Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! The Musical – A Reflection Of Malaysians

The late Dato Sudirman Haji Arshad would have been proud to see that 20 of his songs have made it to the stage of the Istana Budaya, thank you to Producer Sabera Shaik and Masakini Theater. It would have made a good 59th birthday present for the well-known versatile entertainer from Temerloh, Pahang whose birthday falls on the 29th of May. Sadly, he left us 21 years ago.

The cast of Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! the Musical include famous names like Adibah Noor, Tony Eusoff, Junji Delfino, Shanthini Venugopal, Anding and Nadia Aqilah. Written by Amri Ruhayat and directed by Saw Teong Hin, it tells the story of Ilham, the son of a prostitute whose dream was to become someone and live a life outside Chow Kit Road where he has spent his entire life.

Having been to Broadway and West End shows as well as several other local productions (my first exposure to the local theatre scene was “Hang Tuah” starring Datuk Rahim Razali back in 1977) I would opine that this has been the best, if not among the best and I will tell you why later as I go along.

“Ku menyusuri jalan berliku…”

That line from the second verse of Sudirman’s song “Merisik Khabar” aptly describes the trials and tribulations of Sabera Shaik and the cast and crew. Having corporate sponsors pulling out in the middle of the preparation period almost torpedoed this musical. While other plays had to give up due to similar problem, this came as a test of the CKR team’s perseverance. Thanks to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, corporate sponsors such as the Utusan group, Sri Kulai, Sogo, Suria FM and one hair and make-up academy (forgive me for not being able to recall the name of all the sponsors) for believing in the production team and lending their support.

I was also made aware of individuals who came and gave as much as they could afford to, to help with the budget so on and so forth. One particular moment that moved me was when the producer had a meal at a family restaurant and the owner said to her, “I heard that Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! is facing problems. You don’t have to pay for this meal.” And this spirit is reflected well in CKR the Musical. This is why I said that Masakini has done very well; with limited budget, evident in some scenes where the props were a wee bit too bare especially in the ballroom scene, they have pulled off one of the most entertaining plays I have ever watched. And the way Jamie Wilson arranged Sudirman’s songs was absolutely fantastic.

Having seen how big corporations rush to sponsor foreign artistes and plays, it is shameful to hear that sponsors cannot even spend a small fraction of what they would normally pay for foreign stars on local productions such as this. Yet they have the cheek to advertise themselves to the world as corporations with the human touch; this just reeks of the same absurdity some so-called human rights activists in Malaysia do, tweeting about having coffee at Starbucks while the hundreds of people they incited to riot were getting beaten and arrested by the police who were trying to maintain law and public order. To quote a line from Tokoo, a character from CRK the Musical:

“Kemanusiaan konon…ini semua hipokrit!”

Maybe they ought to watch Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! the Musical and learn a thing or two about being human.

Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! the Musical is definitely a must-watch not just or theatre-lovers or fans of the late Sudirman, but by all Malaysians as this is a play that involves different ethnicities playing out issues that our society often turns a blind eye to. The show ends on Sunday, 26th May 2013. Grab your tickets now and be truly entertained!

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Moving On

When the late Tun Razak saw a swimming pool at a friend’s house, he thought he should have one constructed at his official residence, Seri Taman, located on Venning Road (now the Tun Razak Memorial on Jalan Perdana). He asked his friend how much did it cost to get it built and was told something to the region of RM26,000, well within his budget. Since the “Seri Taman” belonged to the government, he had to go through the Public Works Department, more known here as the JKR (Jabatan Kerja Raya). He gave the JKR the contractor’s details for them to get a quote.

When the JKR came back with the quote, he had the shock of his life: in excess of RM100,000! He immediately told them to get another quote. The final quote was at RM56,000. Still higher than the quote he received directly from the contractor. He never got the swimming pool built. As the Prime Minister, he could easily have asked the JKR to pick up the tab, but as a man with integrity, he did not.

The late Tun was very careful when it came to spending money, personal and the government’s. He did not come from a rich family and was always aware of his origin. What the story above tells us is that when one mentions corruption and kickbacks in the government, one should be able to distinguish between the government machinery and the political party that forms the executive branch of the government. It also tells that although he was the Prime Minister, he did not abuse his position, something not many politicians let alone Ministers can brag about nowadays.

