Revisiting the Singapore of the Malay film industry’s golden age

7 02 2018

The Malay Film Productions (MFP) at Jalan Ampas was one of a pair of production houses that entertained a generation of Singaporeans and Malayans. Established by the Shaw Brothers’, the MFP is especially well known. It was where the legendary P. Ramlee made his name, excelling not just as an actor but also as a singer, songwriter and director. Lending his range of talents were to a series of films, his popularity has endured to this day, more than four decades after his sudden and premature passing in 1973.

Main gate to No. 8 Jalan Ampas.

The recent run of State of Motion 2018: Sejarah-ku, organised by the Asian Film Archive, renewed a consciousness for Jalan Ampas. P. Ramlee’s career there coincided with the golden age of Malay cinema – a time when the production of Malay movies was at its most prolific. Besides the screening of films of the genre, a guided tour also plotted a return to the MFP, albeit to its closed gates beyond which the buildings of the former studios stand quite forgotten. The tour, one of two – the other an offshore tour – with which locations where outdoor scenes in several MFP productions were visited, permitted a recall not only of the scenes, but of a Singapore forgotten if not for the movies. Site specific art installations were also presented at the sites, expressing the memories that also lay embedded in the locations .

Participants listening to CLOSURE / TUTUP by Wu Jun Han outside the gates of No. 8 Jalan Ampas.

Standing outside gates at Jalan Ampas, I found myself transported to the confrontational scenes that were enacted at that very gateway by Wu Jun Han’s recording, Tutup or Closure. The scenes, captured in the movie Mogok (Strike), although set in the Eveready  factory, were actually inspired by a strike that took place at the studios that same year involving 120 MFP employees.  The spot was also a location for another movie, the hit comedy Seniman Bujang Lapok,  which P. Ramlee directed and played a leading role in. This inspired a second installation along Jalan Ampas, Izzad Radzali Shah’s Wayang Terbiar (The Theatre that was Left Behind). A diorama of a mini threatre with scenes from the movie depicted, it seems almost altar-like in appearance.

Wayang Terbiar.

I was particularly drawn to Mintio’s Penghibur Hati-Lara (Solace for the Heart) installed just off Tanah Merah Besar Road. The work takes its title from a line in a lullaby “Kau penghibur hati-lara” (you are solace for my painful heart) sung in the film Darah Muda by the female protagonist to her baby in the seaside setting provided by the promenade at the end of Tanah Merah Besar Road. Anticipating separation, the line also suggests a sense of yearning that the artist also intends to evoke with her piece and its location between Changi Prison and the Airport – both sites of separation. The seaside promenade is now buried under a Changi Airport runway. Having been part of an area in which some of my most treasured memories of childhood were made, the artwork also evoked a sense of great longing and of loss in me.

Penghibur Hati-Lara at Tanah Merah Besar.

The former Kangkar Fishing Port, the location for scenes in the 1958 movie Sri Menanti, also provided a setting for Boedi Widjaja’s Path. 9, ))) ) ) )). The artwork, separated from the audience by the Serangoon River is bridged by the sounds of the flute, exploring the divide that the main characters in Sri Menanti faced in their attempts to bridge a cross-religious and cross-cultural gap in finding romance.

Once where a scene of Kangkar’s fishing colourful fishing fleet would have greeted the eye.

The mainland tour’s two other sites were at seaside (or former seaside) locations. At Punggol, the sea provided a backdrop for the scenes from Isi Neraka (Sinners to Hell) that inspired Salleh Japar’s Sulh-I-Kull (Universal Tolerance). The Shaws’ former seaside villa was used as a symbol of the individualism brought about by materialism and wealth in P. Ramlee’s Ibu Mertua Ku. P. Ramlee’s character in the movie violently blinds himself after he realises the circumstances in which he regained his sight after a previous spell of blindness. It is this loss of sight that the site’s installation, Tan Peiling’s 0.25 Seconds before an Image is Void, provides a response to.

The former seaside villa of the Shaws at which Liz Taylor was hosted on her visits here.

