‘Investors felt I was dangerous to work with’: Namewee on five-year ban of movie ‘Banglasia 2.0’

Namewee at the press conference of ‘Banglasia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur today. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Namewee at the press conference of ‘Banglasia 2.0’ in Kuala Lumpur today. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

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PETALING JAYA, Feb 20 – Namewee has spent the past few years in director's limbo after his film Banglasia was banned.

The rapper, songwriter and filmmaker told Malay Mail today that he had not made a movie since the ban in 2014 by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF) as investors saw him as a liability.

Until now.

The film, renamed Banglasia 2.0 will finally hit cinemas next week after a five-year ban.

“Investors and crew members get scared and feel I’m dangerous to work with because sometimes I end in a lock-up.

“I’m happy but I’m also filled with mixed emotions now that the movie is finally approved for screening,” he said.

He plans to return to moviemaking but this depends on whether Banglasia 2.0 does well.

LPF banned the film due to 31 scenes that were deemed offensive but after its producers submitted an appeal to the censors in June last year, only seven scenes were cut and fresh scenes were shot to make the narrative current.

“We only got a response end of January and had three weeks to re-edit the film,” he said.

Despite being banned here, Banglasia which is now retitled Banglasia 2.0, was screened at the New York Asian Film Festival, the Osaka International Film Festival and the Singapore International Film Festival.

The film centres around Malaysians uniting to fend their country against foreign attack with the help of a Bangladeshi worker.

“Malaysia needs more freedom of speech and freedom of creativity because the entertainment industry can generate economic growth,” he said.

“We can see that changing under this government – before this, no one can criticise the government but it’s also hard to judge at this point because the new government has been in power for less than a year.”

The controversial figure, who had more than a brush with the law for music videos such as Negarakuku, Like a Dog, and Oh My God, believes the creative industry is crucial in the development of a country.

Asked if being on the wrong side of the law has hampered his creative process because of fear, Namewee said the experience has served as inspiration instead of a deterrent.

“Every time I get locked up or detained, I feel angrier. Not in a violent sense of wanting to get into physical fights but it encourages me to make more music to deliver what I want to say and it inspires me to create more work,” the 35-year-old said.

The fast-paced action comedy aims to showcase the needs and struggles of ordinary Malaysians, exploring issues about immigration and political corruption.

Though the film was made six years ago, producer Fred Chong said he believes the film’s intentions and message are even more important today.

“The message of the film is unity but also how fragile we are as a society – even a small invasion can disrupt the country," said Chong.

“It shows how fragile we are then, but I still feel even though we have a new government, we are still fragile as a society as a multiracial country and the film serves as a reminder that if we are not careful, we will end up in a place we don’t’ want to be in."

The film stars Namewee himself, Bangladeshi actor Nirab Hossain, Saiful Apek, Shashi Tharan, Datuk David Arumugam, Jack Lim, Raja Ilya and Singaporean talents Atikah Shuhaime and Lao Za Bor.

Banglasia 2.0 will be screened in cinemas nationwide from February 28 onwards.

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