Saturday, June 07, 2003

P. Ramlee: Anak-anakku dan Sazali

Stories about Malaysia's legendary actor, singer and composer P. Ramlee's sibblings have been brewing up in Harian Metro recently. Apparently the press has been playing up the fact that there have been some squabbles between them over the distribution of royalties from the late P. Ramlee's artistic works.

The whole thing started from a report in the same paper about one of P. Ramlee's son, Sazali (who's name was immortalized in his father's black-and-white classic Anakku Sazali and song by the same name) who is reportedly working as a street sweeper or garbage collect in Kajang. How the son of Malaysia's most honoured artiste could end up having such a fate was beyond comprehension of the public. Why is he not enjoying the royalties from P. Ramlee's huge canon of songs which are still constantly being played in the airwaves?

Sazali bin Ramlee, an old, sick and forgotten down-and-out labourer in Kajang? Sounds like something out of one of P. Ramlee's melodramatic movies. The fact that P. Ramlee has a real-life son called Sazali is also a surprising fact to many people. Some may have heard of Dian P. Ramlee or even Nasir Ramlee whose names crop up every now and then in the presses. Dian P. Ramlee was quite a popular TV personality some time back.

Now, to understand the background of this "controversy", we have to understand a bit about P. Ramlee's love life. He was married thrice in his lifetime. His first marriage was to Junaidah Harris who bore him two sons: Nasir and Arfan. Junaidah herself brought a son, Abdul Rahman from a previous marriage.

P. Ramlee later divorced Junaidah to marry fellow actress Norizan Mohd. Nor. The marriage did not produce any children but it was during this six years of life together that they adopted three children - Sazali, Norbetty and Norma.

P. Ramlee's most well-known wife was his third, the late Saloma. She outlived P. Ramlee who died of a heart attack in 1973. Their marriage also did not produce any children but Saloma herself has a son, Armali from a previous marriage to comedian A.R. Tompel. During this time, they had three more adopted children: Zakiah, Sabaruddin and Dian. Dian P. Ramlee - the well-known one - is from Chinese parentage and was adopted by Saloma herself.

Despite bringing up so many children from his three marriages, P. Ramlee in actual fact has only two children who can be considered his own flesh and blood - Nasir and Arfan, both from his first marriage to Junaidah. Arfan has already passed away in 1998. This leaves Nasir as the only surviving child with direct blood ties to P. Ramlee. However It was reported that Sazali was P. Ramlee's favourite among all his children.

One can imagine the complications that arise when it comes to claims to royalities for P. Ramlee's work. Based on a report in Harian Metro, Nasir is the one who has the legal claims to such royalty payments and he has distributed a portion of them to his step-brothers Sazali and Sabaruddin. The reports did not mention why the other sibblings are not in the picture. Dian P. Ramlee when asked on the issue of royalties by reporters, said:
"Orang dengar pun tidak bagus, daddy sudah lama meninggal dunia tetapi anak masih sibuk pasal royalti"

(It is not nice to still make a big fuss about royalties when my daddy has long passed away)

P. Ramlee has already passed away for three decades. I've watched many of his movies and try to collect the VCDs whenever possible. My favourite is Antara Dua Darjat. I also play P. Ramlee's songs in my car whenever I'm driving in KL. Listening to his songs and watching his movies makes us feel nostalgic for a time when life was simpler and maybe happier. It was the old Malaya that we all loved and P. Ramlee represents all that was good about it. May his soul rest in peace.

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