Mahjong is my family’s game played in Nengkoy’s house very Friday night. The shuffling sound of mahjong tiles reverberating inside my mother’s living room area every Friday night is literally a weekly occurrence. Every child of Nengkoy (including me) does in fact know how to play this old and traditional Asian game.
And every member of my family seated to play this game would in some way transform into someone different. We would be more focused, more fierce, somewhat smart and strategic as if in a funny attack mode. This is especially true with Nengkoy. She would be so engrossed, she would not mind a word you say if you try asking her what she has done all day or what food has she prepared for dinner.
With our being so well versed with Mahjong, it was easy for us to process and easily understood the mahjong scene representations made by the director of the movie Crazy Rich Asians when my whole family watched this groundbreaking movie last Saturday.
In that mahjong scene between the characters of Rachel Chu (the NY-based Asian-American) and Eleanor (the overbearing matriarch and fearsome mother of Rachel’s boyfriend), we right away understood that Rachelle did the ultimate sacrifice when she let Eleanor win the mahjong game. Rachelle gave up her love, would-be wealth and basically her future with Eleanor’s son. She picked the needed 8-sticks tile to win the game yet she threw and discard it away so that Eleanor could win.
My whole family laughed when we heard Eleanor (played by Michelle Yeoh) uttered “Pong!” The scene would have actually been better if the characters can do the “sinasalat” act. It is a classic mahjong act in which players would be able to determine the tile they picked without looking at it but by merely using the sense of touch, i.e. by sliding the tile’s character through the player’s finger tips.
If in other Asian movies the fight scene can be so literal – in the form of Karate, Judo or other martial arts – I consider the mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asian as the ultimate fight scene between the protagonist and the antagonist of the story. This scene actually unleashes the dragon in Rachel and ultimately tamed the bitchiness of Eleanor.
I was seated beside Nengkoy inside the movie house when Rachelle picked her “puro” (the needed tile to win). I heard Nengkoy say, Todas na Sya! Bunot Pa! (Translation: she wins! and with a higher pay).
And since mahjong is played by my family every Friday night, the mahjong scene in Crazy Rich Asian even made me further love this delightful film. The movie was definitely a Todas! Bunot! All-Up! and Syete Pares!