Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:12 PM

This is my first review of a motion picture, particularly on TV series. Often I do have comments on movies that I've watched but mostly verbally and never written anywhere. After watching Nur Kasih, I felt the urge to share my thoughts with the public. It is different. It is a paradigm shift from the usual Malay dramas that you have seen in the past decades. It is, for lack of better words, a fantastic TV Series highly recommended to all Mass Malaysia, be it urban or mainstream Malaysia, teenagers, mid-ages or oldies..... Muslim or Non-Muslim, Malay or Non-Malay (Although its target audience is Mass Malay).

Simply fantastic. However, I must warn, it is slow and you'll need to go through all 26 episodes to get the intended full effects emotionally, artistically and morally. After all, it's no surprise why it is draggy when it is a drama, a Malay drama, a Malay drama that covers tradition, moral values, religion and the struggle of live itself. I present my review:



Title: Nur Kasih
Type: TV Series
Genre: Mass Malay Drama
Year: 2009/2010
Length: 40 minutes X 26 episodes
Writers: Mira Mustaffa, Maizurah Ederis & Marina Hashim
Producers: Francis Foo, Kabir Bhatia & Mira Mustaffa
Directors: Kabir Bhatia & Faisal Ishak
In association with: TV3, Harian Metro, Alt Media & Juita Viden
Main Casts: Remy Ishak, Fizz Fairuz, Tiz Zaqyah, Dato' Jalaludin Hassan, Ayu Raudhah, Lisa Othman, Sharifah Sofea & Umi Nazeera

"... each and every character created has bold appearences in the series almost owning specific human characters in a metaphoric way... jealousy, sacrifices, traditionalist and of course, the highlight of the series, an epitome wife!"

V3 recently saw a hike in viewership for its air time slots for Nur Kasih. A brand new TV series for its Malay drama schedules. They have always excelled in Malay dramas for which, Astro has always envied. Naturally, like many others, I got curious and wallah!, a 26 episodes DVD landed on my desk (as requested via my secretary). Nur Kasih! was now in my possession. I am not a big fan of Malay dramas but somehow, after watching a few series of Samarinda back in 2004 featuring Rosyam Nor, a little bit of interest sparked. Hence 2010, 6 years after, would be a good time to re-evaluate how a local Malay drama would impress urbanised Malaysian, like myself, who often declare that they are not Mass Malaysia! And so I watched all 26 episodes. Fantastic.

Credit must be given from all aspects. Firstly, the cinematography is of world class standard involving brilliant camera positioning, shot angles, space usage, colour coordination, focus shifting, lighting, sunlight & shadow capitalisation, countryside panorama & landscape and breathtaking foreign vista and sceneries in Mekkah and Australia. 2 thumbs up for the directing by Kabir Bhatia and Faisal Ishak for that refreshing look for a local production.

Secondly, the direction by the 2 directors brough up characters from the actors/actresses to fulfil what was intended by Mira Mustaffa, Maizurah Ederis and Marina Hashim. It is simply magnificent piece of script writing for building the characters in the series. Each and every character created has bold appearences in the series almost owning specific human characters in a metaphoric way. Remy Ishak for example, displayed a magnificent representation of a rebelious son that went against all traditions and family values. Fizz Fairuz on the flip side, potrayed perfect example of a God-fearing, law abiding and respectful patient man who upholds sacred and good virtues. Same with the other characters that depict amongst others, behaviours such as jealousy, sacrifices, traditionalist and of course, the highlight of the series, an epitome wife! by Tiz Zaqyah.

Thirdly, a truly appropriate and relevant storyline for the modern day Malaysia that still exercise certain fusion of traditional values. The writers were obviously inspired by real life scenarios in the modern day Malay life be it urban or in the kampongs (villagers). At some point, viewers may feel a certain degree of exaggeration but if you reflect upon it, those various scenarios do actually exist in the real life of the mainstream Malaysians particularly the Malays.

