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Puteri Gunung Ledang

Starring - M. Nasir, Tiara Jacquelina

Director- Saw Teong Hin


its pretty good to be reviewing a malaysian production here and i'm hoping non-malaysians find their way to reading this. 

after the hype of being the most expensive malaysian film made and the awesome looking trailers, i've been looking forward to catching this movie since march. i love the asmaradana soundtrack they flooded the radiowaves with and liked the full page adverts as well, all the while fully aware that the movie itself had a high chance of being a total piece of shit, going by how low malaysian movie standards tend to be (in terms of acting, scripting and editing). 

so- what do i think of the epic of Hang Tuah and the Majapahit princess's forbidden love? -it's pretty good

the (notso)special effects and action sequences were shit despite having so many crew members from the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (CTHD) set and many of the spiritual/supernatural elements of the movie fell flat because of this. scenes where the Hindu practising Majapahit princess and her brother teleport/mentally project themselves to other places could have looked less lame with better digital effects. the Malaysian martial arts style of silat could've looked a lot better with better choreography. 

the storytelling of the movie was pretty good. but i wonder how people overseas who are less knowledgeable about the political and historical events surrounding the Melakan legend, will understand what exactly is going on. many non-malaysians will find it difficult to catch  the concept of patronage (where weaker nations pay vast tributes to stronger nations for protection) and the differences of culture and religion between the Melakans and Majapahit.   

a big part of why i liked sitting through this movie was because of the way it unfolded all my secondary school history lessons of the warring territories of Melaka, Majapahit and Demak(?) and the political structure of the region. also, i thought the movie fleshed out legendary characters like the ever-loyal admiral Hang Tuah, wise TunPerak-styled Bendahara (PrimeMinister) and power/lust hungry Sultan pretty well. 

Like most Malay movies, sequences were draggy and much of the plot was subtle or left hanging at places. However, the awesome sets, detailed costumes and epic soundtrack helped make up for the film's weaker moments. All in, like some have said, it could've been better, (especially with the money spent) but Puteri Gunung Ledang is a decent effort.


Foreigner's Guide to Understanding The Princess of Mount Ledang

if you've just watched the movie and don't quite understand certain things about the it, here is where I hope to help explain Malaysian aspects of the film non-locals might not get.

why is it Puteri and her brother seem to have magical powers ?

the princess and her brother practice Hindu-ism and are not Muslims therefore, they believe in the supernatural. 

why does everyone act funny when the Princess appears in her ugly grandmother form in the jungle ?

it is a common Malaysian belief that ghosts in the form of various old people or monsters reside in jungles and appear from time to time to disturb and scare humans. in order to resist getting "attacked" you must show that you are in the jungle with pure intentions and you will not disturb the creatures living there.

why is Hang Tuah so bloody loyal to the King and why is everyone including the wise Prime Minister so subservient to the King ?

in Malay tradition, the King is granted powers from Heaven to rule and all must obey him. his Cabinet of sorts comprising of the Prime Minister, Treasurer, military man and others all must answer to him. Hang Tuah is most loyal to his country and serves his King blindly, going against his love and (in another legend) his brotherhood with his closest friends. 

what is that funny looking sword thing and what was that Tamingsari nonsense about ?

those are called Keris- the Malay traditional weapon and Hang Tuah's sword was called Tamingsari, supposedly blessed with supernatural powers. It is the Malay equivalent to Excalibur. 

why aren't there any sex scenes ?

malaysians are traditionally conservative people- even back in ancient times, couples only "get it on" after they're married. even the dance Tuah and the Princess had at night alone can be considered askew from tradition as men and women are not supposed to engage in activities alone at night. 

what language is that they're speaking- it doesn't sound like it's out of the Malay dictionary ?

it's a classical form of Malay, much of it contains a dialect only used when conversing with royalty. the dialogues between the Majapahit people also contain Javanese accents and slangs. 

i didn't quite like the storyline and thought some of the characters behaved stupidly...

as the movie is based loosely on several Malay legends, the characters' behavior might not make much sense to some. classic literature also contains many exaggerated sequences, hence the use of magic, fight scenes in alternate dimensions and so on. the film was not trying to appear flashy for the sake of flashiness, but merely trying to follow parts of the legend as told in classic literature.


more on the legend-






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