Friday, November 9, 2007

People I remember in MFP

Its been decades but I do remember some of the people my father used to work with in Jalan Ampas. The one person I remember clearly was A.V. Bapat the art director for most of MFP's movie. If you manage to get a glimpse of the old Malay film posters - more than likely that was his handiwork (like the Raja Bersiong poster above). I like the way he painted his posters and maybe it did somewhat influenced me into wanting to be an artist. Uncle Bapat has long since passed on, and it would be sad that sometimes his contributions to the Malay film industry is overlooked.
As far as I know, he did sets, costumes and all art direction my father did when he was at Jalan Ampas.
I used to call him Uncle Gorilla because he was the hairiest guy I knew at that time.
If I am not mistaken he came to Singapore from India and was assisting the Indian film directors with sets and art direction, and fell in love with Singapore. I think he never left Malaya since and until the day he passed away in Kuala Lumpur about a decade back.
Another familiar character, viewed from afar was the studio manager, Mr Kwek Jip Chian or just plain Mr Kwek. He ran the studio. I remember him well because he keeps reminding me of Lee Kuan Yew.
Of course there's the late Uncle Jaafar Abdullah (picture above) who was the studio's main PR man. Uncle Jaafar remained in the industry until the early nineties I think until his final days with Syed Kechik Films. Jaafar would have been an excellent resource of information on the history of Malay films but I guess no one managed to interview him.
Another person close to the family was Pak A or Kemat Hassan. In the pic below, he is the one on the left with specs.He was my dad's assistant director in some movies and became very close with the family. In fact, most people would say that he was my dad's younger brother as he looked a lot like my dad. I remember him as a soft spoken kindly man. I think he passed away three years ago.
Of course there's all the other people who were our neighbors in Boon Teck Road - Jins Shamsuddin and his late wife Rahmah Rahmat, Wak Mustardjo and his beautiful daughter Ribut and many others - but I was that close to most of them (I was only four or five when we were staying in Boon Teck Road).
However, the Jalan Ampas family was a unique episode in the history of Malay films - one that was not repeated - even in Merdeka Studios. Most of the people in Jalan Ampas worked as a close knit family - from P. Ramlee to my father and to the other directors like Sudarmaji, Kadarisman and Omar Rojik. I hardly remember anything about Cathay Keris except when my mom left Shaw studio to work with Cathay for awhile and made movies with Nordin Ahmad and the rest of the Keris crowd.
The industry became more fragmented when Jalan Ampas closed down and most everyone went to Kuala Lumpur to be part of the Merdeka Studio set up. However, hampered with old equipment and lack of support from Shaw (they were still churning out black and white films when imported movies were in Cinemascope and Color), Merdeka Studios did not augur well of the ailing Malay film industry. By late 60s it was just a shell. The players in the industry too were not as close knit as was during the time in Jalan Ampas. So the inevitable happened. The Golden Age of Malay films died before the 70s.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FYI, I am en Jaafar Abdullah's daughter in law. U can contact me/ or my hubby I.e en Jaafar's son to know more about en Jaafar...