Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jalan Buloh Perindu; the place and the movie - by Peter Chan

There’s one place in the east coast area of Singapore which has streets connected with the Malay film industry; collectively Jalan Dondang Sayang, Jalan Keris, Jalan Puteri Juala Juli, Jalan Buloh Perindu form Cathay Gardens. How strange can that be? I soon found my answers when I was up in KL to see some old friends who happily connected me to people who were involved in the 1962 movie production of Lanchang Kuning which was shot entirely at Cathay-Keris Studio at East Coast Road. I talk about that later but why did I remember this place?

It was my grandmother’s place, a terraced house which she shared with my “Yi Por”. They moved in when Cathay Gardens was completed in 1964. Although my dear “Por Por” has departed, my 96 year old “Yi Por” and aunties still live there. Apart from the Chinese New Year, family gatherings, like someone’s birthday or a funeral, were the reasons for those visits and when adults talk, surely it’s no fun for growing kids like us.

Photo 1: Cathay Gardens. The yellow circle is the gap mentioned in this article. On the bottom left is the seafront of the Ocean Park Hotel; later became Singapore’s first beach discotheque. Make a guess where would be the future Victoria Junior College? (c 1965)

A second reason is my cousins and I spent time checking out this huge building that resembled an aircraft-hanger. It could not be one as this was not the airport. I later found out that it was the Cathay-Keris Studio. I do remember that around the same time, there were movie publications like the Chinese Ladies and Home Pictorial Fortnitely, the Malay Majallah Filem and the English Movie News that carried articles and pictures of this studio and the movies. The information got us excited and each time we met at my grandmother’s house, the kids would adjourned to the fence. We were hoping to look for something to happen. The atmosphere was very quiet and sleepy. We didn’t see “Roll, Camera, Action” but only the production crew making the movie-sets.
Photo 3: The landed properties in Cathay Gardens have changed little from yesterday except for brand new roofs and new façade in some cases. The red roofs were once Cathay-Keris Studio. The gap as mentioned in this article is between the two bungalow houses. Instead of the Ocean Park Hotel, it is Ocean Park Apartments with its high-rise blocks. Where was the sea? (c 2009). Photo Courtesy of Victoria Junior College (VJC).

Now back to my KL friends for the details of the movie industry in Singapore. The first Malay colour film produced was “Buluh Perindu” (1953), shot on site at Cathay-Keris Studio. Swinging Singapore was the “Hollywood of Southeast Asia” for Malay film productions until the late 60s. Malay movie aspirants from the Federation of Malaya made their way south for the screen test. At that time Kuala Lumpur had not yet reached the level of Singapore when it came to film production, albeit there was Studio Merdeka Filem. Just as Hong Kong was the hub of Chinese movie industry, Singapore was the hub of the Malay movie industry. There was often co-operation between Hong Kong and Singapore where movie celebrities, like Yu Meng, Ting Hau and Peter Chen Ho, visited each other’ studios. When American movie stars visited Singapore they were taken to Cathay-Keris Studios. Our Malay actresses like Rose Yatimah, Fatimah Ahmad and Umi Khaltom took time for photo-shots with the visitors. Similar to MGM Studios or Universal Studios, Cathay-Keris Studio also had its fair share of attention when it promoted guided tours and autograph signing sessions.

I am not sure whether you agree with my observation that Cathay Organization’s strength was its large pool of Malay actresses whereas Shaw Brothers focused on P. Ramlee. So today’s Neneks were once yesterday’s Cilipadis. I like to know how many are still alive with us. Anybody knows?

Photo 2: Standing Left to Right – Fatimah Ahmad, Rahmah Ali and Rose Yatimah on the grounds of Cathay-Keris Studio, off East Coast Road (c 1962).

Lastly, in 1969 I saw there was no more sea because land reclamation reached Cathay Gardens. It was around this time that I became the photographer taking photos of my cousin, his girlfriend and his Lotus Super 7. To get in a good position, I stood at this narrow gap between two bungalow houses on Jalan Buloh Perindu. It was also through this gap I walked to the end but found obstacles ahead of me. There was a deep and wide canal which made crossing difficult. In the distance building constructions were going on the reclaimed land; flats and roads. This was the future Marine Parade HDB Estate at Marine Terrace.

Today everything has changed and it was only last year that I had the chance to do some photo-shoot from a high-rise block.
I hope these photos can rekindle our memories again of the place and Malay movies.

PS – You can find several video clips of Lanchang Kuning on YouTube. Here is one of them.

26 comments:

Lam Chun See said...

I skimmed through some of the video clips of these old Spore-produced Malay movies, hoping to find familiar outdoor scenes of the old Spore. Unfortunately no success so far. Anyone see anything interesting, pls alert us ok?

Andy Young* said...

Hey Chun See, this is a most interesting post because I love Malay movies from Cathay Keris and Shaw Brothers and have seen most of them as a teenager.

A strange co-incidence too because I actually posted one about the Pontianak on my Halloween song list but deleted it. Soon enough... it will come.

Your detailed knowledge of your subject is incredible.

Cheers.

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry folks. Was in a hurry and left out one imp detail. This post is by Peter; not me.

yg said...

peter, jalan buloh perlindu was mosquito territory in the late 80s. there was an outbreak of dengue fever. i have heard of cathay keris studio but didn't know its location.

Anonymous said...

