Monday, March 6, 2017

Jins Shamsuddin Remembered

The well known Malaysian actor, director and producer Jins Shamsuddin passed away recently. As a tribute piece to the legendary Jins Shamsuddin, I have reproduce an interview I have done with him years ago where he talks about his experience making the historical epic Bukit Kepong. 

Headline:A Warrior of a Man
By Bissme S

On March 1, the Malaysian movie industry lost a talent who had beensynonymous with modern films –Tan Sri Jins Shamsuddin, who died age 81.
A veteran actor of nearly 50 films and director of 10, Jins is best 
remembered for his 1981 iconic film, Bukit Kepong, that was based on a true event that took place during the Malayan Emergency.
On Feb 23, 1950, some 180 members of the Malayan Communist Party attacked a police station in Bukit Kepong, Johor, manned by 18 policemen who defended the station and the civilians until the end.
Jins not only played the leading role of Sergeant Jamil Md Shah but also directed and produced the film, which went on to win eight awards at the third Malaysian Film Festival, including for best film, best director and best actor. The film has since been remastered into high definition in 2015.
Years ago, I managed to get Jins to share his experience on his epic
movie in an interview published in theSun on Aug 30, 1999.
To me, what he said about his experience acting, directing and producing Bukit Kepong summed up the man that he was and the legend he would become.Here is an excerpt of that interview in Jins’ own words:

“For six years, the script by the police authorities was floating around. No producer dared to take on the project. A big budget was required for the movie and there was no assurance that it would
succeed at the box office.
“The then Inspector of Royal Malaysia Police (Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar) approached me. I had been making family dramas such as Menanti Hari Esok, Tiada Esok Bagimu, Esok Masih Ada, among others whose successes led other producers to jump onto the bandwagon.
“Eager to set another trend, I agreed to make Bukit Kepong. Filming began in 1980. The cast and crew of more than 400 people spent more than six months at Bukit Kepong. I was the first to arrive and the last to leave.
“During those days, there were no hotels around the place. Everybody stayed at the mosque and in private houses. I turned the Penghulu complex into a big office where I stayed and worked.
“The budget for the film was RM1.3 million. It was a huge budget in 1980. I had to take a loan from the bank. To rebuild the whole village for the set alone cost RM80,000. I was taking a huge gamble.
“Luckily, the movie collected more than RM1.7 million at the box office. Many people returned for a second viewing. It also attracted the non-Malay crowd.
“The police were very supportive and supplied 40,000 blank ammunition and 400 varieties of guns for the filming. They even assigned 180 Chinese policemen to act in the movie [and] provided security arrangements for the film crew.
“But I had difficulty getting Bukit Kepong’s Chinese residents to act as extras.They felt the movie would be a negative portrayal of their ancestors who had helped the communities under threats of death.
“I played the part of Sergeant Jamil and suffered a scar across
my stomach from some blank bullets. My mother passed away during the filming so I had to rush back to Taiping for the funeral.
“I also had problem with the censorship board. They did not like the idea of Malay and Chinese at war and suspended the film.
“My office in Kuala Lumpur was located at Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, near the golf course where the [then] Yang DiPertuan Agong [Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang] played. The Agong used to drop by my office. I took the opportunity to mention the Bukit Kepong suspension.
“Upon his Majesty intervention, the Home Minister agreed to release the film on two conditions.The first was the inclusion in the film a preamble by a notable figure to talk about the incident. I managed to get our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to do it.
“Second, the movie must only be shown after the elections. Bukit Kepong was completed in 1980 but only hit the cinemas in 1982. After the movie was completed, three surviving policemen confirmed it was a very accurate portrayal of the event.
“I wanted it to be screened in the Asia Pacific Film Festival. But the jury thought it was unsuitable.”
Jins had intended to make another patriotic movie, Pasir Salak, based on the murder of the first British Resident J.W.W. Birch in Perak.
According to him, most of our history was written from the British
point of view and he wanted to show this incident from our local viewpoint.
“The Pasir Salak Project faced many hurdles along the way. One of the biggest was the budget. Some British producers agreed to pump in RM120 million but they wanted a change the storyline.
“They wanted to portray Birch as the hero and the Malay community as barbaric. I disagreed and even threatened to sue if they went ahead and made the movie based on my script.”
Sadly, Jins was never able to turn his Pasir Salak Project into a reality.Nevertheless, his contribution to the Malaysian Film industry will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Jins. 

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