Singapore Film Locations Archive

Putus Harapan / Hopeless (1953)

Original film title in Malay: Putus Harapan
Literal English translation of film title: Hopeless

Directed by B. N. Rao
Language: Malay
Starring: P. Ramlee, Rokiah, Musalmah, Nordin Ahmad
Produced by Malay Film Productions (Shaw Bros.)

Film Locations:
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station
Bukit Batok Hill

 

Yusof’s (P. Ramlee) parents are killed in a massive factory fire. Hashim, the kind and wealthy factory owner, adopts him and regards him as one of his own children, much to the dismay of his wife. (Hashim already has two kids, Fatimah and Osman.) Yusof is well-liked by his foster sister Fatimah (Rokiah) and they grew up to be lovers. The film takes a melodramatic turn when Hashim dies of sickness, and the malevolent foster mother denies Yusof of his inheritance, bars him from further education, and treats him as a domestic slave. What’s worse, Yusof is separated from his beloved when Fatimah is sent to the city to study in a college.

Yusof is elated when he learns of Fatimah and Osman’s return and picks them up at the train station (Tanjong Pagar Railway Station), only to be rebuffed by his peers and foster brother, and ordered like a servant to carry their luggage. Despite the setbacks, Yusof stays committed to Fatimah. In the film’s final moments when Fatimah is dying (yes, this movie is very melodramatic!), Yusof stays by her deathbed, sings her a last tune (in the guise of P. Ramlee), and cradles her dead body, in enigmatic style, up and across the monumental stairs and vast plains at Bukit Batok Hill.

 

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The long flight of stairs at the 120 metre-high Bukit Batok Hill is a remnant of the ‘Syonan Chureito’, a World War Two-era memorial and shrine built by the Japanese to commemorate and worship the war dead. (‘Chu-rei-to’ means ‘the sacrifice made by the fallen soldiers’.) A smaller memorial for the Allies’ war dead was constructed behind the Japanese one. Both memorials were destroyed before the surrender in 1945 and only the ceremonial 120 steps leading to the memorial and two entrance pillars remain at the site today. The summit of the hill (where P. Ramlee ‘cradled’ Rokiah in Putus Harapan) is now used for a transmission tower operated by Mediacorp, and is out of bounds to the public.

 

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Further Reading:
Bukit Batok Memorial. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2008.

Film Images:
© 1953 Malay Film Productions
© 2002 Music Valley

Photographs:
© 2012 Toh Hun Ping

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