Sunday, January 8, 2017


The year 2016 ended on a rather heartwarming note.

I was commissioned to create a film to kickstart the film competition ciNE65 season IV. I have been a mentor and judge in the previous annual editions of the event. It's feels like coming to a full circle by being asked to make a film.

The pressure is on. It's the case of the judge being judged haha.

The theme for ciNE65 IV is Home.Truly. I called the film THE USUAL.

This is not an easy theme to dwell on. What is Home, truly?

I spent a few days pondering over what "home" means to me? I did some soul-searching, firstly into my past to look at situations that remind me of "home". There obviously are more than 1001 things out there that I can anchor my film on. Eventually I decided to look beyond the present, far back into my childhood. When I was a toddler, my late father used to bring my older male siblings and myself to our monthly haircut session at the small barbershop run by a jovial Mr Siva at Jalan Majapahit, old Jurong Road.

The trips to the barbershop were especially memorable. The barbershop had a very unique cultural setting. Mr Siva's barbershop was not spacious. It was painted in deep turquoise and had only 2 worn-out, mechanical barber chairs in red placed closely together. The walls were filled with iconic images of Hindustan-Tamil film stars of the day. On opposite side, the wall was covered with images of various Hindu deities, with a Hindu altar that occupied central position of this wall. All day long, the airwaves would be filled with a mixture of Hindi and Tamil pop songs from the movies. To this wide-eyed toddler, the whole experience was like entering into a rural Disneyland.

Although I enjoyed the trips, it traumatised me whenever it was my turn to have my haircut. When my haircut was completed (and I've stopped crying crocodile tears by then), I entertained myself by examining the various tools as my dad and Mr Siva, who was cutting my brother's hair, caught up with family news and the politics of the day.

While you were on the barber's chair, all human liberties and childhood freedom were stripped off your life! The sound of the clipper threatened to mow your head off any second.

And you were witnessing yourself getting traumatised via the mirror.

In retrospect, besides the childhood hair-raising experience, I have to give credit to my late father for always taking us out to unique experiences outside of my Malay upbringing - and the barbershop trips were just one of them. I can't remember all of them but I do recall moments when he would chillax at the Chinese kopitiam located along the barbershop to chit-chat with the Chinese uncles there. They conversed in a unique brand of the Malay language. I found out later that the language they used was Melayu Pasar "Bazaar Malay".

To anchor the film in the present, I used my experience while serving National Service at the 1st Commando Battalion. I'm privilege to have the been through what many young men can only wish in this elite unite. See if you can spot my little cameo in The Usual.

These two experiences are very personal for me - personal moments that will always remind me of Singapore - regardless where I am in the world.

Moments that will always remind me Home-Truly.

I am honoured to have the Defence Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen, spare some time to appear in this little project. Thank you, Sir.

Here is the behind-the-scenes video to THE USUAL. Thank you, MINDEF, for this awesome shoutout.

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