The original stage cast included Reza Zainal Abidin, Benjy, Bernie Chan, Bernice
Chauly, Sean Ghazi, Soefira Jaafar, Charon Mokhzani, Eijat and Elaine Pedley,
Ahmad Ramzani Ramli and Dato’ Rahim Razali.
After its debut in 2002, DramaLab (producer) worked together with the
Singapore Repertory Theatre to stage Spilt Gravy on Rice on the island in 2003
Directed by Zahim Albakri it made its second stage appearance in Kuala
Lumpur again in 2011.
Thoughts and toying with the idea of adapting the play into a screenplay has
always been the director’s ambition.
With a flow of other engagements and productions that Zahim had to attend,
that ambition was left on the backburner for a while. Then, in 2011….a reason
to have it filmed ascended.
Zahim initiated discussions and meetings with the Executive Producer, the
Playwright, Screenplay writers and the Artistic director.
Spilt Gravy on Rice central focus was on Bapak’s House. The perfect location
that Zahim had thought of was his family’s residence. The house that Zahim’s
father built and lived in for over 40 years.
The house at that time was ready to be taken over for urban development and
was ripe for the picking for the hands of capitalism to exploit.
It was ready to be taken over, demolished and reconstructed and developed
into urban inner-city dwellings, retail and commercial offices.
A calling – the set and situation at the time was exactly how the film portrays
It was the moment for Zahim & Zarul (Executive Producer) to document the
house they had lived and grew up in.
It was a now or never situation to produce a film with a setting that was exactly
what Spilt Gravy on Rice was all about. It was perfect!
With the clock ticking and no time to waste, pre-production took place at the
end of 2011.
Scripts were to be written and re-written and re-written. Casting had to be
made. Sets had to be thought of and constructed.
Matters moved swiftly and surely. This movie had to be shot as soon as it
In March 2012, the initial pre-production meeting took place and the race to
search for cast and locations were upon them.
Attempts to gather the original cast together proved to be a daunting task as
most were committed with other productions and engagements. He managed
to gather most and auditions for the new cast commenced.
The screenplay was tweaked, adjusted and modified with additional elements
from its stage play as the addition would complete what Zahim had wanted to
convey in the film.
Production commenced in June 2011 and with a team that was lovingly
passionate, involved and committed – the cast and crew worked round-the-
clock to meet production datelines.
Time was of the essence as the central location – which depicts Bapak’s House
was to be handed over to its new proprietors within 2 months.
Focus was on the house and initial shots were captured. Now the challenges
of transforming the house into its original stage 40 years ago. Construction,
de-construction and re-construction of Bapak’s House. The art department
team under the direction of the Production Designer, Raja Malek, designed,
laboured, built, constructed, painted and changed sets speedily, as though it
was sets and props for a stage production.
In between – as shots and scenes at other locations took place the house was
Like clockwork the team worked.
The whole production finished within 2 months. The team had worked
endlessly hard and they succeeded to deliver in the nick of time.
Immediately after – the house that was the centre of the whole film was sadly
demolished leaving beautiful moments and memories for Zahim and Zarul as
well as the cast and crew.
It was a beautiful bungalow with a lush garden that boasted an early 70’s
Malaysian architecture built around a 20’s’s structure. It boasted the first Balai
in Kuala Lumpur. A gazebo-like annexe that held grand parties and gatherings
of friends, family and dignitaries in the not so distant past.
Zahim and Zarul, had finally managed to document the house they lived in. The
splendour, the glory, the history and the house’s sentimental past was perfect
for its purpose and role in the film.
It will be missed.