Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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

By Mansor Puteh



So it is amazing how early Utusan reporters and editors could rise so high in their careers when they leave the paper and had also reported and more importantly and interestingly, affected and even caused the shaping of the history of Malaysia and Singapore, as it still does, especially in Malaysia where the paper still assumes such a role or enlightening its readers.

Of course, Othman surprised me when on seeing me for the first time while extending his hand to shake with mine, when he said he had seen me on television.

So I suppose he has not severed his links with Malaysia as what he said afterwards in the interview seems to suggest.

We also managed to meet with former senior minister of foreign affairs of Singapore, Zainul Ariffin Rasheed who didn’t seem to care or was worried very much with his loss in the last general election in Singapore, as he is now busy working as an ambassador-at-large for Qatar and based in Singapore and also a consultant with the Straits Times Press there.

Despite the short notice and his busy schedule, Zainul still wanted to meet us in a Turkish restaurant for a chat.

We really did not plan to visit the Jalan Ampas Studios though as it was not our main reason to visit Singapore recently.

The only reason why the side trip happened was because Zam decided that we did not have to go to a bookstore to browse for new books to buy, so to spend a few more hours in the republic before we cross over to Johor Baru, I decided that we went there instead, without expecting much from it.

The GPS took us there in no time from Geylang Serai where we had had breakfast with the crowd which comprised mostly of the local Malays some of whom were from Malaysia.

One of the waiters who hailed from Pulau Pinang, working in another restaurant remarked how ‘It is because of the DAP that he is now working in Singapore’.

All of us had a good laugh at his remark.

The Geylang in Singapore of 1963 I could remember looked like the Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur with stalls and roadside trading and nearby were wooden houses of the Malays.

My mother and some of my relatives who had come on the same trip and I stayed at a relative’s house in Geylang.

And it was in her house where I saw television for the first time. It was a scene in an American television drama called ‘Sea Hunt’ in a black-and-white from a small television set.

I could not remember entering the main entrance of the studios in 1963 or could remember how it looked like.

There must be many buses parked outside of it with hundreds of visitors from all over the country visiting it, near the entrance where, I was told, there were also food stalls where the film stars and technicians would have snacks at.

The area around the studios then was totally different than it is now. Then it was secluded, now there are apartment buildings.

Near the studios at the other corner is
Boon Teck Road
, where many of the film stars lived.

The whole studios area is not so large; there is a building which looked like a sound stage that had been demolished. Only its floor remains.

And at the back are three smaller two-storey buildings which look like they were the administrative buildings and recording studio, as I could remember them from looking at old photos of the studios.

Part of the area had probably been demolished to make way for the tall apartment building sitting beside it.

I managed to gain entrance into the compound when someone stopped by and entered the small door in the main gates. He did not seem to mind me following behind him with my camcorder.

This is what the old Jalan Ampas Studios had become, nothing but a relic of an earlier time when the film scene in Singapore was glorious whose main entrance was where all the filmstars and technicians had passed by to create works which are still being shown on television and discussed.

But is it not an ancient history but a contemporary one which still has some relevance to what is happening in the film industry in Malaysia.

It is history of Malaysia and Singapore when the destinies of the two countries and peoples of various races were intertwined.

It was also ironic how the separation of Singapore from the Malaysian Federation had caused the collapse of the Old Malayan Cinema causing the Jalan Ampas Studios and the other called Cathay-Keris in
East Coast Road
, established by Loke Wan Tho to close indefinitely.

The Jalan Ampas Studios being the larger of the two were established by the Shaw Brothers – Runme and Run Run Shaw, who were recent immigrants to the country from Shanghai, China.

If indeed there is something that we can learn from the old Jalan Ampas Studios is how at that time, most of the films shown in the cinemas in the country were local ones; and they were tailored for the multiracial audiences.

Hollywood films including those from Hong Kong and India were quite rare.

Can such a scenario be repeated in this new age? Aren’t we more enlightened by our long experience post-Merdeka to realize how without the creation of the New Malaysian Cinema, the country’s contemporary history cannot be captured and saved for posterity?

Can ‘Malaysian Snow’ finally cause the creation of the New Malaysian Cinema then?

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