IN the world of traditional combat, artistry, strength and guile are the hallmarks of a master.
Silat masters possess all these traits, and the amalgamation of these qualities elevate them and their combat style into an art form.
Silat choreographer Ariffin Yeop Mahidin aims to give the stars of Puteri Gunung Ledang that balance of art and aggression, not just in their fight scenes, but in their overall deportment as well.
As history doesn't really shed much light on the silat styles of yore, Ariffin has decided to emphasise on the basics.
"What we are trying to do is to get the actors to adopt a silat Melayu art form especially on blocking and stepping, except for Alex Komang, whose character Gusti Adipati Wira Handaya Ningrat's fighting style has to have a Javanese flavour," says Ariffin.
Though none of the actors in this epic set in 15th century Malacca has had any previous martial arts experience, they have trained diligently with Ariffin six days a week for three to four hours.
Various stretching routines, working on the trampoline and overall conditioning are just some of the things the actors go through each session.
"The producers and actors know how important it is in the film, though it is not a silat film.
You can't become an expert in a few months, so what we've been doing is to train them to move with the characteristics, focusing on stance and stylisation," says Ariffin.
The silat master wants the actors to make their silat style suit each character's personality.
It has to become a part of them.
Movements with the keris, especially the Taming Sari, have to be felt.
"We take the main characteristics of silat, and let the actors experiment and feel it, they have a lot of say, and we've given them options of movements to choose from, so they can decide how they're going to play the characters." Both styles, however, are on different ends of the continuum.
"The Malay style is softer and more relaxed, while the Javanese style is more aggressive with an emphasis on strength.
"So, you have the anger and aggressiveness of Gusti versus the cool, calm style of Hang Tuah, played by M.
Nasir," says the 42-year-old.
Ariffin, who runs silat classes in Britain, is full of praise for the cast, who have been able to withstand the physically-demanding training they've undergone.
They have been giving the training their all, as neither wants to pale in comparison with the other.
"Alex has improved 100 per cent as we've been working on his strength," he adds.
Ariffin, who has been based in England since 1991, was approached a year ago to choreograph the silat in this film.
Though he has worked in numerous films and stage productions previously, working with a technical crew from Hong Kong posed new challenges for him.
He trained the Puteri Gunung Ledang cast in the art and worked on their stance and stylisation.
"We are approaching it like a work in progress.
We want to see how close the technical crew can get to filming a choreographed silat sequence," explains Ariffin who learnt Silat Gayung from the late grandmaster Datuk Meor Abdur Rahman.
"We are also working with a stunt coordinator, and they all have to understand the essence of silat, or else they won't be able to capture its strong points." The Hong Kong crew has expressed difficulties in filming the sequences, and Ariffin says it's a matter of give and take between them.
"The intricacies of the silat movements take three or four times more shots than a kung fu one, so they said the movements have to be simplified and modified to look impressive on screen.
"But we are trying to maintain as much as possible.
The crew knows what it's doing, and I hope they really understand the differences between silat and kung fu.
It is the first time I'm doing silat with a Hong Kong technical crew." Ariffin has a simple wish for his role in the preparation for Puteri Gunung Ledang.
"I hope that when people see the fight sequences, they will know it is silat, and the characters are actually doing it." Puteri Gunung Ledang, which stars Tiara Jacquelina, M.
Nasir, Datuk Rahim Razali, Sofia Jane, Alex Komang, Slamet Rahardjo, Christine Hakim, Rosyam Nor, Khir Rahman, Sabri Yunus, Man Bai, Radhi Khalid, Zulkifli Zain, Mahadi Shor and Khairul Anwar will be released this August.
The film is directed by Saw Teong Hin.
Puteri Gunung Ledang, a maiden effort by EnfiniTi Productions Sdn Bhd is directed by Saw Teong Hin.
Puteri Gunung Ledang is set to have the most spectacular martial arts sequences in a local film, thanks to a unique Asian team effort.
Lilakajohnchit Vithavat, better known as Adam, has designed fight sequences with a seamless quality for this epic film, which will enchant audiences this August.
The Thai-born Hong Kong stunt choreographer is leading a team comprising martial arts experts from Hong Kong and China.
Apart from Adam, the stunt choreography team comprises Chan Yiu Lun, Hon Pin and Lee Chi Kit also from Hong Kong and Zhang Weiguo from China.
Stunt personnel include Kam Loi Kwan and Chan Chik Wing (Hong Kong), Hon Pin (China) and local Zulkifli Zainal Abidin.
Film director Saw Teong Hin says the reason Adam and his crew were asked to work on this film is because he wants to maintain the integrity of Malay silat, elevate and promote it, creating a new martial arts vocabulary.
The world was stunned when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, as the spectacular martial arts scenes caught the imagination of the Western audiences who have not seen such poetry on screen.
Director Ang Lee was afraid they wouldn't be able to take the leaps and flying but his fears were unfounded.
Puteri Gunung Ledang will definitely capture the attention of all who watch it, as the action sequences in the film are there to add richness to the characters, as they perform stunts and movements that have never been seen in a local film before.
The film will raise the bar on the quality of action sequences in the local film industry.
Adam, a harness stunts specialist with 14 years experience, has worked on countless films including Once Upon A Time In China 1 and 2, where he designed the harness stunts.
"This is my first time working with Malay silat, but really, there isn't much difference between silat and kung fu.
"Silat has more of an artistic element (bunga) and kung fu doesn't.
I consulted Ariffin Yeop Mahidin, the silat choreographer, on the action sequences, and there were not many changes made to his choreography," says the 33-year-old.
"It wasn't difficult bringing both silat and kung fu together as Ariffin helped me a lot.
"Although there are features of kung fu here, the choreography won't be done in what people recognise as kung fu as this is not a kung fu movie," he says.
In keeping with martial arts choreography to suit the characters, Gusti Adipati Handaya Ningrat, played by Alex Komang, has the most harness work, while Hang Tuah, played by M.Nasir, does not require much.
"The actors had to train for two to three weeks, working on flips and somersaults," says Adam.
Nasir and Alex Komang both trained diligently on the harness.
A typical training session includes warm ups on the trampoline for 30 minutes.
This is in addition to the three to four hours they spent daily training with Ariffin for silat.
The marriage of silat and kung fu elements makes for an interesting effect on screen.
Adam says the stunt elements will enhance the characters and give them an added dimension.
"It has been great working with the actors, and with the stunt elements, I think this is going to be a great movie," he says.
Puteri Gunung Ledang is set in 15th century Malacca and is essentially a love story set within the backdrop of changing times.
Gusti Putri Raden Ajeng Retno Dumilah, the titular character, sails to Malacca to be with her love Hang Tuah and waits for him at Gunung Ledang.
But political intrigues keep the lovers apart as the Sultan of Malacca asks for her hand in marriage.
This causes Hang Tuah to hide his feelings for her as he leads the engagement party up Gunung Ledang to meet her.
Angered by the circumstances, Gusti Putri agrees to the marriage on the condition that the Sultan fulfils seven wishes, which leads to an unexpected turn of events for Gusti Putri and Hang Tuah.
The film stars Tiara Jacquelina as the determined and feisty Gusti Putri.
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