I was also able to join the offshore tour, which included a visit to Pulau Ubin – off which Pulau Sekudu or Frog Island lies. The rocky islet, a popular spot once for photo shoots, served as locations for Hang Tuah (1956) and Hang Jebat (1961). A central theme in the two movies is loyalty, betrayal and feudal authority. That is played out in the final fight scenes that both movies feature, which pitted 15th century pair of warriors – one-time close companions. The questions of the loyalty, betrayal, brotherly love, rage and desire expressed during the fight are what Akulah Bimbo Sakti’s Cinta Tuah Jebat examines. The artwork, a live performance accompanied by a recorded audio playback takes place on a beach on Ubin and within sight of Sekudu. More on State of Motion 2018: Sejarah-ku, which runs until 11 February 2018 can be found at

Pulau Sekudu, where the final fight scene in Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat was filmed.

Cinta Tuah Jebat (The Love of Tuah and Jebat).



A night when the stars shone

8 02 2011

The Seri Temasek 2011 Gala Night and Awards Ceremony (Malam Anugerah Seri Temasek 2011) was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore on Saturday. The event was held to honour artistes and personalities involved in the Malay Film industry, past and present, for their dedication and contributions to the Malay Film Industry and to the wider filmmaking industry in Malaysia and Singapore and was organised by Hanns Entertainment with the support of FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development) and Majlis Pusat Singapura, saw a gathering of the who’s who of filmmaking, both past and present, as well as a host of stars who set out to put glitter on a glitzy and glamourous occasion.

It was a night to remember for many at the Seri Temasek Gala Night which was held at the Fairmont Hotel on 5 Feb 2011.

Many got to get up close to some of the well known personalities behind the very successful Malay Film industry that was based in Singapore, including Jins Shamsudin (Singapore's James Bond - Jefri Zain, seen in a suit he wore from the era), and Kassim Masdor, composer and a great friend of the legendary P. Ramlee.

It was a night of glitz and glamour for many ....

Upcoming Malaysian Director, Producer and Actor, Syamsul Yusof with a fan.

The event was graced by some very pretty ladies as well ...

The event hosted by well known Singapore based A. B. Shaik and Malaysian based Ogy Ahmad Daud, featured performances by a host of stars that included divas, the ever effervescent Anita Sarawak, whose mother Siput Sarawak, was among the legends of the past that was honoured, and Ning Baizura. Also lending their voices to a thoroughly entertaining evening were R. Ismail, Rozita Rohaizad, the multi-talented Syamsul Yusof, Fredo of Flybaits, Didi Cazli, Sarah Aqilah, Rudy Djoharnean, and rocker Jatt Ali, who closed the evening. Guests for the event included Mayor of the Central Singapore District, Mr. Zainudin Nordin; Director General of FINAS, Mohd. Mahydin Mustakim; and Guest of Honour, Mdm. Halimah Yacob, MP for Jurong GRC.

A rare moment: Datuk Aziz Sattar adjusting the bow tie of Dato' Mustapha Maarof ...

Among the guests was Mayor of Singapore's Central District, Mr. Zainudin Nordin.

Guests and Committee members at the VVIP lounge. Mdm. Halima Yacob was the Guest of Honour.

The event was hosted by A. B. Shaik and Ogy Ahmad Daud.

Anita Sarawak was her ever effervescent self ...

Anita Sarawak.

Anita was, as ever, a hit with the crowds ...

Ning Baizura delivered a enjoyable number in her ever powerful voice ....

Ning Baizura.

Rudy Djoharnean.

The two divas Anita Sarawak and Ning Baizura with Anita's husband.

R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad.

Rozita Rohaizad.

Fredo of the Flybaits.

The gorgeous Sarah Aqilah.

Among the 32 honoured for their contributions were Anugerah Lagenda (Legendary Award) receipients P. Ramlee, Saloma, Saadiah Baharom and Siput Sarawak; Anugerah Gemilang (for Life Achievement) receipients Jins Shamsudin, Mustapha Maarof, and Aziz Sattar (who incidentally made an emotional visit to the studios at Jalan Ampas where it all began for him). Some names familiar with the Singapore scene that were honoured included Jack Neo (Anugerah Pencapaian – Achievement Award); Najip Ali (Anugerah Pencapaian) and Aaron Aziz (Anugerah Harapan).

Rocker Jatt Ali.

Aaron Aziz receiving his award.

Najip Ali on stage to receive his award.

Jack Neo with his award.

