Astro Shaw recently unveiled the cast and an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip of the upcoming film Ola Bola at a media event in Stadium Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur.
Directed by Chiu Keng Guan (The Journey), the movie tells the story of the Harimau Malaya football team set in the late 1970s.
According to Chiu, it’s a fictional story based on an monumental true event in Malaysian football history. Ola Bola is currently in post-production and Chiu said he will be travelling to Taiwan to complete the movie. It is scheduled for nationwide release in January or February next year.
Here are five things we found out about Ola Bola.
1. It features a multi-racial cast
The main cast in Ola Bola consists of newcomers Muhd Luqman Hafidz, Chee Jun Cherng or JC Chee and Saran Kumar Manokaran. Chee plays the captain of the football team while Luqman is the striker and Saran stars as the goalkeeper.
Bront Palarae takes on the role as Rahman, a sports commentator. YouTube sensation Marianne Tan plays Marianne, an Astro producer looking to bring the story on the Harimau Malaya football team to life. The Journey’s Lee Sai Peng makes a special appearance as a security guard at the stadium.
2. Shah Rukh Khan serves as an unlikely inspiration for one of the actors
Luqman shared that he was nervous prior to auditioning for his role.
“I studied acting by watching a lot of Shah Rukh Khan movies. I realised that he expressed himself by doing a lot of movements with his eyebrows. So I tried that during my audition. Eventually, Chiu told me to stop moving my eyebrows. I learned that I just have to be myself,” Luqman said.
Chee almost didn’t get cast for his role.
“The first time I went for the audition, I didn’t meet Chiu and they cast me for something else,” Chee remembered.
“The next day, I was asked to come back again for another audition. Chiu wasn’t there as well. Finally, the third time I came back for a casting on the field, Chiu saw me and asked me to play some football. I was nervous because I haven’t played football in 15 years!”
On the other hand, Saran had to be coaxed into auditioning.
“My friends and family told me a talent scout was looking for an actor. I don’t have any interest in acting but they kept urging me to go. I found out that acting is harder than playing football,” Saran said.
3. A fun set
A massive, fully-functioning funfair serves as one of the backdrops for the movie. Chiu said planning for the set took months.
“We built it in two weeks at a location in Kuala Lumpur. We shot there for four days and then we had to tear everything down again. It was a really beautiful set.”
4. Chiu told Bront he was too old for Ola Bola
“I stalked Chiu. I’ve always wanted to act in his movies,” Bront said. “But I thought my opportunities were limited because Chiu has so far only done movies in Chinese. At one point, I thought I should learn how to speak Mandarin or Cantonese just to get a shot.”
He dropped a huge hint when he met Chiu at an event in Kuala Lumpur.
“So, he told me he is doing Ola Bola and I immediately told him that I play football too! But then Chiu said ‘Ya, but you old already.’”
A week later, Bront got a call from Chiu for the role of Rahman.
5. The movie’s budget is a closely-guarded secret
Ola Bola began production in April this year and filming was completed in 55 days. The team shot at various locations, including Selangor, Perak, Penang, Johor and Sabah.
Astro Shaw also enlisted the expertise of a visual effects team from Argentina, an aerial cinematography unit from Australia and the services of notable Taiwanese director of photography Chin Ting Chang (his recent work was Taiwanese box office hit, Kano).
So how much did this cost Astro Shaw?
Astro chief operating officer Henry Tan who signed off on the budget said he will not reveal the amount.
“It’s a secret.”