|Original Title||Leila Majnun (commonly mistaken as 'Laila Majnun')|
Rai Bahadur Seth Hurdutroy, Motilall Chemical Company (Bombay)
M. Suki @ Pak Suki, Cik Tijah, Fatimah Jasmin, Yem, Sharif Medan, Syed Ali Mansoor Al Attas, Khairuddin
|Year of Release||1934|
|Country of Production||Singapore|
|Keywords||drama, romance, song and dance, love|
|Screening History||Marlborough Theatre (premiere)|
Leila Majnun has long been held as the first Singapore film. Indeed, it is the first local film for which documentation still exists since no physical evidence survives of 1926 Chinese film Xin Ke. It does stand as the first Malay film ever made and could have been considered a blockbuster at the time with newspaper advertisements proclaiming it an "enormous success - every performance packed out" and "the first spectacular colossal Malay talkie" .It was produced at the budget of S5,000 at the time.
It was advertised as the "First Grand Malay 100% Talkie" featuring "numerous beautiful Arabian and Egyptian dances, songs and dialogues in Classical Malay" and "well-known local Malay artistes". It was also proudly hailed to have been "entirely produced in Singapore by Rai Bahadur Seth Hurdutroy Motilall Chamria".
The film, shot and produced entirely in Singapore, was a remake of an Indian classic of the same name released a year earlier in 1933 and both films are often confused. The story was based on Persian-Asian folklore of a pair of ill-fated lovers from different social strata and the hardships they face, drawing inspiration from famous tales such as A Thousand and One Nights and Romeo and Juliet.
The film also broke new ground with its Indian director BS Rajhans at the helm and his choice to employ popular Malay stage actors from the bangsawan (Malay opera) world, drawn in by the more stable and profitable income. Rajhans had prior experience in filmmaking in India and would go on to shoot many of the Golden Era films and others such as Menantu Derhaka and Seruan Merdeka. He also opened the door for many other Indian directors who populated the Golden Era with their Indian influenced Malay films.
The success of Leila Majnun led to its status as the origin of Malay focused films for the next 35 years. The financial viability of the film gave studios the confidence to invest in making more Malay films and the Golden Era was eventually born. The film also marks several significant beginnings: the rise of Middle Eastern influence upon Singapore cinema; the theme of tragic romance between lovers separated by different social backgrounds; the tradition of using Indian directors who injected song and dance sequences and other influences typical of Indian films into their Malay works; and the use of bangsawan actors in Malay films.