"The Yaslehs

Since 1968, when his first poem Sebuah Sumpah Derhaka was published in Majalah Mastika, our dad, yassinsalleh, has written voraciously, but at the same time is so disorganized that we could hardly keep track of what he has written. It is even worse now that he writes his poems in his phone and sms it to us his children. Believe you me, he spent a lot of money on smsing long poem to us that is sometimes lost to accidental deleting. So we, his three children - Yasleh Rita Ayu, Yasleh Hani Wati, and Yasleh Khaliff Amri - decided that enough is enough, we need to keep some kind of record of his poetry, thus the creation of this blog. This will be a cache to collect all his old poems and a safe to keep all his future ones. In the film world, mentioning my dad's name will immediately brings to mind his 10 awards winning film Dia Ibuku in which he personally won 2 - Best Director and Best Screenplay- but in the literary world the poem ikan-ikan di kaca is synonymous to him, hence the name of this blog.

ikan-ikan di kaca
(buat adik-adikku tom dan ani)

pun mentari sudah tiada api
dan bulan yang merdu
sudah sejuk nyanyinya
di hujung jari jemari embun
kita masih belum terlalu lewat
untuk menerima satu hakikat

kita anak-anak satu keturunan
yang menganuti escapisme
selama ini
ikan-ikan di kaca
ikan-ikan di kaca.

ikan-ikan di kaca indah alamnya
ikan-ikan di kaca gemulai renangnya
ikan-ikan di kaca manja hidupnya
ikan-ikan di kaca terpenjara sebenarnya.

tidak lama lagi
akan kering
dan mentari
berapi kembali
kalian sudah mengerti
bahawa kita
selama ini
ikan-ikan di kaca
masihkah kita
ikan-ikan di kaca?

Kuala Lumpur akhir 1969
Dewan Masyarakat, April 1970 "

(dari blog ikanikandikaca)

Dan inisiatif anak-anakku tersayang ini, aku abadikan disini.

Terima kasih Abang, terima kasih Along, terima kasih Adik.

What a wonderful world. - yassinsalleh

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No room for the Grand Old Man of cinema?

FindArticles / News / New Straits Times / Mar 6, 2010

No room for the Grand Old Man of cinema?

by Johan Jaaffar

I RECEIVED his 300th "SMS poem" last Friday, at 3.46am, to be exact, his "usual" time for sending out messages to friends. The poem, untitled, comprised 11 lines and 35 words. Yassin Salleh, film- maker, poet and cultural ideologue, is the Father of Cyber-Poetry. Yassin and his fellow cyber-poets learnt brevity from Indonesian Sitor Situmorang, who entered the annals of literature as the one who wrote the shortest poem the world has ever known, the three- word "bulan di atas kuburan" (moon on a tomb). He died before SMS was invented but literary Netizens relived what was thought impossible in the mainstream literary sphere - short, serious, yet cool poems.

"My poems do not normally get published, so cyberspace opens new doors for periphery writers," he told me.

Yassin is no stranger to the literary world. His first poem, entitled Sebuah Sumpah Derhaka, was published by Mastika back in 1968. However, it was Ikan-ikan Di Kaca that catapulted him to poetic immortality. The poem, which appeared in Dewan Masyarakat, a magazine published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), in 1970, has a life of its own. It is iconic and has, in fact, attained cult status. Yassin has written perhaps thousands of poems (mostly unpublished, according to him), yet Ikan-ikan Di Kaca, a parody of humans living as fish in an aquarium, will remain his most famous.

He was born in Kampung Ponson, Manchis, near Bentong, Pahang. It is a village barricaded from the real world because of its location, 64 years ago. He was brought up by a grandmother who believed the boy should grow up somewhere else. She took him to Temerloh, where she worked as a midwife and traditional masseur and he went to school. In 1964, he joined Kuantan Teachers' Training College but his interest was in literature. He left the teaching profession in 1973.

He ventured into the world of entertainment, editing the magazine Rita. He came to know Zainuddin Zimbo, who later became Seniman's first president. In fact, the artistes association was mooted at his office at Bangunan Jaya, in Kuala Lumpur's Chow Kit. But there were those who believed Seniman was not in the hands of the right people. Entertainment journalists from Utusan Melayu staged a plan to wrest control of Seniman from Zainuddin at its second annual meeting in 1974.

It was the most tumultuous meeting in the history of Seniman. Yassin stood fast with Zainuddin. He wrote a piece on the meeting and sent it to Osman Abadi, the deputy editor of the group. The piece, Quo Vadis Seniman, was the talk of the entertainment world when it appeared.

Osman wrote to Yassin, "A wild beast like yourself (alluding to the analogy of binatang jalang or wild beast in the poem of Indonesia's great poet Khairil Anwar) should not live in Temerloh, you ought to be here in Kuala Lumpur."

Osman wrote a script for Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM), a story of a woman unable to bear a child. It was rejected for fear that someone very famous at the time would be offended by the story. Osman sought Yassin's help to rework the script for a film. The writing part was easy, financing it was sheer hell.

It took them years to come up with the money. Osman wanted Yassin to direct, a decision that brought scorn within the film industry. Yassin had never touched a movie camera before. Yet Osman was adamant and Yassin did a good job, albeit having to face at least three shutdowns, and he and his family being ejected from hotels and rented premises during the filming of the movie.

Yassin left the production short of completing three scenes. Potret Maria was made for slightly less than half a million ringgit, a staggering amount by the era's standards, largely because of cost overruns. Yassin impressed his lead actress Sarimah, who convinced her husband at the time, Yusof Majid, that their film project should be directed by Yassin. Dia Ibuku was specially written with Sarimah in mind.

In 1981, the Second Malaysia Film Festival was largely Yassin versus Yassin. His Potret Maria was pitted against Dia Ibuku. Potret Maria was nominated in seven categories but did not win any, while Dia Ibuku won 10 awards, the most ever won by a single film in the history of Malaysian cinema.

Yassin's two films collected 17 nominations, a record for any film-maker in any one film festival. It won the Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay awards for Yassin, Best Heavy Drama, Best Lead Actress awards for Sarimah, Best Comedian for S. Shamsuddin, Best Cameraman for Johan Ibrahim, Best Art Direction for Baki Ahmad, Best Sound Editing for Vincent Koh and Kum Soon, and Most Promising Actor for M. Jamil, Sarimah's son. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister at the time, gave out the Best Film award,

Dia Ibuku was the pinnacle of Yassin's achievements. He helmed a mini-masterpiece too early in his career, not unlike Orson Welles with Citizen Cane. Yassin made Ali Setan 2 in 1986 and Hanny in 1993, both largely forgotten. He went on to direct movies for TV and serials like PJ, Seri Nadia, Pembalut Luka, Titisan Embun, Kamariah, Gunung Payung, Tak Sakit Lagi, Siti Zubaidah, Meniti Pelangi and Nur Ain. Nur Ain was his last TV serial, made in 2002.

He attempted many comebacks but none materialised. He has been talking about an untitled tome, a story of an octogenarian poet who falls for a young girl. He has been talking to potential financiers but there have been no takers. Things have changed so much over 29 years. He is largely forgotten even though he is the most successful film-maker the country has ever known.

Too many newly minted Datuks are now producing movies. The last time I checked, there will be at least 50 new ones this year, a bountiful harvest in a field of diminishing audiences. There is no room for the Grand Old Man of Cinema.

Yet Yassin will go indie if he has to. Indie has always been a term associated with young film-makers. But he has gone indie with his cyber-poems, why not films?

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