How Debutant Director Prakash Murugiah Made His Movie Dream Come True

  • 11 Jul 2019

"Sometimes, it's alright to be a child again. Throw aside the mental limitations (often faced by adults), dream big, and strive hard to be what you always want to be."
This philosophy set Prakash Murugiah, 37, on the path to releasing his first feature film Suatu Ketika, which will be hitting cinemas on Sept 12.
The period piece, set in 1952, portrays a group of young boys aspiring to beat an elite British team in a local football match.

Apart from emphasizing on how football unites, the movie is also about relentlessly pursuing dreams and persevering through various challenges, Prakash tells Astro Ulagam.
Prakash says he’s been fascinated about movies since he was a child.
"I used to adore the hero characters, and wanted to be like them when I grew up," he recalls, before adding his focus shifted in his teens to going-ons behind the cameras.
As an adult, Prakash, who admitted to not acing school, found a sales job which seemed perfectly cut out for him and he began raking in big bucks in commission.
But, there was still a "hollowness" in him that he felt he needed to take care of, and reading the 2003 novel Shantaram by Gregory David Robert gave him the chance to do that.
Reading the story, Prakash badly wanted to meet Robert, who was in India, more so when he heard that the book, loosely based on the latter's life story, was going to be adapted into a Hollywood flick starring Johnny Depp and Bollywood great Amitabh Bachchan.
He managed to meet Robert and talk his way into being included in the production of the movie. The project was, however, scrapped following the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007.
Finding his hope of getting into films dampened and fast running out of money, Prakash boarded the next flight back to Malaysia.

Hard times ensue

Once he arrived home, Prakash met his former sales company boss in Bukit Bintang, who offered Prakash the job he had before leaving the company.
Prakash said though he was happy to hear the offer, he knew if he "settled into the comfort zone" by taking up the job, he would never pursue filmmaking again.
So he agreed on a part-time job with the company -- the months that followed saw him working as a tele-caller, while staying in a dingy motel, struggling to just get by, financially.
A trip to the Rainforest Music Festival in Sarawak put him in touch with senior people from Astro, and that paved the way for Prakash's foray into production. In the years that followed, he worked in local movies Tipu Kanan Tipu Kiri, and Sepi.
Prakash started his production house "Kash Pictures" with his partner Mynn Lee, in 2009.

While pitching for projects to TV stations, they produced a short film for BMW Shorties, which won the People’s choice award. Later, his brother Prabakar, who was working as an engineer in Singapore, quit his job and joined Prakasah to work together on the 13-episode "Crossings" series for NTV7.

 Suatu Ketika takes off

The idea for Suatu Ketika came because both brothers are ardent football fans. Since Prakash himself had experienced the "unity" of playing football with multiracial friends, he incorporated this into the script.

Another thing he wanted to dispel through the movie is "Western worship".
"We have seen 'Mat Sallehs' (white people) given extra special attention here.
"I wanted to show through this movie that anyone can face up to 'Mat Sallehs' if they know what they are doing," he says without letting out too much of the film's script.
The Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) gave Prakash RM250,000 in funding in late 2015 to produce a 5-minute featurette for Finas (National Film Development Corporation Malaysia).
However, 2016 came and with no answers from Finas, Prakash was forced to make a hard decision: sell off his beloved Toyota Hilux and shut down Kash productions.
"I was coming back after selling my car when I got a call from my brother, saying Finas was offering to fund the movie.
"It felt surreal. I was walking and just sat on the sidewalk, wondering whether I just heard was real," he recalls.
Finas gave a RM1.5 million grant for the project. Soon MDEC also joined the bandwagon, and Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) offered to be official distributor.
The film also adopts a profit sharing system to reward its cast and crew; they will receive a direct share of the profits in terms of percentage, as opposed to a one-off payday.
This, according to him, is to ensure continued revenue for the crew.

Boasts big names

Suatu Ketika has local veteran singer Zainal Abidin writing and singing the movie’s song - the first time he has written and sung in the past 11 years. It’s also the first time Zainal has written for a local movie.
Recalling the meet, Prakash says they approached Zainal to seek his permission to use the latter's Pantun song in the movie and was shocked to hear "No" for an answer.
"Zainal, after watching a featurette of the movie, said he would handle the official soundtrack for the movie, as he could relate to the theme portrayed in it.”
Suatu Ketika also features famous composer Michael Veerapen handling music, and veteran actors like Shahili Abdan, better known as Namron, and Pekin Ibrahim.

Recently deceased historian, Professor Khoo Kay Kim, served as a consultant to ensure the film stayed was historically accurate.
The main actors, children between 8 and 12, were sourced through an audition, while the "Mat Salleh" children were mainly recruited through personal scouting sessions in restaurants around Taman Tun Dr Ismail, where Prakash resides now.
The film, which runs about 92 minutes, will be released in about 90 screens nationwide.
Looking back, Prakash says he has no regrets over the path he has taken, and even "thanks" his detractors.
"There were those friends and relatives who used to say that I will never make it in life. I think all their words have toughened me up to prove them wrong."

Photo/video source: Prakash Murugiah