She was in my house many times, giving me much joy and entertainment. I have been to hers once. Alas she wasn't there. And now she is no longer with us. Al Fatihah to a wonderful and talented actress, Saadiah Ahmad Daud.
Only a few days ago, I read about RTM's effort to show appreciation to veteran artistes of the 50's and I remember saying to myself, "At last!"
But as the accolades were sung and tears were shed, one of the most illustrous and talented actresses who should be there to receive her recognition in person, wasn't there. She was in the throes of her last breath, which ended months, if not years of suffering. She left us at the age of 68, leaving us with memories of her fine acting in classics like Semerah Padi, Penarik beca, Antara Dua Darjat, Isi Neraka, Musang Berjanggut and Sarjan Hassan.
Saadiah was born Satiyah Baharum in 1937 in Singapore and from the young age of seven, accompanied her sister the veteran actress Mariam to the Jalan Ampas Studio where she learned and observed much from the curious eyes of a child. She acted the script checker and firm critic of her sister.
"Bila kakak Mariam berlatih seni kata sayalah yang dipaksa menyemak scriptnya. Bila dia berlatih gaya di hadapan cermin, saya disuruh menjadi tukang cacatnya." (Majallah Filem - 1 April 1960)
Saadiah's first film was Rachun Dunia, which was also starred P Ramlee and although it was a minor role, it was enough to catch the attention of Director L Krishnan who took her to act in Bakti. She was only 13. There was no looking back then as she signed contract with Shaw Brothers where she went on to act with P Ramlee in major roles. In an interview with Gelanggang Filem, she said that P Ramlee chose her for his films because she could understand what was wanted of her and she could deliver it on screen.
This reminds me of my visit to her house to meet her husband, another veteran and famous actor, Datok Ahmad Daud. The actress was then on a shopping spree in Singapore and arwah Ahmad Daud was left to entertain me. He spoke at length about their acting career which I duly documented in my mini feature for BBC Radio. But something he said remained with me till now, evidence of Saadiah's talents.
"Bila dia berlakon dengan Abang Ramlee, Abang Ramlee larang dia jangan menitiskan satu titik ayark mata pun," he said in his thick Penang accent. "Tu dalam filem Antara Dua Darjat. Dia kata dia tak mau tengok satu titik pun, tapi dia nak tengok ayark mata bergenang dalam mata....susah tu! Tapi Saadiah berjaya mengikut arahan Abang Ramlee," he added in a tribute to his wife.
There are indeed many films,mostly tear jerkers that make us rush for the Kleenex box, that are starred by Saadiah. Saadiah was a real Ratu Air Mata. The other one was of course Neng Yatimah. Saadiah was best actress in 1955 and 1956. She acted in over 100 movies and even tried a hand in directing, making her the first Malay woman movie director when she directed Ceritaku Ceritamu. Her acting career spanned five decades in a show business that demands a lot but receives very little in terms of appreciation.
In one of the courses that I did last year, I was fortunate to be able to watch again Penarik Beca and Antara Dua Darjat two classics with Saadiah and P Ramlee, two fine and talented screen idols from the Malay world.
Watching a four part documentary of Bollywood greats where directors, producers, actors, actresses and singers from days gone by were interviewed, I often wondered why we never made any efforts to document our own movie greats. Why wait till they are no longer with us? While we are in awe of the here and now, we tend to forget those who were there before, and then it is too late.
RTM's special scheme to help veteran artistes is indeed to be praised. It may be too late for Kak Saadiah but there are many others, like Latifah Omar, Mariani, Hashimah Yon.
In the meantime Al Fatehah to a wonderful and talented Datin Saadiah.