Should the producer of this film too be honored even if it can only be done posthumously now as was the case with Tan Sri P. Ramli.

By Johami Abdullah

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