First Takes - 'Platform 1932' by Nawwar Syahirah

Platform 1932 stands out from the rest of the documentaries for being the most polished production with the most extensive research, not that they should be compared in any case. In fact, I feared I was going to sit through another glossy, TV-production value-type documentary that pays lip service to a landmark. But it turned out to have a sharp eye for what would intrigue a local audience who could be bored by the topic of the Tanjong Pagar Railway station.
Discounting the fact the visuals look technically correct and the editing was as sleek as a bullet train, there was much to be surprised about. Right from the start, it drew out what was unique and lesser-known, for instance, what the four sculptures on the fa├žade stood for. Then it took a very people-oriented approach to understanding the train instead of approaching it face-on on the features of the station itself. We heard the Station Hotel (defunct) manager share about his paranormal sightings, we hear the station master share about the Bukit Timah station and the reason for its existence and even got close to the granny who enjoyed the scene of lush vegetation whizzing by the window (instead of taking a plane to Malaysia). Then, there were 2 ‘train-station enthusiasts’ who helped the audience develop an appreciation of the subject matter in a different axis. In fact, in each person’s account or story, there is a strong sense of fighting against time to keep the train station alive and relevant. In a good way, it leaves the film more open-ended.
Not mentioned in the film is the fact that granny who insists on traveling by train is Nawwar’s (the director) grandmother. She comes from Malaysia and the passing plantation scenery probably speaks volumes to her. It might be due to the awkwardness of putting your own mother into the spotlight but if Nawwar had made her mother the central character, then this film could shed a lot more light on the director’s emotional relationship with the train station. Nawwar made this film as part of her final-year project in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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