After spending half a decade in limbo, Namewee’s controversial Banglasia 2.0 finally made its way into Malaysian movie cinemas on Feb 28.
Despite its 18 rating, Banglasia 2.0 has raked in RM220,000 at the local box office on the first day of its release, setting another personal record for Namewee, whose directorial debut Nasi Lemak 2.0 (2011) collected RM175,000 while Hantu Gangster (2012) made RM188,000 on its opening night.
Due to demand from audiences, local cinema operators have also increased the total number of halls nationwide to 116, while popular moviegoers’ haunt GSC Mid Valley has even doubled their screenings of Banglasia 2.0.
Feeling thankful that the change of government has resulted in his recent change of fortune, Namewee expressed hope for renewed freedom of expression for filmmakers.
“We have a new government now and new hope for the country. This film is a good representation of that,” said the filmmaker, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee.
Having spent a good part of the past five years lobbying for Banglasia 2.0 to be screened in local cinemas, Namewee was elated when the movie was given the green light by Malaysian Censorship Board (LPF) two weeks back.
Yet, despite being excited that Malaysian moviegoers can finally catch Banglasia 2.0 in local cinemas, the straight-talking filmmaker now says that he cannot bring himself to watch it.
In a recent media conference, Namewee admitted he had mixed feelings about the release of Banglasia 2.0, which is now 92 minutes long.
The movie is re-titled Banglasia 2.0 (from Banglasia), and has had seven scenes snipped, apart from undergoing a reshoot acknowledging Malaysia’s recent General Election to make it relevant to the times.
“It may have been a five-year wait for audiences because the movie was originally scheduled for release in 2014. But for us filmmakers, it has been six long years, as we actually shot the movie in 2013.
“As a filmmaker, my movie is like my baby that I carefully nurtured. If someone cuts your baby, would you even dare to take a look? This is how I feel, my heart aches so much that I cannot bear to see the final outcome,” lamented the 35-year-old filmmaker who is also a multiple award-winning singer-songwriter.
That is why Namewee is glad that the original Banglasia had already made its premiere four years ago, at the Singapore International Film Festival 2015, New York Asian Film Festival 2015, and Osaka Asian Film Festival 2014.
“Only audiences at film festivals in New York, Osaka and Singapore have seen Banglasia. They were very happy because they could enjoy the privilege of watching a banned film. So, they laughed and shouted as the movie played,” said Namewee, who was glad that he had been able to show the uncut version of the film in its entirety a few years back.
In addition to the seven scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, another 10 scenes had also been marked as controversial. But the movie producers decided to preserve the latter scenes in the final cut, hence Banglasia 2.0 ended up being tagged with an 18 rating instead, which means viewers aged 18 and above only can watch it.
Moreover, there is still an element of uncertainty for Banglasia 2.0 as the movie has not been accorded the Skim Wajib Tayang (Mandatory Screening Scheme) status, which provides a guarantee that the movie be screened for a minimum of 14 consecutive days in the biggest hall of local movie theatres. This means that there is a risk that the movie may still be withdrawn from cinemas at any time.
Given only a week to promote his movie, Namewee has been going full throttle into plugging Banglasia 2.0. He even has a theme song titled Banglasia GongXiFaCai, which is a colourful song-and-dance festive jingle he did with local hip-hop groups 5forty2 & Ashtaka.
Joining Namewee at the press conference last week were Malaysian artistes like Saiful Apek, David Arumugam and Shashi Tharan.
Banglasia 2.0 also features a multi-national cast comprising Bangladeshi film actor Nirab Hossain, Singaporean actresses Atikah Suhaime and Yoo Ah Min (better known as Lao Zha Bor), and other Malaysian actors like Jack Lim and Raja Ilya.
Originally scheduled for release in 2014 on Chinese New Year’s eve, Banglasia 2.0 is a fast-paced action comedy about how a group of Malaysians of different races unite to defend their beloved homeland against a foreign invasion.
This group is led by by a patriotic activist named Hanguoren (Namewee), who is assisted by a mysterious foreign worker from Bangladesh (Nirab).
Speaking at the press conference, Banglasia 2.0 producer Fred Chong said: “The message of this film has been very consistent with Namewee’s earlier patriotic films like Nasi Lemak 2.0 (2011) and Hantu Gangster (2012). (The message is) that we live in a multi-racial society where mutual respect and understanding is the key to maintaining peace and harmony for all.”
As the film’s director, Namewee says he understands that investors may still be wary of working with him and hopes that the box office collection can recoup the RM3mil production budget.
Because of what happened to Banglasia, both director Namewee and producer Chong had to put their filmmaking aspirations on the backburner for five years.
Now that he is back on track, Namewee disclosed that he already has some 30 other scripts waiting in the wings.
Banglasia 2.0 opens at cinemas nationwide today.