There is a documentary being hawked on TV as the definitive version on the great late Tan Sri P. Ramlee. I have seen it. However, I feel that this version, eventhough the filmmakers said it is well researched and took years in the making, is not definitive.
I have the privilege of knowing Uncle Ramlee during my younger years and had the wonderful good luck to know Mama (Saloma). So I guess I have a right to make a little bit of noise about it.
My parents were very close to the late P. Ramlee.
How close? Very close. There are stories about P. Ramlee that they have told me that I would not even share with the public. Why? Because P.Ramlee the man has become P.Ramlee the perfect icon. The man whose memory must not be tarnished.
The sad thing is that the man died in tragic and sad circumstances. And it is still incomprehensible that he died young - at 44 years of age. Compare that to Micheal Jackson who died at 50.
Looking at his last few films, you would have not believed that Ramlee was 44 years old. He looked older. That's how depressed and sad he was during his final years.
I think I have mentioned in one of my earlier postings how he struggled to make ends meet during his final years. He was unwanted, he was criticised, he was condemned and he was discarded by the public. The same public that hold him in high esteem today.
His last few films were not really good because he was a depressed person . He was unhappy with his lot in life. He wasn't rich. Heck, he was broke. He even borrowed from his closest friends when he needed money and gave them some of his personal items as collateral.
There were even people in RTM who didn't like him. Some even hated him. A few who were jealous of his talent, thought that they were better than him and did their best to make life difficult for him to get gigs on TV.
He tried to become a film producer and met a few investors who were interested in helping him out. But unfortunately he passed away before his dream to be a film producer was realised.
The foundation that he had laid for himself was conveniently taken over by someone he had not trusted in his life and someone who had gone on to become rich and powerful. I will not mention who this person is.
The funny thing is that since he died, many people are trying to make money off him.
Making re-recordings of his songs, making documentaries and books about him, and making movies about him, holding singing contests and many other events.
Imagine what he could have done with this money. He could have been happier and still be alive.
And those whom I personally know hated him are suddenly calling him guru lah, mentor lah, lover lah, friend lah and many other labels. If he was still alive, he would have told them off.
The truth it, Ramlee was a very private man. He had few friends. So too his wife Saloma. They had friends - close friends. Amongst them were my father, my mother and Dato Aziz Sattar. People that he was really close to. People that he trusted.
Even Saloma's relatives who claim to be close to him were really not. Heck, they weren't even close to her.
One person I believe has made a lot of money claiming to be an authority on P.Ramlee and Jalan Ampas when he was just a former tutor to one of his sons.
Memories and events get mutilated and changed to fit somebody's personal agenda.
Imagine the sadness I felt when I recently heard of a screenplay for a bio-pic of Saloma that was proposed to a TV station here, that created a fictional scene regarding her final hours.
If the writer had done his or her research, he would have known who was by Saloma's side when Saloma breathed her last.
In actual fact, there was only two persons there. My mother and I. No one else was there.
You want to know how I felt when I saw her during those last minutes of her life? Truly sad. She was unrecognisable in her death bed. Her body was frail and skeletal and her skin yellowish. Her hair gone. It was a sad sight, sadder still that only her best friend was by her side when she breathed her last.
I was standing in the doorway to her room allowing my mother final privacy with her best friend.
It's facts like this that get distorted that irks me.
So when I heard that Datuk Paduka Shuhaimi Baba had completed a so-called definitive movie about Ramlee I asked my parents if she had interviewed both of them. They said no.
Strange especially when my father was Ramlee's closest friend and colleague since the first day he stepped onto the Jalan Ampas studio lot. Strange especially when my mother acted with Ramlee in the movie Ibu and many more after that and became best friends with his wife Saloma.
Imagine my father, who co-wrote many of Ramlee's songs, was not interviewed for the documentary. Don't you want to know how Ramlee wrote his songs? Don't you want to know the mystery of the song Azizah? Strange isn't it?
Maybe, Shuhaimi felt her documentary was already strong enough without having to interview my parents.
Which is fine, but why then interview people who weren't really close to him?
To even read about someone who was in the documentary who claimed to have won a beauty contest and caught the eye of Ramlee and became lovers with him and then sacrificed her love to allow Saloma to love Ramlee nearly made me puke.
Beauty contest? Big deal. In the 50s and 60s, there were beauty contests galore in every nightclub on every weekend. In fact, the one I believe this person took part was one that was held in Johor Bahru and was won by another actress by the name of Salmah Ahmad. So much for being a beauty queen.
The only person who caught Ramlee's eyes and who he wanted to make his leading lady in life and on the screen was Saloma. No one else.
In fact it was Saloma that was not interested in acting. She was a singer not an actress and she knew that. But because Ramlee wanted her to act, she did. If you watch the movies Saloma was in, you can see that she was uncomfortable in her roles.
This story sounds familiar doesn't it? It was as if someone stole this story to fit hers.
How many realise that Ramlee actually only received one Federal Award - the Ahli Mangku Negara when he was alive?
This award, which is now conferred to hundreds of Malaysians over the years, was a big thing in the industry when Ramlee received it. It was as if he had been accorded a Datukship. That was how big the AMN was in those days.
When he came back, his close friends organised a big welcome home party for him. Many who claimed to be his friends today were not there to congratulate him including this fictional lover of his.
Ramlee's life was truly colorful, especially in the sense that he had many people who can't wait to see his downfall. That's why he trusted only a few.
I do hope Dato Aziz Sattar completes his biography soon and writes truthfully about who P.Ramlee was and who stabbed Ramlee in the back and who were his true friends.
In my father's autobiography, Wawasan and Warisan, he actually pulled his punches when writing about his friends, but if you read between the lines, you know what my father wanted to say about Jalan Ampas and the politics of working in Malay Film Studios.
My mother has also started writing her own biography and I hope she too would give the world a glimpse of who P. Ramlee was via her close friendship with the late Saloma.
So imagine if a documentary about P. Ramlee is not done right, what injustice would be done to the man when a movie about him be produced.