5 top Malay films made in Singapore

A cinema still from sports comedy Banting, starring Izyan Mellyna. -- PHOTO: PAPAHAN FILMS
A cinema still from sports comedy Banting, starring Izyan Mellyna. -- PHOTO: PAPAHAN FILMS

SINGAPORE - Sports-comedy Banting might be touted as the first commercially-released Malay movie made in Singapore since the 1970s. But back in what is now known as the Golden Age of Malay cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, classic Malay films were made right here at the now defunct Shaw and Cathay-Keris studios.

Here are the top five Malay films made in the era:

1. Penarek Becha (1955)

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Malay entertainment icon P. Ramlee made his directorial debut with Penarek Becha (or Penarik Beca as it is now spelled). He also plays the titular character, a poor rickshaw man who falls in love with a woman from a rich family.

A class-divide tearjerker, it showcases P. Ramlee’s flair in fleshing out a dramatic storyline through his acting and directing.

2. Pontianak (1957)

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Cathay-Keris Studio broke rival Shaw Brothers’ dominance on Malay films with Pontianak, a horror movie based on the local female vampire of lore.

Starring film legend Maria Menado who transforms from a homely orphan to beautiful wife and finally to bloodsucking ghoul, the film was so successful in the local box office that it was dubbed in Cantonese and screened in Hong Kong and on American television.

3. Pendekar Bujang Lapok (1959)

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The second in the Bujang Lapok series of movies starring the trio of P. Ramlee, S. Shamsuddin and Aziz Sattar is pure comedic gold, with witty, ad-libbed lines as well as classic songs.

The three play raggedy bachelors who decide to learn the martial art of silat and seeks out a famed silat master, eventually taking down a gang of hoodlums. It won Best Comedy at the 6th Asian Film Festival that year.

4. Ibu Mertua Ku (1962)

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One of P. Ramlee’s most memorable dramas to date, the movie, which he directs and stars in, revolves around a musician and his wicked mother-in-law. There are some pretty strong characters here, most notably the title role, played by veteran actress Mak Dara, as well as enduring scenes and dialogues are still referenced in contemporary Malay pop culture.

P Ramlee won Most Versatile Talent at the 10th Asian Film Festival for his role in this film.

5. Madu Tiga (1964)

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Another classic directed by and starring P. Ramlee, he plays a married man who takes on a second, and later third wife, in secret.

Trouble and hilarity ensue when the three women find out and band together to conspire against him. The film won Best Comedy at the 11th Asian Film Festival.

 dinohadi@sph.com.sg