What is Showtime 1958, now showing on Netflix, all about?
I have watched Showtime 1958 three times ever since it was debutted on Netflix on 03 May, supposedly to have been on the first day of Hari Raya Aidifitri, but ultimately it became the second day when Raya in Malaysia started a day earlier, ie on Monday.
I watched it three times not because I love the movie to the max, but I wanted to find out the little things the director Anwardi Jamil injected. This is because at first glance, the movie looked a tad simple, a bit superficial and too easy. But knowing the filmmaker, I am sure he had more things to say in this colourful presentation of the Golden Era of Malay movies.
This is what I believe he wanted us to find out:
Life in Jalan Ampas wasn’t easy. Salaries were low and the studio could sack anyone anytime. This is especially sensitive when sackings occurred before Raya in 1958 (very reminiscent of the Ramadhan sackings of gov’t servants and Islamic teachers on contract after the Pakatan Harapan took over the gov’t in 2018.) As the president of Persama, P. Ramlee tried to use his clout to correct the injustice.
P. Ramlee did not win a trophy at the Asia Pacific film festival in 1958, but the cinematographer A Bakar Ali did. The award won was for Best Black and White photography for the 1958 movie Sumpah Orang Minyak.
The romance between Ramlee and Saloma began in 1958 and is not like the stories told in other TV series or documentaries. I was surprised that Saloma was actually engaged to a Scot after her divorce from A R Tompel and upon further digging, Saloma also had a short lived marriage with a guy she met in night class. So, contrary to popular belief, P. Ramlee did not steal Saloma from Tompel.
The iconic song Selamat Hari Raya popularised by Ahmad Jais and never recorded by Ramlee. It was written on impulse with lyrics by the director’s father Jamil Sulong backstage and sung for the first time on that fateful night. Quite a feat, thus showing Jamil’s irrefutable talent.
Who was David and Ribut? These are two fictional characters that have an important role in the movie. It is subtle, but upon seeing it a couple of times and listening to their dialogue, methinks they represent two communities worrying about the two countries being separated.
Malaya gained its independence in 1957 and a year later, Singapore was still very much part of the British Empire. Families have to decide if their future lies in Singapore or Malaya. Note: in the story David who is Indian, is a revert and felt that his true love Ribut will leave him and migrate to Malaya. Without much wealth, David is destined to stay in Singapore. That is until a Chinese towkay offers him a job in Kuala Lumpur.
Who is Puspayanti? She is definitely a fictional character but according to interviews of the director, he did mention that Puspayanti’s story is a composite of many rags to riches stories we had from our grandparents. Today, however, the rags to riches stories are mostly about cosmetic empires, digital influencers, Youtubers and gamers.
Interestingly, the movie revolved about the happenings of that just one day at Jalan Ampas in 1958. It was clever, in the sense that viewers were brought into all the emotions felt by the characters and the extras. The casting was good, obviously a lot of thought have been brought in to get the most perfect cast to suit the characters. I believe only Anwardi know what each character actually looked like then (the non-fictional ones, of course) because his late dad was among them, and his mum Rosnani Jamil must have given her input as well, especially on the individual personalities.
The costumes were stunning and the music was perfect. Of course, my heart skipped a bit when I saw David sang and danced. He had the whole package, even when he was just a cleaner behind the stage, he did it so well.
All in all, the romantic in me wanted to know more of what happened after that fateful night. A sequel, perhaps?
Point to note: The movie had actually won a few awards during the MCO era. They snagged awards at the Asian Cinematography Awards in Manila for Best Cinematography and Best Asian Director. At the Eastern European Film Festival they win the Best Supporting Actress and Costume Design Awards. At the Singapore Film Carnival the movie won Best Music.
Enough about my thoughts, let’s see what other early reviews there were, three days after its exclusive debut on Netflix. – New Malaysia Herald.
You may read one of the reviews here …
And here …