Monday, March 30, 2009

TALENTIME: Another Serving of Malaysiana

TALENTIME (comedy/drama)
Starring: Jaclyn Victor, Adibah Noor, Mahesh Jugal Kishor, Mohd Syafie Naswip, Pamela Chong, Azean Irdawaty and Sukania Venugopal
Director: Yasmin Ahmad
Time: 125 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Mahesh Jugal Kishor and Pamela Chong in Talentime

PREAMBLE: Yasmin Ahmad's Talentime serves up another array of Malaysiana, this time around, with scenes that will pluck at our heart-strings. Those who have seen her previous efforts - Sepet, Gubra and Mukhsin - may find familiar themes repeated here but they are never boring. Highly sentimental and predictable, maybe, but never boring.

THE SKINNY: As per the title, it is about a talent contest organised by Cikgu Adibah (Adibah Noor) at a school in Perak. The story centres around three contestants - singer and pianist Melur (Pamela Chong), singer Hafiz (Mohd Syafie Naswip) and erhu player Kahoe (Hon Kahoe) - a 'transporter' (Mahesh Jugal Kishor as Mahesh) and their families. In the course of the rehearsals, we see how the lives of these people intertwine, including a blossoming romance between the bubbly Melur and the silent Mahesh.

THE REVIEW: Talentime is not so much about the talent competition as it is about relationships, love interests and prejudices. Its good parts are the subplots, vignettes and the music. Ah, the music..., but more on that later. Let's deal with Yasmin's romantic snippets first.

The main love story here involves Mahesh and Melur but Yasmin does not delve too much into how they fall in love. However, there is enough chemistry between the two to pull it off. The other relationships, like those between Hafiz's mother (Azean Irdawaty) and a fellow patient (Jit Murad) at the hospital, and between Cikgu Adibah and another teacher at school are also by-the-way sort of thing.

The most poignant subplot involves Mahesh's family - his mother (Sukania Venugopal), his sister (Jaclyn Victor) and uncle. For them traditional beliefs still hold sway and they threaten to tear them asunder. Yes, in Talentime, Yasmin also has her share of social, racial and religious issues that she wants us to mull over. As before, we laugh at some of them, cringe at others and we cry at the end. So don't forget the hankies and tissues.

Then there are the 'fun parts' - and these involve dances and catchy songs, including the foot-tapping Hindi hit O Re Piya, and Kasih Tak Kembali (by Yasmin's dad, Ahmad Hashim). My favourite dance number is the mock fan dance by a Malay teacher in drag. However, Yasmin seems to go overboard with the cute fun scenes among Melur's family. Some of them look forced and phoney. Also, at more than two hours, some scenes are draggy and some are repetitious. Still, a lot of them will touch us.

THE LOWDOWN: It's Yasmin Ahmad, predictably witty and entertaining.


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