Making Malaysia proud is possibly the dream of many Malaysians.
The 1980 Olympics in Moscow was Harimau Malaya’s ultimate dream to shine at the world stage. But halfway through the qualifying match against South Korea, it became no longer about Moscow, it was about the Malaysian people and making them proud.
OlaBola the Musical is the adaptation of the successful Malaysian film of the same name released in 2016. Making history as the longest musical held at Istana Budaya, it’s tremendous success is a telling evidence of how well each of the 200 cast and crew performed.
Every moment was truly heart-catching and fully captivating. Each cast had their role in carrying the story through rapping and singing against the background of beating drums and exciting music.
The backdrop visuals were an integral part of the musical as 3D animation harmonized with the actors’ movements. It all felt very real.
As I follow through their journey in what is possibly one of the most important stories of Malaysia’s perseverance, I, as the audience saw their despair and I too felt my heart sink with sadness. I saw their success, and I too shared a smile and clapped my hands as I joined in, celebrating their happiness.
Keeping true to its identity as a Malaysian musical, we see multiple languages being spoken by the actors and not only that, there were some ‘inside’ jokes too.
One example that comes to mind is when one of Uncle Wong’s customers says a proverb in Cantonese. Uncle Wong attempts to translate it but fails and says, ‘awak takkan faham punya’ (you won’t understand it). I hear the Chinese Malaysian sitting behind me laugh and I laugh too. I didn’t understand the proverb but it was reflective of life in Malaysia – how diverse it is and how sometimes we don’t understand each other, but it’s still okay.
Uncle Wong, played by Douglas Lim, wasn’t the only one that captured the audience’s hearts. Rahman, played by Iedil Putra, was truly the backbone of the musical where he carried the story from beginning to end with remarkable performance. Iedil’s energetic portrayal of Rahman’s journey in becoming a sports commentator is worthy of a standing ovation.
But of course, there wouldn’t be OlaBola if it wasn’t for Tauke. There were moments of despair and defeat but ultimately, he became the embodiment of perseverance. All this was wonderfully conveyed by Brian Chan.
In the end it wasn’t just Tauke’s story, or Harimau Malaya’s story, it became Malaysia’s story and it’s a story set to inspire many generations to come.
It does not matter whether you’re a football player, a commentator, or an actor, there are many ways to be a Malaysian and each way plays a role in expanding Malaysia’s possibilities.