Friday, December 28, 2007

Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh gets top French award

Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, one of Asia's biggest film stars, received France's highest civilian honor at a glittering function in the Malaysian capital on Wednesday. Yeoh, best known to Western audiences for her roles in the 2000 film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," and the Bond girl in the 1997 movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies," received the medal of a Knight of the Legion of honor from Ambassador Alain du Boispean.Through her many stays and connections to France, Yeoh had contributed to the strengthening of ties and mutual friendship between France and Malaysia, Du Boispean said before pinning the medal on Yeoh."I guess that deep down, I am a small-town girl from Ipoh who has been living a magical dream," said Yeoh, who was dressed in an ivory Cavalli gown encrusted with crystals.Born into an ethnic Chinese lawyer's family in the northern Malaysian town of Ipoh in 1962, Yeoh studied dance and martial arts before winning a beauty pageant in 1983 that led to a commercial with action star Jackie Chan and then a film career.France's Legion of honor, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, has five distinct ranks and is conferred for outstanding achievements in either military or civil life.

Malaysian Classics(14): Nasib Si Labu Labi

Nasib Si Labu Labi (The Fate of Labu and Labi, colloquially "What Happened to Labu and Labi") is a 1962 Malaysian comedy film directed by and starring P. Ramlee. The film is a sequel to Labu dan Labi and features a number of returning cast members.
Story and Plot Point
Set sometime after the events of the previous film, Haji Bakhil's wife has passed away. Haji Bakhil is alone and depressed, but eventually meets a beautiful young woman named Murni, who is a teacher at a school for orphans. Haji Bakhil spends some time pursuing her, and his attention is apparently not unwelcome.
In a subplot, Labu and Labi discover that they are both in love with Haji Bakhil's daughter Manisah, and decide to fight for her properly in a boxing match. However, this thread is not resolved by the end credits, and the pair's feud is not addressed after their failed boxing match.
In the main plot, Haji Bakhil eventually sends Labu and Labi on his behalf to Murni's house to ask her father for her hand in marriage, but Murni's father refuses. Labu and Labi come up with a plan to kidnap Murni in the middle of the night for an elopement, but they accidentally kidnap Murni's father, instead. Labu, Labi and Haji Bakhil are arrested and tried. Haji Bakhil is able to post his own bail, but he refuses to bail his servants. The film ends with Labu and Labi moaning their fate in prison.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Malaysian Classics (13): Musang Berjanggut (1959)

Musang Berjanggut (The Bearded Fox) is 1959 Malaysian period romantic drama-comedy film directed by and starring P. Ramlee. The story is in the style of a traditional Malay folktale, featuring supernatural elements and a story with an underlying moral. The plot follows the adventures of a prince named Tun Nila who sets out to find a woman who will marry him, and what happens when he finds her at last.
Story and Plot Point
Tun Nila Utama, the adopted prince in the kingdom Pura Cendana, is told by the King that it is time for him to choose a bride. However, Tun Nila refuses to marry any of the women in the kingdom, claiming that they not true "females" because they have no honour. The King is angered by his claim and orders him to find a true woman, if such a person exists. Tun Nila accepts the command and swears that he will not return to Pura Chendana or shave any hair on his face until he finds her.
Tun Nila sets up the test he will use to find a true woman. The test consists of a bag which contains a mix of rice, salt, chilli, onions, garlic and spices. A real woman would be able to cook the items in the bag, and he will marry the woman who does.
Tun Nila travels the across country, seeking shelter in any house that will welcome him. If there is a woman of marrying age in the house, he would ask her cook the items in the book. All the young women, upon seeing the mixed contents of the bag, decide that the task is impossible or that Tun Nila is insane, and all return the bag and its contents to him untouched. Tun Nila eventually grows a thick beard as woman after woman is unable to cook the items in his bag.
Tun Nila eventually meets Puspawangi, a friendly young woman calls him "Tok Janggut" ("Bearded Man"). Tun Nila asks to meet her parents and she agrees to lead him back to her village. As Tun Nila follows her, he discovers Puspawangi's unusual intelligence. When they reach the house, Puspawangi's father welcome Tun Nila to their home. As with all the previous homes he has visited, Tun Nila gives them the bag and requests that they cook the items in it.
In the kitchen Puspawangi and her mother look into the bag, and though Puspawangi's mother quickly says that Tun Nila's request is impossible, Puspawangi stops her and says that this isn't the request of a mad man, but of an intelligent man. She pours the items into a large tray and carefully sifts through the mix. Eventually she separates all the items into individual piles and is able to cook it.
That night Puspawangi presents the food to the whole family to eat. Puspawangi's father is surprised by the unusual dishes and asks where all the spices came from, and Puspawangi says that it all came from Tun Nila's bag. Tun Nila is happily impressed. The next morning Puspawangi is amazed to see that Tun Nila has shaved his beard, revealing a handsome face. Tun Nila explains to Puspawangi's father the truth behind his search and asks for Puspawangi's hand in marriage.
When Tun Nila returns to the royal palace with Puspawangi, his parents are overjoyed that he has found his bride. However, all of the senior-ranking ministers are enchanted by Puspawangi's beauty and individually plot to get rid of Tun Nila so to have Puspawangi to themselves.
The King pretends to fall ill and consults his ministers for advice. His ministers claim to dream that only the mystical Bearded Fox can cure his illness. However the Bearded Fox is afraid of women, therefore, Tun Nila is not allowed to bring Puspawangi along. Puspawangi tells Tun Nila to wait somewhere until she sends someone to inform him to come home. During Tun Nila's absence, the King and Ministers come to visit Puspawangi at night. Then, they run off as they think a ghost is haunting Tun Nila's house. It turns out that Tun Nila is in disguise. The next day, Tun Nila and Puspawangi send the Bearded Fox to the palace.When the King opens the locked chest, it turns out that the Bearded Fox is actually one of the ministers.
P. Ramlee as Tun Nila Utama, aka Raja Muda Pura Cendana
Saadiah as Puspawangi
Ahmad Nisfu as Raja Alam Syahbana
Udo Omar as Datuk Bendahara
Malik Sutan Muda as Datuk Bentara Mangku Bumi
Nyong Ismail as Datuk Pujangga
Mustarjo as Datuk Nikah Kahwin
Shariff Dol as Megat Alang
Pura Chendana
Wahai Nenek/Cucu-Cucu
Mari Kita Ke Ladang

