Namewee’s “Banglasia” – 2015 NYAFF Review

“Banglasia” (猛加拉西亜) – also known as “Banglaman” – is the latest film by rapper and director Namewee that was promptly banned in his home country of Malaysia.  A look at the cast and the characters they play reveal why.

Nirab Hossain is Dirty Harris, the focal point of the story and the Bangladeshi man who is trying to earn enough money in Malaysia in order to return to Dhaka, and marry and support his sweetheart Laboni.  But when he receives word that she will be forced into an arranged marriage in the span of 48 hours, he realizes that his wiry eccentric of a boss (Omar, played by Saiful Apek) is holding his passport and all the papers proving his identity.  A Western-inspired shootout and case of amnesia quickly ensues, making Harris even more confused about why he is in Malaysia.

Harris crosses paths with Namewee’s character, Hanguren, who wears “Save Malaysia” t-shirts and is introduced to the audience preaching in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown about the evils of immigration.  Clashing with that message is his name: Hanguren in Mandarin means “Korean Man” and is a subtle poke at the K-pop and K-drama craze that has taken over Asia.  Soapbox sermons considered, he immediately dislikes Harris and campaigns against Omar’s ways of employing foreigners.

Rina, Omar’s daughter played by Atikah Suhaime, has returned to Malaysia after temporarily studying abroad.  She’s smitten with Harris, calling him “oppa,” the Korean term for a close big brother that has now doubled as one for “boyfriend.”  However, she is also on the run from her domineering father and his minions.  Rina, who is clad in a solid white mini dress for most of the film, is a pretty nurse who faints at the sight of blood and, when tossed about during the movie’s action sequences, becomes a bit too easily disfigured.  Now a real life fact about Suhaime that is not disclosed in the film: she’s a Singaporean actress working in Malaysia.  Consider that with the fictional elements of her character, and Rina in “Banglasia” takes on a whole other meaning.

A bizarre sequence of events force Harris, Hanguren and Rina to go on the run from Omar, picking up more unlikely allies along the way.  They cram into a taxi driven by Ah Seng, who is obsessed with crossing the border into southern Thailand to find his long lost love but seems to continually drive around in circles, never quite making it out of Malaysia.  His trio of passengers seek refuge in the village residence of Hanguren’s grandmother, who mistakes Ah Seng for her grandson, and then Harris as her long-deceased husband.  And with the help of Wira, a slightly deranged police officer, they fight off Omar and his invading Luk Luk Army.

What to do next?  Throw all these characters into a piñata.  Add the mandatory mashup of languages and dialects commonly heard throughout Malaysia (English, Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien, with a smattering of Korean and the fictional Luk Luk), empty some political paprika and comedic Pixy Stix, seal and shake.  Hang it from the ceiling, smash it with a baseball bat, and you’ve got “Banglasia” in a nutshell.  Defy the authorities and watch it if you can.

“Banglasia” makes its international premiere at the 2015 New York Asian Film Festival on Fri., July 10 at 8 p.m. ET at the SVA (School of Visual Arts) Theatre.  Namewee will attend the screening.  For ticket information, go to