Residents relive the golden age of Malay films

Sembawang GRC residents viewing photos of actors from the former Malay Film Productions' heyday that now line the Shaw Brothers studio at 8 Jalan Ampas, yesterday.
Sembawang GRC residents viewing photos of actors from the former Malay Film Productions' heyday that now line the Shaw Brothers studio at 8 Jalan Ampas, yesterday.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Sembawang GRC residents viewing photos of actors from the former Malay Film Productions' heyday that now line the Shaw Brothers studio at 8 Jalan Ampas, yesterday.
Sembawang GRC residents viewing photos of actors from the former Malay Film Productions' heyday that now line the Shaw Brothers studio at 8 Jalan Ampas, yesterday.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Actors share their memories of Jalan Ampas studio, once the epicentre of region's industry

For two decades after it first opened in 1947, the Shaw Brothers film studio at 8 Jalan Ampas was the epicentre of the region's Malay film-making industry.

During that time, more than 160 films were made at the Malay Film Productions studio - located off Balestier Road - which helped launched the careers of stars such as actor and director P. Ramlee.

But the studio shuttered in 1967 following a decline in the local film industry, and fell into disrepair for many years.

However, in recent years, the location has been spruced up, with photos of actors such as Aziz Sattar and Ahmad Nisfu, who became household names during the studio's heyday.

Yesterday evening, a group of some 200 Sembawang GRC residents relived the glory days of the Jalan Ampas studio with a visit to the site.

The visit was organised by the Woodlands and Sembawang Malay Activity Executive Committees under their Jejak Warisan - or heritage trail - series, which has also taken residents to sites such as the Sultan Mosque and the St Andrew's Cathedral since it began in 2017.

Also in attendance were stars from the studio's heyday.

Veteran composer Yusnor Ef, 81, the president of Perkamus - the association of Malay singers, composers and professional musicians - showed the visitors around the site.

Others, such as 88-year-old actor Wahid Satay - who starred in the era's horror films such as Pontianak and Serangan Orang Minyak (The Oily Man Strikes) - regaled the audience with memories of working with not only the Shaw Brothers studio at Jalan Ampas, but also the Cathay-Keris studio in East Coast Road.

The two studios competed for the local market during the 1950s and 1960s, a period now considered the golden age of Malay films.

Also present were other veteran actors such as K. Fatimah and Zaiton Abdullah, who celebrated her 82nd birthday with the cutting of a pulut kuning (yellow glutinous rice) cake yesterday.

K. Fatimah recounted how it was difficult trying to keep a straight face while acting alongside S. Shamsuddin in movies such as Ali Baba Bujang Lapok, noting that the late comic would often ad-lib his lines.

The audience yesterday also enjoyed games revolving around the movies of the time, as well as musical performances of songs from the era, such as Manusia (Human), originally performed by Dayang Sofiah and Aziz Sattar in 1957's Bujang Lapok.

Accompanying the group was Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin. Describing them as "legendary", he said the films made at the Jalan Ampas studios had stood the test of time.

"The messages conveyed by these movies are still relevant," said the MP for the Woodlands ward of Sembawang GRC.

These include the value of the Malay language and culture, as well as respecting one another, he said.

Such visits like those conducted under the Jejak Warisan series help enlighten younger people about the contributions and cultural heritage made in the past, he said, adding that these need to be better appreciated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 07, 2019, with the headline 'Residents relive the golden age of Malay films'. Print Edition | Subscribe