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Malaysian Classics (12): Masam Masam Manis (1965)

Masam Masam Manis (Sourness and Sweetness) is a 1965 Malaysian comedy film directed by and starring P. Ramlee.
Story and Plot Point
The story was take placed in Kuala Lumpur on 1965. This story tells about a teacher, Sha'ari who is also a musician at night. When caught sleeping in class, Sha'ari has sworn not to perform at night clubs again during the weekday nights. Later, a young woman named Norkiah rents the room next to his. Norkiah works at a night club with her friend, played by Mariani, as a dancer. Sha'ari and Norkiah always quarrel and annoy each other. One day, while on a bus, Sha'ari helps Norkiah to retrieve her stolen purse. They fall in love with each other. Norkiah lies to Sha'ari, telling him that she works as a teacher at a cooking school at night.By that time, Norkiah has already started singing at the club where she was working. One day, Norkiah's mother and brother come to visit her. Sha'ari ignored the old woman and her young son.While Norkiah, unknown to Sha'ari as his own irritating neighbour, is forced to take her mother and brother out shopping, thus, unable to meet Sha'ari as promised. Later, when Norkiah gets home, she tries to dry her clothes by hanging them on a pole which crosses to Sha'ari's room. Sha'ari gets fed up and purposely drops the pole. Norkiah gets even by drenching him with a pail of water. Sha'ari climbs the wall to give her a piece of his mind only to find out that Norkiah is the woman that he has fallen in love with. They get married. Sha'ari proposes that Norkiah quits her job, but she could not due to her contract. One night, Sha'ari receives invitation to perform at the club where he used to work. There, somebody suggested that he sings with a female night club singer called Norkiah Hanum. Curious, Sha'ari goes to the other club only to find out that his wife is a singer and not a teacher as she has claimed. Sha'ari gets upset and starts to build a wall separating their rooms like they used to. Norkiah tries to cool him down, but he insults her and calling her a cabaret singer of low class. Norkiah's friends try to trick Sha'ari into believing that Norkiah is now divorcing Sha'ari and having an affair with her colleague, Rashid, played by Mahmud June. Sha'ari kicks Norkiah's door open only to find that Norkiah is alone with a tape recorder. He apologizes and they get back together again. Story ends with Sha'ari promoted as a headmaster of his school and has five pairs of twins with Norkiah.
Saat Yang Bahagia
Dalam Ayer Ku Terbayang Wajah
Perwira by Saloma

Monday, December 24, 2007

Malaysian Classics (11): Madhu Tiga (1964)

Madu Tiga (Three Wives) is a 1964 black-and-white Malaysian comedy film directed by and starring Malaysian artiste P. Ramlee.
Story and Plot Point
The central character, Jamil, marries three women without any of them realising that their husband has committed polygamy. Jamil and Latifah have been married for 12 years. When Jamil decides to marry Hasnah, he lied to Hasnah saying that Latifah has agreed to allow him to marry again because the pair (Jamil and Latifah) does not have children. Jamil who is also working for Latifah's father, played by Ahmad Nisfu, told his father-in-law about his marriage with Hasnah. Later, when collecting rent from his tenants, Jamil falls for one tenant's daughter, Rohani and decides to marry the girl. With the help of his father-in-law, Jamil manages to keep his three marriages a secret from one another. However, an encounter at the hair salon causes the three wives to meet up. Rohani invited both Latifah and Hasnah to her house for tea. Later they found Rohani's wedding picture. The three women independently befriend each other, causing Jamil to be wrapped in an ever-tightening web of lies and trickery.
P. Ramlee as Jamil
Sarimah as Rohani, Wife Number 3
Jah Hj. Mahadi as Hasnah, Wife Number 2
Zara Agus as Latifah, Wife Number 1
Ahmad Nisfu as Haji Latiff
M. Babjan as Pak Ali
M. Rafee as Rafee
Zainon Fiji as Mak Hasnah
Ahmad Sabree as Encik Rashid
Doris Han as Doris
Mislia as Rashida
"Selamat Pengantin Baru" ("Congratulations to the Bride and Groom")
"Pukul 3 Pagi"
"Madu Tiga"
Eleventh Asian Film Festival (1964) in Taipei
Best Comedy Film - WON
Saloma, P. Ramlee's real-life wife, has a cameo in the film as the singer at his character's wedding.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Malaysian classics(10):Love Conquers all

Love Conquers All (Also Spanish: Amor conquista todo) is an award-winning 2006 movie by Malaysian director Tan Chui Mui.
Story and Plot Point
Malaysian director Tan Chui Mui's first feature comes trailing an impressive collection of awards: first prizes from Pusan, Rotterdam and Hong Kong, to name a few. This ultra-low-budget narrative of a young woman's arrival in Kuala Lumpur feels both utterly fresh and completely inevitable. Its magic is to have found a way to show us what we've never quite noticed before: Tan's camera's patient, intense, intimate (dare one say specifically female-gendered?) way of looking exposes truths that, once we notice them, seem always to have been there, just underneath, practically hidden, until we adopt the film's and director's new ways of looking.
Ah Ping (a splendid debut by Coral Ong, who acts with natural physical authority) arrives in Kuala Lumpur and immediately is absorbed into its marginal society: she works at a food stand, shares a bunk bed with an acerbically cute little niece, and coos long distance to her boyfriend back home. When roguishly charming John appears (Stephen Chua, all too convincing), his overtures to her, all cocky charm laced with a barely perceptible menace, seem almost irresistible. What follows is both shocking and entirely predictable.
Tan films with a natural authority that belies the fact that this is her first feature. Working with cinematographer James Lee and editor Ho Yuhang (both notable filmmakers in their own right), she creates images with punch and depth, revealing glimmers of a ruthlessly poetic soul.
Coral Ong Li Whei (Ping)
Stephan Chua Jyh Shyan (John)
Leing Jiun Jiun (Mei)
Ho Chi Lai (Hong Jie)
It has won several awards such as:
The Swiss Oikocredit award at Fribourg.
Tiger awards at Rotterdam International Film Festival.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Malaysian classics (9): Leftenan Adnan

