My colleagues who are these ardent fans of Malay novels have been praising Ramlee Awang Murshid as the best Malay thriller novels writer for ages! After so many times hearing that, I was so curious and wanted to vouch the compliments myself, so I bought the book “Tombiruo : Penunggu Rimba” (Tombiruo : The Guardian of The Forest) circa May 2017 and within 2 days, finished reading it. Well, my sister borrowed the book but yet to return to me! Hahahaa! I immortalized the review in my Goodreads site as (REFER to https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2229016.Tombiruo) :-
“This is my 1st attempt and 1st RAM’s book after hearing rave reviews from my colleagues. They said RAM’s books are not the cliche, romantic “nauseated” typical novels, and I truly agree with that. RAM is definitely a writer who writes with knowledge. He infuses romantic subplots and embroidered that with Islamic elements and a few knots and notches of Scientific facts, delivered in casual ways but definitely reflect his charismatic style.
The essence of the book was the ‘thriller’ plot, a serial sadistic rapist rampaging at KL and Keningau, Sabah. I like the female protagonist’s character, Wan Suraya who is a feisty and go-getter reporter but I was frustrated that the character Tombiruo, the guardian of the jungle dubbed as the phantom by the local with his “inhuman face” was simply illustrated as Wan Suraya’s saviour. RAM was focusing more on Wan Suraya-Amiruddin’s chemistry which I don’t think is necessary. In my opinion, RAM could have developed some chemistry between Tombiruo and Wan Suraya, instead. It would be more melodramatic.
For me, RAM is not as good as HAMKA’s “Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijck” but he is sure one of good writer and his strength is in creating suspense, although I was quite disheartened by the pale ending. In short, RAM’s writing differs him from other Malaysian writers. Kudos!”
Naturally, I am also curious to see the film adaptation of the novel, no? So, I managed to catch the film with my KPLI brother Kord at GSC Aman Sentral during the recent Deepavali break. And, my verdict? It was phenomenal! Kudos to the film crews, casts and production! The cinematography was apt and artistic – to see Tombiruo’s hut built on a tall tree facing the majestic Kinabalu Mountain was breathtaking (not sure whether it was CGI or real setting but it was a legit WOW factor!) and the fighting scenes were amazingly choreographed! Of course there are a few changes made from the novel but in essence, the plot was still fully intact.
The novel and the film poster.
I am not Zul Ariffin’s fan (as I know he has thousands of drooling fans and the benchmark of Malay machismo) but I think physically, he is fit for the role. And to cast Nabila Huda as the feisty Wan Suraya is another applause! I always admire Nabila Huda’s acting skill albeit she is known as the “bad girl” but she has the attitude needed to be portrayed as Wan Suraya; in fact in the novel, Wan Suraya is a bit flirtatious no-innocent reporter but I guess it was toned down in the film, though. Nevertheless, never fail to enjoy Nabila Huda’s performance! And as for the character Amiruddin, Tombiruo’s long-lost twin who becomes a forest ranger and a widower as his wife and father in-law were killed in the storyline – portrayed by Farid Kamil; I also think that the choice to cast him was appropriate as Amiruddin is illustrated as a Muslim man who practiced “Silat Sendeng” and Farid Kamil exuded that “Malay-ness”. Thumbs up to the casts selection!
Zul Ariffin as Tombiruo/Eijim – the guarding of the forest with inhuman face. His dialogues in this film were restricted to merely grunts, groans and “Bapak” (Father!). Hehe. But physically, he did great job in portraying the character.
Farid Kamil as Amiruddin, the Muslim forest ranger with “Silat Sendeng” (Malay martial art) skills.
The ever talented Nabila Huda as the feisty Wan Suraya! Bravo for casting her! She is really Wan Suraya, in my opinion! Kudos to Nabila Huda! Love her performance.
Apart from these, it is also precious to note that the Kadazan-Dusun language are used in the dialogues and it is a primetime for the Malaysians especially those from Peninsular to appreciate the beauty of Borneoan language. I am honoured to have a few Kadazan-Dusun friends and I also visited Sabah last year (REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/mmy-spontttaneous-virgin-borneo-adventure-sabah-the-land-of-beautiful-nature-beautiful-people/) and simply loved the ambiance! I guess this is not far-fetched to say that the film is the epitome of Sabah and its beautiful culture. Moreover, Ramlee Awang Murshid is a Sabahan (if I am not mistaken he is from Papar, Sabah). So it is natural for him to uphold his born-state! Splendid!
The female Kadazan shaman. I am not sure whether she is called as Bobolian or Bobohizan. I understand if some critics were to question why most of the actors chosen were from the Peninsular when in the novel, these characters are Sabahan-based (Tan Sri Berham, Amiruddin, etc), no? I guess it’s all down to marketing strategy.
I was also so curious to see the name of the director and it appeared in the Credit List as Seth Larney. So when I did my Googling homework, it was stated that Larney is an Australian VFX Supervisor who has vast experiences working in Hollywood action movies; so I guess that explains everything! And what’s more with ASTRO Shaw as one of the producers, I guess money isn’t the problem, no? On whole, thumbs up to the Tombiruo team!