The Kuala Kangsar that I knew and love…

This is the 500th posting of SembangKuala and we are happy to present a personal musing (in two parts, the first regarding a certain cinema) of the royal town of Kuala Kangsar by our esteemed co-conspirator in the editorial board, Raja Chulan bin Raja Dato’ Ahmad Tajuddin.

I love writing ‘off the cuff’, narrating true life experiences which colour our lives. And I have to admit that my childhood days in Kuala Kangsar moulded me into what I am today. Like any other child, the carefree days as a kid was filled with moments of ‘learning and venturing’ into life. I am very grateful to Allah swt for His Grace that I was brought up in the Kuala Kangsar famed for its pau Ah Lok and the MCKK-Clifford rivalry (which reminds me of the Cliffordian battle cry – “Go for his legs man!”).

I was born in 1949 in a typical Malay household, despite being of la famille royale, as my first cries as a baby was in a house in Istana Kolam. The area of Istana Kolam housed Kuala Kangsar’s first film theatre, the Rex cinema. The Rex was well known for its char kuey teow and ais kacang sold by hawkers at the adjacent food stalls.

Arwah Raja Dam* 'with Julie Andrews' at the Rex Kuala Kangsar during the big flood of 1967. You can see the water level at the bottom of the photo! (*Raja Zainal Razman@Raja Dam)

The Rex was also where the action was, and pretty much it was the centre of a happening scene in Kuala. It was the landmark for dating couples in those days – the drainpipe-wearing kampung ‘hero’ with their buah hatis dressed in fine long blouses (complete with owl-eyed spectacles to boot for some). This was at the time when using the public phone was the in thing for courting couples. Not forgetting the typical mating call of  “orang di sini mau kenal orang di sana, boleh?”. It has to be said, though, that dating with a ‘Romeo’ was safe for the ‘Juliets’, for outings would never be without chaperones, usually in the form of younger sisters, brothers and sporting aunties!

At times when the Rex would feature films starring the likes of Raj Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore (which can ‘shake’ the inhabitants of sleepy Kuala Kangsar, especially when ‘lights out’ would be at barely half-past eight), getting tickets was seen as a test of one’s manhood, may he be a budak pekan or budak kampung. The guys, plucking up all the courage he could, would offer to buy tickets for the show for their lady friend. The rush to get into queue for the film tickets in those days at the Rex would make purchasing movie tickets at a GSC multiplex today seem like peanuts in comparison. Our beloved Uncle Richard (aka YM Raja Harun Al Rashid Raja Razman) would testify to this!

It must have been a John Wayne cowboy thriller that spurred him to make a beeline for the ticket box office, but it was not to be easy as he was manhandled by three ‘hero’ kampungs and he was shouldered out of queue! With an ashen look, ‘King’ Richard (as he is fondly known by his loving nephews and nieces) turned to big brother, the late Ayah Din (Allahyarham Raja Sharifuddin Raja Razman, who recently passed on and may Allah appease his soul), for help. Without much ado, the two Razman brothers went hunting for the three ‘hero’ kampung perpetrators. It wasn’t difficult to find them as Kuala Kangsar was really small then. And it was at the padang kanak-kanak by the bridge on the Kangsar River, a tributary of the Perak River, were the bullies!

It was quick. Watching from inside his elder brother’s Triumph Herald, ‘King’ Richard saw lightning punches landed by the late Ayah Din on all three samseng kampungs. It was not even preceded with tongue-lashing scene as one would see in Tamil film brawls! The bullies went home, each bearing the ‘Phantom-Skull’ trade mark (from the late Ayah Din’s ring!) on their foreheads. The moral of this tale here is that the Razman family blood tie is strong and the word ‘cowardice’ never found its way into our heads!

The author (on the right) with his uncle, 'King Richard', today. Photo taken at Rumah Hitam, January 2010.

In comparison, I feel the new generation of watching movies at the multiplex cinemas of today is more chilled out – a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life, if I should say so myself. On the contrary, watching Rock Hudson and P. Ramlee movies at the Rex in those days were always a thrill-a-minute that can set the adrenaline flowing. There was, between the audience and the movie characters, a true kind of ‘sharing’ – the audience would applaud fervently when the hero blasted the crooks with lefts and right hooks, whilst there would be loud boos and hollers when the hero get outnumbered and all beaten up. But there were moments of silence too. When Sharmila Tagore, the village lass and the hero’s girl friend, was forced to marry the local mafioso the likes of Prem. Or when Mak Dara forced Sarimah to leave P. Ramlee in Ibu Mertuaku. Sniffs and sobs could distinctly be heard! And it would be at this moment that the male folk would go out, on the pretext to buy kacang goreng, but actually just a ruse to wipe off tears!

[To be continued]


Raja Chulan Raja Dato’ Ahmad Tajuddin is one of the editors of SembangKuala when he is not travelling around the country giving motivational talks. He read economics at the University Malaya and unlike most Perak royal sons, including his co-editorial board colleague and second cousin, he was educated at Sekolah Dato’ Abdul Razak.

6 thoughts on “The Kuala Kangsar that I knew and love…

  1. Salams RC & editors,

    Aha …now I know for sure that boys DO cry! Well, nothing wrong with it really… but if only boys would own up!

    Excellent piece of writing. A joy to read because I too sort-of belong to the Rex generation and can re-live every moment that you wrote here in my mind. Only that during my time it wasn’t Sharmila Tagore but rather Rishi Kapoor and Dimple (or was it Simple) Kapadia. Saw ‘Bobby’ twice and cried my eyes out, both times!

    Looking forward to the continuation. Don’t let us wait too long, ya?

  2. Sembah Salam Engku Culan,

    Finally, some write up about King Richard. My numerous request to Engku Shahriman have been in vain. Please share with us the rest of King Richard tales and adventures. I am pretty sure there are more than a handful. Mak Engku Mimi have her own tales on King Richard that is definately worth compiling. Lastly, please upload the picture of King Richard in his admiral uniform taken sometime during Pangkor Treaty. It is being display in his manor in Ipoh.


    • Dear Tuan AK Ismail,
      True. I am sure the Kuala Kangsar that we both knew was rich in its ‘modern folklore’, thanks to the Razman family! Here on, we try to share fond memories of Kuala – the royal ambience, its rich natural surrounding and its people. Do drop in again and salam from us editors to your kind self and family!

  3. Sembah salam Tok ayah Chulan and editor,

    Thank you for sharing all these stories.I am clueless of the stories of Perak Royal Family. I was born in 1971 and my late father passed away in 1978 followed by my grandfather in 1981. My Ayah yeop Raja Chulan passed away recently in 2006. During the time when I grew up, I live in Alor Setar and I came to Rumah Merah, Kuala Kangsar only once in a while. I will definitely put this website in my favourite list. I am so happy to have found this piece. Thanks a lot for sharing 🙂

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