Leftenan Adnan is a 2000 Malaysian film directed by Aziz M. Osman and produced by the Royal Malaysian Army and Grand Brilliance Sdn Bhd.
Story and Plot Point
The movie is about one Adnan bin Saidi, a young Malay from Sungai Ramal in Kajang, Selangor who had joined the Malay Regiment just before the Second World War broke out in Asia. By the time the war broke out, he had been promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant, and was in command of Company C, 1st Battalion, Malay Regiment after the death of the British company commander, Captain H R Rix. His exploits and bravery in combat while leading his men against the Japanese Imperial Army are legendary. The 2 known engagements he was involved in are:
The Battle of Pasir Panjang, and
The Battle of Bukit Chandu or Opium Hill.

Both battles occurred during the final phase of the Japanese Imperial Army's assault on the city of Singapore during the Battle of Singapore. He later either died of his wounds or was executed after the battle. Three versions of his death are recorded. However, the official version will record that he was executed by Japanese troops in anger for his stubbornness in holding his position and inflicting large casualties on Japanese troops. In the film, General Tomoyuki Yamashita was supposed to have said that if there were ten more Adnans in the British Colonial Forces in Malaya at that time, he would have needed a total of ten divisions to conquer Malaya.
Alexandra Hospital Massacre
Although not referred to in the film, there is a current theory that the subsequent Alexandra Hospital massacre was directly related to the great frustration felt by the Japanese soldiers due to the heavy losses suffered in overcoming the stout resistance put up by Lt Adnan's Company C on Opium Hill. With the loss of Company C, the remnants of the 1st Battalion withdrew leaving the way clear to the British military hospital at Alexandra and the subsequent massacre of the patients, doctors and nurses within.
Apathy of the Australian artillery
Many of the authoritative texts (except those written by Australians!) are united in their assessment that Opium Hill fell due to the refusal of the Australian artillery to fire their guns at the Japanese soldiers who were in their sights. The Australian's official stand was they had a previous order from Major-General Garden Bennett of the Australian Imperial Force NOT to support any non-Australian soldiers in the field of battle. As Australia was then a White-only society, racism was rife among the Australian troops, many of whom felt that the Malay soldiers were not worthy of their support and entirely expendable. The Australians subsequently withdrew to the centre of Singapore city to take part in an orgy of looting, rapine, murder and mass desertion. It was this complete breakdown in law and order in the rear areas which was one of the reasons for the eventual surrender despite the British numerical superiority in numbers and arms. Even Bennett was observed crying and screaming like a hysterical girl as he commandeered a boat to take him off the island and to safety immediately after the surrender was announced.
Versions of Lt Adnan's death
Version 1 - Official version: The official version as recorded by Japanese Imperial Army indicated that he was executed and then hung upside down from a cherry tree. British accounts have confirmed that his corpse was found hung upside down after the surrender and this has been repeated in a number of authoritative texts on the Malayan campaign. The actual mode of execution was never officially recorded.
Version 2 - Film version: His death was not shown, but it was indicated in the closing credits that he and the surviving wounded in his company were tied to trees and bayonetted to death. This is probably the more correct version and in keeping with similar Japanese practice elsewhere.
Version 3 - A version which was shown on a local tabloid magazine, purportedly revealed by Lt Adnan's former aide, just before his death. This version could not be verified.
The film received criticism for using Malay actors to portray Japanese and English soldiers throughout the film. Further, the original English dialogue as spoken by the actors was voiced over by Malays speaking in halting and strongly accented English suggesting that there was an awkward attempt to alter the dialogue to give a different slant to the situations depicted and to portray the British in a unfavourable light.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Malaysian classics (8): The Last Communist


The Last Communist (Malay: Lelaki Komunis Terahkir) is a 2006 Malaysian film described by director Amir Muhammad as a "semi-musical documentary". It is inspired by the leader of the disbanded Malayan Communist Party, Chin Peng and the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) during which more than 10,000 Malayan and British troops and civilians lost their lives. The film was banned from screening in Malaysia by the government's Home Affairs Ministry.
The film features interviews with the people in the towns Peng lived from birth to national independence, interspersed with songs that are fashioned after propaganda films. The Last Communist made its world premiere at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. It has also been shown at the Seattle International Film Festival, the London Film Festival, the Singapore International Film Festival and the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Malaysian classics(7): Labu den Labi

