First Takes June - Di Manakan Ku Cari Ganti by Mohammad Shafiq

As more Malay filmmakers come to the limelight, I have an increasing inkling of a rather rich but forgotten film heritage Singapore has. In the past 2 months, I have seen at least 3 tributes to the legendary P Ramlee. The most notable being Keronchong for Pak Bakar shown during the Singapore International Film Festival. The Chinese filmmaker cohort in Singapore have almost next to nothing as a referencing bedrock, unlike Hong Kong or Taiwanese Chinese who can boast a history fronted by names like Lin Dai, Li Li Hua, Li Han Hsiang etc. Tonight’s final piece Di Manakan Ku Cari Ganti (Where can I Find a Replacement) is yet another tribute to P Ramlee by visual arts student Mohammad Shafiq.

Shafiq goes around doing a survey among a few young people, asking them if they know who P Ramlee is and whether they knew Jalan Ampas, the location of his working studio. The controlled environment of the interviews (interviewees all seated down, looking calm and ready to speak) and the rather grungy film-student look of the interviewees made it difficult to believe in the credibility of the interviews. It felt like what Shafiq said, a classroom project. The answers he got were varied and not really consequential to the story. Taking a step back, this video is much more a video-art tribute than a narrative one (like Keronchong). Ideas and motifs were presented in fragments but to a certain beat. Comparing this to a song, it is equivalent to its rhythm taking the attention away from its melody.
From the interviews, the video cuts to a poetic verbalisation of his curiosity and reverence for P Ramlee. These overlay a montage of location shots of historical relevance, e.g. Jalan Ampas, Jalan Kemaman etc. If you have watched Keronchong, which reflects a higher production value and a more experienced effort, it is difficult not to be biased against Shafig’s work, for both used the same stylistics. But I really felt the biggest gem in this video was the very sincere attempt to re-enact famous scenes from P Ramlee’s movies against a simple white canvas background. Though not original (Because Ming Wong has performed this before), it was really engaging - the desperate and melodramatic pleas of the mother, the typically stern demeanour of iron-fisted father and the rebelliousness of the son’s reaction. The scenes are never complete and but exist like beats in the video. Perhaps the final quote at the end of the video actually sheds some light on the choice of style. Paraphrasing it, it mentioned that taking away rhythm from a song, it loses its ability to stand on its own.

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