Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Nineteen Eighty Four

In life, usually there are two parts of a story.

People always views things as either pro- and -cons. But for me, why limit your view?



Basically Buridan's ass is a situation where you are presented with two different options. Yet each option has its own seems beneficial to you that you unable to choose which one is the better one.

The paradox predates Buridan; it dates to antiquity, being found in Aristotle's On the Heavens.[2] Aristotle, in ridiculing the Sophist idea that the Earth is stationary simply because it is circular and any forces on it must be equal in all directions, says that is as ridiculous as saying that[2]

...a man, being just as hungry as thirsty, and placed in between food and drink, must necessarily remain where he is and starve to death.
— Aristotle, On the Heavens 295b, c. 350 BC
The 12th century Persian Islamic scholar and philosopher al-Ghazali discusses the application of this paradox to human decision making, asking whether it is possible to make a choice between equally good courses without grounds for preference.[2] He takes the attitude that free will can break the stalemate.

Suppose two similar dates in front of a man, who has a strong desire for them but who is unable to take them both. Surely he will take one of them, through a quality in him, the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things.

Now, having this knowledge about Buridan's Ass, I invite you to read two confronting writing about P Ramlee.


A. IDEA 1 


P Ramlee: A tragedy that no Talent Corp could have saved

Question: Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti? 
Answer: Not in Malaysia 

Those who watched the heart wrenching P Ramlee documentary on the History Channel on Oct 31, 2010 must have gone to bed with a heavy heart. 

It transpired that Malaysia's one and only film icon had died penniless and shunned by the public, including his own colleagues. 

And the way it was done appears to have uncanny resemblances to what's happening today in Malaysia, almost 45 years after Ramlee returned to Malaysia. 

The documentary, narrated by British actor, Timothy Watson and was 12 years in the making included precious interviews by some of his friends, actors and actresses who had passed on. The underlying tone was one of profound melancholy. 

Ramlee, borne out of poverty along Caunter Hall Road at an Achenese community in Penang , had to endure the brutal Japanese occupation whose schools incidentally inculcated a certain discipline in him. 

In his formative years then, this discipline proved crucial as a founding platform for his eventual brilliance, creativity and innovation in film and music. 

He subsequently gained phenomenal success at Shaw brother's Jalan Ampas studios in Singapore. His success at Jalan Ampas was the apparent result of the studio's incredible milieu of experienced film crew, choreographers and directors which the Shaw brothers had assembled from India, Hong Kong and Indonesia. 

With the load of management and finance off his shoulders, Ramlee was able to thrive and focus on his talent of creating music, acting and eventually direction, screenplay and editing. 

The Shaw brothers invested and created such a conducive environment at Ampas that Singapore became the Mecca for the Malay film industry for an entire genre of actors and actresses from the whole of the Malay Archipelago from Pontianak to Penang to Medan. 

Apart from Ramlee, Ampas provided careers for other actors and actresses like Nordin Ahmad, S Kadarisman, Ahmad Daud, Normadiah, Saloma and Saadiah. 

But this talent could not have been developed without the expertise of directors such as BS Rajan, L Krishnan and Phani Majumdar. Directors such as Majumdar already had something like 15 years experience in directing films in various languages in Calcutta and Bombay before they came to Singapore. 

It was on this wealth of experience that the Malay film industry flourished. 

Majumdar directed Ramlee in ‘Anakku Sazali' which won Ramlee Best Actor in 1956. And when Majumdar returned to India, he discovered another great Indian actor, Feroz Khan and directed Khan in his first big hit ‘Oonche Log' in 1965. Yes, it was happy times then at No 8 Jalan Ampas and Boon Kheng Road. But it had to end. Or so it seems. 

Things appear to have taken a turn for the worse during the confusion of the Malaysia-Singapore separation of 1963 when Lee Kuan Yew had trouble reigning a tight leash on trade unions involving Lim Chin Siong, and his own PAP leaders led by Che' Awang and Devan Nair. 

Ramlee appears to have been an inadvertent victim of the unions' unreasonable demands leading Shaw brothers to call it a day at Jalan Ampas when they couldn't keep up with unions' demands for higher pay. 

Other views suggest that Ramlee was poached and enticed to return to Malaysia which he did in 1964. Wrong step it seems. All promises in Malaysia were not kept by his new masters. Sounds very, very familiar here. 

