There was this documentary on ASTRO and an article in the internet newsportal on P Ramlee’s life which confirmed my believe that in this country we do not honour talents until they are gone. P. Ramlee died heartbroken, forgotten, and penniless at a relative young age of 44. In his later years even RTM shunned him. He had to wait in the canteen while waiting for Saloma to perform for RTM. He tried to raise money to finance his fledgling Rumpun Melayu and his previous attempt with HM Shah to breathe life into PERFIMA also failed miserably. The author of the article argued that while in Singapore, P. Ramlee only has to worry about his creative juices. All other things were taken care of by the people at Shaw Brothers. Hence he could produced his greatest movies in Jalan Ampas. When Jalan Ampas had union problems he was persuaded to come back to Malaysia with promises of better things at Studio Merdeka. Unfortunately, the supporting production team in Ulu Kelang were not as good as the people run by Shaw Brothers. He had to multitasks and his creativity was somewhat thwarted and subsequently his movies flopped. He had to resort to singing at weddings and clubs to support his family. He was branded as a has been and behind time. He was even booed at one of his public performances. The writer also argued that had he stayed in Singapore he would have been better treated as the people in Singapore were more appreciative of talented people like him( I am not too sure about that). Even if Jalan Ampas had closed down, he would have a better prospect in Singapore. He may have the genius and talent but he did not have the connection to make things happen in KL. The writer further added that, in this country at that time, having the “know how” alone was not enough. You need to have another important element – “know who”. So despite all the promises of better things in this country that persuaded him to come back, he was left alone when the chips were down.
All the praises and honours heaped on him after his death, albeit in my humble opinion a bit over the top at times, were a tad too late. The government should have helped him when he needed it most. My sincere hope is the newly minted Talent Corporation would not repeat the debacle that we made with P. Ramlee. Many cynical comments were already made about this new entity. We just hope that it managed to entice people to come back and provide them with support to do their jobs to take Malaysia to greater heights. Like P. Ramlee, after they were gone, all the adulation and praises would ring hollow.