You do find kampong teenagers who flies abroad to study and loses traditional values and at the same time embracing western culture. You do find folks in the kampongs who are still primitive it their idea of what a marriage is. And of course, such struggle do exist and it creates other unnecessary pain in life like unavoidable polygamy. The only problem with Nur Kasih is, the writers are trying to force all these struggles in a series. This makes the series rich in moral values but less realistic than what a normal typical Malay life would be.

Back to the scripts, the storyline gave quite a condusive platform for good script writting. You will notice a departure from the usual "all Malay language script" to a more realistic combination of Malay-English and at times, Arabic as well. A truly realistic approach to match the storyline that involves traditional beginnings that undergo urbanisation locally and overseas and a peaceful ending involving religion, in this case Islam, in the Arab speaking region of Saudi Arabia. Apart from that, what is relevant in the modern contemporary life has been made relevant in the series. One good example is e-mail communication. Gone are the days where Malay drama has bits and pieces of a girl crying when reading a hand written letter. We now have people reading emails on laptops even in the kampongs.

So far I've touched the generic elements of a TV production such as storyline, scripts, cinematography, directing, casting and characters. No doubt Nur Kasih scored highly on those elements but what matters most is what does it all mean to its primary target segment, the Mass Malay Market! One need to understand the audience before offering anything at all to them. The Mass Malay Market is of course the mainstream Malaysians, mostly Malays in the sub-urban and kampong environment. This is automatically linked to traditional values, religious up bringing, political inclination and their struggle to co-exist with the urbanised sections of the country. Therefore, will it not be appropriate to analyse Nur Kasih from its underlying message to the viewers?

Having gone through all 26 episodes, I think, on the surface, Nur Kasih offers these broad observations of which some are meant to be moral values, some are merely reminders of the struggle in life, particularly in the Malay society of Malaysia and of course, at the end of the day, it is up to individuals to reflect and influence their own lives as they feel fit:

1. Progressive God Fearing vs Progressive Modern Atheist: The main characters, the two Malay brothers, Adam and Aidil, a ying and yang, a balance of good and evil, both embarking on their own journey of opposite directions. The former, drifted away from religious teachings, embarked on an adventure of colourful journey in Australia as an architect, ended up with a westernised life of alcohol, night clubs and an Australian wife. The latter, studied Islam in Cairo, returning to the homeland with ideas of how Islam should be viewed in the modern day Malaysia only to realise that his respect for parents and old traditions restrained him from implementing such ideas. The two later came back to each other's arms after going through a series of sacrifices, heartaches, confusion, misunderstandings, hatred and an eventual forgiveness.

2. Marriage of Own Choice vs Marriage Arranged by Parents: This is a struggle many Malaysians face, not necessarily Malays but also some Indians. To the non-Malaysians this idea of "arranged marriage" should have been abolished long time ago. However, in Malaysia, there exist a generation of traditionalist who strongly adhere to such ways. Of course tradition itself is insufficient to justify, hence other moral values come to play. In Nur Kasih, the parents' persuasion of a marriage with potential In-Laws of their choice is based on the need to rescue a son back to the religious and traditional path. The son accepts but only not to disappoint the parents. This is a perfect example of how many Malays in particular, have married companions not of their choice for the sake of respect for their parents. What happens when the parents are no longer alive? How do you live as husband and wife when you don't love each other? How does it all end? Divorce? Reunited with the old flame? All this are practical matters that do happen in the real live,... and Nur kasih is a tale of it.

3. Single Marriage vs Polygamy: Islam allows man to marry up to 4 but only if you are able to be fair to all wives. In Nur Kasih, the polygamy was only to the extent of 2 wives. There is polygamy and there is also persuasion for polygamy. Both scenarios happened at a diffirent time of a particular character's life and both happened unnecessarily as well. Why? Well, my observation on "arranged marriage" above is one of the reason why polygamy happened in Nur Kasih. In the other scenario of "persuasion" for polygamy, it involves parent's traditional view that a man should take his brother's wife when she is widowed. Now all this is very confusing when you are trying to fit into the modern environment but it does happen even now. Nur Kasih goes on further to show the evolution of how two wives in a polygamy just can't accept such arrangement, later, ended up loving each other only because of a common reliance, a love of a husband.

