mother india 2

Going to a movie was always exciting, and I would make sure that I would not be left behind. It was always our maid-servant Mak Yang who would make the announcement to me and I in turn would shout to my three ‘sisters’. It did not matter at all what the movie was all about, as long as we were going to the cinema to watch a movie.

During my early days I liked to watch the Malay movies more because I understood every word spoken. Once in a while, my uncle Wak Man (Othman) would bring me to see an English movie; of cowboys and red Indians, of the good cowboys and the bad ones, of Hercules and at the end of these movies I understood nothing. However, it was very easy to tell which was the hero, because he must be very good looking and the bad guy surely looked very fierce and ugly. When they both fought each other, I would be very uneasy when the good looking guy was down but when he managed to fight back and eventually won the fight, that made my day.

Once my uncle Wak Man brought me to watch a movie about a strong man with very long hair. He was so strong that he could fight a very fierce lion with his bare hands. But in the middle of the movie, I changed my mind of liking him because he began to fall in love with a woman who later betrayed him. I told myself why he liked this naughty woman? I thought to myself that he was very stubborn and served him right because the naughty woman cut his hair while he was sleeping. When his hair became short, he wasn’t strong any longer. I hated him because he was so stupid to fall in love with a naughty woman. His name was Samson and that naughty woman’s name was Delilah. When I returned home, I told everyone the story about this stupid Samson. Later when I played games with my males cousins, I never wanted to be Samson because I thought he was stupid and I prefered to be Hercules.

It was sometime in 1958 and we were going to watch a Hindustani movie, a first for me. In the evening the four of us discussed about this coming movie. Earlier grandma had given Mak Yang $1.20cents, the price of two pickets for me and Kak Fuzi while the price of the other two tickets were paid by their mother. Mak Yang’s son, Mak Siput was assigned to get the tickets and he’d better hurry because this movie was a blockbuster.

Malays of my time were fanatic fans of Hindustani movies. Most Hindi movies were shown at the Asiatic cinema and when that happened the road fronting the cinema would be crowded with the intending audiences as well as the cyclists. The small area around this cinema would be very chaotic making it difficult for cars to pass through. There would obviously be touts all over selling tickets at inflated prices. When the ticket counter opened for business, those that had waited for hours standing by the counter began to scramble for their tickets. Those at the front could easily get a heart attack if they were not strong enough and those at the back sometime would climb over the heads of those at the front. It was quite similar to a wrestling competition.

Mother India is a1957 Hindi epic melodrama about a single mother who was very poor and having to raise her two sons. It is the story of a poverty-stricken village woman named Radha, who in the absence of her husband, struggles to raise her sons and survived against a money-lender amidst many troubles. Despite her hardship, she sets a goddess-like moral example of an ideal Indian woman. The stars are Nargis, Sunill Dutt, Rajendra Kumar and few others.

Somehow most Hindi movies are very lively and the songs are quite long. If I were to start driving from my house in Bangsar when the song started, it may still be running when I reached Kajang. And the actors/actresses need at least five costumes for one song. When the actor/actress started singing, he/she could well be somewhere up in the mountain and when the second verses of the lyrics came, he/she could be somewhere at the lake down the mountain. Sometime when a sad song was being sung, all the crowds shown in the film would stand and listened with some crying like as though they experienced the singer’s ordeal as well. And the audience too would shed their tears, some cried more worse than the crowds that watched the singer singing in the movie. The directors of these Hindi movies deserve credits for being able to make the audience visibly moved. The beauty about Hindi movies is that this trend has not changed until today.

It was now 7pm and I had taken my bath early. We had to leave home by 8.00pm as the movie would start at around 9.15pm. Tonight I would be wearing a very colourful shirt made by grandma. She had bought the cloth at the Tai Tong Textiles situated along Jalan Abdullah. The cloth was to make a Malay dress for herself but there was some pieces left and most ideal to make a nice shirt for me. It was not only colourful but so flowery and very timely for me to show-off. When dinner was served, I was not too keen to eat as the excitement had begun to overtake me and Mak Yang was in her room doing some make-up. She had her dinner earlier so that she had more time to dress and tonight my auntie Mak Chu volunteered to wash the plates. Likewise my three ‘sisters’ were busy at their home getting themselves ready for the movie. By 8pm, I was more than ready, jumping unnecessarily at the front gate of our house alone while waiting for Mak Yang and my three ‘sisters’. Seconds later all of them appeared and Mak Yang was grinning so wide. We began our walk to the Asiatic cinema at about 8.05pm, a journey that would take us about twenty minutes of brisk walking.

It was a moonlit night and the stars could been seen glittering making the heavenly sky so reflecting with lights. Muar town at 8pm was quiet and we could hardly see any cyclist passing by. Most houses were closed and we could only see glimpse of light at every windows. We took our stroll along Jalan Omri passing every lamp posts until we reached the junction of Jalan Majidee where stood the Muar High School. I told Kak Fuzi that when I grew older, I would like to go to this school and Kak Shidah interrupted saying that I must study very hard in order to go to this school. As we reached nearer to the town center, the number of people around the road was beginning to increase and one or two cars could be seen moving, Many becas were full with their respective passengers and all were heading towards the cinema. The number of cyclists too increased more and more.

