SEPET finally arrived with a big tub of jam tarts. Just the right combination. Before I start, just a warning that this is NOT a review but a long, long ramble down memory lane.
Sepet - by Yasmin Ahmad
When SEPET was about to be released, almost every other blog that I hopped on to has the cover picture of the young lovers, Orkid and Ah Loong. Everytime I looked at the picture, my heart did a double take…Sharifah Amani is the exact replica of her mother Fatimah Abu Bakar – my soulmate, partner in crime, sidekick and more during our growing up years in campus and later as journalists in that big building in Jalan Riong.
The last time I saw Nani, was when she and sister Leya visited me in London. I knew that Leya was the one to follow her mother’s footsteps in acting. And of course she did. Then the last thing I heard, the whole family was already into it. Nani used to have long curly hair and looked more like her father. In fact they all do. But with hair straightened and long, the way she smiles and of course those sharp, barbed repartees she directed at one of her classmates in one of the scenes in SEPET, I knew she has inherited her mum’s famous traits!
Donkey years ago, Ena Samad, Fati and I strode into the newsroom to the desk of arwah Pak Cik Dahari Ali to report for duty . We fancied ourselves his Charlies’ Angels. Many a fun time was had there ooohing and aaahing over the likes of James Ritchie and Fauzi Omar, and much in awe of writers like Adibah Amin. Once in a while, we'd sneek a look into Lat's room to see the genius at work. I left in 1983 and last month, Fati packed up and left too. Ena and another close friend, Aishah Ali (mum to Jo of TooPhat) are still there to keep the UiTM Mass Comm flag flying. Now, it is time someone writes about this fine writer and talented actress.
The lass who couldn’t string two complete sentences in Malay when I first met her yonks ago was the Tun Kudu on stage, Maria in Shuhaimi Baba’s Drama Minggu Ini, the dancer in Jentayu and many more. And now I hear, she is one of the mentors in Akademi Fantasia and running a media consultancy, in between ferrying children to dancing classes, acting classes and so on.
While I have no doubt Fati taught Nani and Leya everything she knew about acting, let me enlighten you on some of the episodes that perhaps her children were not privy to.
Orkid's mum and her sidekick (Mak Cik Blur)
It was fate that threw all of us not only in one class but in one room throughout the three years in ITM. There was Fati, Ina, Tini, Mia, Reza and me. Ena was our squatter from another block, joining our regular bash of country dancing, teasing the boys across the building with mirror reflections from our windows and typing our essays late into the night.
Fati’s talent was discovered early by Normah Nordin and Shuhaimi Baba during our Speech and Drama class. For a little girl, she has a loud voice. She started 'acting' in our advertising class, especially, pretending to be awake, while sleeping. Fati and Ena were famous for sleeping in class, and almost always got away with it. Her first appearance on stage was as Tun Kudu – a production by Shuhaimi Baba. But it was her off stage and off screen talents that I am about to talk about now.
She was a huge success as Tok Bomoh Siam’s assistant in a sting that we staged from room to room which culminated in a grand finale on the 13th floor of the multi storey building.
I will call this drama – Desperately Seeking Toyol, with Moi starring as Tok Moh Siam, as my Siamese accent was quite convincing. We’d hold our sessions in the middle of the night, with accomplices preparing our victims for the moment the toyol was to appear. I’d do my chants in Thai Malay, supported by Fati who could always be relied on to keep a straight face, although we were bursting at the sides. And of course when the ‘toyol’ appeared, screams could be heard echoing through the rubber estates of Shah Alam.
I will not reveal what happened (its in the Tok Moh Siam's Code of Ethics)– but suffice to say it was hilarious and during the grand finale, we were chased right into the toilets by Pak Cik guard.
We did our own stunts too. Once, when the lift to the multi-storey building was not working, we persuaded the workmen repairing the lift to allow us a ride ON the broken lift right up to the 13th floor. Now, how scary can that be?
A versatile actress and certainly very resourceful, our Fati is. Like all buddies, we had our showers together. For years she endured my rendition of “My Eyes Adore You” and never complained that I never knew the rest of the song. But one day, I decided to pull a fast one on Fati as she was hollering away in her cubicle, probably singing her favourite John Denver song. I took away her towel, night gown and everything. I do not know, till this day, how she made her way back to our room…probably wrapped in the shower curtain. But opening my cupboard that evening., there was this long haired creature staring back at me. Fati had hidden in there waiting for the right moment for revenge.
We were quite good vocally too and usually tested our talent in the canteen, singing along the blaring music from the loud speaker. But this was where, as a friend she let me down. Waiting in a long queue to the food counter, we sang along to the song playing on full blast . Penuh bersemangat and full of feelings you… “Just one look, and I ‘m feeing high, high, highhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..” at which point, one of the adiks behind the counter, who must have been watching us, switched off the radio, leaving me on a highnote, highhhing like a hyena all by myself. Eyes were staring at Mak Cik Blur, (who was then, already Blur) and Fati stood there and just laughed, nearly wetting the floor!
For those of you too young to know, in those days we had Mamakteria just outside the campus, tucked in between the rubber estates, with a slippery lane winding down to the Klang-Kuala Lumpur Highway. We’d have roti telur and teh tarik at mamakteria when money was low but ate in style at the cafeteria when the budget allowed us. Anyway, after the sessions at Mamakteria, we’d make our way down to the highway to hitch a ride to Kuala Lumpur. The boys would usually hide behind the trees as we tried our charms on the drivers. It usually worked. But once Ena tried it alone, and was foolish enough to take the offer by a motorcyclist, who THEN, as they approached a quiet stretch of Shah Alam, asked her politely, if he could have a kiss!!! Seram!
I’d accompany Fati to her rehearsals and I supposed that was when I too was dragged into Drama Minggu Ini. During my stint at RTM, I used to wait for Shuhaimi for a lift home and she’d ask me to read parts supposedly for another actress who didn’t turn up. And so, that was my half hour of fame…a supporting role in Drama Minggu Ini that many people old enough would remember. I once went to visit an accused in the dock of a courtroom, and he asked, “Eh, bukan you Kakak Mior dalam Drama tu?”
We learnt quite fast to cope with being small time celebrities. On one field trip to a Felda Scheme, we were besieged by autograph hunters…waahhhh, macam Cik Siti sekarang ni lah agaknya!
Anyway, we all survived and ended up in the NST. I supposed Dr Nordin Sopiee, (now a Tan Sri?), was wise enough to see that he’d have trouble if he put us together in Jalan Riong and banished me to the Penang Bureau. And then of course, I came here as husband was tasked with setting up another NST bureau in London.
(Yikes – too long! Will end now, promise!)
Anyway, Fati, you have done well with Leya, Nani and all and with your life too. Just to thank you for the couch and your bed that I crawled into early in the mornings after the all night editings with Shumi on my first documentary. Thank you for sticking your neck out when I always, always sent in my columns a little late and last but not least thank you for those words of encouragement when I was so nervous to go out on my first date with that special someone from the office. You said threateningly: You tak keluark dengan dia, you kena!” You know I did and you know that I am still with him.
Fato – I rove you too!
The way we were: Ena Samad, Aishah Ali, Fatimah Abu Bakar and Mak Cik Blur