Monday, 27 July 2009

Yasmin Ahmad : July 1, 1958 - July 25, 2009.

Yasmin Ahmad, multi awards winning film director, script writer and one of the few local individuals with huge talents for highly creative advertisements (as creative director of Leo Burnett and previously, Ogilvy & Mather) and later, films, has passed away at 11.25pm on Saturday. Her works, particularly her movies, were possibly as important as the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee's works which transcended race and culture in local context. Yasmin was practically an instituition by her works alone. If my memory serves me well, she used to "moonlight" as a pianist at one of the piano bars in the city and even offered to create an ad for free of charge during early days. I read about her several times before she became prolific, in some adverts industry trade publications (this was during the years when I was still day dreaming about becoming an art/creative/ad man back then, and Yasmin was and still is considered one of my "icons" from those days). Ever since her Petronas series of advertisements went on air couple of years ago, I have been looking forward future works from her. Amongst those which I could still recalled include "Gombak Shoes" (which introduced me to Primal Scream's Trainspotting and about local made products), "Merdeka" (about the spirit of Merdeka told in flashback by a son), an LRT advert (about a selfish man who refuses to give up his seat), and of course "Tan Hong Ming" (about a school boy who confesses innocent love for another girl). These were always shown during major festive seasons and Merdeka Day as well as some commercial ads for corporations, which carried her trademark theme of sentimentality. Her ads were refreshing and more importantly, extended beyond the cultural, racial and language barriers, which of late, has unfortunately been mired in an increasingly precarious position which from my personal observation, was perhaps "flamed" by over enthusiastic language extremists and some socio political commentators with right wing/partisan view. Her ads and film works (Sepet, Gubra, Talentime) reminds me that as an individual of a multi-cultural nation, racial acceptance and cultural understandings are important to prevent any undermining of the cohesiveness of this society, something which I cherish. Children were often the subject of her ads and movies and I guess Yasmin understood the importance of the new generation (apart from the playful innocence they still have) to be instilled with the spirit of muhibbah. Her movies, which like her ads, were not strictly limited to only singular language, culture nor stereotypical roles one usually come across in (previous) locally made films. And to see that she made it with such ease and blend in seamlessly together. She had also courted controversies throughout the years (there has also been vicious rumours by her detractors saying that she was a man! Who cares?). It has not been an easy, past couple of months. First MJ, now Yasmin...sigh. For more of Yasmin and her thoughts, views, she has two blogs, one at and

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