In recent times, we have been deluged with a series of movies paying homage to the lives of rock bands and pop stars.

And these movies spoke to me because it focused on the bands which the baby boomers grew up with.

When Queen the movie came on to our screens, it took me a while to watch it. I was filled with trepidation as I knew no matter how good the movie was, it would always fall short of what it should be in my minds eye.

You see it brought me back to a time when a 12 year old boy was anxious and confused when the hormones struck and he was struggling to find his identity.

I was a plethora of contradictions.

I grew up in a household who spoke Chinese (my family was Indonesian Chinese) predominantly and not English. But here I was, totally angmofied through a few years of living with my nonya maternal Grandmother and my grand aunts who spoke only English and Malay.

As a very young child, I was brought by my mom to watch every taiwanese tearjerker that came on to the movies. To this day, I feel nostalgic and sad if I hear a riff of some weepy 70s Taiwanese song (cue Teresa Teng ) without knowing why, but suspect subconsciously I was imbibed at a very young age through those nights of falling asleep in the cinema watching those films. And yet my Chinese sucked to high heavens and I can barely maintain a running conversation in mandarin today.

I read voraciously as a child on any book I could get my hands on. So I was semi literate and almost cerebral but at the ripe old age of 12, I got into serious rock music. We are talking about pure Mat rock – as heavy as they come.

I was head banging with my ears next to the speakers in my parent’s home – deep purple, scorpions, AC/DC, Led Zepelin were my friends.

Pink Floyd spoke to me about being Comfortably Numb and saying Wish you were here.

UFO was telling me my first girlfriend would be called Terri and Black Sabbath told me I was going through Changes.

But before all that, there was Queen. I sang every song they sang, all their hits and every obscure song they had.

Bohemian Rhapsody introduced me to the world of opera and Killer Queen introduced me to Marie Antoinette.

I was filled with Jealousy at one stage and pleaded Save Me in my private moments with God. I sang Mustapha lustily until I realised it might be disrespectful to Muslims.

Girls didn’t understand why I sang to them Death on two legs and Fat Bottomed Girls and thought I was a rude nerdy creep.

And Don’t stop me now was then and is now my motto in life and career.

And there was that song that ruled them all – the most romantic song a guy could ever sing to a girl. “Love of my life” was painful, poignant, heartbreaking. But it came from the very depths of the soul and the being. I was mesmerised.

I was pleasantly surprised that the movie did it justice. I loved that there was a certain rawness and edginess and they focused on Mercury’s conflicted love for the one woman he ever loved, but was never meant to be.

I was hoping that they would feature some other obscure Queen songs I loved like 39 and Teo Torriate (Let us cling together) but was not surprised that they did not. And it was ok.

I guess I must have an affinity for gay men because I liked the songs of Elton John too. But I didn’t like Rocketman the movie. I felt it was too Hollywood, too kitschy, too self indulgent. It focused too much on Elton John the man and not his songs. It had no soul.

But the homage to Beatles I loved. I appreciated the slightly indie feel to the movie, almost Low Budget feel. It harked back wonderfully to the early era of the Beatles and the simple purity of their music.

I thought Hemesh Patel was perfectly casted. He has a comedic timing which was perfect for the role – slightly bumbling and awkward until he started singing. And of course he was casted I’m sure also for his talent in singing all the Beatles songs – he did them perfect justice.

His rendition of I want to hold your hand was great and I would have loved to hear one of my favourites Let it Be but, alas, he started six times but was interrupted each time. It was a hilarious scene where he was trying to sing Let it Be for his parents (played by Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal from Goodness Gracious Me) but was comedically interrupted by his parents and their friends visiting who never knew they were about to hear musical genius.

The scenes involving Ed Sheeran were hilarious too.

But Patel’s haunting rendition of “Yesterday” moved me to tears. It was raw and beautiful – his voice was soulful and melodious at times and raw and husky on some notes.

I think he sang that song even better than the Beatles ever did.

And that important scene when his love interest played by the beautiful Lily James gave him a guitar as a gift.

[as Ellie gets him his wrapped present, which looks like a guitar]
Nick: I don’t know what this one could possibly be.
Carol: Oh, my. Neither do I.
Nick: No idea.
Jack Malik: I mean, I’m thinking some sort of snow shovel.
Ellie Appleton: Mm-hmm.
Jack Malik: Or a tiny little giraffe with no legs.
Ellie Appleton: Just open it, open it, open it.
Jack Malik: Okay.
[Jack opens his present to see it’s a beautiful looking guitar]
Jack Malik: Wow.
Nick: Because yours got run over by a bus.

Jack Malik : A great guitar requires a great song

And he starts playingYesterday“.

Look out for the look of amazement and pure love on her face when he starts playing. That look was haunting and surreal and said it all.

Here is another incredible and haunting performance of the song by Patel on the Jimmy Kimmel show.

If you haven’t watched Yesterday and you are a true Beatles fan, go watch it. But don’t be looking out for Hollywood razzmatazz. Go for British humour, indie appeal, a simple but beautiful story line but more importantly, see how they draw your attention and paid homage to the songs.

That to me is what made this movie so appealing.

Sigh – I miss the Fab Four.


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