Original film title in Malay: Raden Mas
Directed by L. Krishnan
Written by Shariff Medan & M. Amin (adaptation and dialogue)
Starring: M. Amin, Nordin Ahmad, Latifah Omar, Siput Sarawak
Produced by Cathay-Keris
Mount Faber Road
Makam Puteri Radin Mas Ayu (a.k.a. ‘Keramat Radin Mas’)
Coastal kampongs of Singapore?
Offshore islands of Singapore?
THIS CATHAY-KERIS FILM PRODUCTION IS BASED ON THE LEGEND OF RADEN MAS AYU (the preferred spelling now is ‘Radin Mas Ayu’). The movie adaptation follows the original tale rather closely, though a few variations of the legend do exist. The essence of each of the variations is more or less the same: Radin Mas Ayu is the baby daughter of Pangeran (brother of the Sultan of Java) and a court dancer; she is forced to go on exile to Temasek with his father after the Sultan disagrees with her parents’ marriage and burns their house down, killing her mother. Radin Mas Ayu grows up to be a pious and filial daughter, but is despised out of jealousy by her stepmother. She eventually sacrifices herself as she shields her father from a murderous attack.
Before the narration of the legend begins proper, the film commences with a prologue – a “documentary” sequence of a drive up Mount Faber, where the tomb of Radin Mas Ayu was believed to be located. The text ‘Singapore Today’ appears over the images; this refers to the period when the film was made in late 1950s Singapore, which was hundreds of years after the ‘Temasek’ era during which Radin Mas Ayu was believed to have lived and later died on the island. (Temasek was the ancient name of the island of Singapore.)
The “person” behind the wheel drives up the slope along Mount Faber Road, passing the Radin Mas School (formerly Istana of Ungku Khalid, a brother of the Temenggong) and several houses by the road. Then, the destination of the uphill drive is reached: a keramat (shrine) made out of bricks and overgrown with a banyan tree. A sign at the keramat reads ‘“Makam Keramat Raden Mas” Puteri Yang Suchi’ (which roughly translates as ‘Tomb and Keramat of Radin Mas, a virtuous princess’). The sequence ends with a quick glimpse of the interior of the keramat where the tomb is, with a prayer session ongoing.
‘Makam Puteri Radin Mas Ayu’ (otherwise known as ‘Keramat Radin Mas’) is now still located at the same spot along Mount Faber Road, though the original overgrown tomb had been demolished after the structure was deemed unsafe. The ‘keramat’ housing the tomb is now a new single-storey modern building painted with ‘royal’ yellow, and is still well frequented by believers and pilgrims. Pak Daeng – who is the keramat’s caretaker in recent times and had undertaken its reconstruction – has also been making calls for an official investigation to verify the origins of the site and make recommendations for it to be recognized properly as a heritage site.
The kampong that was founded on the slopes of Mount Faber came to be named after this revered Javanese princess by the early 1900s – ‘Kampong Radin Mas’. It ceased to exist by the mid-1970s after the government took possession of the land occupied by the kampong and its residents were resettled in housing flats at Queen’s Close. ‘Radin Mas’ as a place-name remains till today though. The (relocated) Radin Mas Primary School is still in operation at nearby Bukit Purmei and the electoral constituency of the vicinity is called ‘Radin Mas’.
The later parts of the film also feature several locations that are yet to be identified (some of them could have been shot in the Malayan peninsula). A Chinese junk was filmed traveling in the seas, and was surrounded by several islands (were they offshore to Singapore?)
In the film, while on exile in Pulau Karimun, Radin Mas Ayu and her father Pangeran take residence in a thatched-roof hut opposite a coastal kampong. This kampong was also likely the same kampong with houses on stilts that is later attacked by a warrior’s army loyal to the exiled Pangeran. Could it, in reality, be a kampong located in Singapore then?
Further on in the film, an offshore island was identified as ‘Pulau Temasek’; this island with kampongs and stilt houses lining its coast is very small when compared to the real Temasek (Singapore), and could be an offshore island of Singapore in reality.
1. Ibrahim Tahir (ed), A Village Remembered: Kampong Radin Mas 1800s – 1973, Singapore: OPUS Editorial, 2013.
2. P. J. Rivers, ‘Keramat in Singapore in the mid-twentieth century’, in Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Vol 76, No. 2 (285) (pp. 93-119), Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2003.
3. Keramat Radin Mas. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2010.
4. Mount Faber. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2014.
5. ‘Rushed in to ‘save’ her child’. The Singapore Free Press. 22 August 1959, p. 5.
6. ‘Film stars give thanks at shrine’. The Singapore Free Press. 27 August 1959, p. 14.
7. ‘Singapore’s Keramats. Wonder-Working Shrines Sacred to Many Nationalities’. The Straits Times. 11 June 1939, p. 16.
© 1959 Cathay-Keris
© Music Valley
Digital Map Source:
Great Britain. Royal Air Force, Singapore photomap, National Library of Australia, MAP G8041.A4 s6 1950. [http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn502375]
© 2014 Toh Hun Ping