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Wayang Directed by Prof. Dr. Hatta Azad Khan

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‘Wayang’ is a film directed by Prof. Dr. Hatta Azad Khan, a well-known lecturer as well as a director in Malaysia, he has also been the dean of Faculty of Artistic and Creative Technology, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM). The film ‘Wayang’ was released in Malaysia on 13th November 2008 which focuses on the lifestyle of a community which tries to preserve a cultural heritage, ‘Wayang Kulit’. This film also has been nominated and won in many awards such as Best Film award in ‘Anugerah Skrin 2009’.

This film talks about a master puppeteer (dalang), Awang Lah which later on adopted a blind orphaned boy called Awi, and a girl with a nasal problem named Melor. He then became a teacher towards these two children on how to become a master puppeteer. Awi and Melor have always been interested in wayang kulit performances as Awi have memorized all the wayang kulit stories so Awang Lah taught him how to recite them in a performance, and Melor owned a great skill in creating the puppets, and she was taught to manipulate them on screen. As they have grown up, Awi have innovative ways and thinking on delivering the wayang kulit stories, which was fortunately well-received by the audience but Awang Lah thought otherwise as it contradicts the traditional way of reciting the stories. Awang Lah also faced some problems due to his cousin not accepting his lifestyle of performing wayang kulit, because he believed it is heretical.

According to Anuar Nor Arai (2008), this film is aimed to preserve and continue the cultural heritage as more challenges came to face resulting in the fading of the culture in the society such as due the widespread of pop and western music makes the youth left the cultural heritage. Khor Kheng Kia (2014) also mentioned that this film provides an encouragement towards Malaysian audience on appreciating and supporting local films, especially films like Wayang which involves art, heritage and cultural elements.

The main principles of National Cultural Policy (NCP) are: it must be based on the indigenous peoples’ culture, other cultures included must be suitable with the national culture, and religion being the most prioritized element. In this film, the three elements are present, first of the film according to the director himself shown a gist of how the Wayang Kulit Kelantan works and this tradition is enjoyed mostly by Malays that live in rural areas and now it is distinguished as a traditional Malaysian culture (Dahlan Abdul Ghani, 2011). However, this tradition also faces some problems such as it is against the religious belief and also the elements of involving other culture such as pop music is conflicting with the traditional ways of performing.

According to Yousof (2014), the design for traditional wayang kulit Kelantan puppets existed from pre-Islamic Java which spread to other Malay regions. This wayang kulit also considered as un-Islamic by the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) with main reason, idoling puppets can be seen as idolatry which is haram or forbidden in Islam. This leads to the tradition being restricted on performing only in private homes and permission is needed when performing in public. As a result to these restrictions, many dalangs have decided to retire and looked for a second job to survive in Kelantan (van den Aardweg, 2006: 5-6). In the film Wayang, Jusoh – Awang Lah’s cousin is strongly against this Wayang Kulit act as he believed it is against the religion Islam and considered it as khurafat – an absurd teaching. Jusoh also have adviced Awang Lah’s son to stop his father from performing wayang kulit because it is a huge sin. Jusoh even went further to the point of burning the performing stage of Awang Lah’s wayang kulit. Regardless of Jusoh’s attempts of stopping Awang Lah from performing as supposed it being haram, Awang Lah

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