A meeting of past and present

4 02 2011

There was a time when Singapore might have been seen as the Hollywood of the region. That was when our tiny island had boasted of not one, but two highly successful studios in the form of the Shaw Malay Film Productions (MFP) at Jalan Ampas, and the Cathay Keris studios in the East Coast. During that time, over 300 films had been produced between the two studios over a golden age of filmmaking which spanned the end of the 1940s to the early 1960s. The success of the two studios had indeed been phenomenal, not just in producing movies which audiences gladly took too, but also in the development of talent and it was during this era that the career of the great P. Ramlee’s came to the fore. The industry saw a decline in the 1960s, due to the rapid changes in market forces that came with the introduction of television and also with the Indonesian Confrontation, and subsequently the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in the mid 1960s. It was with the latter that the industries on both sides of the Causeway developed very much on their own and it has only been now that we are seeing a renaissance of sorts in the industries on both sides.

The present meets the past .... from left to right: Datuk Aziz Sattar, Najip Ali, Dato' Mustapha Maarof, Jack Neo.

Singapore has in the last decade or so, seen a growing emphasis on developing and nurturing young talent. Filmmaking courses are now available at the polytechnics and at Nanyang Technological University. The setting up of the Singapore Film Commission which aims to promote the industry and to support the new and up coming filmmakers was a step in the right direction and all this has certainly paid dividends as we now see the emergence of young talents such as Royston Tan, and more recently, Boo Junfeng, whose feature Sandcastle became in 2010 the first Singapore film to premier at Cannes. Across the Causeway, the Malaysia National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) has spearheaded development from as far back as 1981. Set up with the aim to promote, maintain, and facilitate film production development in Malaysia. The last decade has also seen a revival in the fortunes of the filmmaking industry there and many young talents have emerged, including the award winning actor, director and producer Syamsul Yusof.

Award winning director, producer and actor, Syamsul Yusof, who would be performing at the Gala Event.

The time is perhaps right with the developments in filmmaking to attempt to bring the resources of the two sides together to combine the small pool of talent that is emerging and also to perhaps enable filmmakers of both sides to reach out to markets on the other side and perhaps to the wider region. This possibility was discussed during a dialogue session held in conjunction with the Seri Temasek Gala Event to be held at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore on 5 Feb 2011. The Gala Event would feature an award presentation ceremony which will honour the legends of the silver screen from the golden age, as well as the personalities of today’s industry from both Malaysia and Singapore. In doing so, the main supporters of the event, FINAS and Majlis Pusat Singapura, aims to bring together the present and future of filmmaking with the past from both countries in an effort to promote cooperation between the two.

A dialogue session was held in conjunction with the Seri Temasek 2011 Awards.

During the dialogue session which featured local personalities Najip Ali and Jack Neo, as well as some of the greats of the golden era which included Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, Datuk Aziz Sattar, Nona Asiah and the Jerry Lewis of Malaya, Wahid Satay, this possibility was discussed and on the basis of the response of the speakers, there seems to be a strong possibility that further dialogue would be promoted. Among those in favour of this was Najip Ali who felt that it was important for the development of the two sides to foster cooperation and he felt that filmmakers in Singapore, lack a link to the history of its filmmaking which can be provided by the greats who are still very much involved in Malaysia.

Najip Ali and Jack Neo during the dialogue session. Jack was apparently Najip's officer during National Service.

Dato' Mustapha Maarof.

A representative from FINAS, Ms Siti Suhada, speaking during the dialogue session.

The Gala Event would feature performances by International Diva, Anita Sarawak, Ning Baizura, Fredo of Flybaits, Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli, Rudy Djoharnean, Syamsul Yusof, R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad. Hosts for the event are Ogy Ahmad Daud and A. B. Shaik. An exhibition on the history of Malay Film would also be held at the Fairmont Hotel on 5 Feb 2011 in conjunction with the event, which will be opened to the public (admission is free) from 1 to 5 pm.

Abdul Wahid bin Ahmad, who made an impression in his first role as a satay seller in the Cathay Keris produced Pontianak so much so that he came to be known by his stage name Wahid Satay. He started work with Cathay Keris as a set artist and later had audiences in stitches as a comedian and came also to be referred to as the Jerry Lewis of Malaya.

Nona Asiah, who started in the 1940s and performed alongside the legendary P. Ramlee, taking her leave.