4. Selfishness vs Sacrifices: Aidil, the elder brother that studied Islam, has been a protector to his little brother, Adam, since birth. He protected Adam from being beaten by gangsters. He protected Adam from being beaten by his dad. He protected Adam from almost everything to the expense of him suffering in every manner. A brotherly sacrifice. Of course some of us, elder brothers, we do want to take credit for protecting our younger brothers but will you sacrifice the love of your life only to be given to your younger brother as a wife? Hah! I got your there! No you wouldn't! But believe me, there are such things happening in the real life. Again, all this at the back of respect for the parent's wish. In Nur Kasih, it was also to save Adam from being lost as an Atheist. It seems that the lady is able to do this. In Nur Kasih, she sort of did it although she was not the primary reason why Adam had repent. Adam was also the opposite of Aidil. He was selfish only to consider his own needs. This changed when realisation hits.

5. Separation vs Union: A marriage without love can cause tragedy. Divorce is definitive but separation is not. In Islam, a woman cannot remarry if she has not been divorced. In Nur kasih, this happened to both wives in the polygamy. One was left by the husband because he simply did not love her (arranged marriage) and on the other hand, the other wife left the husband as a protest to polygamy. So everybody got separated for years and years and of course, like many dramas, they all reunited again with love and affection to each other. The funny thing is, the husband never even wanted to marry two. He was content with only the one love of his life but as mentioned earlier, an arranged marriage that was persuaded made polygamy unavoidable in the name of respect and tradition.

6. Hatred vs Forgiveness: There was a lot of hatred in this series. Everywhere there are reasons to hate each other. The two brothers of course had reasons to argue over the wishes of their parents as well as over a lady that is to be wed not on the account of love. There are sins committed between son and father for difference of opinion in life styles. There is hatred betweeen wives that belong to a polygamy. There is also hatred between wives and husband for the separation, for the grief, for lost of child and for insensitivity. Too much hatred can and should only end with forgiveness. Whilst that is a fantasy in most lives, it is the moral values that one ought to embrace and cherish. All these sufferings at one point, with a weak human mind, can cause hatred to God, but by God's will, forgiveness can eventuate, only if you ask God for it. This is where Nur Kasih introduces the beauty of Islam in the whole scheme of things. It makes it more effective (to the audience) when such message is backed up by scenes in the Muslim Middle East Mekkah.

7. Myopia vs Open Mind: There are elements of myopia for which, the characters in the series were shaped to battle and to have an open mind. Aidil, an Islamic scholar, had to battle with traditional Islamic practices and struggles to introduce modern Islamic thinking. Backed with Islamic teachings, he opposed the idea of arranged marriage, the idea of Muslim women not being able to claim divorce and to the idea of polygamy without certainty of fairness by the husband. Nevertheless, no matter how strong his Islamic education is/was, he lost some of his battles. In the end, it all happened for a reason. A reason only God knew at the dawn of the tragedy that was only being revealed to the rest later at dusk.

8. Melancholy vs Happiness: What a dramatic drama this is. Full of pain. Full of sadness. Full of sufferings. A melancholic life that everyone (the characters) went through, but over passage of time, through realisation, through forgiveness, through repent, through sacrifices, through patience, through regrets, through love and through will, happiness awaits, in death or life. The brothers, the husbands, the wives, the parents, in the end, achieved happiness not just from their own efforts for better lives, but also by God's will.

9. Earthly Love vs Godly Love: Nur Kasih, in a nut shell, is a story of love. A story of how love goes onto a journey of life causing sufferings but in the end, it is all worth it because, love, brings happiness. Love between man and woman, love between husband and wife/wives, love between siblings, love between parents and children, love of knowledge and justice, love of tradition, love of dignity, love of independence, love for reasons, love for religion, love of life itself and of course, the divine love for God.

"... Nur Kasih offers moral values and reminders of the struggle in life, particularly in the Malay society of Malaysia and of course, at the end of the day, it is up to individuals to reflect and influence their own lives as they feel fit... "

Nur Kasih is relevant to Malaysia!


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