Hollywood of Southeast Asia – was what Singapore was once known as in the late 40s to early 70s. Singapore’s cinema industry had a golden age of producing over 300 film masterpieces, such as Pontianak in 1957, and famous producers and directors like P Ramlee.
Unfortunately, the younger generation like us never got to experience the glory Singapore once had. The separation of Singapore and Malaysia cost us to lose talented producers, directors, and actors as they based themselves in Malaysia. The introduction of television and imported blockbuster films, which were regarded to be ‘better quality’, also eventually ended the golden period despite valiant efforts to keep it.
It is a shame that there is not much mention of Singapore’s early cinema days in the media, but fret not, it will play a big part in Mediacorp’s new season of Titoudao.
Titoudao: Dawn Of A New Stage
The new season, which premiered on Mar 14, 2023, spotlights the Pontianak film series, and zooms in on the film and entertainment industry in Singapore during that time. After a groundbreaking first season where the story of a local Wayang (Chinese street opera) star was brought to life, the second season seeks to broaden its scope on old forms of local art.
As a part of Mediacorp’s Lights. Camera. Singapore. showcase of local storytelling, Titoudao’s world will expand into a universe revolving around Bangsawan (Malay operatic theatre) and early Singapore cinema.
The second season takes place from 1969 to the late 1970s as the protagonist, Ah Chiam, makes an effort to find new meaning in her life after being banished by her Wayang troupe and her wedding cancelled. The world of filmmaking comes into place through the introduction of new characters played by familiar local stars – Tay Ping Hui as Richard Tang, a film industry tycoon, Shrey Bhargava as Vijay, an eccentric filmmaker famed for his Pontianak franchise, and Noah Yap as Tony, Vijay’s patient and resourceful right-hand man.
Speaking to The Republican Post, Tay reflected on his role and how it connects audiences to local culture.
The actor will be playing Richard Tang in the new season of Titoudao, a character who has certain visions that he wants for the Singapore movie industry and has very high hopes for his son. Richard is also a powerful man that owns a movie empire and is used to having his way. As the show goes along, viewers can expect to see how his character will come together with the Wayang world and his mysterious dark past from the second episode onwards.
As the show also tries to connect the audience with local history and heritage, he also recognises this new direction the local media is taking to.
“I think Singapore has a lot of interesting cultures because if you look at it, there are so many many things from the past that are lost today. For example, Wayang. I think there is a lot of charm and history in Singapore itself, whether it is Wayang Kulit or Bangsawan et cetera, and a lot of these are lost,” he said.
“Singapore has so much history and culture, and I feel that a lot is dying because life is moving on really fast. The younger generation does not have enough exposure, so you guys don’t see the importance of preserving what heritage we have.”
Tay debuted when Mediacorp was at its peak during the 2000s. He had worked alongside famous actors during that time such as Fann Wong, who appeared in the first season of Titoudao, and Chen Liping, who will appear in the second season as her first English drama role. He had been playing numerous roles in both Channel 8 and Channel 5 and even directed his own films, like Meeting the Giant, in the past years.
Tay shared that he initially didn’t want to be an actor. He always felt that acting was not really a career to pursue. “Oh, you just pretend to be someone, how hard can it be, right?” he joked, recalling his youthful attitude towards acting.
He felt humbled when he started acting in the role he was first offered in the late ‘90s, which was Liu Dongcheng in Are You My Brother? (错体双宝). When Mediacorp came to formally offer a contract, he was actually planning to pursue an MBA at Harvard at that time, but he decided to stay to give acting a shot instead. Eventually, he fell in love with acting as he realised that it is both a “very technical and an emotional craft” that many people don’t seem to see. Thankfully he’s still very much in love with acting today as he realised that “the more you know, the more you don’t know”.
He added: “One of the strengths of Mediacorp is recreating the olden days such as the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s Singapore, which I think is a huge attraction. There are a lot of things that we can explore, and based on historical facts that we can write about.”
Titoudao is Mediacorp’s first English period series – something that is not often seen on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney+. Singapore’s culture and heritage are an important part of our history and the local media plays an important role in letting us know what it is all about. The newer generation also plays a big part in preserving Singapore’s history. As Singapore’s history gets more exposure to the newer generation, it will let us see the purpose and need to preserve the cultures and heritage of Singapore that is dying like Wayang.
If you are not sure where to start exploring Singapore’s past, watch the first season of Titoudao which is now available on Netflix and mewatch.
The first season which was released in 2020 won numerous awards, namely “Best Original Screenplay” at the Asian Academy Creative Awards National Winners 2020 and “Best Production Design/Art Direction – Silver” at the New York Festivals TV & Film Awards 2021. TiTouDao had also been snapped up by Netflix, HBO GO and Radio Television Brunei.
Starting Mar 14, 2023, Titoudao: Dawn Of A New Stage will be available on mewatch and Channel 5, every Tuesday at 9.30 p.m. It will also be available on Mediacorp Drama on YouTube from Mar 21, 2023.