2 Stories Of Malay Families Bonding Over Star Wars

His friends and family know him as Mohammad Azmi Danuri.

But on Thursday and Sunday evenings, the 29-year-old freelance video editor goes by another name: Grand Master Sas-Ejiid.

From the way the Star Wars movies permeate almost every aspect of his life, he could well be Singapore’s biggest Star Wars fan.

Mr Azmi is the founder of FightSaber Singapore, a lightsaber performance and costuming group inspired by the Star Wars moviesin which every member chooses a character and backstory for themselves.

He told The New Paper in a phone interview: “Mine is Jedi Master Sas-Ejiid, a wanderer who started his own school. He’s based on the main character Sanjuro in Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film Yojimbo.”

With a background in ninjutsu, Mr Azmi joined another lightsaber group in 2005 before founding FightSaber Singapore in 2010. It has 30 members, mostly men in their 20s and 30s, though about a quarter of the members are women.

FightSaber is a worldwide organisation and is officially recognised by Star Wars production company Lucasfilm, but it is run by fans. It is not a martial arts group, as members follow safety guidelines from Lucasfilm that discourage open sparring.

Membership is free, but members have to pay for their own costumes and lightsabers.

Interested parties are welcome to join training sessions and to borrow lightsabers.

Although the group usually trains in T-shirts and trousers twice a week at Henderson Community Club and *Scape, members don elaborate Star Wars costumes for official events and performances, such as the upcoming gala premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Shaw Lido on Wednesday.

The gala premiere is a day before the movie opens in cinemas islandwide.

“We’ve definitely seen more interest in FightSaber this year, since The Force Awakens is coming out,” said Mr Azmi, who will watch the movie on both Dec 16 and 17.


Mr Azmi watched his first Star Wars movie when he was five, but became a true fan only in his teens, when Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released in 1999.

“A lot of people hate the Star Wars prequels, but I don’t. I don’t even dislike Jar Jar Binks. I think he was created to give comic relief to kids and I appreciate that,” said Mr Azmi, whose favourite Star Wars character is the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Ewan McGregor in the prequels.

It was also around this time that Mr Azmi started playing with plastic lightsabers.

When he was 16, he spent $2,000 of savings from his Hari Raya money on Star Wars toys.

Today, he has a modest collection of Star Wars merchandise, which he estimates he has spent about $9,000 on. Thisincludes his lightsaber collection.

“I don’t go for the very expensive collectibles. Most of my items were mass produced and can be found in stores like Toys ‘R’ Us.

“I need to have control and not go overboard… I’m trying to streamline my collection now and collect only Obi-Wan stuff.”


When Mr Azmi decided to marry his girlfriend of four years, Madam Noor Ezaida Abdul Rahman, it was his dream to have a Star Wars wedding.

Fortunately, his bride consented and they had a Star Wars-themed wedding dinner at Hotel Re! last year, in addition to a traditional Malay wedding ceremony.

“I’m so blessed that she agreed to it. I don’t care if my wife likes Star Wars or not, but it’s a bonus that she appreciates it.”

Madam Ezaida, 29, a primary school teacher, said she had fun planning the wedding and that the couple, who dressed up as a Jedi and Padme Amidala, shared most of the work.

“I helped to source for the Death Star wedding cake and the bridesmaids’ dresses inspired by Darth Vader, Princess Leia and R2-D2.”

She said it was Mr Azmi who introduced her to the original Star Wars trilogy and she enjoys watching the movies, though she is not as big a fan as her husband.

She does not even mind him spending on Star Wars merchandise.

“It’s his money, after all. And he doesn’t make noise about my spending on clothes and shoes,” she said.

The couple’s three-month-old son even has a unique Star Wars-inspired name, Luq Mohammad Anaqin,after Luke and Anakin Skywalker.

“I thought my wife would violently object, but she was actually okay,” said Mr Azmi.

“We’ve already bought some Star Wars toys for him. He has a lightsaber night light and we’ve named his teddy bear O-Bear Wan.”

Madam Ezaida said she was the one who had suggested the name Anaqin for their firstborn because she liked how it sounded and how complex the character Anakin Skywalker was.

“We just changed the ‘k’ in the name to ‘q’, so it sounded more Malay,” she said.

When asked if he considers himself Singapore’s No. 1 Star Wars fan, Mr Azmi turns modest.

“No, I don’t think I am. There are many older folks who deserve the title as they have been fans since the original trilogy came out.

“I think the great thing about Star Wars is that there is no ‘one greatest fan’. It’s about a sense of community, and people coming together because we love the story and characters.”


His padawan has surpassed him

Star Wars fan Suhaimi Subandie loved the movie series so much, he named two of his children after the twin protagonists, Luke and Leia Skywalker.

The 51-year-old guitarist of veteran local rock band Stompin’ Ground is father to 17-year-old fraternal twins Luke Sulaiman and Nurul Leia.

So does that make him the Darth Vader of the family?

After all, he even has an “I Am Your Father” T-shirt.

“After many years of shouting in Stompin’ Ground, my voice has become hoarse like Darth Vader’s, too,” he joked in a phone interview with The New Paper, referring to the Star Wars villain’s signature raspy vocals.

Although Mr Suhaimi, a toy collector, agrees it has become more common for Singaporeans to name their children after Star Wars characters, he has not encountered any other fraternal twins here named Luke and Leia.

“Back in 1998, names like these were practically unheard of in the Malay community.

“I’d like to think I started the ball rolling for Malay families to name their kids after pop culture characters,” he said.

Mr Suhaimi said he gave his children those names only because they happened to be fraternal twins.

His two elder daughters have more traditional Malay names: Nurul Khaalisah and Nurul Ashikin. They are 23 and 21 years old respectively.


He said: “All my children love Star Wars, but I feel a special bond with my twins. Not just because of their names, but also because they help me with my toy sales.”

Mr Suhaimi used to own a toy shop and he now sells his leftover stock, including Star Wars merchandise, at garage sales and flea markets.

He added proudly that Luke’s Star Wars knowledge surpasses even his own.

“I passed him all my Star Wars comics, but he has continued reading about the expanded universe beyond the original movies. At my age, I can’t store all that knowledge any more – my memory bank is full,” he joked.

Luke, a student at Nan Chiau High School, and Leia, who attends Republic Polytechnic, told TNP they love their unique names.

Said Luke: “There are thousands of other Muslims named Muhammad, but I think my parents were smart to identify me by a name that is usually for Westerners.

“When people first heard my name, they thought it was weird for a Muslim, but they learned to accept it and realise it was cool.”

Leia added: “The bond between my father, brother and myself really strengthened when we watched Star Wars together and played with his wide variety of toys. That bond continues even now.”

Nurul Khaalisah, a former New Paper New Face finalist-turned-Guess model, thinks it’s “insanely cool” that her siblings are named after the Skywalker twins.

“We all understand ‘Star Wars talk’.We even communicate with each other using Star Wars languages and use the Tusken Raider wail as a cheer when we hear good news.”

Back in 1998, names like these were practically unheard of in the Malay community. I’d like to think I started the ball rolling for Malay families to name their kids after pop culture characters.

– Mr Suhaimi Subandie on naming his twins Luke Sulaiman and Nurul Leia



Source: http://www.tnp.sg

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