Labu dan Labi (Labu and Labi) is a 1962 Malaysian comedy film directed by and starring P. Ramlee. The movie revolves around the antics of Labu and Labi, two servants with wild imaginations who work in the house of a wealthy but miserly man, Haji Bakhil bin Haji Kedekut. The movie is filmed in the style of a stage pantomime, with over-the-top comedy and featuring the characters occasionally talking directly to the audience. The film's sequel is Nasib Si Labu Labi.
Story and Plot Point
Labu (Mohd. Zain) and Labi (P. Ramlee) are the servants in the household of Haji Bakhil, a miserly old man with a loyal wife and a beautiful daughter (Mariani). Both Labu and Labi are constantly being scolded, insulted and forced to do the traditional school punishment ketok-ketampi by the grouchy Haji Bakhil but they continue to work for him because both of them are secretly in love with his daughter, Manisah.
One night as the pair are attempting to sleep on the verandah of Haji Bakhil's house, they exchange stories of make-believe to amuse each other.
Night club
Labu and Labi talk about what they would do if they were as rich as their boss. Labi imagines that he is a magistrate and goes to a night-club where he meets Labi, who is pretending to be a doctor. In this imaginary sequence, Haji Bakhil appears as a waiter who attempts to get their order. Labu and Labi then watch a performance by Saloma who sings the song Bila Larut Malam with her husband P. Ramlee providing back-up vocals. Then there is a fashion show where Sarimah is one of the models.
After the show, Labu goes back-stage to meet Sarimah in her dressing room, but as he's talking to her Labi arrives for the exact same purpose. Labu and Labi start fighting over Sarimah, and their argument becomes loud enough that it wakes up their boss, Haji Bakhil, who shouts at them to go to sleep.
The Malay Tarzan
After a while, Labu says that he wouldn't want to live in the city, but out in the free wilderness. He imagines that he is a Malay Tarzan, complete with keris. In this sequence, Haji Bakhil is Chita, Labu's primate sidekick. As Labu is preparing his sambal belacan for his meal, Labi arrives in the dream sequence dressed as a tiger, saying that he wants to eat Labu. The pair start to fight, and their fight eventually becomes loud enough that it wakes up their real boss again, who comes out to scold them and order them to go to sleep.
In the Wild West
After having settled down again, Labu asks Labi whether he would like to live in the wilderness like Tarzan. Labi says that he would much prefer to be a cowboy. He imagines that he's a Sheriff (claims as the younger brother of Nat King Cole), while Labi imagines that he's Jesse Labu, cousin (or pen-pal) of Jesse James. Labu and Labi eventually start a gunfight in the imaginary bar, and their gun sounds effects wake their boss up for the third time. Haji Bakhil tells them to go to sleep, and punishes them by ordering them to go to work first thing the next morning.
Labu and Labi Find Their Fortune
The next morning, Labu goes into the forest to collect the firewood as ordered by Haji Bakhil. As he does, he sees a suspicious man exiting a secret passageway on the top of a small hill. After the man is gone Labu enters the secret passageway and discovers a room filled with money, presumably stolen. Labu steals the money and disappears. At the Haji Bakhil home, they are mourning the loss of Labu, who has not returned for days. But then they are given a surprise when Haji Bakhil's assistant arrives at the house, announcing that Labu has recently inherited a fortune and seeks Manisah's hand in marriage. Haji Bakhil refuses, and as retaliation Labu visits a bomoh (magician man) who casts a spell on Manisah, causing her to fall asleep and unable to wake up. Labu sends a message to Haji Bakhil that he will remove the spell if he allows Labu to wed his daughter. Witnessing this turn of events, Labi visits a magician man of his own, who gives him a magical stone that, when dropped into any water, causes the water to have healing properties. Labi uses the stone to cure Manisah. Haji Bakhil is overjoyed and Manisah is touched by Labi's kindness, and so Labi is allowed to marry Manisah. On the day of the wedding, Labu arrives at the house and casts a spell, causing everyone to fall asleep. Labi, however, is not affected by the spell and uses his magic stone to wake up Manisah. Labu enters the house and tries to convince Manisah to marry him instead, but Labi stops him and a fight ensues. During the struggle, Labu grabs an axe and brings it down on Labi's head...
But then it is revealed that the entire sequence was also a dream, and Labu is actually pounding Labi on the head with a pillow. Labu, however, is so caught up in the dream that he doesn't realise that he's woken up, and continues to fight with a confused Labi. Haji Bakhil wakes up yet again and is doubly enraged when Labu continues to think that he's wealthy and powerful. When Manisah appears at a window to see what the commotion is about, Labu begs her to leave Labi and marry him instead. Manisah is confused and tells Labu he must have been dreaming. This finally makes Labu realise his error. Haji Bakhil, who is still very angry at having his sleep continually disrupted, punishes both Labu and Labi by making them do the ketok-ketampi.
During the dinner scene, Labu pretends that his eyes had been poked with the forks and he'd been blinded. During his over-the-top moaning, he says "Sampai hati tuan cucuk mata saya, macam Kassim Selamat." ("How cruel of you, sir, to poke in me in the eyes, just like Kassim Selamat.") This is a reference to the character of Kassim Selamat in Ibu Mertuaku who poked his own eyes with forks to blind himself. Incidentally, Kassim Selamat had been played by P. Ramlee.
P. Ramlee also plays himself in the daydream night-club sequence.
The character name Haji Bakhil bin Haji Kedekut is a pun, as "bakhil" and "kedekut" both mean stingy/miserly in Malay.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Malaysian classics (6): Ibu Mertueaku (1962)

