When watching local movies since my younger days I find it hard to reconcile the reality of the plot. I just took it as pure imaginary of the screenwriter. When I joined Radio-Television Malaysia RTM the radio play “Sandiwara Radio” was very popular. Then came Television Malaysia with its local drama. When I rose in ranks and began to see the real life I began to reconcile imaginary and reality. When I took charge of the TV local productions I have to look at the moral value of the play and its effect on society, the audience.
At my age of 72 I don’t take things for granted anymore. Whatever appears on the local TV drama is for real, as they do happen in real life.
Now here is a story of someone I came to know nearly half a century ago. Mohd Ariff Shah bin Abdul Rahman now 74 better known as Ariff Shah in the early days of broadcasting at the defunct “agriculture broadcast” of Radio Malaysia. Otherwise in the film circle he went by the name of Mohd. Ariff Shah.
I am move to write on him after my visit to him at the Taiping Hospital on 27 January 2012. He was bedridden. His health deteriorated after he was diagnose as having “lung Infection”. The doctor who briefed us informed he had a mild stroke in November last year. Other than that his health is fine. His heart and kidney is functioning normally. His only problem he needed nursing care and therapy. We were lucky to have met him that afternoon as he was discharge from hospital after a successful treatment. I bade him farewell before he was taken into the ambulance heading for the welfare home of “Rumah Kenangan” situated behind the hospital.
The doctor stressed, in his case he should be with his family as he has 16 children from 4 previous wives. So far only one of his children came to visit him. The doctor’s information was from the welfare home record.
His story of being hospitalised and stranded at Rumah Kenangan was highlighted by concern friends on the social network “Face Book”. Many who did not know the background were criticising the family and children for not caring, to the extent of quoting the famous Malay saying “seorang bapa boleh menjaga 16 anak tetapi 16 anak tak boleh menjaga seorang bapa” (loosely translated: a father can take care of 16 children but 16 children could not take of one father).
To me, the saying quoted failed on both counts in this instance. Though Ariff has 16 children, they were from different mothers. Therefore, he was not able to take care of them at the same time. On the other hand some of the children did not know the existence of their siblings until they reached maturity, when they already have been influenced by their mother and her “difficult” experienced bringing them up single handed without the presence of their natural father.
I prefer not to dwell into the subject as I never knew the personal life of Ariff and his family. What I knew of him was more associated with his work at RTM, more so at the “Agricultural broadcast” of old which later transformed into the more popular “Pembangunan” (Development) broadcast headed by the flamboyant character of the late Ahmad Nor. Ariff was a successful producer, announcer and material collector for the broadcast.
I came to know Ariff way back in 1966 when I was posted to take charge of the Malay broadcast of the Northern Region centred in Penang. The regional broadcast was expanding at that time. Ariff was a Junior Agricultural Assistant with the Department of Agriculture in Butterworth. He was a man with a family but that did not hinder him to pursue his favourite pastime in the field of drama, well known at that time as “sandiwara”. As he was a natural he became the lead character at the local fare. As the Regional broadcast was expanding we were looking for talents in all fields. The monthly programme “Sandiwara Radio” naturally looks at Ariff Shah and similar talents as part of its actors on a piece meal basis. It was part of RTM’s policy exposing local talents.
At the same time the agriculture broadcast came to the North under the charge of Majid Kayat. As Majid was running the broadcast with the assistance of Radzi Othman, it was then Ariff was taken in as a script-writer and lent his husky voice to the show. Later when Ahmad Nor took notice of his ability, Ariff was offered a “part-time full time job” at the expanding agricultural broadcast at the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. It was a “part time job” but on a regular basis. Ariff accepted the term of work and left his permanent and secured job in Butterworth. I suppose the green light of Kuala Lumpur and the bright light was his main attraction. I was told he came without his young family leaving them in the back-water of Butterworth.
As we were busy pursuing our individual jobs, we seldom met. I came across him along the corridor and the canteen in Angkasapuri. His nice voice attracted many fans especially the ladies, and he was taken in by their attention. Whenever I have the time to talk to him he was always on top of his exploit.
I move over from Wisma Radio to the main Angkasapuri building where I was taking charge of sports and the local production of TV. The early part of 1980s was the time when RTM went headlong into purchasing of local privatise TV drama productions. This was to stimulate the dying film industry. Many were sceptical of the policy especially the sponsors and advertisers. By and by they were taken in at the support of the audience. The Malay film industry became well.
There were hundreds of local drama production houses mushrooming all over the country with Kuala Lumpur as the main centre. There were talents on the rise in all related field.
Ariff was naturally dragged into these new phenomena. At the beginning his ability as an actor put him among the front runner and he got himself involved with productions through people who appreciated his ability and knowledge of the subject. He was doing well and getting well known at the same time. He never looked back. He left his part time job in RTM to go head-long into acting and production of privatised drama. He was living a good life with lucrative offer.
He was mixing with the cream of Malay film and drama elite. Having involved himself with directing he became more ambitious. It was in the 1990s that he opted to start his own production house, “Ariff Skop Production Sdn Bhd”.
I am not sure how many films were produced by his company. On record he had two films doubling up as producer, director, and actor as well as wrote the screen-play. This must have been cost saving for him. The two films were:
“Jaket Biru” a crime action film having Ebby Saiful and Raja Nur Baizuri in the lead role. It was released on 10 August 1991. It was not well received at the box office.
“Jeritan Batin Ku” a feature film which was released in 1994. The lead actors were Aziz Jaafar, Puteri Nur Maria and Rosnah Mat Aris. The film also did noir fare well at the box office.
This was the time that I met Ariff quite often when he was always hanging around my office not knowing earlier he was married to my Senior Script Assistant SSA who was looking after the TV broadcast schedule that need the Director’s approval. I was quite happy she was married to him after being a single mother for some time. I did not know what was going on between the two but Ariff seem to be around the office most of the time. Anyway I was not bothered by their personal differences but I was more concern about her work performance in the office. My Personal Assistant PA said she was informed he was jealous of his wife working in the boss’s office and forbade her from communicating with the boss. The SSA was a dedicated and efficient staff I have known for more than 15 years then. When she went on medical leave, she confided her mistreatment by her husband. In order not to aggravate matter I made arrangement for the schedule to be sent through my PA only. This arrangement went on until I retire at the end of 1995.
Later in my retirement I was informed they have divorced having a couple of nice children, a boy and a girl. When I attended her daughter’s wedding from a previous marriage she was happy to inform me that her life was much better as a single mother after the divorce and retirement. She said she is not stopping his children from visiting him. After all he is their father. It is their choice.
I don’t really know what happened to him years after my retirement. I have heard many tales from friends of his exploits which I will not pen down here. The only thing I knew he was running into financial difficulty after the failure at the film productions. I was told he was staying afloat on hands-out. Later he was staying at a shack in the padi field of Manong in the district of Kuala Kangsar, Perak. It was from here that some of his old friends from the “pembangunan” era took him to the Welfare Home “Rumah Kenangan” in Taiping.