From YouTube videos to feature films, it is obvious that actor and director Namewee has big ambitions. Known for his no-holds-barred criticism of Malaysian society through his videos and films such as the infamous "Negarakuku" song which describes what he thinks of the state of the country and its government that made him a household name and last year's directorial debut "Nasi Lemak 2.0". The controversy associated with his name managed to draw in huge numbers of viewers for the comedy drama, leading it to gross over RM7 million in the local box office chart. While both the movie and its maker received mixed reactions from the public, particularly for tarnishing the image of Malaysia, which almost caused the Muar-born filmmaker's piece to be banned in the cinemas due to the demonstrations. Not to be deterred, Namewee makes his return this year with the "1 Malaysia" themed movie, "Hantu Gangster". Although the horror comedy is spoken 90% in Malay, the director is not aiming to appeal to the race majority in Malaysia for another high grossing box office, but that everything will turn out smoothly for the movie and most importantly, that it will not be banned.
Cinema Online's interview with Namewee was conducted on 18 July at TGV Sunway Pyramid, Petaling Jaya.
Q: Hi, Namewee. Tell us, what inspired you to film "Hantu Gangster"?
Namewee: I wanted to challenge the norms by showing that gangsterism also has its good. All of us tend to look at gangsterism in a negative way when in fact; it was used to be a platform for people to survive and unite in a community during the early days before it was misused as an excuse for violence now. I also shot this movie based on my grandfather's real life experiences when he was managing his coffee shop business in Muar.
Q: Aren't you worried about people's reactions to the controversial issues in the film?
Namewee: Honestly, I don't think about what people think about me and the movie. I just hope they understand the message that I'm trying to convey through the story.
Q: You have broken the local box office record with "Nasi Lemak 2.0" last year, so what are your hopes for "Hantu Gangster"?
Namewee: When I make a film, I don't really think about the box office results. The only thing that I care about is whether the film will be banned or not as last year people went to the cinemas to protest against my first film. As a filmmaker, I really hope that I can get the best possible amount of people to watch my film. So now, I'm worried about the fate of "Hantu Gangster". I just hope it will be released in local cinemas without any issues.
Q: You are always wearing a beanie in your videos, films, and even in public. Why did you choose to take off your beanie in this movie?
Namewee: [Laughs] People always suspect me of having a bad hairstyle or no hair! So I think this is the best time to show them that I have a good hairstyle and hair!
Q: In the movie, you play a father of a 12-year-old kid. In reality, do you have any plans to build a family now?
Namewee: Not at all. If I have a family now, I can ensure you that I'll be divorced very soon as I'm so busy with my work.
Q: Earlier this year, Jack Lim and his team had invited the Prime Minister to attend the gala premiere of "Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes". Will you be doing the same for "Hantu Gangster"?
Namewee: I'm a songwriter and screenwriter. I don't need politicians to help me with my promotions. We already have so many stars to light up the gala premiere. I won't specially invite any politicians but if they want to attend or watch the movie in cinemas, I wholeheartedly welcome them
Q: We notice that you poke a lot of fun at China-made products in the movie. How is it that you have no fear of offending other parties?
Namewee: There's no secret behind my behaviour. You don't have to be afraid when you are just telling the truth. Nowadays, 90% of the products we bought in Malaysia are made in China. As "Hantu Gangster" is set in the 90's, when we often receive bad quality products from that country then, obviously it is something that we should highlight.
Q: How do you rate your performance as an actor and director?
Namewee: 65 points. There are still a lot of room for improvement in my productions though.
Q: Thank you for your time, Namewee.
Namewee: No problem.