Merdeka studios was poorly equipped and its rookie staffing meant the legend had to multitask which ended up eventually in him churning out shoddy movies. All 18 movies he directed in Malaysia flopped. Sounds like the same stories we hear from some of our Malaysians "trying" to return home from overseas. 

Ramlee lost his glitter, his money and his fame. His partner and colleague, HM Shah, tried to form a company called Perfima to enable Ramlee to relaunch his career and produce his dream of colour films. 

But Perfima apparently ended up in the hands of inexperienced and connected cronies leaving the talented Ramlee then, as in now, even as a Malay, blatantly unrecognised, ignored and out in the cold. 

The documentary brutally exposes how Ramlee tried in vain to set up P Ramlee productions, but was again shut out by this country's media and entertainment industry including RTM. 

He had to sit in the canteen at Ankasapuri while Saloma had her own show in RTM! He could not secure any government aid, grants or ‘Private Financial Initiatives' despite his passion for Malay music and culture. 

He tried to reinvent himself and sought a bank loan - but was rejected! With his wealth of experience and in his early 40s then, he should have easily qualified. 

Poor Ramlee didn't know that in Malaysia it is the "know who" that counts than the "know how". If he had known George Tan from the Carrian Group then, Ramlee may have received a few million from BMF without even having to pay back. Or he should have "nurtured" some connections like how some luminaries have. 

Ramlee by now, tragically stressed out, overweight, disheveled, completely down and out with passion and spirit broken, had to now do almost any job he could including running mahjong tables and singing at weddings and other functions to put food on the table for his family. He had to live on rice and eggs. 

It was truly ‘Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur' for Ramlee. A court summons a day prior to his death for being a guarantor finally tipped the balance and did him in when he suffered a massive heart attack and he died on May 29, 1973 at the age of 44. 

On the day he died, there was no rice in his house. And Saloma had no money for his funeral. The man and legend, P Ramlee paid a very heavy price for returning to Malaysia. The country just did not have the infrastructure, manpower and expertise to accommodate his enormous talent. 

He would have been better off in Singapore even with the unions there. He would not have gone broke in the club and wedding scene there and perhaps Singapore TV could have given him a break as compared to our own RTM. 

All the belated accolades and titles were meaningless as far as the man himself was concerned. He died hopelessly broke and broken. 

The documentary is not only an eye opener but a very good case study for anyone contemplating returning home to Malaysia. 

Whether you are a scientist, engineer, accountant, doctor, etc, beware of the conditions enticing you to return. 

If your kid is an aerospace engineer, a naval architect or a transplant surgeon, it's a no brainer that he/she should not return at all unless you are absolutely sure the country has the infrastructure and skilled manpower to support these fields. 

Don't believe in these stories that you should come home to "help" and "develop" your areas of expertise. That's not going to happen. That sort of thing will only go to the chaps who have the connections. 

Assess any offer carefully and do not trust anyone including this government. Make certain all agreements are enforceable in Singapore and the UK. 

In retrospect P Ramlee, with no formal education but was able to compose more than 360 songs and 66 movies, probably returned to a society that was not developed nor had the brainpower and skills to match up to his vision. 

In short he was just surrounded with a whole lot of officials and journalists with serious hangups who were not interested in the industry itself. There was no driving force like the Shaw brothers. 

And the prevailing attitude at that time and probably even now was and still is a third class mentality. In an environment such as this, no one with creativity, innovation, skills and brains can ever hope to survive let alone thrive. 

It's better they stay back where they can develop and nurture their talent. If a star as bright as Ramlee could be extinguished with such impunity, the rest are nothing. 

Ramlee and his entire family were wiped out financially despite his immense talent. But he remains still till this day, the Malay Archipelago's cinematic legend. With apologies... 

Hancur badan dikandung tanah
Budi baik dikenang juga
Biar alam hancur dan musnah
Jasa mu tetap dikenang juga


B. IDEA 2 :


Don't politicise P Ramlee's decline

To begin with, lets get something straight - P Ramlee should not have wallowed in poverty or died penniless. 

However, The Ampas Man in his letter ‘ P Ramlee: A tragedy that no Talent Corp could have saved ’ seems to have forgotten that such tragedies are still happening everyday to famous artists all around the world. 

The author seems to have conveniently forgotten that P Ramlee signed contracts with Shaw Brothers who produced his films and any royalty from his body of work would have been subjected to the original terms. 

