Zakaria Omar Mohamed: We Will Never Forget the Genius of P. Ramlee

P Ramlee We will never forget the genius of this entertainer 15 jun 2011


CAPTIONThe late Tan Sri P. Ramlee created an entirely new genre of Malay music

THIRTY-EIGHT years ago, Malaysians were shocked by the news of the death of P. Ramlee, the nation’s beloved entertainer. Dubbed “The Charlie Chaplin of the East” — because of his talent — P. Ramlee was without doubt the most well-known artiste of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Born Teuku (Achinese for Tengku) Zakaria Teuku Nyak Putih in Penang, his foray into the celluloid world started in 1948 when the doyen of Shaw’s M.F.P. Studio in Singapore, the late B.S. Rajhans spotted him at a singing contest on the island.

So impressed was he with the young man’s talent and poise, that he promptly persuaded the “future legend” to move south.

An ardent admirer of Indian classical ragas as well as asli beat, P. Ramlee created an entirely new genre of Malay music.

His bright and breezy treatment of Inang Baru (Mak Inang as it was then known) continues to wow even to this day. His haunting melodies in Hang Tuah earned him The Best Music Award at the SEA Film Festival.

He is credited with over 200 songs, most of which are evergreen. Always receptive to new ideas, P. Ramlee’s second directorial effort, Panca Delima changed the course of Malay movies from amateur to international standard, while techniques used in Antara Dua Darjat and Sumpah Orang Minyak were as good as any foreign film.

Incidentally, Sumpah Orang Minyak won Best Cinematography at another SEA Film Festival. Other international awards included Best Actor for Anakku Sazali; Best Comedy for Pendekar Bujang Lapuk; and Most Versatile Actor for Ibu Mertuaku.

His simple dissertations on life were ahead of his time: infidelity, corruption, loan sharks, bohsia, race relations, good neighbourliness and even the rights of minorities (“Gua pun lokal sitizensip” — Chinese cobbler in Ali Baba).

I am paying tribute to P. Ramlee simply because he was a genius. Not only did he understand the art of movie-making, more importantly, he understood the minds of his countrymen.

That’s why whenever we watch his movies, we still cry and laugh at his tragedies and jokes. And unlike today’s local films, we can watch Tiga Abdul or Madu Tiga or any one of his movies for the umpteenth time and not get bored.

P. Ramlee died on May 29, 1973, (last month marked the thirty-eighth anniversary of his passing), but to his countless fans who grew up at a time when his movies were “Queen”, he is still alive — at least in their memory. (Excerpt from a letter published by New Straits Times, 15 June 2011.)


5 Responses “Zakaria Omar Mohamed: We Will Never Forget the Genius of P. Ramlee” →
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