Sunday, March 27, 2016


By Mansor Puteh

When most or everybody talks about P. Ramlee and his limited artistic achievements all of them neglected to say or admit that they had indeed caused a lot of damage to the whole industry.

It was good for him to be able to achieve them when he was at the heights of his career as an actor and director and also composer and singer. But giving him a multi-talent award by the Asian Film Festival had indeed caused more damage than anyone could possibly imagine.

This had been used or misused by many who went overboard by giving him posthumous awards that he barely knew was coming, with halls and roads and now a university in his name. More will be done by those in authority to show their appreciation for what he had or might have done to the development of the arts and the cinema in the country.

But alas, his films are part of the cinema heritage of Singapore than for Malaysia; but since Singapore did not care to claim them, Malaysia seemed to have grabbed on his past works which were rejected by Singapore where his films were mostly made, where the site of the former Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Production Studios were located where it has been left behind.

The likelihood of this site being mowed down to make way for development seems bleak since the authorities in Singapore had given it some belated recognition by installing a special plague to indicate that it was where the studios were.

All around it are now high-rise apartments.

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It is ironic how the few recognition for best acting and best director that P. Ramlee had been given in the now-defunct Asian Film Festival held in Tokyo, Japan had indeed caused his stature to be elevated.

But the drawback or downturn is that this simple act had indeed caused the Old Malayan Cinema to collapse.

How could this have happened?

I am sure the audiences for the old Melayu films produced by the Shaw Brothers’ Malay Film Productions studios at 8 Jalan Ampas and Cathay-Keris Studios on East Coast Road in Singapore had learnt how to appreciate films and good acting more than they could before.

And in the process, too, they also learnt how to hate and not favor the others that the two studios were churning out to satisfy their needs.

The audiences that the films had from all the races in the country too became confused.

And this is not only a problem experienced by those in the country which then included Singapore but by those in the neighboring countries whose own cinemas were developing nicely and positively had to now grapple with such a major problem of audience acceptance.

In the end, by trusting the artistic achievements of one or two persons and some films, it caused the whole cinema to collapse.

This brings the issue concerning film festivals if they are any good to the audiences and the countries concerned, especially those that are organized in Europe and America which only aim to subjugate the development of the cinemas from where the films they had and can promote by giving them recognition to cause rifts and fiction amongst the cineaste, which is not good.

If P. Ramlee had not been given the awards in the Asian Film Festival, then surely, all the actors in the Old Malayan Cinema could have got equal attention and recognition from the audiences and public and this could result in all of them being able to develop their own potentials in their own way and speed.

It is therefore very bad and not healthy to trust one or two persons to represent the Old Malayan Cinema when it developed with the communal contribution of everybody; and more by the immigrant producers from Shanghai who established the film studios in Singapore then which unfortunately cannot be duplicated by the government so that a similar structure could be duplicated today to serve the industry as it tries to enter into the next level of development even with massive support from the federal government.

Unfortunately those in Finas and ministry do not have the talent, expertise or knowledge to achieve this so that the film industry of Malaysia today can be self-sustaining and even income-generating to serve a new cause, which is to promote national unity.

Finas and KKMM have failed on all scores. And giving P. Ramlee too much post-humous recognition is just one more proof of the dearth of ideas that the relevant authorities have and can conjure up with, when there are many other ways that they can do to ensure that Finas especially can do a better job.

Since Finas was established under the act of parliament in 1981, not much has happened to the industry that the three immigrant producers from Shanghai, Run Run Shaw and Run Me Shaw and Loke Wan Tho were able to do on their own, using their own expenses to invest in talent that was not there but who could bring them from all over the country using the bangsawan and boria performers and directing talents from India and the Philippines to jumpstart the industry so much so that in no time they were able to create what in later years could be described as the Old Malayan Cinema.

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In the final analysis, the industry does not benefit even a bit with the non-stop offering of posthumous recognition to P. Ramlee which can only mean how guilt-ridden those who are in position to do some, yet, with the limitations that they have, they choose to do only this and nothing more, especially to those who are still alive and have much to offer to develop the industry.

After P. Ramlee University, what next? 

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