Mukhsin Is Proof That Childhood Never Really Left

Dept. of First Loves


I remember taking a day trip to Sekinchan a few years ago. It was one of those trips I could quite never forget, that somehow trapped me in a time warp. Walking those sandy paths. Feeling the heat sink into my skin. Breeze tickling my ears. All of it felt familiar and yet I couldn’t place where I’d felt these emotions before. It was only when I came upon those infamous paddy fields, with the lush green wheat stalks and smell of wet earth, that I was suddenly faced with a surge of childhood nostalgia. It stirred up memories of a time long past, of the many summers visiting my village in India. I’d go fishing at the local lake, steal candy from my uncle’s house, play cricket with kids next door, or just spend hours beating levels on Halo with my cousins. Seemingly mundane activities infused with fond sentiments. 

I bring this up because when I watched Yasmin Ahmad’s Mukhsin last night (for the very first time), I felt that exact same nostalgia trip. These 95 minutes took my memories out of a time warp and let them roam free. And just like that I was back on those very fields I’d walked in Sekinchan. 

“The Minute I Heard My First Love Story, I Started Looking for You…”


10-year-old tomboy, Orked (Sharifah Aryana), and village newcomer, 12-year old Mukhsin (Syafie Naswip), are inseparable. They do almost everything together – cycling, flying kites, climbing trees, watching football matches, even praying together. They are kindred spirits, by way of an unlikely friendship formed through a single game of galah panjang. But what happens when it blossoms into something more, when the platonic spills over into the romantic? 

Mukhsin acts as a prequel to Yasmin Ahmad’s other films, Sepet and Gubra, that comprise what is fondly referred to as the “Orked Trilogy.” Set during the early 90s, it is a story of first love in the yoke of youth. Mukhsin, abandoned by his mother and neglected by his brother, struggles to understand the feelings for his best friend. While Orked, showered with an abundance of love, is seemingly oblivious of Mukhsin’s affections. It explores the tenderness, the ache, and everything in between.

Mukhsin, however, isn’t the only one unlucky in love. There’s a neighbour who regularly spews spiteful rumours about Orked’s family in bouts of jealousy, whilst also struggling to accept her husband’s decision to take a second wife. Mukhsin’s brother, Hussein, finds solace in alcohol and women, to cope with being discarded by his mother. It is murky. It is nuanced. It is candid. It is Malaysian society in microcosm.

Yasmin Ahmad is beloved in local cinema for all the right reasons. A richness exists in her storytelling, injected into simple dialogue and poignant characters. Cultural subtexts and unspoken truths are generously sprinkled in her work, reflecting a sincerity in her narrative voice. They validate the human experience, of the many feelings unexpressed and words unsaid. Through Mukhsin, she turned childhood, an intensely personal experience, into something profoundly universal. Allowing us to relive moments of our lives through the joys of cinematic canon. This may be my first tango with her oeuvre, but it most definitely won’t be my last. 

Yasmin Ahmad’s Mukhsin is being digitally presented in 4K by The Japan Foundation as part of its efforts to restore Asian masterpieces. The film will be screened at GSC Mid Valley Megamall for a special one-day-only screening on the 26th of March. Ticketing details can be found here

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