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Bidasari is a 1965 Malaysian black-and-white romantic-drama film starring Jins Shamsuddin and Sarimah. The film is notable as having dialogue that is written almost completely as rhyming poetry. The story is based on the Malay poem Bidasari which has some similarities with the western fairy-tale of Snow White.
When a simple merchant, his young son and mute servant are out in the woods, they chance upon a drifting boat, in which there is a baby girl and a bowl containing a live goldfish. The merchant realises that the baby is unusual because her life is bonded to the fish: if the fish leaves the water, she stops breathing. The merchant adopts the baby as her own and names her Bidasari. Years later Bidasari grows up into a beautiful young woman while the merchant has prospered into a wealthy businessman.
At the royal palace of this kingdom, the King has just remarried a beautiful woman, the Permaisuri (Queen). The Permaisuri is a proud woman who secretly practises witchcraft. Hidden in her chambers is a magic mirror that can show her anything she asks. She uses it to ask who the most beautiful in all the land is. One day when she asks the mirror this question, the image of Bidasari appears in it. She is enraged by this and carries out a search to find who Bidasari is.
Her search leads her to the merchant's house. Under the guise of kindness, the Permaisuri asks the merchant for permission to bring Bidasari to the palace to be her companion. Although the merchant is reluctant to part with his beloved daughter, he lets her go. But once Bidasari arrives at the palace, she is sent to the kitchens as a servant, where she is starved and given the dirtiest jobs.
After the Permaisuri is satisfied that Bidasari has been ruined, she once again asks her magic mirror who is the most beautiful in the land. When the mirror shows Bidasari yet again, the Permaisuri flies into a rage and runs to the kitchen where she grabs burning pieces of firewood which she tries to burn Bidasari's face with. She is shocked when the fire goes out and Bidasari's face is left untouched. Bidasari, who has by now realised that the Permaisuri's malice is targeted only at her and will never stop, begs for mercy and explains her life is bonded to that of a fish that is kept in a bowl in her father's garden.
The Permaisuri has a servant steal the fish for her from the merchant's garden, and as soon as the fish leaves the water, Bidasari collapses and stops breathing. Satisfied that Bidasari's life is in her hands, the Permaisuri hangs the fish around her neck as a trophy. When she asks the mirror who is the most beautiful in the land, the mirror shows her own image.
The merchant realises that the fish is missing, and is told that Bidasari died mysteriously at the palace. Her body is returned to him and he builds a small tomb for her in the woods where her body is laid out in peace.
Meanwhile, the Permaisuri's stepson the Prince has been having dreams about Bidasari, although he has never met her. The dreams plague him even in his waking hours, despite his father's advice that such a beautiful woman cannot exist. The Permaisuri sees her stepson acting this way and plants a painting of Bidasari in his room. The Prince finds the painting, which leads him to the merchant who explains the sad tale of Bidasari's death and the mysterious disappearance of the fish.
The Prince decides to visit Bidasari's tomb to see her beauty with his own eyes. Coincidentally at this time, back at the palace the Permaisuri is having a bath in the royal bathing pool. The fish manages to break free of its locket and drops into the water where it starts swimming. This causes Bidasari to wake up right before the Prince's eyes. Bidasari tells him of what the Permaisuri did to her, which confirms the Prince's suspicions of his stepmother.
When the Permaisuri finishes her bath, she discovers that the fish has gotten free. She manages to catch it just as the Prince is about to help Bidasari leave the tomb, causing her to fall unconscious again. The Prince places Bidasari back in the tomb and promises to make things right.
The Prince returns to the palace in a fury, demanding that the Permaisuri give him the fish. The Permaisuri pretends not to know anything, and when the King listens to the Prince's explanation, the King declares that his son has gone insane and calls the royal guards. A fight ensues, during which the Permaisuri is injured and dies.
Just before the Prince is about to be captured, the merchant and the Prince's loyal manservants arrive with Bidasari on a stretcher. The merchant explains that the story about the fish being bonded to Bidasari's life is true. The Prince takes the fish from the locket around the Permaisuri's neck and puts it into a bowl of water. As soon as the fish enters the water, Bidasari comes back to life. The King apologises to his son, and the Prince and Bidasari are married.
- Sarimah as Bidasari
- Jins Shamsuddin as Putera