Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nordin Ahmad


Gurindam Jiwa (his best film ever)

By Ruzita Alias

Nordin Ahmad was born in Butterworth, Pulau Pinang in 1932 and held a rather comfortable job as a clerk at the British Headquarters, in Singapore in 1951. If possible, Nordin wanted to stay on the job until his retirement. However, an advertisement scouting for new actors published in Utusan Melayu newspaper had changed the mind of this curly-haired young man with an arresting personality.

“Why don’t I apply for this acting job?” Nordin asked himself. He received strong encouragement from his friends, and this was told to several of his close colleagues. Through the advertisement, Nordin applied for the job as an actor at the Malay Film Productions (MFP) Studio. In a week, Nordin received a reply asking him to go to MFP Studio for a screen test.
Without any previous acting experience, the dashing young man was not only quaking in his boots, he was completely tongue tied to utter the few lines of dialogue given to him.
“I don’t think you can act”, said the director; S. Ramanathan who auditioned Nordin in front of a camera.

Nordin was despaired with the honest opinion of the Indian director who was more comfortable to interact in English due to his limited Malay. However, Nordin accepted the offer to work as a labourer at the studio. By doing so, he hoped that one day the opportunity for him to act would eventually arrive. After working with MFP studio, Nordin appeared in several films as an extra without lines, among them were Rayuan Sukma, Juwita and several others.
When Haji Mahadi was given the chance to become a director in early 1952, Nordin Ahmad was featured as the leading man and paired with Maria Menado (Datuk) in the film Permata di

Perlimbahan. Unfortunately, the film was not only uninspiring in terms of performance, it was also a flop in the market. Nordin Ahmad accepted this misfortune and returned as an extra. Whether he liked it or not, he had to swallow life’s bitterness without feeling discouraged or defeated.

P. Ramlee, who had been close to Nordin, restored the latter’s self-esteem and morale when he offered Nordin a role in the film Semerah Padi in 1956. In the film, Nordin was cast as Teruna – a role that is equal to P. Ramlee’s Aduka.

Nordin’s success in Semerah Padi had placed him as one of the ‘stars’ in the industry alongside P. Ramlee. His personal ‘market value’ soared, resulting in Cathay Keris Studio to hire him in 1957 with a salary offer that far exceeded what MFP Studio paid him.

Nordin’s progress was fast and he became the pride of Cathay Keris Studio. His acting was more convincing now that directors such as L. Krishnan (Datuk), Datuk S. Romai Noor, B.N. Rao, K.M. Basharom, M. Amin, Salleh Ghani and Husain Haniff were scrambling to cast him in their films. Cathay Keris’ huge success in films like Hang Jebat directed by Husain Haniff, Cucu Datuk Merah by M. Amin and Seri Mersing by Salleh Ghani, was partly determined by the strength of Nordin’s acting, apart from the story element and directing.

Unfortunately, Nordin Ahmad could not prove his mettle when given the chance to sit in the director’s chair in 1964. The first film he directed called Wan Perkasa was only mediocre. The response from the fans in the golden era of Malay films were also lukewarm. However, Nordin was still given the opportunity to direct several other films, e.g. Kasih Ibu, Naga Tasek Chini, Play Boy, Kekasih, Nafsu Belia, Keranda Berdarah and Lubang Neraka.
In a conversation with him at Cathay Keris Studio, Nordin had admitted that there were many weaknesses in his directing, as compared to his acting that was more powerful and effectual.
“I’m not ashamed to admit that fact,” he said with a solemn face.

P. Ramlee had intended to cast Nordin in a film under his direction at Merdeka Studio, Ulu Klang, Selangor in early 1971. However, the plan was not realized when Nordin passed away on 15th of June, 1971 after suffering from jaundice for several months in Singapore.

He was survived by his wife; Salmah Ibrahim, Nordin’s contemporary on the silver screens who was famous for her roles as a seductress. Salmah is a native of Padang, Indonesia but has resided in Singapore until today. Nordin Ahmad may have departed from this life for 35 years but he is still acclaimed as a brilliant actor by present generation. He is akin to a star which twinkle that never fade.

May God bless his soul.