Astro’s latest telemovie is a stark departure from its usual light-hearted romantic offerings.
Hey Orang Kita takes viewers into the lives of four young individuals living in a flat in Kuala Lumpur. One of them is Hartini, a runaway played by independent singer-songwriter Takahara Suiko (aka The Venopian Solitude). Her character suffers from physical abuse at the hands of her own husband.
Musician Christian Palencia’s character tries to suppress memories of being beaten up by his own mother, while Lilian (singer Talitha Tan) is in denial over a friend taking her for granted. There’s also Hassan (beatboxer Raja Syahiran) who is forced to rob houses to make a living.
Hey Orang Kita the telemovie picks up from a four-part web series that debuted on Feefo.TV in March.
Datuk Khairul Anwar Salleh, Astro’s vice president for Malay Language Business acknowledged Hey Orang Kita lack the feel good factor to appeal to mainstream audience.
“Sometimes you do stories for commercial reasons. But with Hey Orang Kita, it’s a story worth telling,” he said during an interview in Kuala Lumpur.
Writer and director Zara Kahan shared that she had the idea for Hey Orang Kita for seven years. Inspired by personal stories of people she knew, Zara wanted Hey Orang Kita to get viewers out of their comfort zone.
“I remember when we did the table reading for the script, people around me just went silent. Then someone said: ‘Are you sure about this scene? Because (the viewers) won’t like it…’,” she said.
Zara was referring to a scene where Hartini begins to hallucinate and listens to a radio playing the sounds of punches and kicking. That moment supposedly reminds Hartini of her abuse.
“I don’t mind if people don’t like it. I want people to feel uncomfortable and have that image stick in their head,” she said.
Hey Orang Kita drives home the fact that abuse is made worst by the indifference to the plight of victims. Zara said though the media often pick up stories about abuse, not much is being done to help those in need.
“People offer remarks like ‘Oh, so pitiful…’ and move along. I think we need to understand that we can all play a part in educating one another about abuse. I also want abusers to feel ashamed. There is no gray area when it comes to people who abuse their loved ones in any form. That person is the villain.”
Hey Orang Kita does have some lively moments as the drama is part musical. However, don’t expect the characters to just break out into a huge song-dance number ala Glee. Zara got local musician Loque (of band MonoloQue) to rearrange songs from Rahimah Rahim, Wings, Feminin, Meet Uncle Hussain and Hujan for the characters to sing.
She was also inspired by her group of first-time actors, all of whom harbour dreams to make it as credible musicians. In fact, she said bits and pieces of their personalities went into the making of her characters.
Christian noted that his character is very much like him. “I play myself, you know the awkward Sabahan boy who can’t seem to interact with anyone,” he said.
Syahiran shared that the cast bonded over their love for music: “The chemistry happened just like that. We had so much fun with each other on set that we didn’t treat it like work.”
Zara noted that when her cast worked together for the music telemovie, magic happened.
With the passion and enthusiasm of the young individuals reflected on screen, Khairul said Hey Orang Kita is more than just a drama.
“It’s a reflection of our youth and what they have to do to achieve their aspirations.”
Hey Orang Kita is available on Astro First Exclusive (Ch 480).