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TALENTIME (Malaysia)

  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of Lighthouse Pictures)

In English/Malay/Tamil with Malay and English Subtitles
Director: Yasmin Ahmad
Cast: Mahesh Jugal Kishor, Pamela Chong, Jaclyn Victor, Howard Hon Kahoe, Mohd Shafie Naswip, Mislina Mustafa, Harith Iskander, Sukania Venugopal, Elza Irdalyna, Amylia Thipura, Tan Mei Ling
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films and Lighthouse Pictures
Rating: PG (Some Coarse language)
Official Website: http://www.talentimethemovie.com/

Opening Day: 22 October 2009


A talent search competition has matched two hearts - that of Melur, a Malay-mixed girl and an Indian male student, Mahesh. Melur, with her melodious voice, singing whilst playing the piano is one of the seven finalists of the Talentime competition of her school organised by Cikgu Adibah. Likewise Hafiz, enthralling with his vocalist talent while playing the guitar, dividing his time between school and mother, who is hospitalised for brain tumor.

It all started after Mahesh, amongst the students assigned to get the finalists to school for practice, delivered the notice of successful audition to Melur's house. His handsome looks attracted the girl. Early on of their relationship, tragedy struck Mahesh's family when his uncle Ganesh who had been the care-taker of the family since the loss of Mahesh's father, was stabbed to death on his wedding day. Melur thinking that Mahesh's silence was due to his grief over the tragedy became furious when she was continuously ignored. She regretted it however after Hafez revealed Mahesh's situation.

That changed Melur's perception of Mahesh. Likewise Mahesh, who grew comfortable with the presence of the girl who often quotes beautiful poetry. Mahesh, realizing that the relationship will be opposed, kept it hidden from his mother,still grieving over the death of Ganesh. Alas, the secret was exposed and Mahesh was assaulted before Melur's very eyes. Just a day before the competition, is Melur resilient enough to sing the poetic lyrics of her song when her heart is tormented by the thoughts of Mahesh? What about Mahesh who has found his first love? On Talentime night, everything unfolds.

Movie Review:

Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad once said that she hoped to stop making movies after her seventh directorial feature. Talentime, unfortunately, was her sixth and last movie. In July 2009, the talented director passed on a few days after collapsing at a TV3 meeting. She was still in pre-production on two other movies, “Wasurenagusa”, a Japanese collaboration and “Go Thaddues!”, which would have been a Singapore production. This reviewer feels that somehow, if you put all her commercials together, you might get the seventh feature that she was talking about.

Constantly running into trouble and at times, courting controversy with the Malaysian Board of Film Censors, she was revered in other places around the world. She won awards in places like Berlin, made Cannes fall in love with her now famous advert, Tan Hong Ming in Love and gaining pretty much a strong following in Singapore. This movie, Talentime, also garnered her a posthumous award for Best Director at the recent Malaysian Film Festival.

This movie is a departure from the director’s unofficially named Orked Trilogy – 3 movies (Rabun, Sepet & Gubra) which revolved around the lives of characters who were directly linked to her family members. Afterall, the very reason why Yasmin made movies in the first place were for her parents. Talentime is about a bunch of school students who come from different walks of life who are all directly or indirectly involved with the school’s seventh annual Talentime.

Yasmin has always made movies about people and through her stories, she had hoped that people who watched her movies would learn how to live life. She has created works where her characters are normal people who do normal things like falling in love, whether it is between children or people of different races. Yet, she paints her movies with such sentimentality that even clichés become heartwarming and endearing tales which have left a lasting impression. In Talentime, Malaysia’s multi-racial population is represented in the form of a modern Malay-Eurasian family, a traditional Indian and Chinese family and a heart-wrenching relationship between a Malay boy and his mother.

Melur (Pamela Chong) is a finalist of her school’s Talentime and as part of the event arrangements, Mahesh (Mahesh Jugal Kishor) is the designated motorbike rider who has to ferry her to and from rehearsals. Initially angered at the shy boy’s refusal to respond to her, she discovers that he is deaf and mute and the two fall in love. Mahesh on the other hand, tries to avoid letting his very traditional mother from finding out about this forbidden relationship. Hafiz (Shafie Naswip), a new boy in the school has been topping the class and this is viewed with disdain by the top student, Kahoe (Hon Kahoe), who feels threatened by Hafiz and believes he is cheating. Hafiz, though surprised by this has bigger things to worry about and that is his ill mother who has been hospitalized with a tumour.

In all honesty, this is not Yasmin’s best work but it is a pretty commendable one. The way Yasmin has infused tragedy and comedy together in Talentime has become a trademark of hers but it felt like she was bringing out the big guns in this one. She does not shy away from touching on racial misconceptions which provide us with the funny touches and yet, she is able to deftly handle death in as tender a form as possible.

Sure the acting may be far from even (she did afterall cast virtual unknowns for most of the main roles) and the editing on this one a little too messy for this reviewer’s liking, there is still a lot to like in the movie. For one, the songs that she has chosen, which includes several by her longtime collaborator, Pete Teo, are apt for every scene she places them in. And in the end, when two of the leads perform the emotional song, “I Go”, this reviewer cannot help but think that she had placed the song at the end on purpose, as a form of goodbye.

Talentime will tickle your funny bone, make you blush reminiscing your own love life and make you cry your heart out. In essence, doing what every Yasmin Ahmad movie will do and have done to you. Most importantly, long after the credits have rolled and the lights have come on, her works will continue to linger in our memory, hopefully, for as long as we remember her.

Thank you for the memories Yasmin Ahmad. We will miss you.

Movie Rating:

(Talentime grabs at your heart and will linger in your minds for a very long time)

Review by Mohamad Shaifulbahri


. Muallaf (2008)

. Sell-Out (2008)

. Salawati (2008)

. Joni's Promise (2006)

. Love for Share (2006)

. Gubra (2005)


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