Bringing the film industries of Malaysia and Singapore back together

29 12 2010

A press conference was held at the Holiday Villa, Subang Jaya on Tuesday to introduce the Seri Temasek 2011 Gala Event to media present from both sides of the Causeway. The event which aims to bring together members of the movie making industry on both sides of the Causeway in honour of the contributions made by eminent members of the industry, particularly those from the heyday of the Malay film making which had its humble beginnings in Singapore at the Jalan Ampas Shaw Malay Film Productions and also at the Cathay Keris Studios. It was at Jalan Ampas that the career of the legendary late Tan Sri Datuk Dr. P. Ramlee, as well as the careers of many other household names of Malay film were launched and awards would be given on the night to honour many connected with this.

Hanns Rawee and Dato' Mustapha Maarof having a look at the Seri Temasek award.

The press conference for Seri Temasek 2011 was held at Subang Jaya.

The event was mooted by parties from both Malaysia and Singapore, and has the support of FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development) in collaboration with Majlis Pusat Singapura and Hanns Entertainment. Among those present at the press conference were members of the Executive Committee, which includes Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, the Overall Advisor, who started his career as an actor and is the owner of Warna Motion Pictures; as well as Encik Zulkifli Mohammed, the Advisor from Majlis Pusat Singapura; Hans Rawee, the Chairman from Hann’s Entertainment; Nasir Aman, the Deputy Chairman from Majlis Pusat Singapura; Hj. Mohd Zulkifli Ab. Wahab, who is the Deputy Director, FINAS; and Senator Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Jins Shamsudin, who made his name as Malay Film’s very own James Bond, Jefri Zain in the 1960s and who had the good fortune of working with the great P. Ramlee. Among those in the audience during the press conference was the young award winning Director, Producer and Actor, Syamsul Yusof, who was named as Best Director at the 23rd Malaysian Film Festival in October for his film Evolusi KL Drift 2. Syamsul Yusof would be performing at the Gala Event, along with personalities such as International Diva, Anita Sarawak, Ning Baizura, Fredo of Flybaits, Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli, Rudy Djoharnean, Syamsul Yusof, R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad. Hosts for the event are Ogy Ahmad Daud and A. B. Shaik. Individual tickets for the night to be held at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore are available at S$100 and include an 8 course dinner. For more information on the event, please click on this link. For information on sponsorship opportunities, please click on this link.

The Seri Temasek Award will be given to 35 individuals to recognise their contribution to Malay film.

Among those present was Senator Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Jins Shamsudin who worked with the great P. Ramlee.

Hj. Mohd Zulkifli Ab. Wahab Deputy Director, FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development).

Dato' Mustapha Maarof speaking to television reporters.

Mohd Yusof Ahmad (left) from Hann's Entertainment, and Datuk Aziz Sattar, the Programme Advisor.

Unveiling the Seri Temasek Award.

Among those present was award winning director, producer and actor, Syamsul Yusof, who would be performing at the Gala Event.

December 28, 2010 22:12 PM

Seri Temasek Awards To Honour Malaysia, Singapore’s Actors And Actresses

SUBANG JAYA, Dec 28 (Bernama) — The Malaysia National Film Development Corporation (Finas) with the cooperation of the Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisations Singapore and Hann’s Entertainment will be organising the Seri Temasek Award 2011 presentation to honour and recognise the contributions made by actors and actresses of the two neighbouring countries.

The award-presentation, to be held for the first time, will take place at Fairmont Hotel, Singapore on Feb 5.

Seri Temasek Award adviser Datuk Mustapha Ma’arof said it was aimed at promoting the continuity of the Malay film industry which had its beginnings in Singapore and also to remember the contributions of the Malay film legends, many of whom were born in the island republic.

“Many of the movie legends in Malaysia started their acting career in Singapore where they learnt a lot and entertained the people through the silver screen.

“This awards presentation is indeed closely related and is significant to the history of the Malay film industry, which was particularly active in the 1950’s until the 1960’s,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.

Also present were Finas deputy director-general Mohd Zulkifli Ab. Wahab, Singapore’s Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisations president Zulkifli Mohammed and director of Hann’s Entertainment, Hans Rawee.

Mustapha said 35 individuals would receive the awards in various categories, including the Anugerah Lagenda Seri Temasek, Anugerah Pencapaian Seri Temasek and Anugerah Khas Seri Temasek.

