Remembering Yasmin Ahmad
For someone who has his fair share of theatrics and dramatic antics in his life, I honestly was not prepared to receive the SMS that I received earlier tonight. Ever since I found out an hour after Kak Min's incident at TV3, my phone has been by my side, waiting for SMS-es and calls from KL. And any sms or call I received, I was fearful for the worst.
And as fate would have it, I had met a friend earlier and she had asked me how I was and how I was handling things. To which I said, "Every time I receive an SMS or a call, my heart skips a beat," and right on cue, an SMS came. And indeed, it was a message that I had not wanted to see. It felt like a really bad joke. I didn't know what to feel, I didn't know what to do exactly. But I did call Allan to verify his SMS and at that point, I really couldn't describe how I was feeling.
And now, as I type this, a few hours after hearing of the news and having read the flurry of messages on Facebook and looking through the photographs of the good times shared, it hit me. The fact that my Kak Min has left us. The very thought that I will not see her smile again, hear her laughter again (oh we all know that laugh, don't we?), feel her hugs and kisses again, upended my emotions and here I sit with somewhat sore eyes reminiscing.
I have had the privilege of knowing Yasmin for almost 3 1/2 years. Friendships can happen from the strangest of encounters.
It all started when Yasmin was in town to promote her new movie then, Gubra
and the team at movieXclusive.com had a chance to interview her and the rest of the cast. The interview was nothing formal at all considering that the team was hungry and we were the last media of the day and so, the interview, ended up being a casual affair. Actually, it felt more like a bunch of old friends meeting up and talking about stuff like DVDs and other movies and this was when I also discovered that one of her favourite movies of all time was Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful
and this being no secret, is my favourite movie of all time! Oh, the joy! And Stefan got a great big hug from Sharifah Amani too (there are pictures to prove it!).
A night or two later, we all met up again for the Gala Premiere of Gubra
and Yasmin remembered all of us. I remember this being the time when we pestered Richard for running around town to get a DVD copy of Sepet
so that Yasmin could sign it for him before she left. The best part was that there was a counter selling the same DVD for a cheaper price! :)
This was also the night when we walked away with autographed copies of the Gubra
poster which was lovingly signed by Yasmin herself and other cast members. This was made happen by the generous Thomas Chia who distributed them around. I'm proud to say that till today, the very first thing you see upon entering my house is that very autographed poster.
Soon after, everyone left but this was the start of a wonderful friendship.
When everyone else had gone home, Yasmin was still in Singapore and she was to attend a staging of Michael Chiang's Army Daze at the Drama Centre. Michael Chiang was an old friend of hers and she had gotten invites for the night and who would've thought that she would want to bring a 20-year old Singaporean boy to the theatres with her! She had remembered that I was into theatre and invited me to join her. This was also the night when her playful nature was at best when after we had met up with the rest of our friends after the show, we all squeezed into a car together to send her back to her hotel. Despite being offered the front passenger's seat, she, without hesitation, jumped into the back seat ahead of everyone else and got herself cramped with 3 other people!
Just months later, before I began my stint in the army, upon Yasmin's invitation, Stefan and I headed up to Kuala Selangor. Yes, we bused all the way to Kuala Selangor to spend a whole day on the set of her new film, Mukhsin
. Not once while we were up there did she treat us like strangers. It felt like we had been friends for so long. We got to see at least 4 scenes being filmed that day and we even had dinner with the cast and crew! To top it all off, she even asked her crew members who were heading back to Kuala Lumpur for the night to send us back to our hotel. I would also like to note that it was also on this trip when I met my friend Allan Koay for the first time. And I'm glad that it happened because Allan's a very close friend of mine too now.
Yasmin and the team at work on the set of Mukhsin
Not long after the trip, my army life began but Yasmin and I have always kept in touch, calling to meet when we were in KL or Singapore. Thanks to the army I also missed a trip up north to be on the set of Muallaf
but I have some pretty nice memories to share.Gubra
will remain as the movie that changed my life in a couple of ways. One was my non-existent love-life (which is still non-existent). Now, it was the Hari Raya period and my major major crush from my polytechnic days had come to my house to visit with other friends. The Gubra
poster in my house became a topic of conversation and she asked me if Jason had really died at the end of Sepet.
