Remembering the Legendary Malay Actor Aziz Sattar: His Journey from Humble Beginnings to Hollywood’s Doorstep
Nine years ago, Malaysia plunged into mourning with the demise of Datuk Aziz Sattar, a legendary film star, signaling the closure of a significant chapter in the nation’s entertainment narrative.
Aziz Sattar stood as a crucial icon in the entertainment realm, imprinting an unforgettable legacy in the world of cinema and the dramatic arts within the neighboring land. Hailing from the shores of Bawean Island in East Java, this actor has weaved his way through the tapestry of the performing arts for more than five decades.
On August 8, 1925, Abdul Aziz bin Sattar came into the world, a name etched in the annals of time. His paternal figure bore the name Sattar Sawal, while his maternal presence was known as Satimah Jalal.
In the perspective of the Malay people, Aziz Sattar was regarded as a Boyan. The word “Boyan” served as the colloquial utterance among the Malay and Chinese populace in Malaysia or Singapore, denoting those of Baweanese descent who ventured afar. The Baweanese, recognized as a distinct ethnic group, have painted the canvas of modern Singapore’s development with vivid colors. To the Baweanese, the act of migration has been an age-old tradition, woven into the fabric of their heritage. The Baweanese migration phenomenon has been documented since the eighteenth century. They’ve been journeying to various Asian nations for ages, Singapore included. In those times, Singapore, a city turned British trading post since 1819, became a beacon for a multitude of migrants from India, China, and the Dutch East Indies, including the Bugis, Javanese, and Baweanese. At the tender age of three, his parents departed Bawean, setting their sights on Singapore.
In his early years, Aziz Sattar was raised in Pasir Panjang and attended the Raja Malay School in Singapore for his primary education. From the age of nine, he had been amusing those in his vicinity, spontaneously cracking jokes and singing on tiny stages. The Japanese occupation in Malaysia and Singapore compelled him to bid farewell to his school years prematurely.
In his twenties, Aziz Sattar briefly took on the role of a truck driver. However, his love for the arts ensured he stayed intertwined with the realm of entertainment. The 1950s marked the beginning of a transformation in his life.
Following his stint at Malay Film Production, Aziz Sattar delved into voice dubbing and was entrusted with a supplementary role in the film “Putus Harapan.” P. Ramlee’s cinematic gem, “Bujang Lapok,” served as the pivotal moment in his destiny.
Puteh Ramlee subsequently transformed into Aziz Sattar’s mentor and intimate confidant. The intimate bond he shared with him compelled him to pen a book chronicling their friendship while working in the film industry in Malaysia and Singapore.
Prior to crafting a book about his friend, Aziz Sattar penned a memoir chronicling his personal life journey titled “Meredah Gelombang Seni: Sebuah Memoir.” Two years prior to his demise, the character inspired by him emerged in the animated series “Upin & Ipin.”
In the episode titled “Kenangan Mengusik Jiwa,” Aziz Sattar made an appearance to recount the artistic brilliance of his friend, P. Ramlee. For more than five decades, he showcased his talent in a multitude of cinematic films, television series, and standalone TV productions. In addition to his acting prowess, he also held the mantle of a director. His directorial debut came with the film “Keluarga si Chomat.”
In 2007, Aziz Sattar was bestowed with the title “Panglima Jasa Negara” and granted the esteemed honor of “Datuk” by Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin. This accolade was bestowed upon him as a national honor, acknowledging his tireless efforts and contributions to the arts in Malaysia.
Within his professional circle, Aziz Sattar was seen as both a friend and a guiding light. On the set, he took great pleasure in providing motivation to his fellow actors. In the movie “Semerah Padi,” for instance, he provided moral encouragement to Nordin Ahmad, urging him to excel in his performance. In moments of frustration, he would sit beside him, offering words of encouragement and solace. Despite his advancing years, his charisma in the realm of acting continued to enchant.
Approaching his eighty-fourth year, Aziz Sattar was extended an offer to star in a Hollywood film. He was set to play an Indonesian character in a movie, some scenes of which were planned to be filmed in Bali over a span of two weeks. He was reached out to by an agency based in Singapore. They extended an invitation for him to appear in just one scene in the film "Eat, Pray, Love.”
Aziz Sattar was slated to play the role of a spiritual healer, engaging in a compelling act alongside Julia Roberts. Upon receiving the technical details and contract, this Malay actor found himself skeptical about whether he could adjust to life in Bali. In his thoughts, Bali loomed as a mountainous terrain that he feared might strain his frail body.
Hence, Aziz Sattar sought aid from a family member, requesting the presence of a helper. His plea was granted by the agency, albeit without any extra cost. Another concern loomed in his mind—his own shadow casting doubts about the availability of halal food in Bali.
Ultimately, Aziz Sattar opted to turn down the opportunity, thus relinquishing his chance to grace the screens of Hollywood. He had the potential to be the second Malay actor, following in the footsteps of Ibrahim Hassan or Ibrahim Pendek, to appear in a movie akin to “The Spiral Road.”
Aziz Sattar breathed his last at the KPJ Kajang Medical Centre in Malaysia in 2014. His final two films included “Terbaik Dari Langit” and “Radhi Rudy Bin Dadu.”
During that period, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, extended his condolences for his departure.