A Commentary By Ravindran Raman Kutty
Remembering the great artiste of Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR: Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr. P Ramlee, a Malaysian film actor, director, singer, songwriter, composer, and producer.
Due to his contributions to the movie and music industry and his literary work, he is considered the icon of Malay entertainment Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia.
The movie Bakti, launched the icon of Malaysian filmdom, P. Ramlee as a charismatic screen hero, by our doyen of Malaysian film industry none other than Tan Sri Datuk Dr. L Krishnan.
I would like to remember this great legend and doyen of the Malay movies, which I never fail to enjoy too.
It was about 15 years ago, when I was watching the famous “Laksamana Do Re Mi” and “Ali Baba and 40 thieves”, my son who was just five and my daughter who was three was so excited to see the movies, were roaring with laughter and enjoying every move this effervescent hero makes.
I was so surprised by the power of his movies. The movie has a natural attraction for any age. Whether you are 5 or 50 or 70 you will always enjoy P Ramlee’s movies. My children started watching his movies without fail. I am totally awed by the way he presents and acts.
The great P Ramlee was born on 22 March 1929. His late father, Teuku Nyak Puteh, was a sailor from Acheh, who later married Che Mah Hussain.
He attended Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Melayu Kampung Jawa and Francis Light primary school. Next he was at the famous Penang Free School until the Second World War broke out. During the Japanese occupation years in Malaysia, he continued his studies at the Japanese Navy Academy. When the war ended, he resumed his studies in Penang Free School and was very active in sports.
In 1947, he won the first place in a song competition organised by Penang Radio. Seven years after his acting career started, P. Ramlee directed his first film, Penarek Becha. In 1957, he appeared in the first of his Bujang Lapok comedic films, in which he acted along with Aziz Sattar and S. Shamsuddin, and which are still popular among modern Malay film watchers.
During his career he directed and acted in 66 films, and had more than 360 songs to his credit. He returned permanently to Kuala Lumpur after years with Shaw Brothers in Singapore.
His final film was Laksamana Do Re Mi in 1973. In his last song, “Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur” (Tears in Kuala Lumpur), also in 1973, the lyrics depicted his crushed feelings from a series of disappointments and setbacks upon returning to Malaysia after years in Singapore.
P. Ramlee was married three times. His first marriage, to Junaidah in 1950, ended in a divorce four years later. His second marriage, in 1955 to Noorizan Mohd. Noor Menonolq, a member of the Perak Royalty, ended in divorce as well in 1961. His last marriage was in November 1961, to singer Salmah Ismail, who was better known as Saloma.
On 29 May 1973, P. Ramlee died at the age of 44 from a heart attack and was buried at Jalan Ampang Muslim Cemetery, in Kuala Lumpur.
In 1986, 13 years after his death, in honour of his contributions to the Malaysian entertainment industry, the P. Ramlee Memorial or Pustaka Peringatan P. Ramlee was built in his home in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.
In 1982, the street Jalan Parry, in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, was renamed Jalan P. Ramlee in his honour. In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Malaysian honorific title Tan Sri, and then in 2009, the honorific title of “Datuk Amar” by Sarawak State Government. The Chief Minister of Sarawak then, Datuk Pattingi Abdul Taib Mahmud (now Tun), an avid fan of P. Ramlee, presented the award to his adopted daughter, Dian P. Ramlee, in a ceremony honouring veteran artistes in Kuching.
On 31 October 2010, a 90-minute documentary on his life was aired on History Channel Asia. During the documentary, it was revealed that P. Ramlee’s death was a shock to the nation, and a sense of collective guilt began to spread nationwide. Prior to his death he had been discredited and rejected by his own nation, citing that he was a “has been” and that his songs and film were no longer marketable.
The documentary also revealed that despite his previous success in the entertainment industry, P. Ramlee died a poorman; having given away the last of his money to a visitor to the house whom he deemed needed the money more than he.
The P. Ramlee House is a museum situated along Jalan P. Ramlee (formerly Caunter Hall road) in Penang, Malaysia. The building is a restored wooden house that was originally built in 1926 by his father and uncle.
The house had previously undergone multiple repairs before being taken over by the National Archives as an extension of its P. Ramlee Memorial project in Kuala Lumpur. -Bernama