Friday 30 March 2012

How I became P. Ramlee's publisher

When I wrote 120 Malay Movies I tried to watch all of the 34 movies that P. Ramlee directed. I almost succeeded.

I even made sure to watch a rare screening of Gelora as part of a retrospective in Paris (the sexy noir is not available on VCD and is not shown on TV). So that's how I managed to watch 33 of the films.

Almost there. But my quest would never be complete. Because there is one film that is believed to be lost, forever. No one has seen it in decades. Even all the money of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud (who is a huge P. Ramlee fan) cannot locate a single copy of the film.

And the film is Sitora Harimau Jadian (1964). It has simply been lost due to neglect.

It's sadly apt that this was the first film he directed in Kuala Lumpur; and its 'lost' status can be seen as an unfortunate foreshadow of how deleterious his KL years would prove to be for him. (When Malaysians wax nostalgic for the films of P. Ramlee, they inevitably wax nostalgic for Singapore, which is where the first 16 films he directed, from Penarik Beca (1955) to Tiga Abdul (1964), were made.)

Technically, Sitora Harimau Jadian wasn't supposed to have been well-made. Merdeka Studios in KL was simply not sufficiently equipped or financed to handle it. When a print was screened for Shaw Brothers in Singapore, the bosses walked out after a few minutes. But I spoke to Othman Hafsham who had seen it as a boy in 1964, and he remembered it as "scary" (in a good way, I presume).

Sitora Harimau Jadian would have been P. Ramlee's sole horror movie. (By contrast, Sumpah Orang Minyak was a horror movie only in its last quarter).

So 120 Malay Movies, the book, was released in late 2010, with no chapter on Sitora Harimau Jadian.

Fast forward a year.

An extremely helpful and enthusiastic ang moh, William Knox, runs The Penang Bookshelf. He wrote in his 1 October 2011 mailing-list (which I subscribe to, and which I recommend) that he would be getting almost 300 Malay books, some in Jawi, from the 1940s and 1960s. They were from "the collection of a Professor Rufus Hendon, a US linguist, who knocked about these parts between the 1940s and 1960s." This professor had bought not only text-books and several editions of Hikayat Abdullah, but he also collected pulp fiction. 

Here's how the covers look like. So I looked at that link and one title leapt out. See if you can guess which cover I mean:

Yes it's this one, in the north-east:

Hang on. A book BY P. Ramlee that was CALLED Sitora Harimau Jadian? I knew I had to have it. I sent an eager email to Mr. Knox and "reserved" a few of the books. I had no idea what would be IN the book, but I wanted it.

There were delays in getting the books shipped (from the US) and then catalogued here. It was nail-biting! So it was only on 5 March that I got hold of the four books I ordered. (This is not the space to talk about the other three.)

When I collected the Poslaju package, the first one I read was Sitora Harimau Jadian. As I had hoped, it was a novel based on the movie. Here's a sample:

The novel was published by Penerbitan Angkatan Baru in 1965. Copyright was assigned to P. Ramlee and only his name appears on the front or back cover. But the copyright page states that it is "di-cheritakan sa-mula oleh Zakaria Mohd Yassin". (Does anyone know how to get in touch with him, if he's still around?)

The novel definitely has a 'penceritaan semula' feel; reading it makes you feel like P. Ramlee is describing what happens in his movie, scene by scene. The book is slim, only 124 pages, and I'm glad it was also fleshed out with pictures from the movie (which might be the only chance we will ever get to 'see' it):

I read it in a few hours. And then had a crazy thought: What if I republished it?

The original publisher no longer exists. So I approached P. Ramlee's grandsons (who'd never seen or heard of the book). Luckily, they thought a reprint would be cool; and so the royalty payments would be going to Zakaria Nasir.

I got the novel scanned, retyped and had the spelling modernised. (Thanks to 22-year old Firliyani Jaar, who by sheer coincidence is the grandniece of one of P. Ramlee's contemporaries. S. Kadarisman.)

The story of the novel is diverting enough; it's about the apparently irreconcilable difference between superstition (tahyul) and medical science (as represented by the protagonist Dr. Effendi, played by P. Ramlee himself). It certainly helped to fill a crucial gap in my knowledge of P. Ramlee's filmography. 