Meanwhile, Mohd Zulkifli said the holding of the awards presentation in Singapore was apt and in tandem with the government’s effort to enhance Malaysia-Singapore cooperation in various fields, including the film industry.

He said besides fostering closer relations between the two countries, it was hoped the event would also encourage Singaporeans to watch Malaysian films, hence promoting this country more effectively.



Bringing back the Golden Age of Singapore’s Movie Industry

12 12 2010

On 5 February 2011, stars and those who gave Singapore a Golden Age in movie making, will be making a homecoming, coming together with a host of stars and prominent persons involved in the film and entertainment industry of today in a Gala Event, Seri Temasek 2011.

The event which is being organised for the first time, will also bring together ministers, diplomats, entrepreneurs, business leaders and movie directors from both sides of the Causeway, in a tribute to the legendary and extraordinary P. Ramlee, who lighted up the entertainment scene during the Golden Age, as well as many more household names and those behind the scenes of the Golden Era of Malay Film-making. The highlights of the event would be an award ceremony in which many of those involved in bringing us the Golden Age would be honoured and the host of the stars of today who would be performing on stage.

Among the stars that would be entertaining the audience would be our very own International Diva, none other than the ever effervescent Anita Sarawak, who is herself, the daughter of one of the greats of the Golden Age, Siput Sarawak, as well as the likes of Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli and many more.

The event is a collaborative effort of Majlis Pusat Singapura and Hann’s Entertainment, and has the support of FINAS (Malaysia National Film Development). Besides the promotion of Malay film, the event also aims to forge links between interested parties across the wider film making industry in Singapore and Malaysia with invitations being sent to other prominent directors and producers.

The event team in bringing Seri Temasek 2011 to us has also the opportunity to work with an advisor, an expert and a popular figure in the Malay Film industry in Malaysia and Singapore, Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, who has been pivotal in the conceptualisation of the set up for the event.

Dato' Mustapha Maarof with his excellent credentials is a valuable advisor to the organising team for Seri Temasek 2011.

For the public, tickets are available for the event from the organisers. The event which will be held at the Fairmont Hotel, will include an 8 course dinner. The organisers are also offering premium tables, which will be going at S$5000. The tables will be hosted by special guests from Malaysia and Singapore, is close to the stage area, and besides being up close and personal to the stars on stage, would also offer the opportunity to guests at the tables to mingle and have photographs taken with the artistes of the past and present.

Corporations that purchase premium S$5000 tables would also be provided with an opportunity to have a one page advertisement placed in the souvenir magazine which will have a readership reach of 40,000 in Singapore and Malaysia.

The setting for Seri Temasek 2011, the Grand Ballroom at the Fairmont.

The organisers are also extending opportunities for direct corporate sponsorship of the event. As a sponsor, corporations can not only build enterprise relationships within the 850 guests-in-attendance, but also have access to other sponsors, diplomats and entrepreneurs of Singapore and Malaysia through a private cocktail party and be provided with a opportunity to showcase the corporation’s products and services at a Gallery showcase at the event hall with a booth space measuring 3 metres by 1 metre. For sponsorship matters, please contact Mr Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman at 98604508 or by email.

A Note From Seri Temasek Committee

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation for all the support and encouragement given to organise and manage this momentous event Seri Temasek Gala Dinner 2011, to be the first and one of its kind in Singapore.

Seri Temasek is conceptualised and organised with a main reason to credit film makers, actors/actresses, scriptwriters and star performers for their dedication and perseverance from the Golden era till today. The success stories and achievements of the late P Ramlee is the main motivator that led to the birth of this event, as we appreciate and honour the commitment of today’s artists that have attained great achievements in the film and entertainment industry.

We would also like to record a special thank to Cathay Keris and Shaw Brothers as organisations that have created opportunities and the ground to develop, nurture and grow talents since 1930s. It is with their support, Malay professional actors/actresses, singers and star performers such as the famous legendary Tan Sri Datuk Dr P.Ramlee, Biduanita Saloma, Jamil Sulong, Datuk Aziz Sattar, Dato’ Mustapha Maarof, Senator Datuk Tan Sri Dr Jins Shamsudin, S. Samsudin and many more whose names have been etched in the hearts of many.

In the 6-months of the planning for Seri Temasek, the team had stumbled upon many obstacles. It was truly a challenging experience. However, with the stewardship of Dato’ Mustapha Maarof as our advisor, we are able to withstand the challenges and surge ahead with confidence. We believe that the event will definitely take on a magnificent setting.

