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Malaysia’s Charismatic Genius

January 2, 2011

Last night, I chanced upon a documentary on Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr.P. Ramlee, a Malaysian film director, producer, actor, singer, songwriter and composer. I wasn’t able to see the beginning of the docu at History Channel but I got so engrossed in knowing about his life — happy and sad — that I managed to finish the whole docu despite lengthy ad intermissions. What he had done really impressed me, the reason why I am writing about him now. It was my first time to learn about him but I think that he was a gem of a person as  an accomplished film director, the world, not only the Malaysians should be proud of.  He directed and acted in 66 films, and had more than 360 songs to his credit. Even though I couldn’t understand the lyrics of what he was singing in some of the film clips shown, I could feel the soul and his heart while singing his compositions. He was at the peak of his career almost as the same time as our own film director genius Gerardo De Leon and one of my favorite Indian film directors Ritwik Ghatak.

“On the 29th of May 1973, P. Ramlee died at the age of 44 due to a heart attack and was buried in Jalan Ampang Muslim Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur. His untimely death was a huge shock to the nation, and a sense of collective guilt began to spread nationwide, as prior to his death, he had been discredited and rejected by his own nation, citing that he was then a ‘has been’, and his songs and film were no longer marketable.

In 1986 (13 years after his death), in honor of his contributions to the Malaysian entertainment industry, the P. Ramlee Memorial was built in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur. In 1982, Jalan Parry, in the center of Kuala Lumpur, was renamed “Jalan P. Ramlee” in his honor. In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Malaysian honorific title “Tan Sri”, and later in 2009, the honorific title of ‘Datuk Amar’ by Sarawak State Government. The Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, an avid fan of P. Ramlee, presented the award to his adopted daughter, Dian P. Ramlee in a ceremony honoring veteran artists in Kuching. On 31 October 2010, a 90-minute documentary on his life was aired on History Channel Asia.” (Notes from Wikipedia. To read more, please click: Tan Sri Ramlee)

Without doubt, the documentary that I saw is the one being referred to above.

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