Original film title in Malay: Dewi Murni
Literal English translation of film title: Goddess of Purity
Chinese title: 國色天香
Directed by B. S. Rajhans
Music by Zubir Said
Produced by Malay Film Productions (Shaw Brothers)
Cast: Osman Gumanti, Kasma Booty
Released July 1950 (in Singapore).
An animal menagerie or zoo?
Extracts from Sumathi Maniam Raj & Raja Morgan Veerappan’s essay – ‘Indian Influences in the Supernatural Elements Found in the Malay Classic Films of Dewi Murni, Gul Bakawali and Selendang Delima‘ (2017):
“The film Dewi Murni is an adaptation of Kalidasa’s Shakuntala. This is established through the identification of chronological events that are similar to the story of Shakuntala authored by Kalidasa. Adaptations have been made to the Indian story, transforming it to the Malay version and prominent differences are notable. The principal story of Dewi Murni remains the same whereby the main characters meet in unlikely surroundings, woo and get married. Both King Dushyanta [in Shakuntala] and King Indraloka [in Dewi Murni] lose memory of their wives (in different ways), the heroines lose their signet rings and are rejected by their respective husbands at the palace court.
“In both stories, the rings are discovered in a fish’s maw and upon its re-emergence, the kings’ memories of their respective wives are regained. In the end after a period of separation, the lovers are reunited.”
Extracts from Sumathi Maniam Raj & Raja Morgan Veerappan’s essay – ‘An Exploration of the Nayakis (Heroines) in the Malay Classic Films of Dewi Murni, Gul Bakawali and Selendang Delima based on Natyasastra’s Ashtanayika bhavas‘ (2018):
“Dewi Murni is first introduced as a happy and buoyant village girl. She displays strength and courage when she dismisses her friends’ taunts regarding her life partner by stating (in her song) that she will never be easily attracted to anyone. Murni who sees Indraloka hunting a deer gathers herself and bravely impedes him from his hunt. Indraloka who is instantly attracted to Murni, charms her with his words, saying that he is heaven and she a nymph. His praise is able to calm the angry Murni and so she becomes shy and innocently asks him “apa itu syurga?” (What is heaven?).
“Murni’s question implies that she is truly innocent and not well-versed with worldly knowledge. She finds herself to be attracted to the king but she conceals her feelings. The king in an attempt to conceal his identity, tells Murni that he is one of the king’s hunters. Murni’s attraction towards the king is established when she shyly steals a glance at Indraloka as she leaves with her friends. In the next scene, we find a reluctant Murni brought to a garden by the king for a secret meeting; her protests are genuine as she says that it is against her upbringing to be alone with a man. She accepts the king when he is able to convince her of his love. Murni is embarrassed when she discovers that her lover is actually the king and feels guilty for not recognising him.
“When the king visits her village she is hospitable to him and is overjoyed when he asks for her hand in marriage. Dewi Murni is devastated when her uncle refuses to give permission as her father is away. (…) When Pak Man gives his consent, Murni is ecstatic as her dream of marrying the king is realised. (…) During the king’s absence, she pines for him and is extremely vulnerable. When her friends tease her that the king must have forgotten her, she becomes offended. News of her father’s return gives her renewed hope and she sets out on the journey to the palace. We find Murni to be in high spirits but her disturbing dream breaks her confidence slightly and puts fear in her heart. As the king rejects her, we feel sorry to see her hopes dashed and accused of being insane by the Prime Minister.
“Murni’s extreme sorrow and humiliation is visible when she leaves the palace tear–stricken. Her cowardly act of attempting suicide, after being unable to face her friends upon her return from the court can be attributed to the fact that she is unable to swallow her pride. She had initially claimed that she would not easily fall in love. Murni saved by a hermit goes to live in his hermitage. …”
More from ‘Indian Influences in the Supernatural Elements Found in the Malay Classic Films of Dewi Murni, Gul Bakawali and Selendang Delima‘ (2017):
“The movies on the play Shakuntala were directed by Elias Duncan in Tamil in 1940 (http://youtu.be/W7AZAiQagTM) and V. Shantaram in Hindi in 1943 (http://youtu.be/5bxMWfTmHoE). These movies were produced and released in India during the time when B.S. Rajhans began his directorial debut in this country. The story of Shakuntala could have been adapted by Rajhans to suit the psyche of the Malay audience.”
Zubir Said’s compositions in Dewi Murni:
Hikmat Alam 0:33; Bunga dan Kumbang 8:28; Jodoh (Ikan Di Laut Asam Di Darat) 21:42, 1:46:50; Selamat Pengantin 37:22; Kurnia 47:00; Dewi Murni 1:09:32; Ikan Besar 1:24:25; Suasana 1:36:56; Sukma Suka 1:43:15
‘New film of Eastern lore’. The Straits Times, 2 June 1950, p. 9.
© 1950 Malay Film Productions
© 2000 Music Valley