Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sudirman

I remember hearing Claude François' Comme d'habitude, one of France's all-time favourite songs and the song that had inspired Frank Sinatra's My Way, for the first time in high school during Hari Bahasa Perancis SBP. A few days after my arrival on France's soil six years ago, I heard the song again on the radio.

You can't live in France without hearing Claude François' name mentioned almost every day. He has one of the most recognisable voices in the French music industry, most of his songs have achieved great success, his fan base was (and still is) massive and his iconic status has passed the test of time, even long after his death. Now they are making a film on him (wonder what took them so long). It has not been released yet but people have been talking about it a lot. It is definitely going to slay at the box-office, I can safely bet my left leg on it.

That got me thinking: if I were to make a movie on a Malaysian (dead) iconic celebrity who is to us what Claude François is to the French, who would it be? The answer came to me literally within a split second - Sudirman. And somehow that got me mad. Why hasn't there been a film about the great Sudir? His voice is one of a kind (he'd only need to sneeze and you'd know it's him), almost all of his songs are well-known, he was among the few Malaysian singers whose charisma was able to transcend the race boundaries in Malaysia, and he has the stage presence comparable to that of Freddie Mercury. No, seriously.

With all the crap they've been putting out in the Malaysian film industry, how is it possible that no one has thought of actually making a film about Sudirman? I don't think anyone needs convincing, but if I have to break it down to you fools, here are 5 reasons why a film on Sudirman is such a brilliant idea:

1) This movie would obviously be a financial goldmine. Sudirman's fan base is huge. He was given the Asian No. 1 Performer award in London, he reigned on the Malaysian music charts for God knows how long, and he had the charm of an angel. His songs have themes encompassing a plethora of subjects, most of them dealing with Malaysians' everyday lives. It's no wonder why his songs are very close to people's hearts. How can you not like someone who sings songs with titles like Anak Gembala, Basikal Tua, Aku Penganggur, Horee Horee, Toyol, Chow Kit Road, and of course, Balik Kampung

2) A good film needs drama and Sudirman's life has enough drama to create a big enough story arc. His mom was a politician and she died when he was 5, then his father died when he was 24. He passed the bar and became a bona fide practising lawyer but he quit to become a performer. He was hated by the Muslim authorities who wanted to ban every concert he intended to do. His free open air concert in Chow Kit Road gathered a crowd of 100 000 people and created controversy when some fans who turned up fainted and suffocated. He had to fight gay rumours his whole career. He knew he was sick quite sometime before his death but he put on a brave front so his fans would not see his illness. He even asked Habsah Hassan to write a farewell song, Salam Terakhir some time before his death, as if he knew his time was coming. Listening to that song still gives me goosebumps even after all these years because it's hauntingly beautiful and because of these two lines

                 "Usah bertanya mengapa aku mengucap salam terakhir kepadamu
                  Kerna waktu berputaran, bimbang tak berkesempatan...
"

3) You want a good example for the kids? This is a good example. Sudirman was not only an excellent entertainer, he was also a smart student at school. So smart that he got a scholarship to do medicine overseas but he refused. And did I tell you he became a lawyer afterwards? Kids today quit school at the age of 15 to pursue their dreams of "nak jadi penyanyi" after being inspired by Akademi Fantasia and Mentor and whatnot. There's nothing wrong with chasing after your dreams, but remember, a country only needs so many singers. We have more celebrities per capita than we do doctors, and to me that is unhealthy. Sudirman finished his studies before becoming a superstar. He was lucky he made it big, but if he hadn't, at least he had his degree to fall back on.


4) Kids today need a lot of education on the prosperous Malay music industry of the olden days. They need to realize that today's local album sales are poor not just because of illegal Internet downloading, an excuse widely used and rehashed by musicians to justify their failures, but mainly because a lot of local musicians are coming up with stinkier shit than ever before. Seriously, I'm all for supporting the local music industry, but I wouldn't be caught dead even illegally downloading some of the shit that's on today's local radio, let alone buy the song. In his heyday, Sudirman could sell more cassettes per day than today's average singer can for their whole career because Sudirman's songs were actually worth buying and listening to on repeat. Malaysians are not stupid. Believe it or not, we are a tough crowd. We know quality when we see it, and we are not afraid to call shit shit. We are honest people, so if you don't deliver, we don't buy. Simple as that. 

5) People love motivational movies. What's more motivational than a movie about a small man who came from a small village, with a stature of merely 147cm tall, who went and conquered a whole nation with his charisma and his voice? This is a truly Malaysian from-rags-to-riches story, and such a beautiful one at that. It's potential is a no-brainer.

There are of course other reasons, but even with these 5 people can see why a Sudirman film needs to be made. Did you know that not long before his death, he was flown to London to record songs for his English album that was supposed to jumpstart his international career? And it was not just at any London studio: it was on Abbey Road. Yes, the one used by The Beatles. That could be the ending of the movie. A tragic death that cuts him short on his path towards international superstardom, as if he knew that us Malaysians preferred to have him as our national treasure and didn't want to share.

So, are you convinced yet?

5 comments:

mama_QnR said...

LIKE!!!

cik rose said...

I don't think Malaysian's producer/director will come out with this film. they preferred to produce either a) stupid, soppy love story or b) typical ghost stories with some pretty faces as the main attraction. but, still, I wish one of them will read your entry AND some out with something...

cik rose said...

sorry... *come out with something

Shobha Janardanan said...

I like your take on a film on Sudirman. What would you title it?

Anonymous said...

good news!
there will be a movie tribute to sudirman entitle Horee Horee!
and as you wish, this movie will be ended by song salam terakhir. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vSU_75jKOg