● Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa was filmed 90 per cent on location, mostly in Terengganu.
● The film will be distributed to 72 countries, including the United States, China, Germany and Australia.
● A team of 12 animators worked on the film.
● Scriptwriter Amir Hafizi reworked the screenplay 17 times.
● The film had a budget of RM8 million, of which RM2 million was spent on sets, props and costumes.
March 2008 — Research and scriptwriting began
September 2008 — Pre-production began
June 2009 — Production began
August 2009 — Post-production began
October 2010 — Film completed (initial target was July 2010)
November 2010 — Production of documentary began
February 25, 2011 — Documentary screened on TV3
March 10, 2011 — Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa to hit local cinemas
Source: KRU Studios
THE MALAY CHRONICLES : BLOODLINES (HIKAYAT MERONG MAHAWANGSA) SYNOPSIS:
Based loosely on the 16th century historical document entitled ‘The Malay Annals’, ’The Chronicles of Merong Mahawangsa’ is an action-packed epic feature film, with mythical characters, magical moments and dazzling visual-effects sequences. Merong Mahawangsa was a descendant of Alexander the Great, a renowned naval captain and traveler who came to Asia several hundred years ago.
The year is 120 AD… a time when the Roman Empire is at the height of its power, during the reign of Hadrian – one of the Five Good Emperors. Meanwhile in China, the Han Dynasty is firmly cemented as the ruling empire and is expanding into Central Asia… one hundred years before the period of the Three Kingdoms. As the Roman fleet did their repairs and traded in Goa, they asked Merong Mahawangsa to escort a Roman prince to Southeast Asia, to wed a beautiful Chinese princess from the Han Dynasty. The Chinese princess and the Roman prince are supposed to meet halfway and be married on neutral grounds.
However, the pirate nation of Geruda had other plans. They decided to kidnap the Chinese princess and use her as ransom. En route to the Straits of Melaka, Merong Mahawangsa’s fleet was attacked by Geruda’s forces while stopping at a small island to replenish supplies.
Will Merong Mahawangsa be able to rescue the Princess and re-unite her with her betrothed in a marriage that is set to bring together two great civilizations from the East and West ?
THE MALAY CHRONICLES : BLOODLINES (HIKAYAT MERONG MAHAWANGSA) INFO & CREW, CAST:
Executive Producer : Norman Abdul Halim
Producer : Norman Abdul Halim, Yusry Abdul Halim, Edry Abdul Halim
Director : Yusry Abdul Halim
Music : Edry Abdul Halim
Director of Photography : Mat Nor Kassim
Action Camera : Chau Kim Ming
Production Designer : Kek Ting Lam
Creative Director : Johan Lucas
Art Director : Anuar Paharudin
Martial Art : Chan Man Cheng, Chong Yi Wah
Costume : Rosada Abdul Hamid
Make-up : Mas Hashim
Stephen Rahman Hudges : Merong Mahawangsa
Jing Lu: Meng Li Hua (Chinese Princess)
Gavin Rees StenHouse : Marcus (Roman Prince)
Craig Robert Fong : Admiral Liu Yun (Chinese Admiral)
Eric Karl Henrik Norman : Lycius (Roman Admiral)
Keith Chong : Chinese Emperor
Deborah Henry : Yesoddhra
W. Hanafi Su : Taji
Dato’ Rahim Razali : Kesum
Khir Rahman : Kamawas
Ummi Nazeera : Embok
Nell Ng : Ying Ying
Jehan Miskin : Embi (Malay Warrior)
Umi Aida : Lang (Mak Merong Mahawangsa)
Kuswadinata : Phra Ong
Mano Maniam : Goan 1
Ravi Sunderlingam : Sunder (Goan Warrior)
THE MALAY CHRONICLES : BLOODLINES (HIKAYAT MERONG MAHAWANGSA) OFFICIAL TRAILER:
This epic action-adventure is based on ancient writings of the same name, also known as The Kedah Annals, which chronicles Merong Mahawangsa’s quest and the founding of Kedah.
