It was evident that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stole the limelight at the Kapsul press preview event in Kuala Lumpur last week.
Although Mahathir, who plays himself in the movie, has only a one-line scene, he was clearly the most popular one at the press conference with the media asking him questions ranging from acting experience to if he goes to the movies often.
He answered each question with good humour, sharing how he didn’t get paid for the guest appearance even though he asked.
Oh, and that James Cameron’s Avatar is one of his favourite movies.
But Kapsul is more than just a historical science fiction with a Mahathir cameo in it. It also has a bittersweet tale – it is the first and final feature film by Martias Mohd Ali. The 46-year-old director died of cancer last year, leaving behind wife Adza Irdawati and four children.
“After his death, I couldn’t do anything for weeks. I was devastated,” said producer Amru Najmi. “Then I remembered that Martias would want us to finish the film so it can be his final contribution to the film industry as well as to his family. He had a message that he wanted to tell through the film.”
The idea for the film was inspired by the time capsule planted by Mahathir at the Millennium Monument in Putrajaya in 2003. The capsule reportedly contains a message by Mahathir and its content will only be unearthed in year 2020.
Assistant director Pizi Jihat shared that the film is Martias’ interpretation of what is in the capsule.
“When Martias wrote the script back in 2009, he was trying to imagine what could Tun Mahathir possibly have to say in that message in the capsule. Funny thing is, we asked Tun Mahathir about his message in the capsule when he came to do his scene. He said he can’t remember,” Pizi explained.
In the film, Faizal Hussein stars as high-tech security expert Zohri Ibrahim. He accepts a bet from his wealthy friends to steal the time capsule and then reveal Mahathir’s message. He succeeds in his mission. But when he tries to open the time capsule, he gets transported into the body of a soldier during the Japanese Occupation in 1942.
“My character gets into all kinds of situations as he goes from one body in 1942 to another from a different era. He encounters tragedies, triumphs as well as some light-hearted moments. I really like that mix.
“Plus, the spy costume and gear he uses in the film? Those are all mine. I was excited that I finally got to take those out from my store room and use them for this film,” the 48-year-old actor said.
The film also features appearances by Datuk Rahim Razali, Datuk Ahmad Tarmimi Siregar, Adlin Aman Ramli, Shaharuddin Tambi, Normah Damanhuri, Fadilah Mansor and Haeriyanto Hassan.
A soft-spoken Faizal said that he was nervous to do his scene with Mahathir. “I remember feeling self-conscious about what we should chat about while waiting for our shoot. I think we talked about the entertainment industry a lot.”
Faizal said that he never knew director Martias was unwell during the shoot.
“On set, he was such a funny guy. I really miss that about him. I knew that he really wanted Tun Mahathir to be in the film. We were glad that we were able to fulfill that for him,” Faizal said.
Originally, Mahathir had rejected the offer to make an appearance in the film. Amru recalled how he had laughed when Martias proposed the idea.
“It sounded impossible. I remember saying to him that we might as well cast Michael Jackson,” Amru said.
After Martias’ death, Amru approached Mahathir again with a copy of the late director’s script and finally, he agreed. His scene has originally been shot by Martias with Haeriyanto playing Mahathir.
Unfortunately, Martias did not see the film’s final cut.
When Martias died in 2014, the film was only in the editing process.
With tears in his eyes, Pizi said: “This is the best that we can do for Martias and the film. More than anything in this world, I really wish that Martias could be here talking about his film. Instead of me.”
Kapsul opens in cinemas nationwide today.