“A girl in hijab can do everything other girls can!”

BY STEFITH

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This week has been absolutely crazy (deadlines all over the place and more assignments coming in) but in the midst of the chaos I found time to head over to the cinema (okay actually it was a school-organised screening) to watch Banting.

Banting (Malay for ‘slam’) tells the story of Yasmin Muhammad (played by Iryan Mellyna Ishak), a twenty-four-year-old Malay-Muslim girl who loves wrestling. Raised in a strict household, where, as we say colloquially, “everything also ‘tidak boleh’ (cannot)”, Yasmin tries her best to obey her mother, but chafes under the restriction. She is especially put out by assumptions people make about her- especially the fact that she cannot do what other girls can just because of her hijab.

A whole new world opens up when she finds a pamphlet for an all-women’s professional wrestling gym, and she decides to secretly sign up as a wrestler behind her mother’s back. Supported by her grandfather (a tech-savvy man with a very active Facebook account), sister Nissa (who believes firmly in pursuing your dreams) and BFF Zaidy (an aspiring musician who always has her back), Yasmin trains hard and becomes the mysterious ‘Zarith Blade’- one of the hottest female wrestlers in town.

However, secrets don’t stay secret for long… and Yasmin soon finds herself fighting to convince her mother to allow her to pursue her dream to become a professional wrestler.

Banting is a bit like our local version of Bend It Like Beckham. As the first locally produced commercial Malay film since 1975, Banting is refreshingly modern and absolutely hilarious, combining the aspects of Malay-Muslim culture with modern eccentricities. Yasmin helps teach religion at the mosque and wears her tudung, but also works at a café and has wrestling posters all over her room. Zaidy dresses stylishly, plays the guitar in his band, and drives Yasmin nearly everywhere on his motorbike.

The dialogue is also distinctly Singaporean in our typical mashing-up of languages. While the film is predominantly in Malay, the characters also pepper their interactions with bits of English, reflecting how the languages are used and spoken day-to-day in Singapore.

While the adult characters seem a little two-dimensional (the strict, traditional mother, the kindly and supportive grandpa, the rebellious older sister- all typical character archetypes), the two main characters, Yasmin and Zaidy, have an incredible camaraderie that make you look over at your best friend and laugh, because their interactions are so real. The other female wrestlers are also really entertaining, and their ‘sisterhood’ gives Yasmin a place she feels she can really be herself.

It’s an extremely entertaining movie that has you splitting your sides- a coming-of-age, feel-good tale about pursuing your dreams and breaking the mould.

Banting is no longer showing in the cinemas, but when it comes to a smaller screen near you (and I think it eventually will), be sure to catch it. I guarantee, it’s worth the watch.

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