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Kallang Roar: The Movie

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There are so many local films to look forward to this month from the recently released 12 Lotus by director Royston Tan to documentaries such as Tony Kern’s Month of Hungry Ghosts and Lian Pek’s Mad About English, and of course Jack Neo’s Money No Enough 2. Joining the ranks last week was Cheng Ding An’s Kallang Roar: The Movie. But hang on, who is Ding An; and wasn’t Kallang Roar a short film?

kroar1.jpgKallang Roar: The Movie did indeed have its humble roots from the short Kallang Roar which first premiered as a finalist in this year’s SIFF, and is also helmed by director Cheng Ding An, who went on to expand on football legend Choo Seng Quee, or better known as Uncle Choo. I personally feel that the film will be a great success despite the heavy competition. Targeted at football fanatics and those who want a taste of nostalgia, Kallang Roar, or K Roar, as Ding An affectionately calls it, sets a good example for all aspiring filmmakers wanting to be inspired.

Lim Kay Siu brilliantly portrays the football obsessed, kueh-lapis driven Uncle Choo, while other well-casted lads portray the familiar football giants such as Mohd Noor, Dollah Kassim, S. Rajagopal and Quah Kim Song, played out by his son, Leon Quah. Together, the film was propelled forwarded with great direction from Ding An in a patriotic sweep without over dramatising or frills, unlike our familiar NDP parades. It was a glorious hour and a half of pure passion and desire to win, for the people and for the country.

Every sporting man will empathise with the players in this film: the discipline it took to keep each player in the best shape; undying perseverance despite weak bodies, minds or spirits; and of course, sacrificing time, careers and loved ones for the passion for a sport that races through the veins of our very being. K Roar, as simplistic as it might sound, holds many underlying messages that will resonate differently with each of you.

I did not live in the reign of Uncle Choo, but the film had an integrity to the era, and demonstrated a strong spirit in Uncle Choo – a mindset of excellence and a spirit of determination. Putting that into modern context and we have the opening ceremony for the Olympics, where director Zhang Yi Mou was able to choreograph a four-hour long programme into a vast and creative film. Couple this with the pride of the Chinese and the discipline and enthusiasm made every single segment just breath-taking.

kroar2.jpgSingapore was once like this, and K Roar is a reminder of that sense of togetherness and spirit. We have the stubborn Uncle Choo who waited ten long years before he got to coach the Singapore National team. During this ten year hiatus he put together his own team, grooming a motley crew of pre-teens consisting of Samad Allapitchay, who was to be captain when he joined the Lions; Quah Kim Song, the legendary ‘speed demon’; Dollah Kassim, well-known for his brilliant ball-control; Rajagopal, an alcoholic turned corner-kick legend and Mat Noor, a pretty boy distracted by his love with celebrity Rahima Rahim.

Occasional comic moments were weaved throughout the film, balancing out the picture equally by generating a myriad of emotions, from laughter to despair. Interesting scene blocking were also used to great effect, my favourite being what I call “The Interrogation”. It is half-time during the Finals of the Malaysian Cup, and the players are not performing as they should. Uncle Choo coolly states: “We need to talk”, and ushers the players individually into a tiny room lit only with a solitary lamp. Confronting them is not the fiercely stubborn Uncle Choo, but an understanding, encouraging and even fatherly figure who understands that different folks, all eleven of them, require different strokes. The Lions eventually beat Penang 3-2 in a match that went down in history as one of the most shocking and unexpected wins from the Lions.

And what is football without the famous phrase: “Referee Kayu”? Besides the realistic script and dialogue, the film shone a light on corruption hitting the football scene, and how this may dampen spirits. We can all learn from Uncle Choo in the light of setbacks and always move forward, regardless.

“Untuk Bangsa dan Negara… Majulah!”

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