The cinema landed in Malaysian land in the early twentieth century, that is when Malaysia was still under the British protectorate. According to SIMPLYYELLOWPAGES, the industry was managed by some Chinese entrepreneurs, who had already opened cinemas since 1907 and organized the distribution of films imported from China. A properly Malaysian production, on the other hand, only began in 1933 with Layla Majnun, the only film made by the Motilal company (now lost), directed by Indian director BS Rajhans and inspired by the best-known love novel of the Islamic tradition; the direction conformed to the model of the opera house, a show at that time very popular with all Malaysian society. The performers were recruited from among the actors and singers, to exploit the success already achieved on the stage and in this way characterize cinema as a spectacle capable of immediately gaining the favor of the general public. Also important was the subsequent work of Rajhans, Menantu durhaka (1942), one of the last films produced in Malaysia before the suspension of all activities in the cinematographic field caused by the dramatic developments of the Second World War. The figure of this director, author of a rich filmography made over the course of twenty years, contributed decisively to the growth of Malaysian cinema. before the suspension of all activities in the cinematographic field caused by the dramatic developments of the Second World War. The figure of this director, author of a rich filmography made over the course of twenty years, contributed decisively to the growth of Malaysian cinema. before the suspension of all activities in the cinematographic field caused by the dramatic developments of the Second World War. The figure of this director, author of a rich filmography made over the course of twenty years, contributed decisively to the growth of Malaysian cinema.
Already in the years preceding the world conflict, with the Shaw brothers – Runme and Run Run – the creation of an economic empire was defined such that, at the end of the war, in all Asian countries there were hundreds of rooms: through the SB companies, they produced Malay-language cassette films, which were inspired by both Western opera and a type of Indonesian theater show in which singing was not foreseen. allowed the identification of a name (or names) to which to attribute the direction of the films, which mostly arose from teamwork based on the collaboration of the various professionals involved.
As a theater of various war operations during the Second World War, Malaysia also suffered the invasion of Japan: many of the films and materials shot up to that time were destroyed by the Japanese, or even used for propaganda purposes. After the war, the young P. Ramlee (stage name of Teuku Zakariah bin Teuku Nyak Puteh) came to the fore in Malaysian cinema who, after having achieved fame as an actor and star singer in over sixty films – but also as a writer and composer -, he went behind the camera, signing, between 1953 and 1971, about thirty works, including the social comedy Semerah padi (1956, Red as the ears of rice), later recognized as a classic of national cinema. In the meantime, Rajhans also continued to work, realizing between other Seruan Merdeka (1946, Request for Independence), a film about the anti-Japanese resistance, in which for the first time no theater-trained actors were employed. Meanwhile, the Shaw brothers’ SB, now Malay Film Production, had established itself as the leading Malaysian production company. Rajhans himself collaborated with Malay Film Production to direct works that met with enthusiastic response from the public, such as Singapura Diwaktu Malam (1947, Singapore by night) and Cinta (1948, Love). The reasons for this great economic and stardom success, totally unexpected, can be traced in the topics addressed: stories drawn from popular tradition, expertly seasoned with comedy and fantasy, or ancient legends with an edifying but light plot, already very familiar to the spectators. At the end of the 1940s, in the wake of this immense success, alongside the Malay language production, another trend was established thanks to the arrival, as well as Filipino authors, also of many directors from India, called to satisfy the tastes of the audience of Indian origin. Thus a new style was defined, based on simple stories interspersed with dance and song numbers, with rather rigid models of characters and fixed roles. During the 1950s Malay Film Production found itself sharing the market with Carthay-Keris. In 1957, Malaysia had gained independence within the Commonwealth. Over the next decade came the crisis, accelerated in 1965 by Singapore’s detachment from the Federation and the development of the television industry: many private companies closed their doors, while the state intervened first in 1967, with the creation of a public company for the production of documentaries, Filmen Negara Malaysia, and later, in 1981, of an organization responsible for supporting the development of movie industry. The television production of the 1980s replaced a large part of film activity; however, it should be noted the debut of the director Aziz Malaysia Osman with Fenomena (1990, Fenomeno), followed by Fantasia (1991), a film repeatedly censored for offending the Islamic religion, XX ray (1993, Raggi X), Puteri Impian (1998, The dreamed princess) and finally Senario lagi (2000, Scenario 2a part).