Silat has long been considered an esoteric martial arts form by the few Westerners that have heard of it or seen it. Recently, on History channel, the series Human Weapon, gave silat an international boost by showing two Westerners, one a champion martial artist and the other a footballer turned wrestler, learning and taking on silat fighters in Malaysia.
Though some of the fights were definitely staged, the segment when the two kweilohs 'studied' silat harimau was quite fascinating.
I remember TV once screening a local production that traced the various silat forms in the country - if I'm not mistaken the series was called Mahaguru and was directed by a silat exponent named Jak Othman. Since then, we hardly see any dramas, TV series or documentaries that promotes or demonstrates true or pure silat.
Even the movies have not been forthcoming with silat. Wonder why? Are we too ashamed to show our deadly martial arts to the world? Don't we want to share our beautiful martial arts with the rest of the world?
We filmmakers seem to be too preoccupied with the muay thais (ong bak), the kungfu (any bloody Jet Lee movie), the karate and judo of Japan, the taekwondo of korea and the Jeet Kune Do of Bruce Lee.
There was a time when even silat dramas in the early 90s, produced by HVD, unabashedly promoted Hongkee style martial arts as that of silat.
I know a few film directors who strived to show silat in its original form and this include Uwei Shaari whose Keris Lok Tujuh was one of the best TV dramas that exhibited Silat Melayu exquisitely.
In the early days of Shaw Brothers, the silat shown was basically silat wayang and whilst many said the best silat on show was that in the movie Hang Jebat and/or Hang Tuah, I beg to differ. There have been many other Melayu movies that showed silat in better light than those two over-rated movies.
Many also think the late P. Ramlee was a true silat exponent. Hehehe..he wasn't. If you see one of his later movies like Enam Jahanam, his movements were rather comical and sad at the same time.
Then there was a time when we tried to outdo the Indonesians, whose silat in the movies were also laughable - with fighters flying like superheroes on steroids. Some of the more memorable so-called silat movies from across the straits include Si Gondrong and Si Buta.
I even remember a rumor about the famous silat-trained actor Dicky Zulkarnaen (who has a gorgeous daughter mind you) who was said to have had a secret duel with Bruce Lee. According to the myth, Dicky executed his famous death punch on Bruce Lee that would only have an effect on Bruce sometime later.
So it happens, the so-called secret duel was said to have been held a few weeks before Bruce Lee's death.
Of course this is nonsense, we know Bruce Lee died because of the infamous curse of the dragon and that angry kungfu masters poisoned him for revealing Chinese kungfu secrets to the West. Hehehe.
But to tell you the truth, I have seen Dicky and his silat boys perform and they were very deadly and scary. They can break metal bars in half with their fingers and heads!
Okay, okay, coming back to the topic at hand, we filmmakers should be taken to task for not promoting silat properly. I mean, do we want to show the world that Silat Melayu is the one you see in Saw Teong Hin's Puteri Gunung Ledang? Puhleezzz.
When I did Tuah with Jamal Abdillah (who wouldn't really know what silat is even if it slaps him in the face), I needed a good silat choreographer. Luckily, I found one - Pak Engku, who had also choreographed the silat scenes in Rahim Razali's Matinya Seorang Patriot.
Pak Engku was great. He knew what I wanted and he helped make Jamal look good on camera.
Nevertheless, I wished I had casted someone else (but I wasn't the producer) but I ended up with Jamal. So I really had to make do with him. Below is an excerpt of the fight scene in my movie version of Tuah.
I have also found various silat scenes from Melayu movies including the ridiculous silat scene from the movie Putri Gunung Ledang for you to watch and compare. Enjoy.
If an obese and untalented actor like Steven Seagal can popularise Aikido, I don't see why we cannot find someone to promote silat as the deadliest martial arts in the world. Unless of course you saw Ong Bak and feel Tomoi is deadlier.
This article was sourced from the Malaysian movie director, Anwardi Jamil's blog at http://sayaanakwayang.blogspot.com/2008/06/silat-in-movies.html