Seri Temasek, the first of its kind offers a unique disposition to sponsors. The event will be an annual event as a key platform, to motivate, commemorate and honour the works of artists, star performers and film activists in their strive to plug the Malay film industry into the global grid. This will be key platform to strengthen the relations of the two countries, expanding the outreach further.

It is on this note, we seek your greatest support and generosity to participate in this event as a sponsor and leverage on the many opportunities that the event can offer.

With this, we thank you in advance for your kind support. The event will be made successful. And together with you, we set the stage for Anugerah Seri Temasek 2011!

Thank you.


Remembering the legendary P. Ramlee

4 12 2010

It might have come as a surprise to some to learn from an article in the Straits Times on 20 November this year, that the legendary, charismatic, multi-talented and much revered producer, actor, singer and songwriter, P. Ramlee, whose career spanned much of the golden age of Malay film making from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, died lonely and penniless. His untimely death at the age of 44 in 1973 had as I very well remember, brought an outpouring of grief from his fans on both sides of the causeway. I had remembered that moment when the news broke very vividly as my maternal grandmother, herself a huge fan of P. Ramlee, shed a few tears. She had, in her relatively solitude after my grandfather’s own passing at the end of the 1960s, being conversant only in Bahasa Indonesia, counted the performances of P. Ramlee which she followed whenever it was aired on Television Singapore, as as one of her main sources of amusement.

Coincidentally the article, which featured Shuhaimi Baba’s documentary about the life of P. Ramlee, was published soon after a visit I paid to No. 8 Jalan Ampas, where P. Ramlee had his best moments, rising quickly from a young and aspiring actor to become an award winning movie producer and director, being responsible for over 70 films and 200 songs at what was the very successful Malay Film Productions (MFP) studios. He left the studios in 1963 to join Merdeka Studios in Kuala Lumpur, a year where two events might very well have led to the end of the the golden age of the Malay film industry which besides the MFP also counted the likes of the Cathay Keris studios. The events were the introduction of television in Malaya, and the merger of Singapore with Malaysia (which resulted in Indonesia’s objections developing into Konfrontasi, thereby closing the huge Indonesian market).

No. 8 Jalan Ampas, the premises of the former MFP as it is today. The MFP thrived during the Golden Age of Malay film and was where the legendary P. Ramlee's career took off.

A modest memorial to P. Ramlee at the former MFP at No. 8 Jalan Ampas.

While his premature passing had robbed us of his wonderful talent, which sadly in his final years he wasn’t able to fully exploit due to the unfortunate change of circumstances, P. Ramlee has certainly left us with his rich legacy of films and music – one that certainly deserves to be commemorated in a grand way. It is a wonderful thing that it is indeed going to be in a gala event to be held in Singapore on 5 February 2011, an event that will bring together artistes from that bygone era, together with guests from both sides of the Causeway who will include Ministers such as Datuk Rais Yatim and Chief Minister of Sarawak, Diplomats, Entrepreneurs, Film Producers, Scriptwriters, Movie Lovers and Fans of the Malay Film and Entertainment. The hosts for the exciting evening will be Ogy Ahmad Daud and A. B. Shaik and the Gala Night will feature performances by artistes of today and yesterday which will include the likes of diva Anita Sarawak, as well as by Ning Baizura, Fredo of Flybaits, Sarah Aqilah, Didi Cazli, Rudy Djoharnean, Syamsul Yusof, R. Ismail and Rozita Rohaizad. Please scroll down for an overview of the event. More details will soon follow.

P. Ramlee in his premature passing, had left a wealth of works, including the last song he composed, Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur, which was composed six months before his death. The song was first presented to the public by P. Ramlee's widow Saloma at the National Musuem in Kuala Lumpur on 29 August 1973.

Event Overview:

Seri Temasek Gala Dinner is the first to be held in Singapore to commemorate films from the Golden Era. Artists from the 1940s will be honoured for their works and contribution to the film industry.

It was during the Golden Era, a famous Malay entertainer created a name in Singapore. From the Jalan Ampas studio, P. Ramlee (b. 22 March 1929, Penang- d.29 May 1973) was the quintessential Malay entertainer par excellence – actor, director, composer and singer. He accomplished the heights of a legend, with a remarkable track record of having acted in 65 films and sung 390 songs. Closely linked to the golden era of Malay movies, P. Ramlee is the one and only brand name in the Malay Film industry in Golden Era and undeniably, an icon in the Malay entertainment scene in Malaysia and Singapore.