Ibu Mertuaku (My Mother-in-Law) is a 1962 Malaysian film directed by and starring Malaysian silver-screen legend P. Ramlee. The film's story revolves around the tragic love affair between Kassim Selamat, a poor musician, and Sabariah, the only daughter of a wealthy woman. The movie is notable in that the opening act starts out as a light-hearted romantic comedy, but at the 30 minute mark turns into a dramatic tragedy. Like a number of P. Ramlee's works, the film criticizes the unofficial caste system that separates the wealthy from the poor. This film is considered a Malaysian classic, and is remembered for the song "Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti" and a famous eye-stabbing scene during the film's climax.
Story and Plot Point
Set in 1960s Singapore, Sabariah Mansoor is a young woman who is fascinated with the music of Kassim Selamat, a small-time musician with great talent playing the saxophone. After one of his radio performances, Sabariah calls in to the studio to talk to him personally and express her admiration. They arrange to meet and it is love at first sight.
Sabariah's wealthy widowed mother Nyonya Mansoor wants Sabriah to marry Dr. Ismadi, a wealthy eye doctor, but is shocked when Sabariah tells her that she is in love with poor musician Kassim Selamat. Nyonya Mansoor sets the terms: Sabariah has to decide in three days which man she wants to marry, but if she chooses Kassim, she will forfeit all her family's wealth and can never set foot in their house again. After three days, Sabariah chooses Kassim, and so Nyonya Mansoor summons Kassim to the house and a marriage ceremony is performed immediately between the pair. After giving them 5000 ringgit, Nyonya Mansoor casts them out of the house.
Kassim and Sabariah move to Penang to start a new life. They are happy for a while, but soon all their money is used up and they have to live as paupers. Kassim could make money performing music, but Sabariah is against the idea as she thinks that she can make amends with her mother if Kassim renounces music forever. One day Kassim returns to their lowly home to see Sabariah crying in the arms of her mother. Nyonya Mansoor says that she would like to take Sabariah back to Singapore and care for her until she has given birth to the child she is pregnant with. Kassim lets Sabariah go, believing that she will return to him. Months pass, during which Sabariah is cared for in comfort and under the wing of Nonya Mansoor and Dr. Ismadi. She eventually gives birth to a baby boy who is named Tajudin. After the birth, Kassim receives a telegram from Nyonya Mansoor saying that Sabariah died during childbirth. Kassim falls into depression, crying for days without end and refusing to work. However, unknown to him Sabariah is alive and waiting for him in Singapore, believing that he will come and collect her. Nyonya Mansoor's fake telegram was part of her plan to separate the pair.
Sabariah eventually makes the decision to divorce Kassim, whom she believes abandoned her and their child. She also agrees to marry Dr. Ismadi, who genuinely loves her and can take care of both her and Tajudin. Sabariah and Dr. Ismadi agree to keep the identity of Tajudin's birth father a secret from everyone, including Tajudin himself. During this time, Kassim's endless crying has rendered him completely blind. His refusal to work meant that he could not pay the rent and he is sent out into the street, blind and wandering aimlessly. Kassim is eventually found by Mummy, a kind middle-aged woman who takes him into her home. Kassim then meets Mummy's daughter, Chombi, who has just recently lost her husband and is filled with sorrow similar to Kassim's own suffering. The pair find friendship as they struggle to mourn their respective loved ones. Kassim eventually reveals his talent with the saxophone, and after being encouraged by Mummy and Chombi, starts a brand new career in music but using the stage name "Osman Jailani". Kassim, under the guise of Osman Jailani, becomes a hit and starts touring around all over Malaya. He eventually arrives in Singapore, where Sabariah and her new husband Dr. Ismadi decide to attend his performance, not realising his connection to them.
When Sabariah sees her former husband, now blind, performing on stage, she is overcome with sadness but knows she cannot reveal the truth to him. She asks her new husband to operate on Kassim and fix his eyes without charge. At first Kassim is reluctant to accept it, but he eventually agrees so that he can visit his son and see him with his own eyes.
The operation is a success, and Kassim, Mummy and Chombi are all invited to stay at Dr. Ismadi's home with Sabariah and son while Kassim recovers. Then, when Kassim's eye bandages are removed and he sees Sabariah at Dr. Ismadi's side, he has a moment of panic. Dr. Ismadi says that she cannot possibly be his dead wife but just a look-a-like, which Kassim accepts. Kassim then goes to Nyonya Mansoor's house, asking her for permission to see his son. Nyonya Mansoor tells him that she gave the boy away, so Kassim begs her to let him at least see Sabariah's grave. Nyonya Mansoor takes him to a graveyard and points him to a grave, saying that it is Sabariah's. (Until the late 20th Century, common Muslim graves are usually left unmarked.) Kassim proceeds to mourn at the grave until a middle-aged man arrives and says that the grave is his mother's. Kassim realises the truth, and in his anger curses Nyonya Mansoor for her evildoing. Kassim then returns to Dr. Ismadi's house where he confronts them with the truth just before entering his room and locking the door.
Dr. Ismadi, Nyonya Mansoor and Sabariah beat at his locked door, begging for forgiveness. Kassim ignores them and looks at a photograph of Sabariah and Dr. Ismadi that is hanging in the room, coming to the realisation that his eyes cause him more pain now that he can see. He makes a decision and takes a pair of forks which he uses to pierce his eyes. Kassim then finally opens the door, once again blind and with streaks of blood flowing from his eyes. Nyonya Mansoor collapses when she sees him. Kassim wanders out of the house, sobbing in pain and sorrow until he bumps into Chombi, who is shocked to see his condition. He asks her to take him back with her, and they go, leaving Sabariah crying as she watches Kassim leave and Dr. Ismadi looking at his tearful wife pensively.
P. Ramlee as Kassim Selamat
Sarimah as Sabariah
Mak Dara as Nyonya Mansoor
Ahmad Mahmud as Doktor Ismadi
Ahmad Nisfu as 'Mamak' Mahyudin Zani
Zainon Fiji as Mummy
Zaiton as Chombi
Jangan Tinggal Daku (Don't Leave Me)
Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti (Where Can I Find Another)
Jeritan Batinku (The Screams of my Soul)
10th Asia Pacific Film Festival 1963
Best Black & White Photography (Abu Bakar Ali) Special Award - Most Versatile Talent (P. Ramlee).

