2008 at age 55.)
Another trusted friend of the icon that the team got to interview before his passing a few years ago was Kwek Chip Jian, who was the manager at Studio Jalan Ampas in Singapore. Kwek apparently inspired the P. Ramlee song Kwek Mambo.
In the documentary, Kwek talks about their friendship during their days working at Studio Jalan Ampas.
Shuhaimi says her team had all the rare interviews in hand when they heard about the P. Ramlee project commissioned by AETN All Asia Networks, which owns and operates the channel History in Malaysia, and Finas (National Film Development Corporation).
“So we went to pitch for the project and here we are. I’m still pinching myself because I just can’t believe that we’ve finally documented P. Ramlee’s life and work for the public,” she said at the event also attended by Michele Schofield, AETN All Asia Networks vice-president of programming and production.
Shuhaimi also roped in composer Sharon Paul to re-score eight of P. Ramlee’s popular songs as background music for the documentary.
It took Shuhaimi and her 15member team eight months to put all the materials together.
“It was a learning experience for us, working with international viewers in mind. After discussions with History, we worked on the script and trimmed our three hours’ worth of materials down to a 90-minute biography,” said the Pesona Pictures managing director whose movie credits include 1957 – Hati Malaya, Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam ( PHSM) and PHSM 2, Waris Jari Hantu, Layar Lara and Selubung.
Through making the programme, A file photo of Tan Sri P. Ramlee and Puan Sri Saloma with their children. Shuhaimi has come to know the man better.
“He was an optimistic person. When things didn’t work out his way, he would take it positively and laughed it off through his movies.”
In P. Ramlee, viewers will see that in the late 1960s when his appeal started to wane in the face of competition from Indonesian, American and Hindi colour films, the television and a new generation of stars, the entertainer attempted to reinvent himself.
Sadly, those attempts were met with disdain and incredulity. The public made it clear that his time was over. He descended into depression.
At the last Asian Film Festival he attended, no one bothered to allocate him a seat and he ended up sitting at a back row with a friend.
Rejected by banks, denied of his cherished dream to direct his first colour film and finally booed off the stage in his last stage appearance, P. Ramlee died of a heart attack, broke and broken.
Shuhaimi adds that unknown to many, during his difficult years P. Ramlee was forced to open a shop renting out mahjong tables to raise money to finance his movies.
“This is the true story. It’s not to make him look bad but that’s the reality. He had a very difficult life after he left Singapore. Nobody was willing to help him in his moviemaking despite all the promises made to him (to get him to return to Kuala Lumpur then).
“Now Malaysians are commending him for his great work, not quite knowing the struggle he went through, especially in the last few years of his life. I really hope his story will give us, the new generation of moviemakers, some lessons to learn,” she concluded.
As his friend Aziz recalled: “P. Ramlee once told me, ‘Ajis, after I die, I will live on for a hundred years.’”
Finally, in death P. Ramlee has attained the immortality he sought but failed to achieve in life. n P.Ramlee premieres on History (Astro Channel 555) on Sunday, 9pm. Encores: Nov 1, 10pm; Nov 6, 7pm; Nov 15, 10pm. It’s available in dual language (English and Bahasa Malaysia) with subtitles in Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese. CELEBRITIES and fans came together to honour Tan Sri P. Ramlee in the Konsert Penghargaan P. Ramlee Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) auditorium last Sunday.
The appreciation concert saw performances by Amy Search, M. Nasir, Datuk Sharifah Aini, Ella, Ning Baizura, Misha Omar, Jaclyn Victor and Vince Chong. The line-up also included Malaysia’s new breed of singersongwriters such as Aizat, Yuna, Altimet, Hujan and Haziq. They joined hands to belt out cover versions of songs by P. Ramlee.
The event was jointly organised by AETN All Asia Networks and Astro in collaboration with DBKL. It was held as part of Astro’s month-long campaign celebrating the work of the late icon, and also as a prelude to the premiere of the original production P. Ramlee on the channel History on Sunday.
Over 600 guests attended the concert, including Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina and her husband Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi, Datin Seri Umie Aida, Sazzy Falak and Atilia. Also present were Astro chief operating officer Henry Tan and AETN All Asia Networks general manager Louis Boswell. n KonsertPenghargaan P.RamleeDiManaKanKu CariGanti airs on Astro over Ria (Channel 104), History HD (Channel 575) and PRAMLEE HD (Channel 188) at 9pm today, and on History (Channel 555) at 9pm tomorrow.
Jaclyn Victor, with Vince (left) and Aizat, dancing to Joget Malaysia at the concert in memory of P. Ramlee.