By Assoc. Prof. Dr. Aida Mokhtar, International Islamic University Malaysia
A real tear-jerker aptly describes the 2021 Malaysian advertisement celebrating Eid called ‘Mak Teh’s Tiffin Carrier’ by Felda Global Ventures (FGV) for its brand, Saji. The ad brought about a profound catharsis effect marked by me sobbing each time I watched it. The ad gave me time to pause what I was doing, reflect upon life and the people I had been missing because of their passing.
It left me a profound mark.
The ad was inspired by the true story of a lady, Saadiah Abdullah, who had been sending food to her late husband’s office at the District Police Headquarters in Gerik, Perak almost every day from the year of his passing in 1975 to 2012 due to her deep love for her husband as though he were still alive. The food went to his colleagues after his passing.
‘Mak Teh’s Tiffin Carrier’ is abundant with human values. The advertiser of a prominent brand once shared with me that festive advertisements remind us of human values because life is fast paced, we tend to forget them, and we need to be reminded of them. The organisation had invested some of its profits in producing several much-awaited festive advertisements till this day with the aim of educating audiences in Malaysia during festivals, when families usually gather in an emotional ambiance. Festive ads educate and remind audiences on human values.
Some of these values were found in the Saji ad. The value of family, the value of the expression of loyalty from a wife to her late husband and the value of affection told to us through the wife’s act of cooking lovingly for him despite his passing.
There was nothing odd with the story at the onset. In fact the first scene of ‘Mak Teh’s Tiffin Carrier’ went on a rather cheerful note. We are first introduced to a lady affectionately known as ‘Mak Teh’ as she is riding her bicycle whilst transporting a tiffin carrier. She is later shown to be preparing a meal for the breaking of fast during Ramadhan. Her husband, Din, an ambulance driver, asks her what she is cooking – it represents a normal conversation between a husband and a wife.
She tells him she would send the food to him later at his workplace and he seems keen to receive it. Mak Teh’s daughter comes in and asks her mother what she is cooking and she cheerfully mentions that she is cooking her husband’s favourite food. Mak Teh then leaves the tiffin carrier at her husband’s workplace, a clinic, and asks her husband’s colleague, Mail, to give it to him to remind her husband to finish the food.
The strong use of nonverbal communication through facial expressions by Mail triggers the audience’s suspense. Why does he seem uneasy about Mak Teh’s presence? There seems to be more to the story than what is seen.
This sense of uneasiness is reinforced by Dr. Firdaus, who has just started working at the clinic. He asks Mail about the lady and reacts with a somewhat odd expression to his answer. A revelation is soon made after Mail and Dr. Firdaus visit Mak Teh at her home. Dr. Firdaus reminds Mak Teh that her husband had passed away five years ago. ‘Shocking’ describes the feeling in the living room scene which overshadows the previous scenes marked with cheerfulness and banter.
Mak Teh explains emotionally at the time that she misses her late husband and misses cooking for him. She had been all along sending food to her husband who had passed away five years ago because she misses him. She vows to send more food to the clinic during her lifetime.
If the ad’s objective is about stirring emotions in viewers then it comes to just about that. It is an effective advertisement in moving us whilst conveying values The tiffin carrier Mak Teh sent to her the clinic signified her values of loyalty, appreciation of the family unit, and expression of affection to her late husband. It is an incredible narrative of eternal love.
It is an ad most shared on my Facebook page compared to other ads, the most commented on, has the most likes and has been the most viewed with almost 7,000 views.
Its popularity comes to no surprise, as the cinematography is incredible and the acting superb. It is marked by effective nonverbal communication with pauses, eye contact and tones used in the right places by a good cast of talents led by well-known actress Fatimah Abu Bakar. It is a relief from the verbosity that is usually found in some ads and films. If good cinematography is supposed to enhance storytelling in a movie or ad, the cinematography in ‘Mak Teh’s Tiffin Carrier’ surely does its job well. We learn, eternal love for a husband knows no bounds.
Watch the full ad here:
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