1. Malaysian classics (5): Cicak man

Cicak Man (pronounced chee-chuck-man) is a 2006 Malaysian comedy-superhero film. It is the first Malaysian film of this genre, and features almost 40% CGI footage. The film was directed by KRU member Yusry and starred comedian Saiful Apek. The name "Cicak-Man" literally translates to "Gecko-Man".
A sequel, Cicak-Man 2 has been announced to be currently in production, with an expected release date at the end of 2007.
Story and Plot Point
Set in the make-believe city of Metrofulus, "Cicak-Man" is about the last person on earth anyone would expect to turn into a superhero. But funnyman Saiful Apek, does, quite by accident and becomes a shock to his friend, who also tries his best to adjust to his superpowers. When he's not climbing walls, Cicakman reverts to his alter ego, the unassuming Hairi.
Hairi (Saiful Apek), is a loser who lives in Metrofulus. While working in the lab, he accidentally drinks coffee that has been contaminated by a virus-infected gecko. He soon finds himself doing the most insane things, such as sticking to walls, making chirping cicak noises and adding bugs to his menu. He turns to his best friend and apartment mate, Danny (Yusry Abdul Halim), and begs him to find the reason behind his strange antics.
Meanwhile, the people of Metrofulus are constantly being infected by new strains of viruses, and the only cure seems to come only from Professor Klon's (Aznil Nawawi) lab. Suspecting something amiss, Hairi and Danny launch their own investigation and discover that Prof Klon is not only the creator of such viruses, but also has a more sinister plan up his sleeve, backed by his business partners, the Ginger Boys (played by Adlin Aman Ramlie and AC Mizal).
Hairi soon makes use of his new-found powers as "Cicakman" when he saves Tania (Fasha Sandha), Prof Klon's secretary from a threatening situation, and also ends up falling for her. However, he finds that his powers are more of a threat to his life, than a gift, and embarks on a mission to bring down Prof Klon and the Ginger Boys before his time runs out.
Saiful Apek as Hairi Yatim/Cicakman
Yusry Kru as Dannial Johan
Aznil Nawawi as Professor Klon
Fasha Sandha as Tania Ashraf
Yasmin Hani as Nadia
Adlin Aman Ramlie as Ginger 1
AC Mizal as Ginger 2

Of note, Adlin Aman Ramlie and AC Mizal previously worked together on the Puteri Gunung Ledang musical.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Malaysian Classics (4): Bidasari

Bidasari is a 1965 Malaysian black-and-white romantic-drama film starring Jins Shamsuddin and Sarimah. The film is notable as having dialogue that is written almost completely as rhyming poetry. The story is based on the Malay poem Bidasari which has some similarities with the western fairy-tale of Snow White.
Story and Plot Point
When a simple merchant, his young son and mute servant are out in the woods, they chance upon a drifting boat, in which there is a baby girl and a bowl containing a live goldfish. The merchant realises that the baby is unusual because her life is bonded to the fish: if the fish leaves the water, she stops breathing. The merchant adopts the baby as her own and names her Bidasari. Years later Bidasari grows up into a beautiful young woman while the merchant has prospered into a wealthy businessman. At the royal palace of this kingdom, the King has just remarried a beautiful woman, the Permaisuri (Queen). The Permaisuri is a proud woman who secretly practises witchcraft. Hidden in her chambers is a magic mirror that can show her anything she asks. She uses it to ask who the most beautiful in all the land is. One day when she asks the mirror this question, the image of Bidasari appears in it. She is enraged by this and carries out a search to find who Bidasari is. Her search leads her to the merchant's house. Under the guise of kindness, the Permaisuri asks the merchant for permission to bring Bidasari to the palace to be her companion. Although the merchant is reluctant to part with his beloved daughter, he lets her go. But once Bidasari arrives at the palace, she is sent to the kitchens as a servant, where she is starved and given the dirtiest jobs. After the Permaisuri is satisfied that Bidasari has been ruined, she once again asks her magic mirror who is the most beautiful in the land. When the mirror shows Bidasari yet again, the Permaisuri flies into a rage and runs to the kitchen where she grabs burning pieces of firewood which she tries to burn Bidasari's face with. She is shocked when the fire goes out and Bidasari's face is left untouched. Bidasari, who has by now realised that the Permaisuri's malice is targeted only at her and will never stop, begs for mercy and explains her life is bonded to that of a fish that is kept in a bowl in her father's garden. The Permaisuri has a servant steal the fish for her from the merchant's garden, and as soon as the fish leaves the water, Bidasari collapses and stops breathing. Satisfied that Bidasari's life is in her hands, the Permaisuri hangs the fish around her neck as a trophy. When she asks the mirror who is the most beautiful in the land, the mirror shows her own image. The merchant realises that the fish is missing, and is told that Bidasari died mysteriously at the palace. Her body is returned to him and he builds a small tomb for her in the woods where her body is laid out in peace. Meanwhile, the Permaisuri's stepson the Prince has been having dreams about Bidasari, although he has never met her. The dreams plague him even in his waking hours, despite his father's advice that such a beautiful woman cannot exist. The Permaisuri sees her stepson acting this way and plants a painting of Bidasari in his room. The Prince finds the painting, which leads him to the merchant who explains the sad tale of Bidasari's death and the mysterious disappearance of the fish. The Prince decides to visit Bidasari's tomb to see her beauty with his own eyes. Coincidentally at this time, back at the palace the Permaisuri is having a bath in the royal bathing pool. The fish manages to break free of its locket and drops into the water where it starts swimming. This causes Bidasari to wake up right before the Prince's eyes. Bidasari tells him of what the Permaisuri did to her, which confirms the Prince's suspicions of his stepmother. When the Permaisuri finishes her bath, she discovers that the fish has gotten free. She manages to catch it just as the Prince is about to help Bidasari leave the tomb, causing her to fall unconscious again. The Prince places Bidasari back in the tomb and promises to make things right. The Prince returns to the palace in a fury, demanding that the Permaisuri give him the fish. The Permaisuri pretends not to know anything, and when the King listens to the Prince's explanation, the King declares that his son has gone insane and calls the royal guards. A fight ensues, during which the Permaisuri is injured and dies.Just before the Prince is about to be captured, the merchant and the Prince's loyal manservants arrive with Bidasari on a stretcher. The merchant explains that the story about the fish being bonded to Bidasari's life is true. The Prince takes the fish from the locket around the Permaisuri's neck and puts it into a bowl of water. As soon as the fish enters the water, Bidasari comes back to life. The King apologises to his son, and the Prince and Bidasari are married.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Malaysian Classics (3) : Antara Dua Darjat

Antara Dua Darjat (The Two Classes) is a 1960 Malaysian drama film directed by and starring Malaysian silver-screen legend P. Ramlee.