The legend’s influence on Malay popular culture is undeniable. Today, P. Ramlee’s films and songs continue to be enjoyed by many. His films and music have been adopted by succeeding generations. Many expressions in popular Malay culture either originate or were popularised by the late P. Ramlee, with lines from his films still being quoted today.

In memory of the legend’s fine artistry works, Seri Temasek serves as the first and only platform in Singapore to bring together artists / star performers / film producers / scriptwriters from Singapore and Malaysia to honour their contributions in the arts, culture and film industry. They will unite in an opulent nostalgic setting that sets to enliven the spirit of the Golden Era and to motivate the younger generation to scale to greater heights.

This is the event and the only platform that sets, records and heightens the memorable scenes and fine works of the past and present, motivating the works of yesterday and today bringing the Malay film industry into the global scene.

The starring night of Seri Temasek 2011 will witness 32 artists honoured for their dedication and contributions to the Malay Film Industry with Seri Temasek and Seri Temasek Life Achievement Awards.

850 honourable guests from various elite backgrounds Singapore and Malaysia alike, Ministers, Diplomats, Entrepreneurs, Film Producers, Scriptwriters, Movie Lovers and Fans of the Malay Film and Entertainment industry will rejoice in the first and only Seri Temasek 2011.

The first esteemed and memorable event to be held in Singapore; will create another milestone in the history of arts, culture and film here as it celebrates success stories of the past and present.


Where legends of the silver screen had once set foot on: No. 8 Jalan Ampas

11 11 2010

It may not be a surprise to some that the legendary Malaysian actor, singer, songwriter and director, P. Ramlee had actually plied his trade and made his mark on the silver screen from a studio that was located in Singapore, the Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Productions (MFP). However, it may surprise some that a few of the buildings that were associated with the studio still stand, albeit somewhat obscurely and forgotten and dwarfed by the many commercial and residential developments that now surround its compound at No. 8 Jalan Ampas, off Balestier Road in Singapore.

Lying somewhat hidden amongst commercial and residential properties is the former Shaw Brothers' Studio at Jalan Ampas.

It was back in the late 1940s, the 1950s and the early 1960s, that the studios at No. 8 had its best days, rising to become the most successful Malay film production house of the time. It was also during that time when as a young and aspiring actor at the studios, P. Ramlee, not only made his mark as an actor and a singer and songwriter, but also very quickly as an award winning movie producer and director. P. Ramlee was responsible for over 70 films and 200 songs before his departure for the Merdeka Studios in Kuala Lumpur in 1963. P. Ramlee was of course, well known to me in my childhood, having been given many doses of his exploits in black and white whilst seated next to my maternal grandmother in front of the Setron console television.

A nondescript gate leads to hallowed grounds on which the legendary P. Ramlee had once ruled the studios.

Somehow 1963 had been a very eventful year in Singapore, not just because of P. Ramlee moving to Kuala Lumpur, but it was more importantly, the year in which Malaysia was formed, made by the merger of Singapore and the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak into what had been the Federation of Malayan States. More significantly for the MFP though, it was a year which saw the introduction of television in Singapore, and while it certainly benefited my grandmother who was able to obtain the diet she craved of P. Ramlee and Pontianak movies in the comfort and safety of the living room of our flat, it also led to competition for the Malay speaking audience for the film making industry in Singapore, which besides Shaw Brothers, also featured another prominent film studio, Cathay Keris. Ultimately, this, together with a ban imposed on Malaysian productions by Soekarno’s Indonesia during the Konfrontasi (Confrontation), led to a falling demand and the eventual demise of the hitherto very successful Malay film making industry. The MFP, unable to sustain itself in this climate, eventually closed its doors in 1967.

A peek through the gates into a world that might have once been where dreams were made ...

