Jalan Ampas studio a reminder of Malay film industry's golden age

The first thing Mr Jumahat, 75, decided to do was spruce up the studio, which stopped operating in 1967.
The first thing Mr Jumahat, 75, decided to do was spruce up the studio, which stopped operating in 1967.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Third Iteration of Jejak Warisan tour to Jalan Ampas studio, which used to be the heart of the Malay film industry.
Third Iteration of Jejak Warisan tour to Jalan Ampas studio, which used to be the heart of the Malay film industry.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Third Iteration of Jejak Warisan tour to Jalan Ampas studio, which used to be the heart of the Malay film industry.
Third Iteration of Jejak Warisan tour to Jalan Ampas studio, which used to be the heart of the Malay film industry.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - When he was about 16 years old, Mr Jumahat Abu Bakar used to peer through the gates of the Malay film studios in Jalan Ampas, hoping to catch a glimpse of his favourite actors like the legendary P. Ramlee.

So, in 2012, when he was offered a caretaker job at the studio, located off Balestier Road, he jumped at the chance, although he was already 70 years old at the time.

The first thing Mr Jumahat, 75, decided to do was spruce up the studio, which stopped operating in 1967. He put up photographs of old artistes, and painted the walls with a motif featuring bamboo shoots and sugarcane, which symbolise remembrance and nostalgia for the past, he said.

On Sunday (Aug 13), he proudly showed off his work as more than 160 people visited the studios to relive the golden era of the Singapore Malay film industry, which spanned the 1950s and 60s.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The visit was part of the Jejak Warisan tour, an initiative launched by Woodlands grassroot volunteers to conduct heritage trips for the Malay community.

It aims to help people appreciate the community's rich cultural heritage and diversity through visits to historical landmarks.

The tours began in February (2017), and Sunday's was the third one, also the one that received the largest number of participants.

Sunday's tour was conducted by prominent Singaporean lyricist and film researcher Yusnor Ef, 80, who used to be a student of the musician and film-maker, P. Ramlee.

He said: "This is a place that holds a lot of pride for the Malays. Many great artistes were nurtured here. In those days, they worked 'from the heart', not just for money or profit. I hope this place can be kept as a reminder of our Malay heritage."

Parliamentary Secretary for Health, and Home Affairs Amrin Amin, who was at the event, said even in a modern world dominated by Hollywood blockbusters, Malay films that showcase tradition and heritage remain relevant.

He said: "Hollywood can't touch the heart like these films can. These old films, with their simple everyday conversational language, can touch the heart and nerve of the community."

Mr Amrin said he was certain that such films could be made again. "We just need to have the cultural confidence and remember that this generation can also step up to reflect the light of the past," he said.

During the tour, veteran actors Zaiton Abdullah, K. Fatimah and Zaini Sattar answered the questions of the tour group.

Mr Jumahat said it made him very happy to see the usually empty studios filled with people. He said: "This place holds so much meaning to me, and I hope more Singaporeans know about it and visit it."