Story and Plot Point

The film tells the tale of Tengku Zaleha (Saadiah), the daughter of a wealthy man, who is in love with a poor pianist named Ghazali (P. Ramlee). Tengku Zaleha is the only daughter of Tengku Karim (Ahmad Nisfu), a very class-conscious landlord who has two children, the other being Tengku Hassan. Hassan is from Karim's deceased first wife while Zaleha is from his second (present) wife, Yang Chik (Rahimah Alias), who is not of royal blood and is an ex-cabaret girl.After Zaleha completes her studies, her father buys her a bungalow in Johor Baru where she meets and falls in love with Ghazali after he performs at her birthday party. Karim hears of the romance and decides to stop it. He gets his men to beat up Ghazali and at the same time takes his daughter back to Singapore.Yang Chik resents Karim's way of treating Zaleha. She believes that Zaleha should be allowed to marry the man of her choice. However, Karim and Hassan insist that Zaleha must marry her cousin, Tengku Mukri (S. Kadarisman), who is of the "right" lineage. In a heated and violent argument that follows, Hassan hits Yang Chik with a heavy object and kills her. Hassan is arrested and subsequently sentenced to death. Karim is terribly upset with the death of his wife and only son and becomes mentally unstable and ends up in an asylum.Mukri's father, Tengku Ismail, confronts Zaleha with a letter which he claims was written by Karim. After reading it and believing it to be genuine, Zaleha has no choice but marry Mukri. After the marriage, they leave for Zaleha's bungalow in Johor to spend their honeymoon. They are accompanied by a close friend, Tengku Aziz (Yusof Latiff).When the piano at the bungalow is out of order, a tuner is called to repair it. Zaleha is both shocked and happy that the tuner is Ghazali, her former sweetheart.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Malaysian horror film :Dukun

Dukun is a 2007 Malaysian horror film. The film is loosely based on the true story of the murder of a Malaysian politician, Datuk Mazlan Idris, by Mona Fandey, a once mildly popular Malaysian singer in 1993. The film was originally slated to be released in December 2006 but as of today there were doubts as to whether the film will ever be released for public screening due to the controversial nature of the film.

Background and film plot
The word dukun is a Malay word meaning "witch doctor" or "shaman". Another term for this word is bomoh.
In 1993, Datuk Mazlan Idris, who was also a parliamentary assemblyman at that time, had apparently sought the services of Mona Fandey, her husband Affandi, and another helper Juraimi, to help him boost his political career. Mona Fandey and her partners claim to possess supernatural powers as bomohs. The assemblyman had apparently brought a substantial amount of money for this service and ritual. During their appointment Mazlan was murdered. His decapitated and dismembered body was found nearby Mona Fandey's residence. Mona and her accomplices were arrested and a highly publicized and sensational trial for Mazlan's murder ensued in 1994. They would eventually be convicted of murder and sentenced to death. They were hanged in 2001 in Kajang Prison. It was believed that Mona Fandey had uttered the words "aku takkan mati" ("I will never die") with her infamous grin just before her execution. The phrase also became the tagline for this film.
The film plot is loosely based on the true events above. In the film, the murderer and main character is Diana Dahlan, played by Umie Aida. The victim was Datuk Jefri played by Adlin Aman Ramlie. The film is narrated by Diana's lawyer, Karim, played by Faizal Hussein.The family of Mona Fandey have voiced their dissatisfaction over the content and basis of the movie after announcement of the film release. The producers have since then denied that the film is wholly based on the true events, but that it was merely inspired by those events.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Malaysian Classics (2): Ali Baba Bujang Lapok

Ali Baba Bujang Lapok is a 1960 Malaysian comedy film directed by, written by and starring Malaysian silver-screen legend P. Ramlee. Based loosely on the story of Ali Baba from 1001 Arabian Nights, the film is occasionally self-referential and contains elements of anarchic comedy, burlesque comedy and farce. The title includes the suffix Bujang Lapok because it the third installment in the Bujang Lapok series of comedy films that star the trio of P. Ramlee, S.Shamsuddin and Aziz Sattar. This film marked the feature film debut of Sarimah, who would go on to a long movie career, and is also notable as one of the few P. Ramlee films where he plays the villain.

Story and Plot point
Ali Baba is poor man who cannot seem to succeed in life. He constantly sends his wife to his brother Kassim Baba's house to borrow flour so they can eat, but the stingy Kassim Baba is frustrated at his brother and constantly reminds his wife of Ali Baba's uselessness. One day, when Ali Baba is out gathering firewood he sees a group of 40 thieves marching through the woods carrying loot and riches. He hides in a tree and watches their leader stand in front of a mountain of rock and sing a verse of seemingly nonsensical words which cause a passageway in the mountain to open. Ali Baba waits until the thieves have all left the cave before coming out of the tree and using the magic words to open the cave. Inside he discovers a variety of riches and wealth, but he only takes a box of gold coins.
With the gold coins Ali Baba is able to pay back his brother everything he owes and live in relative comfort. Kassim Baba is overcome with curiosity and pesters Ali Baba to tell him how he suddenly came into wealth. Ali Baba eventually relents and tells him about the cave and the magical verse to open the cave, but before he can tell him the verse to close the cave or about the thieves who use it, Kassim Baba rushes off to find the cave.
Kassim Baba, in his greed, tries to steal everything in the thieves' cave. He is caught when the thieves return while he is still there. After trying repeatedly to stall, the eventually kill him. When Kassim Baba does not return, Ali Baba sneaks out to the cave, where he finds his brothers' remains. He collects them and has Kassim Baba sewn together and buried.
The thief leader soon notices Ali Baba and decides to target him for their next robbery. After his thieves fail twice, the leader decides to pose as a merchant visiting Ali Baba's house, while his thieves hide in oil jars that are kept in the courtyard. Ali Baba's servant, Marjina, comes up with a plan to stop the thieves, in which actual boiling oil is poured into all the individual jars. After all are defeated, she attacks and kills the leader himself. Ali Baba, grateful for her loyalty, gives her her independence.

