“It’s sad. I’m really attached to my character Jijo. I think I am known as an actor because of Rock and the character I played,” Khir said.
Rock was first released in 2005 as a film about rock band Rimba Bara and its struggle to make it in the local music scene. Set in the 1980s – when hair metal, rock ballads and tight pants were all the rage – Rock is a dark satirical comedy with musical sequences. It even has a “rockumentary” feel to it. First instalment Rock was narrated by Hasnul Rahmat who played guitarist Zack. He left the band to settle down.
Rock Ooo followed in 2013, showing how Rimba Bara continued to find its big break with Amy Mat Piah (Que Haidar) leading the band. Alas, he was kicked out as he wasn’t a capable vocalist. Rimba Bara found a new leader in Zul Kapan (Soffi Jikan).
Rock Bro is set in the early 1990s as the popularity of local rock music is declining. The remaining members of Rimba Bara – Jijo, guitarist Slash (Pekin Ibrahim), drummer Black (Norazmi Bahron) and Zul – are still looking for that big break. A new guy Dio (Sharwani NS) joins the band.
However, audience may want to brace themselves for a heartbreak. Khir shared that his character is actually based on a friend of Mamat’s, Jijo Alfonso Pareira Abdullah, who died in a car accident. Needless to say, Khir’s character suffers the same fate in the film.
When the subject was broached during the interview, the director clammed up after saying: “It’s too personal.”
The Rock film series is also partly inspired by Mamat’s own experience of being in a rock band back in the 1980s. Mamat played keyboards for a band called Drop Out while the late real-life Jijo was the bassist.
“Jijo (the character) represents all the hopeful rockers out there who dreams about conquering the music charts and being in a succesful rock band.,” Khir shared.
For Soffi who plays the flamboyant Zul, he believes his character represents someone who’d do anything to stay in the limelight. Zul’s evolution is apparent throughout the Rock film series. He started out as a member of a black metal band Malaikat Maut before settling into Rimba Bara’s more conventional music style.
“In Rock Bro, he joins dance-rap group 4URU. He has to adapt. He loves performing for a huge audience. He owns the stage.
“Otherwise, he feels that he wouldn’t be able to express himself,” Soffi said.
For the first time, audience will also see Jijo fall in love with a singer modelled after Malaysia’s rock queen Ella (played by newcomer Amy Juliet). Mamat called Ella for permission to incorporate a character like her as Jijo’s love interest for the film: “She said ‘go ahead’.”
In previous instalments, Jijo often reminded his bandmates to avoid three things that could lead to downfall – corruption, being late and “cinggay” which means women.
“Jijo has strong visions for the band. But then he falls in love and suddenly, he becomes a different man. He starts to not take his band commitments seriously,” Mamat said.
For Khir, Jijo’s change in character and eventual diminishing passion for rock music mirrors what some rockers go through in real life. He felt Mamat was trying to convey that the golden age of rock music dies when someone like Jijo gives up.
“It’s just life. Realistically speaking, not everybody gets what they want.”