Director Khairul Azri on Malaysian cinema and his feature film debut, ‘Pekak’
What is it: A hearing-impaired drug pusher falls in love with a high-schooler.
'Pekak' is as good as a magnifying glass that inspects the city and its sins. The bulk of the film belongs to Uda (a generously expressive Zahiril Adzim), a deaf drug pusher ensnared in a tangle of morality as he invests his feelings in Dara (Sharifah Amani). The shortlived, tender moments between the duo bait us into believing that our leads have a shot at love, until the action gathers steam: Kamil (Iedil Putra) wants Dara, and he gets help from two other friends (Amerul Affendi and Sharifah Sakinah) to drug her. No points for guessing where the drugs are from.
Director Khairul Azri unearths beauty in the most compromising places. The camera swans in from a street that looks suspiciously like a grimy Tengkat Tong Shin into Uda’s beatifically calm room, before zooming into the secret stash of crime money for his cochlea implant surgery. You almost begin to root for this antihero of vice who’s thrust into a world of drugs, hedonism and violence, just because he wants to hear again. But Khairul makes it unsparingly clear: The moment you collapse under your morals, the currency of life devalues.
Sharifah Amani endows her high-school character with a familiar innocence from ‘Sepet’. She’s reliable, but it’s Joe Flizzow as Uda’s gangster boss – spilling his hip hop charisma everywhere – that provides a pleasurable series of comic interludes. They distract you, for a while, from a narrative with characters living on a slow drip of death – from betrayals and tested friendships, from a deaf society who pays no heed to the perils of drugs.
The films functions on a simplistic storyline, whose abrupt pacing towards the end can be rather infuriating. The catharsis ‘Pekak’ provides is that of purging the society of miscreants – the typical, requisite moment of retribution you’ll find in almost any local PG18 film. Alas, it’s somewhat predictable, but your heart can’t help but reel a little every time Othman Hamzah sings ‘… ku mengharapkan cintamu’ in the background.
Why go: The most expressive side of Zahiril Adzim you’ve ever seen.
'Pekak' is out now.