Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bintang HMI

I was not much into music. Last night for no reason I decided to watch what the entertainment fare on TV1 was after the 8.00 p.m. main news. I was pleasantly surprised to see the current primadona of the national singing scene Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin in the special “Bersama Siti Nurhaliza”. RTM have decided to replace the long running Saturday night entertainment fare of “Hiburan Minggu Ini” (HMI) with the “Bersama...” series.

I am no great follower of CT as she is popularly recognised by her numerous fans neither do I know her personally but she is one of those personality who affected decisions I made in my career at RTM. I was elated by her announcement that it was at that Auditorium where she was presently performing that her career as a singer was launched when she was declared the winner of the singing contest “Bintang HMI 1995”.

She was the second winner of the short span series. The first winner in 1994 was Nora, another well known singer following her success in the contest. There was another contest after I retired from service in 1996 won by the popular Sarawak girl.

How I got involved with this series went back to the time when I was sent to Kuching to be RTM’s Director for the Sarawak Region. It was a laid back life there and I was working at a leisurely pace as my main attention was on the radio broadcasts of numerous local ethnic dialects. We were just a feeder service for television in Kuala Lumpur. As a person used hectic work regime at headquarters in KL, ideas start mushrooming in my mind on improving the broadcasts.

We had close rapport with the state government under Pihin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud. He was supportive of our children programme which gave birth to the popular contest “Bintang Kecil”. Pihin Sri is well known for being a great fan of the legendary P.Ramlee. When I made a curtsey call on reporting duty in Kuching he was toying with the idea of introducing a talent singing contest over TV entitled “Bintang P.Ramlee” which was introduced over the local radio. After listening to my explanation on the intricacies of running the contest nation-wide on TV he readily agreed the state government would bear part of the cost. So began the “Bintanng P.Ramlee” venture every two years.

The then Minister of Information Tan Sri Mohamad Rahmat was present at the first contest in 1993 held at the newly Stadium Perpaduan Kuching carried live by TV1. The busiest person running the show in Kuching was the present Director General Dato Norhyati Ismail who was then heading the TV component of RTM in Sarawak.

Tan Sri Mohamad was lamenting to me the dearth of talent spotting programme on the musical scene over RTM. I could not respond to him positively as that was KL’s responsibility. I was happy he was heaps of praised for the “Bintang P.Ramlee” and our cooperation with the state government.

When I came back to KL and made the Director of Television again I heard the same lamenting from the Minister. The strange thing was that I was never invited by my boss to attend the “Post Cabinet” meeting every Wednesday afternoon and could not give direct respond to the Minister. I knew he wanted us to give TV3 a run for their money in this department as it was running a successful singing contest programme based on popular artists’ performance on the chart.

On the quite I suggested to the then Head of Entertainment TV Barbara Edmond to run a small contest within the ever popular Saturday night HMI. Initially she was hesitant as it involved extra responsibility to get the mechanism working. We met the entertainment producers who took turn producing HMI. They were willing to take up the challenge by adding additional change to the already winning formula which was getting too predictable. It did not affect the budget too greatly. So we launch the project quitely without informing the power upstairs.

The boys and girls in the Hiburan TV started fanning the whole country with the cooperation of their Hiburan counterpart all over the nation searching for talents. They started the Bintang HMI on a modest basis having six contestants in each episode on preliminary basis. Then it went to the Quarter-Finals and the press were on it speculating the winners. The bosses upstairs started paying attention following the excellent press report.
                                                        (compliment Jack Nadarajah)

The Bintang HMI got more intense when we decided to run the Semi-Finals as a whole programme on the HMI slot. We decided to run the Final live after getting support all round especially the Orchestra RTM who were willing to accompany the singers. We also got the best musical experts of the country to be the judges.

By this time I decided to be just in the background and let other people do the talking. What was important to me it was mission accomplished – the Minister was pleased with the professionalism of the staff of the Hiburan Department without being “directed”.

The first year experienced gave us a good guideline on running the next show and CT was the winner getting the limelight to be a Superstar and an excellent “ambassador” of Malaysian singing. She is a great defender of Malay dresses. I have not seen her out of it ever since I set eyes on her.  She deserves to be a winner.

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