Original film title in Malay: Siapa Salah?
Literal English translation of film title: Who is Guilty?
Directed by B. N. Rao
Written by B. N. Rao
Starring: P. Ramlee, Daeng Idris, Neng Yatimah, Normadiah
Produced by Malay Film Productions (Shaw Bros.)
Tanjong Pagar Railway Station
Bukit Timah Road (vicinity of King Albert Park)
Former Tanah Merah Gun Powder Magazine (Upper East Coast Road)
Jamil (P. Ramlee) is the son of a wealthy family in Kuala Lumpur who falls in love with their maid’s daughter Noorma (Normadiah). His class-conscious parents, however, did not approve of their relationship. Noorma and her mother are given a sum of money and sent back to their kampong. This prompts Jamil to quit his family and its riches to seek a reunion with her beloved Noorma. Soon, they are happily married and pursue a frugal lifestyle. With the death of his mother-in-law and the arrival of his newborn son, Jamil struggles to make ends meet with his job as a painter. He overworks and strains his eyes so much that he goes blind, leading Noorma to find employment at a restaurant first as a waiter, and then a singer. She attracts the attention of a regular customer who attempts to rape her, but she accidentally kills him out of defense. She is jailed for manslaughter.
At the courthouse (Supreme Court), the judge is sympathetic of Noorma’s tragic circumstances and releases her from prison (fictionally located at Upper East Coast Road’s Tanah Merah Gun Powder Magazine), for her to be eventually reunited with her son and dear husband Jamil.
The gunpowder magazine at Tanah Merah, along Upper East Coast Road, opened on 31 July 1869 with a luncheon attended by nearly two hundred people. Its joint proprietors were Tan Seng Poh (Seng Poh Road was named after him) and Lee Cheng Tee. This civilian-run magazine was built to store gunpowder at a safe and permanent location; the ammunition was likely for the use of local and regional merchants or triads to defend themselves against potential perpetrators or quell unrest in places where they had business interests.
1. Timothy P. Barnard, Sedih sampai buta: Blindness, modernity and tradition in Malay films of the 1950s and 1960s. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Vol. 161, No. 4 (2005), pp. 433-453.
2. ‘The New Powder Magazine’. Straits Times Overland Journal. 13 August 1869, p. 2.
3. ‘Finale to Upper East Coast Road: A Forgotten History (Peter Chan)’. Good Morning Yesterday blog. 18 February 2010.
4. Former Supreme Court Building. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2005.
5. Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2007.
© 1953 Malay Film Productions
© 2002 Music Valley
Digital Map Source:
Great Britain. Ordnance Survey, Singapore Island, National Library of Australia, MAP G8040 1941. [http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn1900708]
© 2013, 2014 Toh Hun Ping