P. Ramlee as Ketua Penyamun (Leader of the Thieves)
Aziz Sattar as Ali Baba
S.Shamsuddin as Kassim Baba
Normadiah as Aloyah
Sarimah as Marjina
K. Fatimah as Norsiah
Ibrahim Pendek as Sarjan (Sergeant; Thief Second-in-Command)
Leng Hussain as Apek Tukang Kasut (Chinese Shoe Repairman)
Shariff Dol as Orang Kaya Muflis (The Bankrupt Rich Man)
M. Rafee as Penyamun Bin Rafee (Thief, son of Rafee)
Ali Fiji as Penyamun Bin Fiji (Thief, son of Fiji)
A. Rahim as Penyamun Bin Matarosan (Thief, son of Matarosan)
H.M. Busra as Penyamun Gemuk (Fat Thief)
Nyong Ismail as Tuan Tabib (Medicine Man)
Zaiton as Penghibur Gundik (Harem Dancer)
S. Kadarisman as Tukang cuci mayat (Corpse washer)
Mustarjo as Hamba kedi (Servant)
Alhamdulillah Syukur Nikmat (Praise the Lord)
Beginilah Nasib Diriku Yang Malang
Hoi Hoi Yahoi! Lagu Penyamun (Hoi Hoi Yahoi! The Thieves' Song)
Aiya! Cik Siti (Oh My! Miss Siti)
Ya Habi Bi Ali Baba

Malaysian classics (1): Ahmad Albab


Ahmad Albab is a 1968 Malaysian drama-comedy film directed by, written by and starring Malaysian artiste P. Ramlee about an arrogant and materialistic man who marries off his outspoken daughter to a poor villager to teach her a lesson. The story is in the style of traditional Malay folktales with an underlying moral message. The movie features real-life husband and wife P. Ramlee and Saloma acting opposite each other.

Story and Plot Point
Mashood is a rich man who believes that happiness and wealth are the same thing, and that both are in his hands. He has three daughters: Zahara, Suhara and Mastura. Zahara and Suhara share his life philosophies, but Mastura doesn't and frequently clashes with their father. Mashood decides to prove his beliefs by marrying off Zahara and Suhara to two young men (Muharram and Safar) from wealthy families while Mastura is married off to a poor goat-herder named Syawal. Syawal and Mastura live a simple life together in Syawal's village but are happy. One day, as he is herding the goats, one of them wanders away from the pack. Syawal follows it into a cave, where he sees a large chest of a treasure. A djinn appears and tells Syawal that the treasure belongs to Ahmad Albab, who is the only person who can claim it. Syawal obeys the djinn and leaves. Elsewhere, Muharram and Safar have used up all their wives' money and decide to steal from a jewelry store, pretending in front of their wives that their business has boomed. Using this money, they buy the goats that Syawal was herding, putting him out of a job. However Mastura has started up a small farm next to their house, and this becomes their new livelihood. Mashood's birthday is around the corner and he invites his three daughters and their husbands to his home, where they are required to give him a birthday present. Muharam and Safar give him fancy presents which pleases Mashood. As for Syawal, he presents a packet of salt and a packet of sugar, which Mastura explains represents their love for him. Mashood is angered by this, saying that love should be like jewels and gold. Then Mastura presents to her father meal she'd cooked for him. Mashood attempts to eat it but the food tastes bad, as it has been cooked without salt or sugar. Mastura explains that this is the meaning behind their present, for although salt and sugar are simple things, without them even the most delicious dish tastes bad. Mashood grumps at this and warns them that they won't be able to pull this trick again next year. The three couples part ways. During this time, Mastura has a baby boy. Although at first Syawal and Mastura are overjoyed, their baby refuses to stop crying for weeks on end. Eventually Mastura and Syawal bring their baby boy to visit Mashood, who tries to cheer up his grandson. After several attempts, Mashood finally manages to cause the baby to stop crying by tapping on a door. Since the Arabic word for door is "Albab", Mashood names the baby "Ahmad Albab". Syawal is shocked to hear this name and takes his baby back to the cave to show the djinn. The djinn sees the baby and says that all the treasure in the cave belongs to him, on the condition that Syawal brings Ahmad Albab to the cave every full moon to play with the djinn's wife and son. Syawal and Mastura become wealthy overnight, but even with this wealth they remain humble and help others who are in need. Meanwhile, Muharram and Safar have run out of money again and try to rob the same jewelry store. However, this time the store owner is prepared and the pair are captured and brought to the police station. Zahara and Suhara are told to seek out a kind-hearted man name Syawal who will be able to pay the bail. All are shocked to learn that Syawal and Mastura have suddenly become rich, but Syawal and Mastura gladly pay the bail, setting Muharram and Safar free. However, it is time again for Mashood's birthday gathering and his demand for gifts. In desperation, Muharram and Safar decide to rob Syawal's house, but they are caught. Syawal is disappointed in them, but agrees to give them presents for them to give to Mashood.On the night of Mashood's birthday gathering, Muharram and Safar are quiet and subdued as Zahara and Suhara present Mashood a tray each of precious jewels as their gift to him. Mashood is impressed by the extravagant gift, and then turns to Syawal and Mastura, demanding their present. Syawal gives him a model of a mosque, telling him that it is to remind him of God. Mashood balks at this present until Muharram and Safar break down and confess that they are thieves and all the jewels are from Syawal, not them. Mashood questions this disbelievingly until Syawal opens his robes to reveal a smart black suit underneath.

P. Ramlee as Syawal
Saloma as Mastura
AR Tompel as Mashood
Mariani as Zahara
Mimi Loma as Suhara
Karim Latiff as Safar
Tony Azman as Muharram The three male characters who married Mashood's daughters are all named after Islamic months Shawwal, Muharram and Safar.