Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life\u2019s sentiments. This article is sponsored by Maxis.\u00a0 The beautiful art that\u2019s fading in Malaysia Wayang kulit is a form of shadow puppetry that is part of Malaysia\u2019s rich cultural heritage. It has been recognised by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Yet in 2021, wayang kulit is a fading artform. Only a few masters (known as Tok Dalang) are keeping it alive. One such Tok Dalang is 66-year-old Eyo Hock Seng, known fondly as Pak Cu. Image via Maxis Berhad. When I called Pak Cu over Whatsapp, he was very friendly and willing to share his experience of working with Maxis and being a Tok Dalang. He said, \u201cSaya rasa bangga dapat bekerjasama dengan Maxis dalam menghasilkan filem mengenai Wayang Kulit.\u201d (\u201cI feel a great sense of pride to be able to work together with Maxis to make this short film about Wayang Kulit.\u201d) Late last year, Maxis reached out to Pak Cu to be featured in a short film called \u2018Layar Harapan\u2019. Image via Maxis Berhad. In the video, his real-life grandson Adam watches him hone his skills for the upcoming wayang kulit performance, but no one is interested in attending. That is until 9-year-old Adam takes an iPhone 12 Pro Max from his mother, hits the video record button, and the rest is history. https:\/\/youtu.be\/ZPoCOQBpfDE The video was actually shot in Pak Cu\u2019s best friend\u2019s house which was chosen for its classic traditional rumah kampung look. Pak Cu recalls the two-day shoot with a smile. \u201cAll the extras in the video are my friends. We were all \u2018happy-happy\u2019 together!\u201d Image via Maxis Berhad. He says that Maxis and the video production team did a great job in capturing the essence of wayang kulit, showing the painstaking attention to detail that goes into each performance. I asked him if the feelings he displayed in the video are really his \u2014 that he\u2019s sad that no one is really interested in wayang kulit anymore. \u201cIt\u2019s true,\u201d Pak Cu told me. \u201cThere are no students left. Maybe because it\u2019s too difficult to pick up, or there\u2019s simply no interest. Now, only Adam will inherit my wayang kulit legacy.\u201d Pak Cu himself started at only 9 years old. Over the years, he actually performed internationally, from Hong Kong to Germany! Pak Cu after a performance at Dewan Philharmonik Petronas, KL \u201cFor me, performing in Singapore and & Indonesia was the most rewarding, because they understand the dialect and are familiar with the stories in wayang kulit,\u201d says Pak Cu. When he was only 9 years old, Pak Cu followed in the footsteps of the late great Tok Dalangs of their time \u2014 Mohammad Bon from Bukit Panau, Hashim Ali from Kota Baru, and Abdullah Baju Merah from Batu Tinggi. Image via Maxis Berhad. As a Tok Dalang Muda (apprentice), Pak Cu started learning to play the musical instruments, such as the gedombak, gendang, geduk, gong, canang, kesi, and serunai. When he was around 18-20, he was taught how to be a Tok Dalang Tua (master). Learning the craft involved memorising the stories that the Tok Dalang masters recited. Pak Cu attended their performances dutifully and committed the stories and tales to heart. In the old days, there were at least 20 Tok Dalang masters in Kelantan. Nowadays, that number has dwindled to a mere 2-3 masters.\u00a0 Image via Maxis Berhad. \u201cThe old ones have passed away, and the youngsters aren\u2019t taking up the mantle anymore,\u201d Pak Cu said with a tinge of sadness in his voice. Why is that? I asked. \u201cIt\u2019s difficult to break into the craft,\u201d Pak Cu acknowledges. Wayang kulit is not the same as becoming a famous singer, or becoming an actor, where you are given dialogue and a script to memorise. I was blown away to discover that wayang kulit is performed by the Tok Dalang spontaneously \u2014 without following a written script. Wayang kulit is hard, yet there\u2019s less appreciation for it when compared to singers and actors Image via Maxis Berhad. Traditionally, the stories and plots are recalled from the Tok Dalang\u2019s memory, but each scene is reenacted differently each time. \u201cThe tone of voice is the hardest,\u201d he shared candidly. \u201cI\u2019ve trained and trained my students, and the voice is the hardest to teach. You have to learn at least 10 singing voices.\u201d Pak Cu\u2019s voice is raspy, yet undeniably strong for a man his age. And rightly so \u2014 a Tok Dalang\u2019s most powerful asset is his voice. He has a roster of a massive 25 characters, with at least 10 distinct voices to differentiate them from each other. He is able to modulate his voice into sounding like a young man, an elderly man, little children, djinns, and even deities. Image via Suhairienor Photography is Art In modern times, is wayang kulit still relevant? Wayang kulit is now becoming yet another footnote in Malaysian history, only to be read about in museums and 2nd-hand sejarah textbooks. And yet, there have been efforts to reinvigorate the art for a contemporary audience. Tintoy Chuo\u2019s \u201cPeperangan Bintang\u201d is a retelling of Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). His wayang kulit show uses original designs and a real Tok Dalang named Pak Dain. Image via Fusion Wayang Kulit The big question is: How much should wayang kulit change in order to survive? And if it changes too much, can you really call it wayang kulit? More than anyone else, Pak Cu understands that one must adapt to modern society to survive. He has two sets of wayang kulit puppets \u2014 one for the ancient epics, and one for the modern-day stories. The more modern stories involve characters like the police, village elders, imams, and Tok Penggawa. Image via Suhairienor Photography is Art What can people do to keep the wayang kulit culture alive? Nowadays, movies like Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) are paying homage to wayang kulit. Will wayang kulit return to its former glory? Only time will tell. Image via @aimanariffAAK (Twitter) Recording and sharing traditions are amazing, and similar to Pak Cu\u2019s grandson Adam, it would be even more spectacular shooting it with smartphones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max. If you are interested to get yourself one, check out these plans from Maxis, the No. 1 network in Malaysia! As time goes on, old traditions unfortunately may fade away and disappear forever. So, people like you and I should continue capturing images and footage to preserve these memories. If you hear about a wayang kulit performance happening in your area, do attend, capture the art and share in your social media. For more stories like this, read: After Malaysia\u2019s Borders Were Closed, Here\u2019s What 5 Pilots Are Doing To Survive and How We Started A Batik Brand That Empowers Malaysian Local Artisans, Refugees and People with Disabilities. To get new stories from IRL, follow us on Facebook & Instagram.