The photograph of the silver screen idol P Ramlee looking resplendent with his headdress on the front page of Singapore’s Berita Harian daily’s edition yesterday captivated me.
The paper’s masthead carried the title ‘Who said P Ramlee died a pauper? Page 10', with another two interesting titles for the readers.
My fingers quickly flipped through the pages to find out what was the real story behind the final days of the legendary actor, director, singer, songwriter, composer and producer whose real name was Teuku Zakaria Teuku Nyak Puteh.
“Is it true that the late P Ramlee died a pauper like how it has gone viral in the social media,” a writer of the Malay daily, Nur Dhuha Esoof, started her story with this question.
She was in fact alluding to the statement made by Major David Teo, the CEO of the publishing group Metrowealth International Group, on the iconic figure recently that witnessed strong reactions from both sides of the Causeway.
A portal quoted Teo as saying that artistes should not only seek popularity but also give priority in establishing themselves financially pointing at P Ramlee as an example of a successful artiste who was struggling financially towards the end.
Even renowned Singaporean lyricist Yusnor Ef attempted to correct Teo’s statement.
Yusnor, who viewed the late P Ramlee as a close friend and mentor, was quoted saying that though Teo could have given P Ramlee as an example in good faith, yet it is not an appropriate one.
“He has used the name of a legendary artiste who had contributed immensely to the film and music industry. Thus it is an unbefitting example,” Yusnor was quoted saying.
Yusnor, who was vexed by Teo’s example, added: “I have learnt under P Ramlee. He had said that the work of art is one of the works of God, do it diligently and with clear conscience. He never saw money as the motivating factor.”
Yusnor also pointed out that P Ramlee was never a pauper as reported.
“He had a house, a car. He lived comfortably but certainly not like the celebrities now. I think it won’t be fair to compare him with a millionaire,” he said.
‘He enriched the lives of others’
The daily also quoted a Facebook remark from actress and director Melissa Saila, who is also the daughter of veteran actress Mariani, the sibling to P Ramlee’s wife Saloma.
“P Ramlee may have lived poor in his later years but he enriched the lives of others with his literary and screen works,” wrote Melissa.
“P Ramlee was an artiste, not a businessman who only thought of making money. He was neither very rich nor very poor. Neither avarice nor selfishness was his way and the only thing that he wanted to do is enrich the literary world.”
Apart from Melissa, the daily also quoted the Malaysian Artistes Association president Zed Zaidi and director, actor and compere Afdlin Shauki where both also begged to differ with Teo.
On the same page under the GAH! column, the daily also included Teo’s open apology over his example using the name of the legendary artiste.
Quoting mStar Online, the paper said Teo who is now in Beijing, China, made the written apology through Metrowealth’s website on July 11.
“I humbly apologise to all especially to the family of the legendary artiste P Ramlee and all purveyors or art in the country offended by what has been said. Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.”
As for me, I have always been fascinated by P Ramlee and his movies. Just a week ago during Hari Raya, my family and I watched one of P Ramlee’s classic ‘Bujang Lapok’ and we could still afford to laugh though we have watched it over and over again.
Infact we could easily recall the comical dialogue of ‘Ramli, Sudin and Ajis’ in the movie.
However, on the question whether P Ramlee really died a pauper, for me P Ramlee never died poor. He has left a rich legacy for the whole nation that cannot even be quantified monetarily.