Busker started with an idea to make a Malaysian movie with music as the tool to drive the story. Director Syed Khairul Fariz recalled a chat he had with producer Syahrul Imran Sharifuddin.

“We started by listing some music movies that we like such as Once (2006), Begin Again (2013) and Sing Street (2016). We asked ourselves what we liked about them and wondered if we could incorporate any of those elements into a Malaysian movie,” Khairul said during an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

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Eventually that  led to a story about a friendship between Vera and Adil, two youngsters in university.

“When Vera and Adil meet, both of them are at a low point in their lives. I’d like to think of Busker as a visual album. Every song in the movie is arranged according to stages in the relationship between Adil and Vera,” Khairul explained his vision of Busker.

In the movie, Vera is played by 24-year-old Daiyan Trisha, an Anugerah Industri Malaysia-nominated singer making her debut as a leading actress.

“Vera is a normal teenager who just wants to ace her studies. When she meets Adil and sees him busking in public, it opens up her eyes to a different side of music. Vera finds herself on this journey to be with this guy that she had just met,” Daiyan said.

Ironically, Daiyan is not required to sing at all in Busker.

“It would be too easy to put Daiyan in a movie and have her sing,” Khairul shared.

That responsibility fell on actor Hafeez Mikail, 25, who takes on the role of Adil, the lead singer of busking group Simfoni Dalam Poket. He joins a busking competition with Vera’s encouragement just to win back his ex-girlfriend Mel.

“Adil was harder to cast. We needed an actor who could sing and play the guitar. We had Daiyan coming back for chemistry tests with a few hopefuls until we found the right person,” Khairul said.

When Hafeez got the part, he immersed himself in the life of a busker by actually performing in public on his own.

“I tried busking at Bukit Bintang and Sogo in Kuala Lumpur. A few people who recognised me thought that I was busking because I can’t get acting jobs anymore. I let them believe so,” said Hafeez who first made his name through TV drama Hati Perempuan in 2015.

He was also required to attend guitar lessons with Loque, frontman of band Monoloque known for its unique nusantara rock sound. Loque is also the music director for Busker; he composed tunes like Atma Jiwa, Semak and Mogok Tenteram for the movie.

He also rearranged much-loved Malaysian rock songs like OAG’s Slumber and Datuk Ramli Sarip’s Doa Buat Kekasih for the movie.

“Before we started shooting, we gave Loque the script and some references. He said Busker should be about how modern buskers are – people who come from all walks of life.”

Ultimately, Khairul hopes that viewers will see how music brings out the best in people.

“People can relate to music as a form of escapism and expression. Through music as a powerful and inspirational tool, two opposites like Vera and Adil can become closer to each other.”