At last we have the most comprehensive bibliography facts and notes on the films of P. Ramlee. Filem-Filem P. RAMLEE compiled by Mustafar A.R. and Aziz Sattar is a labour of love.
Mustafar was an entertaiment journalist with Utusan Melayu and Aziz was involved as an actor in many of P. Ramlee's best remembered films. Mustafar joined the Utusan group in 1971 as reporter for the entertaiment magazine URTV. He left the group 27 years later.
Aziz first appeared with P. Ramlee in Putus Harapan in 1953, P. Ramlee's 17th. film after his first appeared as a bit actor in Chinta five years earlier. Aziz made his name in Bujang Lapok the first comedy directed by P. Ramlee.
It took Mustafar and Aziz a long time to complete the task which began in 1988. In his introduction, Mustafar mentioned how he was inspired to work on a book on P. Ramlee when he came across The Complete Films of John Wyane by Mark Ricci, Boris Zmijewsky and Steve Zmijewsky.
It took 20 years to realise his dream. He went through old magazines and newspapers, talked with to many directors, actors, musicians, even studio helpers who were involved with P. Ramlee in compiling the book.
Many things happened between 1988 and the publication of the book early this year. But Mustafar soldiers on. He roped in Aziz for his direct involvement with P. Ramlee for more than three decades.
Aziz was with the legend in good times and bad. When P. Ramlee directed Bujang Lapok (1957), Aziz was one of the three leading actors, the others were P. Ramlee and S. Shamsuddin.
It was P. Ramlee's fourth directorial effort after Penarek Becha, Semerah Padi dan Panca Delima
The trio reprised their roles in Pendekar Bujang Lapok in 1959, thus establishing P. Ramlee reputation as a director who was equally capable helming dramas, period plays and comedies.
P. Ramlee directed Aziz again in Ali Baba Bujang Lapok and Seniman Bujang Lapok. Ali Baba unlike the other Bujang Lapok films is supposed to be anchored in the time of the Arabian Nights, but P. Ramlee created a film replete with anachronism. His creative licence was used to the fullest. He was at his creative best.
The other two comedy series directed and acted by P. Ramlee was Labu Dan Labi (two films) and Do Re Mi (three films). The hilarious M. Zain was P. Ramlee sidekick in Labu Dan Labi and Nasib Si Labu Labi.
In the film P. Ramlee introduced a character that became synonymous with the idea being stingy, Haji Bakhil played by Udo Umar. Like P. Ramlee, M. Zain hailed from Penang, and died, like P. Ramlee, penniless at the relatively young age of 46 in 1967.
Aziz never again acted in films that broke box office receipts in films directed by others.
P. Ramlee's last film at Malay Film Productions (MFP) in Singapore was 3 Abdul, probably his most sarcastic comedy and one of the most under-rated Malay films of all time. It was 17th. film he directed at MFP, and 44th. film he was involved in as an actor.
It was one of the saddest moment of his entire career. He was told to pack his bags for Merdeka Film Studio (MFS) in Hulu Kelang, near Kuala Lumpur.
He has a lot of problems finishing 3 Abdul, among others the union - many of whose members were fellow actors and those he had helped make famous - which created unreasonable demands.
He left Kuala Lumpur immediately after shooting ended on April 16, 1964. He did not even see the preview. He bought his ticket at the Federal Theatre in Kuala Lumpur.
Malay cinema was the way down. Its golden era closely associated with P. Ramlee. When his best movies were made between 1955 and 1964, Malay movies were at their height. When he left for Kuala Lumpur, he made some good movies, but mostly bad ones.
None of his work in Kuala Lumpur could match his Penarek Becha, Antara Dua Darjat, Ibu Mertua Ku, Semerah Padi or Bujang Lapok and Labu Dan Labi.
There were glimpses of brilliance in Masam2 Manis, Do Re Mi or Sesudah Suboh, but many of the films are best forgotten.
P. Ramlee died at the age 44 in 1973.
The book is commendable as two compliers used their extensive knowledge and experience and, in the case Aziz, his personal involvement.
Forget about the quality of editing and design, it is meant to document P. Ramlee's contribution in the world of Malay cinema.
Not surprisingly, the book has a foreward by the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, a known fanatical follower of P. Ramlee. What is important is the book helps to correct some of mistakes repeated by writers, journalist and even scholars about P. Ramlee.
One example is the fact that there never was a movie by the name of Penanggal. The actual title was Hantu Jerangkong.
For every entry, there is a synopsis, review and critique, trivia on songs and musical arrangements as well as interesting facts and figures. The latter is important for it contains tidbits on various aspects of the production.
In all, P. Ramlee was involved in 66 films in his career spanning 25 years. He directed 17 films at MFP and acted in 45.
At Hulu Kelang his first direction was Si Tora Harimau Jadian (1964) and his last Laxmana Do Re Mi. At MFS, he acted in all the films he directed.
In Singapore he is introduced as bit player in Chinta, Noor Asmara, Nasib, Nilam and Rachun Dunia.
It was L. Krishnan who entrusted P. Ramlee with a lead role in Bakti. It was also Krishnan's directorial debut at MFP. P. Ramlee appeared as cameo in a number of films, including Love Parade (1963) and Melanchong Ka Tokyo (1964).
P. Ramlee acted in three colour films but directed none.
What was the first word he uttered as a film star? Cinta in the film Chinta in 1948. His last words? Zam zam alakazam in Laxmana Do Re Mi in 1973.
That is good enough reason to get a copy of Filem-Filem P. RAMLEE.
* Tulisan Johan Jaffar ini telah disiarkan oleh akhbar The New Straits Times pada 21 Jun 2008.
Bengawan Solo (Love Parade)
Kalau Kaca Menjadi Intan (Nujum Pa' Blalang)
Penawar Hati (Aloha)
Itulah Sayang (Anak-Ku Sazali)
* Sesiapa yang ingin memiliki buku "Filem-Filem P. Ramlee", sila e-mail saya (Mustafar A.R.) email@example.com atau telefon 012-3408117.
# Update akan dilakukan dari masa ke masa.