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Labu dan Labi / Labu and Labi (1962)

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Published on May 2, 2006

A cook and a chauffeur in a rich household dream that they are a doctor and a magistrate going after their boss's daughter.

Inspired by the work of Malay showbiz icon P Ramlee, who made over 60 movies from the 50s to 70s in Singapore and Malaysia. His popularity spanned across all racial divide and social strata, and his memory is often evoked as a beacon for cultural pluralism and racial harmony.

Ironically however, the authorities have since censored scenes of kissing, profanity, corruption, drinking, smoking, gambling and nudity from his films, in line with the prevalent conservatism in contemporary Malay Muslim society.

For this series the artist has re-created key scenes from four of P Ramlee's best known films, playing a total of 16 different characters from a comedy, a melodrama, a social drama and a Malay period drama.
The scenes were chosen for the frank depiction of social and sexual mores of the local community at the time. Also, many of the chosen lines are classic quotations that have entered the popular lexicon of Malay society.

Relying on his limited knowledge of the Malay language, the artist can be seen repeating the lines in repeated takes of the same scene, along with a simultaneous transcription and literal translation in English in the subtitles - as in a foreign language instructional video.
The work traces the artist's attempt in adopting a 'foreign' language and cultural traits, albeit in ways that are deliberately nostalgic, melodramatic, poetic, etc.

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