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H is for Hantu

April 4, 2011
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Not unfamiliar to the supernatural and comedy, Jonathan Lim marries these 2 in his latest (re-run) of H is for Hantu.(“Hantu” is the malay word for “ghost”)

The story tells of how a kampung is set to be phased out by HDB to build more flats. However, unbeknownst to HDB, there are actually 2 kampungs (1 for the hantus, which was essentially a piece of forest behind the “living” kampung). Sazali, a boy who wants to preserve the kampung, tries to rally the kampung folks to support him, but to no avail, so he turns to his hantu friends (yes, he sees dead people) who tries to convince the HDB officer (Angie) handling the relocation otherwise. However, they discover she’s being haunted by a child ghost and he wants to help her (in the hope of her helping them). It turns out she used to live in the kampung and the child ghost was her best friend who’s been using her to search for something they buried together. Angie had also been fighting for good packages for the kampung folks as the HDB project must still go own. Eventually, they do get to preserve the forest part where the hantus lived with the help of environmentalists (through Angie’s help). So all’s well that ends well.

Besides the less than perfect recorded music (it sounded a bit noisy with static and some glitches) and the rather mixed genre of songs which was a bit distracting, I found it enjoyable, though a tad long. Maybe because I expected a 90-minute musical (from sistic’s info) but it turned out to be 2 hours (excluding the delay and intermission). No particular song really stood out for me, but I probably took more notice of the pontianak’s theme since it’s totally based on what is known of it, like the parts with “hitting the nail on the head”, “frangipani fragrance”, etc. Think Jo Tan did well in that role as a less than scary pontianak, Cik Pon.

It started off with  Sazali telling stories but it progressed differently, although there were still narratives along the way. The references were funny in a “natural” way that worked. I think the wayang kulit performance was rather well done for something like this and they managed to inject Singapore references into it with humour. It gave a contrast of what we used to value and the modern lifestyle. The warm, traditional “storytelling” that drew people, in the cold face of technology (“multimedia presentation” as Angie said). The puppets were pretty impressive too, especially with the massive Hantu Galah (tall ghost).

And what’s a show about ghosts without a scary moment? Maybe the “hantus” portrayed from the beginning were not scary and the story was getting “comfortable”. But the turn the turning point happened shortly before the interval when Angie suddenly appeared like a zombie with a pale small puppet sitting on her shoulder (supposedly the ghost of a little girl). That was super CREEPY! The design of the puppet was such: white blank face, eyes with dark rings (making it look hollow) and dressed in a white dress. Creepy it really was, that it chilled my heart, so much so that I nearly grabbed J’s arm. It took some minutes to get back into the “light-heartedness” of the show again. I must say the “jolt” was pretty successful in producing “tension” and made me wonder about what’s going to happen in the later part of the show (but after the shock, I did consider a few scenarios that might have been expected). It kind of raised my rating of the show a little. Fortunately, the doll used later was less frightening. I think it was the suddenness of the appearance that spooked me. But as agreed with J, it did shift the initial focus of saving the kampung away, even though the ending brought it back again. But I guess it was intended, to create that “twist” to the story.

I would say it ended off in a happy mood, as a musical comedy would, with a medley of songs sung in the show.

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