While many of the events had either been before my time, or had passed me by in the bliss of my childhood, I did have some of my own memories of the MFP after its closure. What I would remember most is the view I regularly got of it in passing-by, from the back seat of my father’s car on the many occasions through the late 1960s and during the 1970s that I passed it on my visits to my paternal grandfather (who lived in the area). I had by that time been very aware of the MFP’s role in providing my maternal grandmother with the endless hours of entertainment which probably kept her sane through some of the lonely moments she had living in the confines of our HDB flat. I would in passing-by often look at what I remember as a desolate looking whitewashed walled compound which had a sign that must have read “Malay Film Productions” for me to have been able to have identified it then. I had also, in passing-by, often tried to picture what it would have been like in the days when the career of the legendary P. Ramlee flourished in the studios, wishing sometimes to have an opportunity to see and explore the place, which I never did get to. In time, with the passing of my grandfather the late 1970s giving me no reason to pass by the studios, it had been somewhat forgotten by me.

To the memory of a legend. A modest memorial to the late great P. Ramlee at the former MFP.

The memories of the studios did come back to me only recently, when I, in recalling the comical antics of Mat Bond (which was produced by the rival Cathay Keris studios), also remembered our very own more Bond like Jefri Zain, played by Jins Shamsudin, which was made at MFP, and the MFP along with it. I had intended for some time, to take a walk of rediscovery in the area where the MFP was (I wasn’t even sure if it was still around), which I somehow never go to doing. It was by sheer coincidence, a group involved in this concept of Urban Exploration, which I was only very recently introduced to, the One° North Explorers, obtained permission to visit the former studios and were kind enough to extend an invitation to me (see One° North Explorers’ post about the exploration of the studios) – an invitation at which I was quick to jump at. It wasn’t for me, so much a walk down memory lane, as I am often inclined to do, as it was to satisfy that unfulfilled childhood desire to see and explore the hallowed grounds that my grandmother’s silver screen hero, P. Ramlee, had once trodden upon.

Where the more serious of the two local Bond like characters, not Mat Bond, but Jefri Zain, was created.

There isn’t really a lot to remind us of the past use of the abandoned buildings which stand silently and forgotten in the compound at No. 8 Jalan Ampas. For one, they are well hidden behind a nondescript gate that one might only notice because of the two misspelt signs that might convince vehicle owners not to park there. There is however, an easily missed marker that does stand just by the gates, which does tell of the forgotten past and of the fact that it wasn’t just local legends whose feet had once trodden on the grounds, but also the feet of hallowed legends of Hollywood, including John Wayne and Ava Gardner. Beyond this, there is perhaps only the faded Shaw Brothers (SB) logo at the top of one of the buildings that gives away a clue to its past.

Information on the Shaw MFP Studio on the marker at No. 8 Jalan Ampas.

A scene from the filming of the last movie to be made at the studios in 1967, Raja Berslong.

I guess I would have been disappointed if I had expected to find much that would have connected the buildings with their glorious past, with most of what had equipped the rooms within the buildings disposed off in the 1970s. However, being there just for the opportunity to satisfy that desire to see and explore, I was quite happy to discover there were indeed some little reminders, this despite most of the equipment there having been moved out, and also the four decades of relative neglect. Within buildings that are still in relatively good condition, beyond the external walls that exhibit some of the ravages of weather and time, were rooms illuminated by the soft glow of light filtered through frosted and textured window panes which did hold a few things that connected the buildings with its past: contraptions that might have perhaps been old film dryers, old reels, posters and photographs that would have been used in promoting movies produced or distributed by the studios … Although that wasn’t really enough to go on to allow me to have a feel of what the buildings might had once been like when perhaps it was the Hollywood of South East Asia, it did not leave me the least disappointed, for at last, some three and a half decades since I last set my eyes on the old buildings behind the wall, I got the chance I had longed for – to have a look around the grounds where the great P. Ramlee had once trodden upon. And, for some reason beyond my comprehension, it felt as if I was home again.

The visit to the former MFP offered me a chance to see and explore the hallowed grounds that I had previously only had a peek at ...

Reminders of a forgotten past ...

Much of the former MFP although worn by the weather and time from four decades of neglect is still in relatively good condition.

The SB logo on top of the building ...

Reminders of the past ...

Evidence of a forgotten time when the MFP ruled the silver screen.

More evidence of the glorious past ...

The Directors' Rooms ... one had been where P. Ramlee had worked from ...

Perhaps Room A?

Some of the current residents of the prestigious address ...

Except for the weather worn walls and a few broken panes of glass ... the studios seemed to have aged pretty well.

A record book ...

A few more scenes from the MFP …


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