KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 ― Many believe that the 1950s and 1960s were the ‘golden age' of Malaysian cinema.
With this in mind, the new Netflix film Showtime 1958 offers a glimpse into the struggles and hardships undergone by legendary screen star, Tan Sri P. Ramlee and his fellow artistes under the Persama union.
Showtime 1958 is a musical drama that follows a variety show held by P. Ramlee in order to raise funds for the workers at Malay Film Productions in April 1958, leading up to the writing of the iconic song, Selamat Hari Raya.
The film also recounts the story of how P. Ramlee and iconic singer Saloma met and fell in love.
Directed by Anwardi Jalil, the son of famous film director Jamil Sulong, Showtime 1958 takes audiences back to a time of not only rival film studios, underpaid talents, but also the fighting spirit and charm of the artists always striving to put on the best show.
Director Anwardi worked on the film for 30 years, gathering information from his mother and looking through his father's journals of that era.
“My father told me many stories over the years, and he kept them in his diaries,” Anwardi said in a New Straits Times interview.
“It is my labour of love to the actors of my parents’ era, not only Tan Sri P. Ramlee.”
The film began principal photography in June 2019, filming primarily in Kuala Lumpur in the Culture and Arts Department located at Jalan Tun H S Lee.
Working with costume company Couture Classics, Jalil made sure to recapture the vibrant colours of suits, kebayas, and dresses of the glamorous era.
Even the cast working with Jalil was eager to ensure the mannerisms, slang, and style of the people during that time were accurate to the last minute detail.
In order to play P. Ramlee the film’s star, Amai Kamaruddin had to undergo lots of research and a diet in order to embody the spirit of the screen star.
“From what I’ve learnt, Ramlee was a confident man who possessed good leadership qualities,” Amai said.
“He was a faithful friend to actors and studio staff. It is my second time working with Anwardi, and I am honoured to work with the son of a legendary filmmaker and good friend of P. Ramlee.”
For Anwardi, Showtime 1958 is a passionate tribute to the legacy of his father and his friendship with P. Ramlee.
With the film now available on streaming, he hopes that younger audiences will be able to see how these historical figures were very much human beings but at the same time had the remarkable showmanship that made them into stars.
As for future stories from this era, Anwardi remains hopeful he will be able to recount more of his father's tales of the film industry.
“I’ve got a lot of stories to tell, that’s for sure, and in the future, I’ll come up with films that enlighten viewers on the real unsung heroes of the Malaysian film industry,” he said.
Showtime 1958 is available to stream on Netflix.