Saturday, February 25, 2012

JALAN AMPAS STUDIOS REVISITED…AND HOW ‘MALAYSIAN SNOW’ WILL AUGUR THE DAWN OF THE NEW MALAYSIAN CINEMA. – PART I.

By Mansor Puteh


I could not remember how I got there the first time in 1963. All I could remember was how everybody was waiting for Saloma to get ready with her make-up before they could start to work on the scene in the cabaret with her singing ‘Bila larut malam’ (When it is late at night.), in the film called ‘Darah Muda’ or ‘The hot-blooded’.

I also did not remember what happened after the experience visiting the Malay Film Productions’ Studios at 8 Jalan Ampas in Singapore, now simply known or referred to as the Jalan Ampas Studios (Studio Jalan Ampas) or the title of the film until I saw the scene in the cabaret a long time later, and on television.

I did not see it in the cinema as I had missed seeing it when it was shown, as I had only grown fascinated with watching films in the cinemas when I was much older to do it alone.  

Everybody was at their places in the studio which had been turned into a cabaret for Saloma to be done with her make-up.

And a while later, everybody who had come with me on the bus or ‘rombongan’ trip from Melaka turned around to see how Saloma who was wearing tight ‘kain ketat’ passing through the corridor to take up her position walking briskly and pretending to be not guilty for making the others wait, using a bit of her charm and wide smile.

I did not remember if the director was angry with her for delaying the shoot. Saloma was a top filmstar then, so I suppose the director of this film had no choice but to wait. After all she was delayed at make-up; and after all she is Saloma.

My mother, Norpipah Mohd Ali, had gone on the trip to Singapore to buy cloths for the impending wedding of my elder sister, Rokiah, as it was what many in Melaka would do, as the prices of such items were a lot cheaper in Singapore than in Melaka.

It was also during the time when our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman was negotiating the formation of Malaysia with Singapore, Sarawak, Sabah, and also Brunei.

It also happened after the negotiation of the wedding between Rokiah and Tunku’s nephew and first adopted son, Syed Abdullah Barakhbah which was to take place in November, 1963, or two months after Malaysia was formed.

My first interests in film and filmmaking could then be traced way back to the time when I first got to the Jalan Ampas Studios in 1963, when I was still a secondary school student at the St. Francis’ Institution in Melaka.

That was in 1963.

And on 20 Disember, 2011, I had the good fortune of finding myself back at the Jalan Ampas Studios for the second time after so long.

Unfortunately, the scene now was totally different.

I took it as an unusual welcome, to be able to return to the same place 48 years later, during a time when the Old Malayan Cinema is now history, with the New Malaysian Cinema still uncertain on when it could happen or be created.

It is also a time of some personal anxieties for me to be able to get to this spot in the history of the Malaysian film industry and being able to contribute towards the creation of the New Malaysian Cinema, through the production of my feature film called, ‘Malaysian Snow’.

The reason why I had gone to Singapore recently being accompanied by former minister of information, Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin whom I had called Zam, since I joined Utusan as an apprentice and later journalist and Dato’ Zaini Hassan, deputy news editor and columnist for ‘Cuit’ of Utusan, and Rosle Azmi who had just retired from the newspaper organization was to do an interview with a former Utusan reporter, Othman Wok.

Othman later entered politics and became the first Malay member of the first Lee Kuan Yew cabinet, for a documentary on Utusan I am now working on for Finas and the ministry of information, communication and heritage (KPKK) for broadcast on RTM called, ‘Utusan, Warisan Bangsa – Api itu terus menyala’ (Utusan, A National Heritage – The fire still burns).

Othman is now eighty-seven years, but his youthful exuberance hides this fact a bit, until he mentioned the number, which all of us could guess since he started to work with Utusan Melayu in Singapore in the 1940s, with A. Samad Ismail, Yusof Ishak, Keris Mas and all the top editors and journalists of Singapore and Malaya or Tanah Melayu then.

While Othman later became a minister in the Lee Kuan Yew cabinet and later ambassador of Singapore to Indonesia, Yusof Ishak became the first president of the new Republic of Singapore after the country was ‘expelled from Malaysia’ or ‘separated from Malaysia’ as the Singaporeans now like to describe it.

A photo of Yusof now adorns all the currency of Singapore.

There were the others who had also gone on to become literary laureates such as Keris Mas, Usman Awang, A. Samad Said including entrepreneurs and politicians at the national as well as the state levels in Malaysia.

So truly, Utusan, the newspaper is not just that; it is a ‘university’ in many ways, for those who were intellectually and academically inclined living in an era where there were no universities or opportunities for them to progress in the education system which was at that time only available to so few Malayans.

I only became a reporter with Utusan Melayu by through formal education having studied for my Diploma in Mass Communication majoring in Advertising at the School of Mass Communication of the Mara Institute of Technology (ITM) in Shahalam and became one of the seven graduates of the school to gain employment at Utusan in Jalan Chan Sow Lin. 

However, I left Utusan after a year to pursue my Masters of Fine Art in Film Directing at Columbia University in New York City.

But Utusan never left me; I continued to write for them and in the process continued to establish my relationship with the organization till today. 

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