There is nobody out there more synonymous and impactful to Malaysian culture in terms of art, cinema, and song than legend P. Ramlee.
Born on March 22 1929, this Seniman Agong Negara remains culturally relevant due to the timeless messages he had woven into his iconic films and songs.
The rambunctious comedy and sometimes poignant melancholy of his films have managed to capture all of our hearts. Everyone remembers gathering in-front of the old TV to watch his performance through the black and white screen.
Sadly, despite his importance and our love for him, he was not appreciated by the film industry at the time so we at JUICE believe it would be fitting to pay tribute to the master of craft by recommending our favourite pieces by him.
Despite the monotone of his pictures, he coloured our lives with happiness and morals that we still hold dearly to ’till this day.
So, without further ado, here are JUICE’s picks for our favourite nostalgic P. Ramlee films…
Ali Baba Bujang Lapok
Who doesn’t remember watching this when they were children? Despite my very young age, I still remember laughing at the shenanigans of P. Ramlee, Aziz Sattar and S. Shamsuddin in the classic Ali Baba Bujang Lapok.
Considered one of his most popular films, this comedy taught me the valuable lessons of not being greedy and to always outsmart your adversaries.
Essentially, the film is about a magical cave owned by the head bandit played by P. Ramlee where he stores all of his gold and treasures. One day, the cave is found by brothers Ali Baba and Kassim Baba, the latter being greedier than the former. From there, instead of only taking what they need, one of the brothers decides to rob the cave, naturally outraging the head bandit.
My favourite part of the movie was the performance of Datuk Hajjah Sarimah who plays the clever and witty Marjina who is honestly the mastermind behind all the outlandish and hilarious tricks. Outsmarting men and looking gorgeous while doing it, Marjina was truly the feminist icon of that era.
The common running theme in my favourite P. Ramlee films is cleverness. There’s nothing more redeeming than seeing our main character win against all of his adversaries, despite all odds.
In Tiga Abdul, the plot centres around three brothers, P. Ramlee’s Abdul Wahub being the youngest. After their father’s death, the two brothers steal Wahub’s inheritance, making him penniless save for his music store and secret stash. The two older brothers however have piqued the attention of a swindler who vows to steal the Abdul fortune.
By using mischievous trickery, the older Abdul brothers end up getting into trouble and it’s up to Abdul Wahub and his boundless intelligence to save them from it.
Again, the magical pairing of P. Ramlee and Sarimah shines in this film and it warms my (and everyone else’s) heart to see them together, outsmarting dumb villains.
P. Ramlee’s Ibu Mertuaku shows how truly versatile the artist was in cinema storytelling. This 1962 film starts off as a romantic comedy, before turning into a tragic drama.
The film’s plot revolves around the tragic love affair between P. Ramlee’s Kassim Selamat, a poor, small-time Saxophone player and Sabariah Mansoor, the only daughter of a wealthy family played by the brilliant Datuk Hajjah Sarimah.
It was love at first sight, but Sabariah’s mother, a wealthy widow, wanted her daughter to marry a successful eye doctor, and if she chooses Kassim, she will have to forfeit her inheritance.
While it seems that love can conquer all, their financial misfortune calls for the help of the disapproving mother, who Sabariah thinks can accept them back into the family if Kassim renounces music forever.
The musician quits and works as a labourer while his pregnant wife Sabariah moves back to their home in Singapore until she has given birth. Believing that she will one day return to him, it seems that no… Love does not conquer all, at least not for him.
Like many of P. Ramlee’s films, Ibu Mertuaku shows the much prevalent disparity between the wealthy and poor, and although it’s been decades, artists and musicians are still considered by some as token roles in society, not as important as other professions.
And yo… That eye stabbing scene? It haunts me still.
Antara Dua Darjat
While I want to go for the obvious classics that we all love, I feel like it’s important to mention Antara Dua Darjat, P. Ramlee’s 1960 melodrama about love, greed and elitism among classes.
The royal Tengku Zaleha and P. Ramlee’s Ghazali meet on a rainy night, where he helps her when her car gets stuck in the mud. Explaining the story to her father, he then told her off about socialising with people below their class and how shameful it can be to the family.
During Tengku Zaleha’s birthday party, which Ghazali’s band was hired to perform, the two rebels quickly meet and fall in love. The film centres around the couple and the relationship between their friends and family, intertwining the themes of love, greed, betrayal and the system that divides us.
P. Ramlee never fails to weave a story that is as relevant as it is timeless. Speaking of timeless, let’s all take a moment to listen to ‘Getaran Jiwa’ right now.
So there you have it. While this list may not include any hidden gems, it does include our personal favourites that we believe will stand the test of time and generations and despite the countless years since initial release, there are still no HD stills of his movies! The injustice!
Do yourselves a favour. To celebrate the legend’s birthday, let’s all sit down, have a cup of kopi and enjoy the classics that have undoubtedly shaped us and our film industry today.