A popular outdoor location for shooting of Malay films right up to the early 1960s was the Alkaff Gardens in Sennett Estate. The pond (lake) there and a hillock (levelled off in the late 60s or early 70s for the building of Willow Avenue Sec Sch (now defunct) in the gardens formed beautiful and scenic backdrops for the films shot there. Some "stand ins" could be seen "fighting" and rolling down the hillock in action movies. The Malay actresses were usually very fair and attractive. A famous actress, known for her great beauty, eventually became the consort of a Malay Sultan in Malaysia. As schoolboys in a nearby primary school, we used to have great time playing in Alkaff Gardens and were entralled by the film shooting when such an event was on.

peter said...

Chun See
There are Singapore scenes as far as I know but cannot remember the titles. Many decades ago TV Singapore showed Malay black & white movies. Some places I remembered were 1) the semi-ds at Jalan Seaview, 2) the Tanjong Katong Road Post Office and the road opposite (beside the nursery, 3) Jalan Hajijah, 4) Evergreen Avenue......

Those we the days we were crazy about Malay stars like Maria Menado....Saloma......Wahid Satay, Miss Momo....some names I can remember.

Lam Chun See said...

Anon's description of the outdoor shooting of Malay movies reminds me that recently when I went to the Kg Java Park to take a photo of the PUB waterworks at Bt Timah Rd, I saw some TV crew filming period dramas there. From across the lake I couldn't make out if it was Malay or Indian movies. I even took some shots of them in action.

Tom said...

Peter Was there A film studio called Pinewood in Singapore because I remember passing a building called Pinewood Studios, when I was on a route march in the Changi area,may be not. I just cant remember if it was in Singapore or in Johor Bahru,it was along time ago.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
household name said...

Wow, I have been to and around Jln Buloh Perindu, like, forever, and I never knew about the movie connection.

louis said...

Is the studio still in existence?

peter said...

Louis

Cathay-Keris Studio does not exist anymore, since 1967 I believe. The buildings were abandoned until the 1970s - by the 1980s only an empty plot of land. Now it's a row of terraced/semi-d houses.

Tom - I cant really say there was a studio called Pinewood.

Anonymous said...

I remember Alias Congo and Hamid Bond! Nobody remembers them nowadays...

I also remember playing huntum bolah with Peter Chan and the class monitor who is a Minister today when we were together in RI 1967 Sec 1 A .....but that is another story

WKC

Anonymous said...

WKC = Wong Kwan Chung?????? Is that u?

Lam Chun See said...

Who says nobody remembers Hamid Bond. I do and have blogged about him some time ago; but cannot find the page :( And I am sure many other GMY readers also remember him. He was so funny. When he spoke Hainanese, it was hilarious. Was his sidekick called Alia Congo?

Icemoon said...

WKC's mention of the 1967 huntum bolah reminds me of Peter's account:

In 1967, during recess time a group of RI students (including yours truly) were playing hantam bola behind the armoury building when they noticed a long line of trishaws on Bras Basah Road travelling towards Beach Road. We stood still, peered through the fence and saw a cameraman at the head of the line filming somebody in one of the trishaws.

Maybe WKC can corroborate the account, if he happened to see the Pretty Polly cast too, lol

peter said...

Jalan Terang Bulan in Opera Estate got its name from the Malay movie "Terang Bulan" directed by BS Rajhan in the early 1950s.

Zhu!!! said...

This is a wonderful post. Thank you for this. I live in Jalan Buloh Perindu and it is painful seeing how new residents have moved in over the past 10 years to tear up the beautifully symmetrical, 1950's/60's style terrace houses in place of their 3 storey mansions. Would it be possible for you to send me/upload a larger version of your black and white photo of the estate please?

OneTheJuggler said...

Fascinating article. Biography Channel recently aired P Ramlee's story and I was surprised to learn that Singapore was a leader in film production at the time. Shaw had a film studio in the Balestier area which, I guess, explains why there is a Shaw Plaza there. I remember watching some of the Malay comedies when I was young. Thanks for posting!

Ryan said...

My mother is Fatimah Ahmad. She past away in '03 here in Houston,TX. We moved to Houston in '84 and have lived here ever since.

peter said...

Zhu - I'll b happy to do. Do send your email to Chun See.

Ryan - sorry to hear about that. She was very pretty. Will you drop me your email (thru Chun See). Sure like to get in touch with you.

Cheers!

AlanLuv said...

Hi. i had read about Cathay-keris studio, i believe there was a Jackie's Bowling Centre in front of the Ocean Park Hotel which these 2 were belong to Cathay that time.

peter said...

Yah there was a Jackie's Bowl whcih is now those shophouses facing East Coast Road today. The owner is the same as Jackie's orchard - I think a Herbie Lim.

Chu Tzy Ren said...

Hi Peter & Chun See,

I was born in 1967, grew up in Buloh Perindu and am still staying here. Referring to your black & white photo of the place, the leftmost bungalow (next to the trees) facing the sea was the residence of the late Mr Ee Peng Liang (no. 45 Jalan Buloh Perindu). Just like Zhu, I would also appreciate it very much if you can upload or send me a larger version of the photo. Thanks so much!

peter said...

Chu Tzy, why don't u drop CS your email and I see what can be done.

I believe Gerald Ee lives there now.

Thanks

FitRyan said...

Hello, my name is Ryan and my mother was Fatimah Ahmad. She past away in March of 2004 in Houston Texas where we lived since 1984. If you want any more information about her life here in Houston Texas please do not hesitate to ask me.