Then again, if the film was as badly-made as had been reported (even the Publisher's note for the 1965 novel states that "P. Ramlee 'agak' kalah dalam perjuangan-nya") perhaps reading it would be a more satisfying experience.  We don't have to be distracted by dodgy make-up effects (especially when the transformation to become a weretiger [harimau jadian] takes place) or fight scenes without the benefit of convincing supporting actors. 

It will be published under an imprint of Buku Fixi, called Fixi Retro. The size will be smaller but the cover thicker, with a flap (like the original 1965 book). This is the 2012 cover by Teck Hee:

I hereby announce, ladies and gents, that the most famous Buku Fixi novelist is now P. Ramlee.The book will be available at next month's Pesta Buku Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur.You may join the fan-page here.

I thank William Knox, Melissa Saila, Suria Bakar, Zakaria Nasir, Zaidee Nasir, Firliyani Jaar, Julie Anne and Teck Hee for making this possible.


Thursday 22 March 2012

Sebab sebenar KOPI tidak akan dicetak semula

Cop "Edisi Terhad" di kulit depan antologi cerpen KOPI bermaksud...jika sasaran kami betul ... kesemua 1,500 keping buku tomei-tomei ini akan habis dijual semasa Pesta Buku Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur (27 April - 6 Mei) nanti.

Ia sudahpun soldout online dan sedang laku gila di events sekitar Semenanjung Malaysia. Antara lokasi yang telah menjualnya dalam rangka JelajahLejenFixi ialah UiTM Shah Alam, UTP Tronoh, UTeM Melaka, USM Nibong Tebal, USM Kubang Kerian, dan (mulai esok) PKNS Shah Alam. Untuk mengetahui lokasi yang terkini, silalah folo @BukuFixi kat Twitter ye?

KOPI tak akan dicetak semula sebab kesemua keuntungan daripada jualannya sedang/akan disalurkan kepada pembikinan beberapa filem pendek. Beberapa pengarah baru ("baru" sini diertikan sebagai "belum buat filem feature") diminta pilih cerpen KOPI yang mereka ingin adaptasi, dan mereka kemudian diberi sedikit dana. Terpulang kepada mereka, berapa dekat mereka nak ikut jalan cerita dalam cerpen tersebut.

Setakat ni, 8 pengarah telah dikenalpasti. Dan 3 telahpun siap.

3 pertama yang siap ni akan ditayang lusa di pelancaran KOPI. Berikut adalah teaser:

Jadi, bila dah habis biayai kesemua (8) filem pendek nanti, tidak ada duit untuk KOPI dicetak semula. Voila!

Mungkin kesemua 8 ni akan digabung dalam satu DVD untuk dipasarkan.

Filem-filem pendek KOPI merupakan langkah pertama Buku Fixi ke dalam kancah perfileman. Langkah seterusnya bergantung kepada kudrat dan niat dan ringgit. Konsep filem-filem terbitan Fixi selari dengan konsep buku yang kami terbit: urban contemporary pulp fiction. Gitu.

Friday 16 March 2012

2 novel Fixi yang pertama untuk 2012

(Sila klik di gambar untuk maklumat lanjut)

Ya konsep kulit depan berbeda dikit daripada 10 novel kami pada tahun 2011. Sebab apalah hidup tanya berhijrah sekali-sekala? (Tapi spine dan belakang dibiarkan konsisten dengan novel-novel tahun lepas. Untuk menggalakkan lagi fetisy pengumpul buku gitu.)

Desain kulit depan kalini dibuat terus oleh Teck Hee dan kami tidak gunakan jurugambar atau model. Beza Teck Hee dengan beberapa designer lain: dia akan membaca manuskrip penuh sebelum kemukakan cadangan konsep!

Bisik (judul asal: Distorsi) ialah sebuah psychological thriller yang kemas dan kinky oleh Syaihan Syafiq. Manakala Invasi (judul asal: Hero) ialah naratif ganas dan kekadang lucu pasal serangan alien; diharap Raja Faisal dapat membina following untuk novel-novel sai-fai tempatan yang tak banyak di pasaran (atau yang dibuat hanya untuk 'budak-budak').Terima kasih kepada kedua-dua penulis sebab memilih Buku Fixi untuk terbitkan novel mereka yang pertama!

Ada 4 lagi buku yang kami nak umumkan sebelum Pesta Buku Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur (27 April - 6 Mei) nanti. Tungguuuuu!