P. Ramlee, Sudirman Arshad and David Arumugam have promoted unity through art. FILE PIX

BORN more than 80 years ago, P. Ramlee left a permanent mark on the cultural history of Malaysia through his artistic achievements. The prolific actor, director, writer and musician contributed to more than 60 films and composed about 250 songs.

After his death in 1973, Malaysians kept his legacy alive by honouring him with posthumous awards and naming halls, museums and other buildings after him.

P. Ramlee taught us to respect one another, regardless of position or race. In Seniman Bujang Lapok, one of the characters, Sudin, hails a Sikh security guard by rudely calling him “Wooi”. The guard, whose name is Singh, mumbles, “Nama saja orang Melayu, itu adab pun tak tahu, (He calls himself a Malay, but has no manners).”

Many of us loved P. Ramlee’s movies. During my teenage years, I used to stay at my late grandmother’s house in Sentul Pasar during the school holidays, I would watch the movies as often as I could whenever they were aired.

I remember calling out to my grandmother whenever the movie was on. Although she could not understand Bahasa Melayu, she would sit glued in front of the television. Truly, P. Ramlee movies were pictures that painted a thousand words.

It did not matter if the person is Malay, Chinese or Indian, but whenever you speak about the late P. Ramlee, chances are their faces would light up and there would be glorious stories to tell.

Such was the magic he had. His movies brought together Malaysians from all walks of life. Just as the movies pulled at our heartstrings, they also brought hoots of laughter.

I would not do justice if I fail to mention the singing lawyer, the late Sudirman Arshad, who possessed the same charisma and ability. He wooed Malaysians with his rendition of Tamil actor MGR’s song, Puthiya Vaanam. And, who can forget those classic songs Chow Kit Road and Balik Kampung?

On the flip side, we also have another legendary icon, afro hair-styled David Arumugam and his band, The Alleycats.

The band has been rendering Malay songs since the 1980s, which are of sterling quality and capture the hearts of millions of Malaysians, young and old.

All of these artistes send the message of togetherness, unity and diversity.

Malaysia is three scores old. Let us hope for a dynamic nation for many more years to come — NegaraKu, Tanah Tumpah DarahKu.

PUVANANDERAN GANASAMOORTHY, Klang, Selangor

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