Saw Teong Hin gets personal
By Brian Cheong | 17 Mar 2017 00:30
In 2014, the hottest ticket at the George Town Festival in Penang was Saw Teong Hin’s play Hai Ki Xin Lor, which was remarkably performed entirely in Penang Hokkien dialect. Despite initial reservations about the choice of language, the play struck a chord with audiences, so much so that it has now, three years after its roaring stage debut, been translated into a movie, set for release here on May 4.

Saw, 55, has come full circle with this project as he wrote the script as a screenplay in 2009. But funding wasn’t forthcoming. “A family drama isn’t exactly sexy. Neither is the fact that it is in Hokkien,” he remarks.

So when the opportunity came to turn it into a play, Saw took a chance. On hindsight, he felt that it was the right move. “The play helped us to fix what needed to be fixed in the script,” he admits, adding that he was surprised that it even played well with the non-Chinese. “It just resonated with everyone, no matter their background and age.”

The play’s Hokkien title is the local moniker for Lebuh Victoria, on which Saw grew up. The title in English is You Mean The World To Me. Complimented for its raw honesty, it is a semi-autobiographical account of Saw’s family while growing up in Penang.

“I was at a crossroad in my life when I wanted to do something more meaningful. I also wanted to do a tribute to my mother. Your parents are the easiest people to take for granted as you think they have a duty to look after you. We often forget that they are also people with their own ambitions and dreams.”