Recording companies own the rights for most of his songs, and till this day, that's how the music royalties work. Isaac Hayes, Goo Goo Dolls, TLC, Toni Braxton, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marvin Gaye, Run DMC are but some notable examples of multi-platinum artists who have declared bankruptcy or were in financial trouble. 

The great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died penniless and left behind a huge debt too.
Some may have rightly noted that the fortunes of our stars (and their profligacy, where applicable) should not be guaranteed by the government, especially since it is also your money as well (if you are a tax payer like myself). 

However, to insinuate that P Ramlee made a wrong move to leave Singapore and blame all his subsequent box office failures on the Malaysian government (and the lack of local expertise and "talent") speak volumes of the author's lack of knowledge, understanding and misguided imagination about the history of modern cinema in Malaysia. 

The Ampas Man must have forgotten how the Malay cinema, or cinema in the Malayan region operated at that time. 

During the studio era (1947 - 1977), Shaw Brothers and Cathay-Keris "virtually controlled the whole industry" and "the distributive/exhibition sector in Malaysia largely remained monopolistic because the same companies distributed local and imported films and also owned the cinema chains throughout the country" (William Van der Heide, 2002, p117). 

Kahn (2001) pointed out that "Shaw Brothers prevented the productions of other companies from showing in peninsular cinemas which they effectively monopolised" (p 101). 

Van der Heide (2002) even went as far as to claim that "the success of these films, was undoubtedly the result of Shaw Brother's stranglehold on the exhibition sector that they had bought up before the war" (p 133). 

It was pure business when Shaw Brothers crippled Seruan Merdeka at the box office. In the 1950s, the typical pattern was "for films to be produced by Chinese capital (Shaw Brothers), directed by Indians, with 'Malay-ised' versions of Indian and Chinese plots, and acted by Malaysians speaking in Malay" (Kahn, 2001). 

P Ramlee was aboard MFB (Malay Film Productions) during this period (1948 - 1955) and rode on its formulaic popularity. 

It was not until P Ramlee's arrival in his directorial debut (Penarik Becha, 1956) that truly marked the beginning of the rise of "Malay creative control" (Van der Heide, 2002). This happened within the studio system. Merdeka Studio came into being in the early 1960s and is the first production company headed by mostly Malay Malaysians. 

To say that it had no talent is an insult to the likes of L Krishnan, who was with Shaw Brothers and directed the first film P Ramlee starred in. L Krishnan was also with Cathay-Keris before joining Merdeka Studio in KL. 

To quote Wikipedia, "It had a meagre beginning, but once the top stars started their exodus from the two Singapore studios, its growth surged dramatically. ...The Shaw Brothers dispatched some of their Singapore film directors, among them L Krishnan, P Ramlee and Salleh Ghani, Jamil Sulong, Omer Rojik, S Kadarisman, Sudarmaji, Naz Achnas, M Amin and Jins Shamsudin, to make films at Merdeka". 

What really killed the studio business was the increase in production cost (including colour film), regional competition (Indonesian, Indian and Hongkong) and the influx of foreign films, not to mention the advent of the idiot box (television). 

Shaw Brothers actually took over Merdeka Studio itself in 1966, but local films had already lost its competitiveness by then. Shaw Brothers would close its studies in 1968 and Cathay-Keris did the same in 1972, as the local Malay film scene shifted to Kuala Lumpur into the hands of independent (bumiputera) filmmakers. 

Please, it wasn't a Singapore-based or Malayan-based problem. Raj Kapoor would soon make a storm with Bobby in 1973, and together with Bruce Lee in the Big Boss, 1971, they all but wiped out the demand for local films who already had trouble keeping up. The Malaysian government bought the Merdeka Studio in 1985 to house Finas. 

Rather than harping on the past and making non-existent connections, we should look carefully at what has been happening to the local film industry. 

Recently, local films started to make money because the audience and demand grew. However, most of the quality is uneven because it is still a relatively risky investment (unless you have strong financial backing). 

The late Yasmin Ahmad has shown us with the Orked trilogy (Sepet, Gubra and Mukhsin) that we have many capable filmakers (or dabblers, as she used to say) with beautiful stories to tell. Today, independent Malaysian filmakers are making a comeback against the rising tide of box-office driven spiel made by some local production houses that, to borrow Hishamuddin Rais's expression, "bonsified" the Malaysian audience. 