When we finally reached the Asiatic cinema, it was so crowded that we found it difficult to reach the entrance door. The 9.15pm show would be the last show for the day and there were still people inside the cinema waiting for the 7.15pm show to finish. While waiting for our turn to enter the cinema, we stood near the entrance holding our hands together. Mak Yang had gone to buy some tit-bits for us to bite later. We could hear the sound of the movie still showing inside the cinema and once in a while we could hear the clapping sound produced by the satisfied audiences. It must be a very good ending to deserve that thunderous claps.

The 7.15pm show finally ended and the entrance door was opened. Scores of people began to come out from the cinema. There were three exits, two on the ground and one via the upstairs exit. It became even more crowded and people had to tip-toe to get moving. Some carried their newly born babies and their cries added to the din. Small children our age too were around accompanied by the adults. Ninety-nine percent of the audiences were Malays.

As the advertisement slots began to appear on the screen, Hindustani songs too began and they were all very lively. Outside the hall, some people were already dancing to the tune watched by some others who were likewise shaking their heads and clapping their hands. Everyone was excited to watch this latest blockbuster brought direct from India. There were quite a number of those who had already watched the movie perhaps more than three times and some told the new comers what to expect. We were now entering the entrance door and stood there waiting for the usher to show our seats. Mak Yang gave each one of us a packet of kauci for us to bite during the show. When it was finally our turn, we followed the usher who showed us our seats situated at the center. Those already seated had to stand up to let us to our seats, and the fat ones had to go out first so that we all could pass through. When we finally sat down, the screen began to show some forthcoming movies to be shown in this cinema.

The movie began with a slow Hindi music and it was soothing to the ears. Smokers began their puff and the smoke began to fill the open space. The ceiling fans moved so fast that the sound could be heard sometime louder than the music. It was almost 9.30pm, the usual bedtime for me but tonight I wanted to stay awake and enjoy Mother India. Mak Yang’s eyes were very focused and slowly she began to tear the kauci packet. The four of us too began to start biting our kauci…seconds later the drama began and the hall was silent except for the sound of the ceiling fans. The casts were speaking in the Hindi language and I understood nothing. I was wondering how come these ninety-nine percent Malays could understand this Hindi movie. Maybe they were relying on the sub-titles but I was not able to read yet. Suddenly it was dark and total silence.

“Din, Din…bangun, nak balek ni!” (Din, wake up, its time to go home), Mak Yang said to me as I was lying on her lap. I felt drowsy and could not lift my head. Then she called me again and shook my body. “Tu lah, siapa suruh ikut, kan dah tidur” ( Who ask you to follow, you spent your time sleeping. ), Kak Fuzi said. I woke up and sat on my seat for few seconds before I could stand up.

The crowd was moving slowly toward the exit and a Hindi song was on. I felt so sleepy that I could not walk properly. Now the thought of walking home was unthinkable and so I immediately suggested that we should take a beca home instead. On the way home on the beca, I complained that no one bothered to wake me up when I fell asleep. My three ‘sisters’ and Mak Yang laughed at me because they all tried to wake me up maybe more than a hundred times.

That was the first Hindustani move I watched, a movie that never was.

In later years I watched quite a number of Hindi movies and truly enjoyed them. I liked watching Sangam so much that I must have watched it a number of times. The last Hindi movie I watched is Kush Kush Horta Hey…played by the famous actor Shah Rukh Khan.

Ok guys, suddenly I am thinking of going to Youtube now and watch this movie Mother India again, the one that I watched while sleeping sometime in the year 1958.

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  1. harith says:

    Salam Abg Din,
    Long time no respond to your articles.

    Another interesting subject but you have only touch the surface of the this certain special interest or inclination of our society towards Hindustani movies. I think the 60s and 70s was the era of memorable Hindustani movies, numerous in numbers and one after another being shown alternately alongside English and Chinese movies.

    Simple predictably story-line where the ending will be known from the first 15 minutes – handsome actors and pretty actresses…melodious songs and music…thrills and fights and comedic appearance in between…everything nicely blended…and the memorable playback singing and songs by Mohd Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bonsle

    I was yet to be an earthling when Mother India was shown…I could have watched a rerun many many decades after that.

    As far as I can remember my first Hindustani movie was Mere Mehboob…could be somewhere in the mid sixties and I could have watched it on my sister’s lap.

  2. Harith says:

    This is certainly news and all went on as planned!
    With prominent figures at the launching I think your maiden book will be well-received…I believe not only from Johoreans but elsewhere. I will e-mail to you my address soon.

    Thanks to you and salam.

  3. Muarian says:

    En Din,

    Glad to know that your finally launching your book. You have stated your date but not the time and place. Congratulation again.

    • Salam Muarian. It will held at the restaurant of my uncle Don, Don’s Warong/Warong Uncle Don, Plaza Damas, Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur. Time will be at 3pm.

      If you are staying in Kuala Lumpur, do drop by. You will surely see many Muarians. Introduce yourself to me as “Muarian”, and I would surely remember another of my reader.

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