It is easy to get carried away with Suatu Ketika, a film that delivers its message – the need to work together despite the differences to achieve something – loud and clear.
This worthy message is complemented further by touching scenes revolving around new and old friendships as well as the bond between a father and a son. Tears and laughter come hand in hand in this film from first-time film director Prakash Murugiah, who also wrote the screenplay.
Set in the year 1952, in Kampung Ujong Pasir, we see gardener Pak Sa’ad (Nam Ron) and Cikgu Sulaiman (Pekin Ibrahim) convincing the school’s headmaster Guru Besar (Naza Manas) to let them train 12 of their school’s students to take part in the annual JG Davidson Cup tournament.
The tournament will hold a series of matches where the local schools must go up against British schools.
Like Cikgu Besar says, this is a losing battle as the local boys do not have shoes, football or even a field to train in, compared to the well-equipped British boys. But Pak Sa’ad and Cikgu Sulaiman insist they can take care of all that. All they need is to find the 12 boys and train them.
As it turns out, even getting the 12 boys is not easy. When they do find them, each one comes with a set of problems. One boy has a weak heart whose father is against him playing football; another has a short temper and keeps fighting with his teammates; three other boys are constantly up to mischief; one is always framing a scene like he’s a film director and has no clue about playing football, etc.
In short, the boys are a group of misfits.
The gist of Suatu Ketika is not that different than other sports movies – it shows how these boys from different backgrounds overcome every challenge thrown their way and find their rhythm as a team.
While the story is straight-forward and the film is watchable, Suatu Ketika does have some missing moments that would’ve made the movie more cohesive. For example, scenes of the boys training together are too short for us to witness how the strong bond is eventually formed.
Prakash does allow the spotlight to be on the boys to highlight their basic behaviour, however it would’ve been better to see how these different personalities find that common ground on the field.
A reason for the disconnect is the dialogue is quite sparse.
Having said that, it must be mentioned that more than a few of the young actors – all of them newbies – do a great job with their roles, so it would’ve been a good addition to show more of the younger characters interacting. It really is a shame that only one character gets a backstory while the rest just receive passing mentions.
Despite these minor flaws, Suatu Ketika has its plus points. One especially outstanding bit in the film is of a boy and a father learning to meet halfway. Dintamam, who plays the dad, is quite natural with his delivery as a concerned father. (FYI, Dintamam was an actor in the 1990s whom the production team rediscovered when he brought his son for the Suatu Ketika audition.)
Likewise young Danial Akmal Fariz, who plays the son Syukri, is both adept at playing football as well as acting. The football matches, especially in the last 15 minutes of the film, are well filmed featuring quick cuts with a healthy focus on the footwork.
The cinematography in this film is quite impressive, as is the attention to details like the characters’ outfits (those pants!), the props they use as well as the locations. All are meant to capture the bygone era, which it does. Songs by Zainal Abidin and Viona are nice additions too.
However, I could’ve done without the rather weird “conclusion” that shows what happens to the characters as adults – yes, it’s a nice touch, but it just looks as if it was an afterthought.
Whatever its faults are, Suatu Ketika reminds us that we are Malaysians first, before all the other categories that divide us. It’s worth remembering this, particularly today.
Director: Prakash Murugiah
Cast: Nam Ron, Pekin Ibrahim, Dintamam, Naza Manas, Farah Ahmad, Danial Akmal Fariz, Dheva Naish