If The Ampas Man read anything about the current Finas board controversy, he would realise the problem that P Ramlee faced back then is still around today, which is financing films and struggling for creative control - a norm of the industry worldwide (Hollywood included). It is true that P Ramlee's films after 1964 with Merdeka Studio was not as big as his past successes, but times changed and he did enjoy a good run. 

P Ramlee's creative successes were with comedies and melodramas, and perhaps it wasn't easy to find financial commitment to bankroll his subsequent films. One thing we do know is that after Shaw Brothers and Cathay-Keris closed shop, Singapore's local filmaking industry did not really quite recover (please don't give me Jack Neo's films as examples). 

If history of film-making in Malaysia has anything to offer, it is the lesson that we need to groom local talent to produce quality films. Some movies sell better than others, but performance at the box-office is not the one-all indicator of success. You want a thriving, vibrant and inclusive local film industry; you need to invest in it. 

P Ramlee, like Sudirman after him, are all great Malaysians beloved by many. 

Stop abusing our memory of him to further narrow and parochial political games. He could have been a politician, true, but luckily he remained true to his art and profession. 

Instead of taking the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the local film-making and music industry in Malaysia, The Ampas Man unfortunately decided to make P Ramlee a case study to disparage the Malaysian government over the recently launched Talent Corporation. 

Whether it is for brain gain or brain circulation, please leave P Ramlee out of this, thank you. With Malaysians (or ex-Malaysians?) like these, who need enemies?  
Now think critically between these two writings.
I can come out with 2 ideas at the least;
1. First, it is clear that the second writing, was somehow politically motivated in some sort. 
As the first writing never imply anything about politics, rather than implying Malaysia is a bad environment for art-scene, the second writing is guilty to imply the ideas generated is due to narrow and parochial political games as what is written in Idea 2.

2. Personally,  is the sentence "He would have been better off in Singapore even with the unions there" to be historically correct?
How about Aziz Sattar, S. Shamsuddin, Ahmad Nesfu then?

If you carefully read the first idea, what happened was there was a union strike, and this caused Shaw brothers to actually close the studio.

S.Shamsuddin didn't go back to Malaysia because he was Singaporean-born.

If you carefully weigh this fact and add a salt of empathy, imagine yourself as P.Ramlee who was a Penangite.

Now your company is closed, you are un-employed, and somehow there was an offer at KL.

Wouldn't you take it?

When you are unemployed with your current company closing down, would you consider this sentence to be correct?
He would have been better off in Singapore even with the unions there.

Hence, is it best not to form opinions based on a single writing. It is because it might not be the whole truth.

I write this because everybody wants something to say including my own damned self.

The situation in Malaysia now is divisive, the same environment you've seen during the US election between Trump and Hillary.

And so, in a politically divisive environment, know that both the pro-govt and pro-opposition wants to win your vote, and will do anything to win it.

The way to do it, is to embed on your mind certain assumptions or ideas that somehow will lead them to the votes.

I'll be pretty honest. There are people out there whom got paid to do writing for politics. And the writing isn't just directly about politics. There are in-direct writing that serve the purpose.

Conditioning is not there to fool your conscious mind. It is to stimulate your on-conscious mind by embedding certain ideas over and over.

Advertisement is there due to this idea too.

I felt that the negative perception happening in Malaysian social media is somehow stimulated, directly or indirectly due to politics.

One trick in writing normally used in order to illicit preconditioned ideas into your brain is by the idea of  attribution.

As you've realised at both writing, both used historical facts. The historical fact is both the same (it should be, historical facts should be consistent), yet, it derives different conclusion.

The idea is, you attribute correct facts to the preconditioned idea you want to embed to the reader.

Psychologically, we are more keen to accept the preconditioned idea, since the facts are true, then the conclusion ie. the preconditioned idea will be true.


The best defence I could think of is,

1. Read it for the facts and not the conclusion.The conclusion might be bias and attribution error might be found there.

2. Read and read and read. Read critically.

Knowing this, start to think, should you get upset over all this? I don't think so, you live and you can choose what you read.

Your body will weaken and die away. What you really have, is really, your mind.

Is your mind really free or is it controlled?

Do you want your mind to be oppressed indirectly?

Lose small minds and free your life.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth125901.html