“We chose to bring this ancient Malay literature to the big screen because we were intrigued by its storyline,” says Norman.
The film follows the mighty warrior, said to be a descendant of Alexander the Great, as he assists the Romans in bringing their Prince Marcus Carpenius to meet and wed a Chinese princess in Southeast Asia.
The film received a financial grant from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra contributed to its soundtrack. Celcom is its exclusive sponsor. The filmmakers also received financing from Perbadanan Kemajuan Filem Nasional Malaysia to make a coffee-table book on the subject. After its success with Cicak-Man, Duyung and Magika, KRU Studios wanted to attempt a project with an international appeal, one with a universal theme.
“With the presence of the Romans and Chinese in the Merong Mahawangsa tale, we knew we had the right combination. And we also had the creative freedom to make the film bilingual,” says Norman, who produced the film with his brothers Yusry and Edry. Work quickly started, with research and writing of the screenplay by Amir Hafizi in 2008. Yusry took up the director’s mantle and cast talents with theatre background.
“Theatre actors are more expressive. Their body language and facial expressions are dynamic. As our cast comprises various nationalities, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, we’ve got a good mix,” says Norman.
Stephen Rahman-Hughes was picked to play the titular character. This London’s West End actor, dancer, choreographer and singer is best known on our shores as Hang Tuah from the successful theatre production Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical. Hong Kong-born British actor Gavin Stenhouse plays the Roman prince while British actress Jing Lu takes on the Chinese princess. Other actors include Craig Fong, Henrik Norman, Datuk Rahim Razali, Ummi Nazeera, Nell Ng, Mano Maniam, Wan Hanafi Wan Su and Khir Rahman. Filming took up 52 days in 2009, at locations which included Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan and mostly Terengganu.
“We were working with a host of challenges — limited budget, a small team of animators, outdoor shooting with unexpected conditions. As it was our first time embarking on a project of this scale with extensive CGI effects, I’d say we did quite all right,” says Norman. I caught up with Norman again later — this time, with his two brothers and some of the cast — at a media event in Kuala Lumpur. Yusry stresses that while the film is based on the book Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, what’s on the silver screen is very much KRU Studios’ interpretation. “Despite the creative adaptation, we have remained true to the tale. In the past, the penglipur lara (village storyteller) would add new elements to an existing storyline to make it more interesting to listeners. Films, in a way, are the modern-age penglipur lara.” And judging from the trailer, which has been making its rounds on TV and the Internet, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa may just have what it takes to woo today’s discerning audience. The film will open in local cinemas on March 10. Merging literature, myth and history KRU Studios has come up with a documentary to complement its latest flick, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.
The documentary, which is also part of the film’s promotional initiatives, presents the viewpoints of various experts on such matters as Malaysian and Kedah history and the background of the book Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa.
Panelists featured include Professor Datuk Khoo Kay Kim (Malaysian historian), Datuk Dr Siti Hawa Salleh (philologist), Datuk Dr Wan Shamsudin Mohd Yusof (Kedah historian), Datuk Wira Mohd Shaariff Abu Samah (Kedah palace representative) and Mohan Shanmugam (Hindu Sangam Malaysia president).
“The aim of this documentary is to provide the audience with a better understanding of the story of Merong Mahawangsa,” says KRU Studios executive president Norman Abdul Halim.
Viewers will learn about the warrior and his role in the oral history of Malaysia.
The documentary includes interviews with film director Yusry Abdul Halim and scriptwriter Amir Hafizi, who elaborated on the steps taken to merge the elements of literature, myth and history to bring the film to life. “While we didn’t detract much from the basic storyline of the book, our big-screen adaptation may not carry a literal interpretation of the events,” says Yusry. The documentary, which cost RM40,000 to produce, was completed in November last year, immediately after the filming. The 42-minute documentary was first aired on TV3 on Feb 25. It will be included in the DVD and later made available for download online. — By LILI LAJMAN