So I told her that she should watch Gubra
to find out and I was not going to spoil it for her. I didn't much else that night and when she left, I kicked myself for not having done anything.
A few days later I came up with an idea. I wrote a note to the girl in question with my name and number too of course and then I grabbed my DVD copy of Gubra
and I placed the note inside. The DVD with the note inside was then given to her by a friend. To cut a long story short, I did get to go out with the girl in question and Yasmin herself had met the girl before when we went to watch Mukhsin
at Vivo City. Let's just say that Yasmin had known about my little courtship tactics and had also given me the thumbs up. Heh. Sadly, it was not meant to be but that's another story for another day.
I also had the privilege of having had Yasmin attend a theatrical production of mine before at of all places, Tampines East CC! This production is also best remembered for her having discovered Hafiz and had written her yet-to-be released in Singapore movie, Talentime
, revolving around him! She was very excited about this and so was everyone else but things didn't really work out but I'm glad that the movie did get made. This evening was also when Yasmin met with my parents and extended family too. My parents had sent her back to her hotel that night and this also marked the beginning of a few meet-ups we had together with my family both in KL and Singapore.
Being her friend also meant that I did get a chance to watch certain things before others. For starters, some friends and I got to see Muallaf
a good one year before it was released in the Singapore cinemas. Oh, I also have a secret to share. Remember the first MCYS commercial Yasmin did? The one with the single father and daughter? Well, this was confirmed by Yasmin herself that my mates and I were the very first Singaporeans to have had seen them way before they appeared on Singapore TV. And guess what, we viewed it in KL! But it is also with a tinge of sadness that I have to say that when I got to watch Talentime
back in January this year, it was also my last meeting with her. It was a day well spent though moving from one place to another, having lunch, crashing at her hotel room with others.
I last spoke to Yasmin about slightly less than a month ago. She was her normal bubbly self, probably busy but not too busy to spare me her time. We had spoken about a possible collaboration for 2010 and she had given the go ahead but I guess that remains to be seen now. If only I had known that it was to be the last time I would ever hear her voice again...
From now on, some things will most definitely be different. I will miss calling her on 7th January to wish her a Happy Birthday and get a wish back in return because we share the same birthday. I will miss hearing her always calling people "Baby" or "Sayang" over the phone and even the littlest thing like whenever she sms-es when she's in town to ask for solat timings in Singapore.
In the brief but meaningful years of my friendship with her, Yasmin Ahmad taught me many life lessons. She was truly the epitome of "what-you-see-is-what-you-get". Her laughter, smiles and inquisitive and playful nature were all genuine. She was an honest person who truly had no airs about her and most importantly, so warm and down-to-earth despite her "celebrity" status which I'm certain she couldn't care less about. It's not easy to tell a story that is honest and true, right from the heart and translate it to any medium - film, theatre, books, etc but it always felt like Yasmin could do it with relative ease. But it was from these that made it so easy for everyone to fall in love with Yasmin Ahmad.
Tonight, the human kind is poorer because we have lost a genuine human being who was always true to herself and her beliefs. The stars have hidden themselves, the trees and flowers have bowed their heads in silence and the air is...still...
Tomorrow, we should be thankful that she brought us all into her life through her movies and commercials or her friendship.
Kak Min, the news that you have left us is not an easy one to take but the pain is soothed by the fact that you are in a better place.
If this is hard enough for your friends to take, I can't imagine how it must be like for your family to have lost a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter. My thoughts and prayers are with them.
Thank you for the memories. Till we meet again.P.S. Kak Min, of all the things you've said to us, there's one thing that still probably resounds. When Stefan and I told you that we intended to start making short films, you said, "Why make short films? Go make a long one! Don't waste time! Go!"
We've never gotten about to doing it. Maybe we should. :)