KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Local box-office hit Mat Kilau: Pahlawan Bangkit has drawn the ire from a Sikh non-governmental organisation for its portrayal of non-Malay Muslim characters as villains.
The group calling itself United Sikhs Malaysia noted that the film is fictional and based on a figure who fought against British imperialism in Pahang, seeking to show the spirit of the Malays in defending their homeland.
“However, regretfully it portrays members of other races and religions as villains,” the group said in a statement today.
The group said it found this portrayal of non-Malays and non-Muslims distasteful and hurtful to its community.
“In particular, we note that turbaned-Sikhs who were British soldiers in the movie were portrayed to have laid hands on old folks, children, and helpless citizens.
“These parts were added by the producers to make a compelling storyline,” it said.
“We believe this can lead to racial disharmony,” it added.
The group said the Sikh code of practice prohibits its followers from laying hands on children, women, the elderly, and helpless citizens, even during a war.
“We humbly urge the Malaysian Film Industry NOT to produce movies at the expense of hurting religious and racial sentiments and those which have the potential to create religious and racial misunderstanding,” it said emphatically.
Mat Kilau: Kebangkitan Pahlawan is a fictional historical action drama film set in the late 19th century during the British administration of Malaya.
The film, starring Datuk Adi Putra as the legendary Malay warrior, along with Beto Kusyairi, Fattah Amin, Yayan Ruhan and Johan As'ari, opened in cinemas nationwide on June 23 and has reportedly raked in RM53 million in ticket sales in just 13 days.
However, the movie has also drawn flak on its controversial portrayal of minority racial and religious communities on social media.
Opposition lawmakers who helped promote the film by hosting free screenings have found themselves on the receiving end as well.
Earlier today, local news portal Malaysiakini reported Pakatan Harapan leaders defending their promotion of the film following grouses over its portrayal of non-Muslim characters in the film.
“Many DAP leaders have screened it for free in their constituencies.
“We want to promote the importance of [supporting a] local production,” Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii told the news portal.
Hang Tuah Jaya MP Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin told Malaysiakini that the main themes in the film — fighting against unfair taxation and against traitors — remain relevant today.
“These two areas remain relevant to our political context if we were to interpret elements in the movie. In any struggle, there will be traitors and we must be constantly vigilant to fight them.
“We can't allow any leader to act like the British colonisers,” the PKR politician was quoted saying.
“Whether the message can influence people [now], I don't think it would be easy. We live in a multicultural society,” he replied when asked his view about the movie sending a message that non-Muslims should not lead and whether or not it is contrary to PKR’s ideology.