Saturday, 14 June 2008
the death of a national hero - will we ever learn?
(edited and re-posted)
The curtains have finally come down on P.Ramlee – The Musical, season two, after 24 gruelling performances in K.L. as well as Singapore. It’s been a full-on few weeks for us, and tonight was a particularly emotional final night’s performance for the cast, especially for Musly Ramlee. For him, telling the life story of the man he idolizes so much, is more than just playing a role, and when he removed his “fat suit” for the last time after the play ended, he was in uncontrollable tears, which deeply moved everyone backstage that night.
For me, it’s been a few weeks of laughing and crying every night and watching a bunch of amazing talent and energy at work onstage, giving their very best for every performance.
I must share with you the moments that stay with me the most each night I leave the theatre. Sure, I love the funny moments in the show like when Ramlee marries Junaidah, when the Shaw Brothers do their thing, when Saloma enters the studio with her big white sunglasses and sings Senandung Kasih with Ramlee, and then the magical “Gelora” scene when they fall in love. But what really stays with me and affects me the most are the scenes starting from where the MFP (Malay Film Productions) studio closes down, and the Shaw brothers tell P.Ramlee he is being transferred to Merdeka Studio in Kuala Lumpur. Its heartbreaking for me being a artiste myself, to see the pain in Musly's eyes, playing P.Ramlee, seeing his whole world fall apart, with the passing of that order. The rest of the play then shows the beginning of the downfall of a genius, and his films, his music and the passion he dedicated his life to.
Moving to Kuala Lumpur and trying to recreate the same magic as in Singapore, was the most frustrating and heartbreaking point in P.Ramlee's life. In Singapore, all the enabling factors for him to create good work were in place. In KL, he lacked the support of the management of Merdeka Studio, budgets were cut, and politics killed the spirit of our most creative and talented star ever. Most heartbreaking was when we heard about an incident where the great P.Ramlee was actually BOO-ed off the stage during a performance at the Chin Woo stadium. This was the once great man who has 66 films and 300 unforgettable songs to his name; the man a queen left her palace for, the man whose life story my friends and I have chosen to share with the generations of today and tomorrow.
P.Ramlee was a success because he was "color blind" and made films that Malaysians and Singaporeans of all races could relate to and willingly came together to support. He was not perfect, just like any of us mortals, but he was good at what he did and he could rally a one-ness in spirit no filmmaker or artist can today. Then came the separation, and with it, all the chaos that follows when a country's political and economical situation is in crisis. As a result, nobody was interested anymore in doing anything for the film industry.
P.Ramlee was a victim of the changing of times. What’s intriguing is, did he have the ability to re-invent himself to go with the flow of change? It seemed inconceivable with the enormity of his talent and creativity that he could have been that easily defeated. He would have been one of those that could have mastered that change. But I believe it wasn’t just that challenge of change that he had to deal with, it was all the other exogenous factors that were the breaking point for him – the jealousy, politicking, BUREAUCRACY (sigh, why is this strangely familiar even TODAY...) the back-biting and the system that failed to support him.
P.Ramlee was a true artist who lived and breathed for his art. He was marginalized by people who were not driven by the same passion, spirit and commitment he had. They could not take the industry further themselves. They were just destructive, the kind of people who trip others and humiliate them when they fall.
When I think about what worked for both Puteri Gunung Ledang as well as P.Ramlee (the two stage musicals), it had a lot to do with our being able to bring the best people together, working in harmony towards a common cause.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could turn back time and create the same environment for P.Ramlee in his day, getting people to rise above their personal egos, pride and other agenda, and to work together cohesively for the good of the higher purpose, the industry.
The killer of all killers though, has to be this evil demon called “Dengki”. I don't know why some people seem to have perfected the art of practicing it, when they should have instead focused their energies on improving themselves. It has nothing to do with the spirit of competition, not in a fair sense, anyway. It existed back then, and the sad thing is that it still exists today - in business, entertainment and not to mention politics! It has to do with the tragic mindset of "if I don't make it, nobody else should!"
I wish they would realize what we really need is to create more CHAMPIONS, more success stories, and provide a supportive environment for those with genuine talent, belief and commitment to thrive. This way, we will have the pleasure of seeing those who are capable to be inspired, encouraged and fully realize their potential, and hopefully this will create many more great Malaysians like P.Ramlee.
Greatness is not always meant to be recognized during one's lifetime, I guess, just as in the case of other geniuses like Van Gogh and Mozart. If I may take this to a “bigger-picture” level, we should take a leaf out of the sad ending of P.Ramlee’s life story. Let it be a lesson to us about being grateful for and appreciative of what our country has been blessed with. We are far luckier than many of our neighbours to be free from continuous natural disasters and worse still, political and economic disasters. It could easily happen if we don't wake up and smell the roses whilst they're in bloom. I love this country and I would do anything for it, from my tiny insignificant corner. There's still today, and tomorrow, for us to cherish what we have now.
As the "Shaw Brothers" sang in the musical, "otherwise, what more can we do?" (What to do?) Sigh...