Originally scheduled to premiere at the end of last year, Mencari Rahmat had to be pushed forward to having its debut this Merdeka via MUBI, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, that is probably a blessing in disguise, as more people would be now able to view the Malay adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Directed by Al Jafree Md Yusop, the award-winning director first read Oscar Wilde back in 1981, and recalls a sad realisation of the human condition. “The experience was like being hit on the head by a 5 tonne truck; I realised that sometimes, society can be the worst prison known to mankind,” he shared. He then took on the long and arduous process of not only adapting the play for the modern day, but also doing so in BM, to reach a wider audience locally. “I accepted the challenge and started to write in 1991. The process was long, lonely and most challenging. I finished writing it 10 years later (in 2001) and it was successfully staged the same year at The Actor’s Studio, Dataran Merdeka,” he recalls.

Fast forward to today, Al Jafree got the idea to then adapt it into film, which is what we see now. Featuring a star-studded cast of local talent such as Adibah Noor, Sharifah Amani and more, August Man Malaysia caught up with the two male leads – Amerul Affendi, who plays Azman and Nam Ron, who plays Razak – to find out more about their experience and thoughts.

Nam Ron as Razak

nam ron
Inner sweater by Ermenegildo Zegna Couture; jacket by Brunello Cucinelli

Before we begin, tell us why you chose your stage name, Nam Ron?
Actually it’s not something I chose, it was given to me. Back then in university, there was a tradition to be given a nickname, so my seniors would never call you using your real name, and mine was Nam Ron, because they asked if I could speak Siamese, and I said I could, to which they then asked me to say something. Nam Ron was the first thing I said, which means ‘hot water.’

Tell us a bit about the character you play, Razak.
Ok, Razak is actually a bit way off from my own personal character, I’d say almost the opposite of me. He’s the adopted son to a Tan Sri, and is a millionaire businessman who is bit conniving and sly. And once the Tan Sri passed away, he was entrusted to look after the rest of the family, especially his daughter, played by Sharifah Amani. He’s an interesting character, who’s also funny, when he’s together with Atman, which is played by Amerul Affendi.

What were your challenges in playing Razak?
Overall it was a fun yet challenging role to play. Difficult because the plot is dialogue driven, so there’s plenty of lines that need to be delivered perfectly, and you as a viewer will need to pay attention to what we’re saying. So although there’s not many scenes, it’s all packed with meaning.

Because it’s a stage play that’s adapted to film, the structure remains somewhat the same, so you can’t forget your lines, because you need to start from the top.

How did you prepare for the role?
Before the shoot, we had plenty of rehearsals, just like stage plays, practising everything from the blocking to the dialogue, everything. These were some of our preparation process. I didn’t have a specific character reference to go by, I just tried my best to put myself into his shoes, to think how Razak would behave in the situation. I call it the ‘Magic If,’… If I was Razak, I would… And this is also aided by the director.

The good thing is I’ve also watched the initial Malay play staged by Al Jafree in The Actors Studio, at Dataran Merdeka. That plus the Western version of the play, which I then merged with my own life experiences to flesh out the character.

What was your favourite scene within the film?
There’s plenty honestly, so many moments I like. Especially the scene between Razak and Azman, but even with the rest of the actors and actresses, I truly enjoyed how professional and good they are. An example would be in the final scene, which is quite funny, and it’s difficult not to react, but everyone kept their calm and held their character so well.

Amerul Affendi as Azman

amerul affendi
Top Amerul’s own; pants by Sacoor Brothers

Tell us a bit about the character you play, Azman.
Azman is the nephew to Datin Azizah, which is played by Adibah Noor, and he’s not from a rich family. He too is adopted by Datin Azizah’s family, which is where he has a taste of wealth and turns into a rather rude character, who is also a playboy.

What are some of the similarities and differences between Azman and yourself?
Well, he’s a man, like me, and has the male instincts. In terms that he enjoys beautiful women, and things that challenge him. Although, I must say I’m not a playboy myself. On the other hand, I’m more of a quiet person, I’d call myself an introvert, who usually only speaks when necessary.

However, I don’t really associate nor like any of Azman’s qualities; he’s in fact quite a useless man.  I guess, his role goes to show viewers who not to become like, as I’m sure there are quite a number of ‘Azmans’ out there.

Why did you pick the role then?
The director Al Jafree probably saw something in me that I wasn’t aware of, and he thought I would make a good Azman. I guess because I’ve a basic in theatre and am familiar with the works of Oscar Wilde, and of course, the major thing was that… most characters who previously played his role weren’t free!haha. So I got picked.

What challenges did you face preparing for the role?
Learning how to become a playboy!haha. Well one of the main challenges were the long scripts and dialogues, as this was adapted from a stage play after all. This isn’t like your regular film, so it was a bit more difficult.

How did you prepare for the role?
Aside from the rehearsals with the director, I also had some extra input from my studies back then, in ASWARA, where we studied some of the plays by Oscar Wilde, including this. So I was extremely thrilled and excited when Al Jafree approached me to play this role.

How long were rehearsals?
Each day we’d practise about five hours, for about a month before we began shooting.

What was your favourite scene within the film?
My favourite scene was when Azman was getting to know the real Ratna (Sharifah Amani). Previously Azman only heard of Ratna through Razak, so when he actually met her, he was truly surprised.

But also I enjoyed that all the cast were so easy to work with, and all have had some experience with theatre before, so we all got along really well, both on and off screen.

Don’t forget to catch Mencari Rahmat this 31st August 2021 on MUBI

(Photography by Chuan Looi/Yipieyaya Studio; art direction and styling by Grace Naramol assisted by Amber Goh and Megan Ng; Grooming by Eranthe Loo)

Hero image: On Amerul – Top and jacket by All Saints; pants by Bottega Veneta, boots by Ermenegildo Zegna Couture.
On Nam Ron: Shirt by All Saints; jacket by Brunello Cucinelli; pants by Sacoor Brothers; boots by Ermenegildo Zegna Couture.

written by.
Aaron Pereira
Digital Editor
This fine chocolate man, (that is a connoisseur of fine chocolates) prefers real-life conversations and living off-screen, but is slowly and surely embracing the digital, search engine optimised life.

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