A Russian academic speaks of his admiration for an icon associated with the golden era of Malay movies.
THE drive from home in Kerinchi to his workplace in Universiti Malaya (UM) should take no more than 15 minutes, but it drags on to about double the time, says Assoc Prof Dr Victor A. Pogadaev.
After all, traffic jams are inevitable during peak hours in Kuala Lumpur, but he’s not complaining. He’s found a great way to keep calm – listening to Tan Sri P. Ramlee songs.
“He’s got such a calming effect on me ... I have CDs of songs by P. Ramlee in my car. I never get tired of listening to him while driving to and from work.
“He has such a melodious voice,” said the Russian academic of the legendary singer and silver screen idol.
“Malaysia is truly lucky to have had a national treasure like him,” said the academic who teaches Russian culture and language at the varsity.
Such praises for the country's quintessential entertainer are commonly heard among Malaysians, but rarely do we hear of such adulation from a foreigner.
Dr Pogadaev often hums and sings along to the more popular P. Ramlee tunes. His three daughters and wife have also become fans of the legendary star, since his songs are constantly played at home.
The 68-year-old academic even has a portrait of P. Ramlee at his home.
“My day isn’t complete if I don’t listen to him. On a recent holiday to Tanjung Bidara, Malacca, my wife and I listened to his songs in the car during the drive there and back.”
Dr Pogadaev’s “love affair” with P. Ramlee began over 40 years ago when he came to Malaysia on a year-long student exchange programme.
He was studying the Malay language at Moscow State University and was sent under the programme to improve his proficiency in the language in UM.
It was at the UM’s Dewan Tunku Canselor that he first saw P. Ramlee perform.
“As soon as I heard his voice, I was mesmerised. There was so much ‘soul’ in him. I went up close to snap a photo of him. As I approached the stage, the star raised his hand to wave and he smiled. I was thrilled,” recalled Dr Pogadaev.
“I was enamoured by him and was just as surprised that a big star like him was so easy-going and friendly. It was after the concert that I started reading up on him.
Dr Pogadaev is also a fan of the legend’s equally talented spouse Saloma. He isn’t just impressed by her voice, but her poise, grace and style.
After his year-long stint, he returned to Moscow then taking with him records and other paraphernalia of both P.Ramlee and Saloma, often associated with the golden era of Malay movies. After completing his tertiary studies, Dr Pogadaev held various academic positions and then returned to the varsity to take on a lecturing job where he taught Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu.
He introduced P.Ramlee’s songs as part of the coursework to his students. The late entertainer immediately earned a legion of fans among students who were more than happy to speak and sing in Malay!
The amalgamation of traditional melodies with modern beats in some of P. Ramlee’s songs were “clever and ahead of its time,” said Dr Pogadaev.
It is therefore not surprising that to this day, there has yet to be another composer, singer or songwriter that can rival the multi-talented P. Ramlee, he said.
It is over 40 years now since the superstar passed away, but he’s one icon that even the younger generation look up to, added Dr Pogadaev.
Born as Teuku Zakaria Teuku Nyak Puteh in Penang, P. Ramlee had an undisputable talent and creativity.
He was not just a singer, but actor, director, singer, songwriter, composer and producer.
He had an impressive track record acting in 65 films. Almost all his films were “hits” and carried moral messages.
“P. Ramlee’s work is still used as reference at the university now. Students love his songs and movies,” said Dr Pogadaev.
Many of his films are social commentaries which people can relate to across geographical borders and often wrapped in humour.
“This makes his movies relevant throughout the ages.”
In addition to that, his films offer a dose of Malay culture that Russian students taking up the Malay language or related subjects will find relevant, said the academic.
“P. Ramlee fought for social rights through his works and was good at depicting his characters.
“To him, everyone had a role to play in society.
“In his own way, he showed the class difference between rich and poor in his films. The clash between rural and urban life was also a strong fixture,” added Dr Pogadaev.
The film Penarek Becha, for example, is written in a way that helps the audience understand and appreciate the pains of a trishaw rider, he added.
It also drives home the point that every occupation, big or small, is of importance to society.
To help the students further understand P. Ramlee’s works, Dr Pogadaev had over the years published several articles on the entertainment icon. This is in addition to the encyclopaedia on Malaysia that he published in Russian.
“Till today, I am in awe of P. Ramlee. I even went to his grave in Ampang to pay my respects.
“He is an artiste in the truest sense, and there is no one else like him,” said Dr Pogadaev. – Bernama