Despite its success, the Malaysian film Mat Kilau has also received criticisms from some members of the community for portraying a negative image of the minority group in the country.
Recently, a Sikh non-governmental organisation named United Sikhs Malaysia has taken to social media to condemn the Malaysian Film Industry for producing such a movie that causes racial disharmony.
In a statement, the group noted that the film is a fictional retelling of a figure who fought against British imperialism in Pahang and showed the spirit of the Malays who were determined to defend Tanah Melayu.
However, the group also found that the film portrayed non-Malay Muslim characters, such as turbaned-Sikh, as villains who laid hands on old folks, children, and helpless citizens. It added that this was distasteful and problematic.
Meanwhile, they also acknowledged that these characterisations were added by the producers to tell a compelling story but they believe these negative portrayals could lead to racial disharmony.
The group also explained that the Sikh code of practice prohibits its followers from laying hands on children, women, the elderly, and helpless citizens, even during a war.
“We humbly urge the Malaysian Film Industry not to produce movies at the expense of hurting religious and racial sentiments and those which have the potential to create religious and racial misunderstanding.” the statement reads.
At the same time, netizens on social media also pointed out the controversial portrayal of minority communities in the blockbuster film.
It was reported that some Opposition lawmakers who helped promote the film by hosting free screenings found themselves under criticisms from netizens.
In response, Pakatan Harapan leaders defended themselves for promoting the film despite its problematic portrayal of non-Muslim characters.
“Many DAP leaders have screened it for free in their constituencies. We want to promote the importance of supporting a local production,” Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said.
On the other hand, Hang Tuah Jaya MP Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin pointed out that the film’s main themes are fighting against unfair taxation and against traitors, which remain relevant today.
“These two areas remain relevant to our political context if we were to interpret elements in the movie. In any struggle, there will be traitors and we must be constantly vigilant to fight them. We can’t allow any leader to act like the British colonizers.” he said.
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