While the Barisan Nasional has formed the Federal government and in all but three states, it has failed to wrestle Selangor and Kelantan from the clutches of the Pakatan Rakyat. This despite the feel good reports that were given to the so-called BN War Room by the respective state’s BN leadership. For some weird reason, BN has fallen yet again to feel-good reports as it did in 2008. This is actually as bad as the one in 2008. Factions in Selangor and Perak were not checked, candidates were put based on how well they can talk (and in the case of Shah Alam, what the person has on Anwar Ibrahim) rather than what the ground feels like or prefer. Some were moved from where they were strongly supported, to a seat that they are not familiar with, or voters not being familiar with them (as in the case of the former DUN Anggerik assemblyman being contested at DUN Batu Tiga and lost). In that sense, Selangor BN lost twice: the seat contested, and the seat it held previously, in a classic case of Pakatan Rakyat killing two birds with one stone.

The Pakatan Rakyat had had a good running in the cyberworld; they made full use of blogs and SMS in 2008, and then Facebook and YouTube for 2013. BN, with the various internet media units was never able to keep up with the allegations thrown. There was no strategy employed by the BN team. UMNO in particular, had groups of bloggers reporting to various people. It is no guess what these people they reported to wanted, other than the recognition by Najib. Pakatan had one strategic director: all came from him. Some would blog allegations (offensive), while the rest would be on the defensive; all structured and “think” in unison.

BN’s on the other hand had everyone on both the offensive and the defensive. When one person blogs about an issue, everyone else jumps into the bandwagon either re-writing and re-phrasing the first blog, or outright Copy and Paste, or the lazy ones would just have a catchy headline and paste the URL of other blogs to read about the issue.

But never do I see people answering to allegations made by the Pakatan bloggers save for some who are not part of the BN cyberwarriors’ teams! I blame this on the “strategists” these BN cybertroopers report to, and also their lack of knowledge on institutional memory as well as current affairs. Not one person from the BN cyber units dared engage people on the issue of Budget Deficit, Economics, History, Law, Constitution etc. Most are contented with ridiculing Pakatan and their figureheads while fighting for ratings using scandalous headlines and sometimes even add scandals of artistes in their blogs just to keep their ratings up!

In short, BN failed to manage the perception of voters, especially the younger ones by not fully utilising the world wide web. No one wrote about how BR1M for example is good, not as a political tool, but in spurring economic activities. All I see written about BR1M is it is a gift from BN and the rakyat should appreciate it. Well, they should put themselves in the shoes of the voters: the voters turned and said it is their money anyhow so why is BR1M a gift?

The other reason of course is the Chinese swing (since they cannot accept the term “Tsunami”). For the past three elections it took me less than twenty minutes from parking my car at 9am, to casting my votes, to starting my car again. This time around, it took me more than two hours! And all around me were faces of Chinese people I never knew lived in my neighbourhood! Let us face the fact that the Chinese have found a bargaining chip in the Pakatan Rakyat. I think Annie’s summed it up real good.

Having won five states in 2008 which we all know was beyond the expectation of the then Barisan Alternatif, the Pakatan Rakyat representatives went on a spree of ceramahs virtually every night since March 2008 until the 2013 elections. This is because they were not sure of repeating the same success, and had to win the perception of the people. And it is probably because of that they did not focus so much on work, but rather on roadshows. Penang, while managed to reduce its debt, saw a substantial increase in deficit, and decrease in investment (BN/UMNO cybertroopers, please learn here):

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All the Pakatan Rakyat-controlled states have formed their respective government which means that all have accepted the results of the GE13, save for Anwar Ibrahim and his band of “boys” who still harp on the fact that the Pakatan Rakyat had won the popular votes. Well, that may be true but this is not a reality show. The formation of the government follows a set of law – the one with the most electoral votes forms the government!

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Else, would the Pakatan Rakyat want to concede defeat to a government formed by UMNO alone? UMNO as an individual party won 29.3% of the popular votes, and on its own won 88 electoral votes! DAP came in second very far behind with only 15.7% popular votes and only 38 seats! Maybe Anwar would like to see an UMNO-DAP coalition government instead! How much did PKR get?

Remember, in Malaysia, Parliament is not paramount; it is the Constitution that makes Parliament! Therefore, respect the Constitution and move on, or find another country that employs popular votes to live in!