KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 — Director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal admitted his film Jagat had faced immense cynicism, even from colleagues, before finally recognised as the Best Malaysian Film at the 28th Film Festival Awards (FFM28) last night.

Shanjhey related that he had to direct the film against all odds, with a shoestring budget, limited crew, and a small pool of Tamil talent.

“We faced many hurdles and the hardest hurdle we faced was those who did not believe,” Shanjhey told reporters after the award show.

“Our comrades did not believe, distributors, TV stations, studios and audience did not believe too.

“When everybody else did not believe and we were the only ones who did, to demolish that hurdle was the hardest and most painful,” he added.

In the awards last night, Shanjhey was also crowned best new director.

“Our production budget was RM400,000. We had many financial challenges … We had limited crew, Indian artistes mostly had no acting basics. That is why I chose among non-actors.

“I dare to say ‘no’, and I dare to say ‘yes’. I won with my decision. I dare to take risks,” he said.

In Jagat — which is a loose Tamil lingo for the Malay word “jahat” meaning “bad” — Shanjhey tells the story of the hardships faced by ethnic Indians in the 1990s, after the estates where their forefathers were shipped in from India by the colonial British to work were closed.

FFM28 had sparked controversy a month before the ceremony with allegations of bigotry over the language segregation of Bahasa Malaysia and non-Bahasa Malaysia categories.

Jagat was initially nominated in the Best non-Bahasa Malaysia Film category with four other Malaysian films, prompting outroar from within and outside the local film industry.

Its main organiser the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) managed to extinguish the flames by introducing several changes, including the brand new Best National Film category to recognise the best film made in Bahasa Malaysia.