Actor Khalid Salleh has died at the age of 70 at the Ampang Puteri Medical Centre today (July 23), according to mStar.

Khalid was reported to be ill early this year, but the actor later said he was healthy and was only suffering the ailments of an elderly person.

Khalid was active in both films and Malay theatre. His works with director U-Wei Saari in the 1990s especially – on stage production Bakai, as well as in the films Kaki Bakar and Jogho – were prominent.

He received the Best Actor award at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Taiwan, in 1998, for Jogho – making him the first Malaysian actor to accomplish this feat after Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s win in the same category in 1957, for Anakku Sazali.

Khalid was awarded Best Actor at Malaysia Film Festival as well in 1999 for Jogho. His most recent film was in U-Wei’s 2012 project, Hanyut, which was released in Malaysia in December, 2016.

khalid salleh

Khalid Salleh (left) with U-Wei Saari and Norma Damanhuri at the Anugerah Skrin TV3 98/99, with their awards for Jogho. Photo: The Star/Sia Hong Kiau

Theatre was a big part of his life from an early age, with Khalid staging plays and being an active thespian during his school days in Batu Pahat. His arts career saw him starting off with the pioneering Anak Alam art collective in KL, which promoted multi-disciplinary arts and theatre culture in the 1970s.

“Issues on human, world, religion and politics that are close to the people can be put into a performance. Besides its roles to entertain, theatre can actually ‘humanise’ people,” he was quoted as saying in The Star in 2016.

Khalid’s first acting stint was in the 1976 play Kelip Kelap, written by Mustaffa Ibrahim, and staged at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

His reputation as a poet, writer, newspaper columnist and scriptwriter grew further throughout the 1980s.

As a solo performer, the Jual Ubat monologue, which made its debut in 1970, is also regarded as one of Khalid’s important works.

It was also previously staged a number of times at the Malaysian Academy of Arts Culture and Heritage (Aswara) theatre, Istana Budaya and around Indonesia. In 2016, Khalid staged a touring version of Jual Ubat at eight main railway stations in the country.

His books, which often discuss identity, traditions, customs and intellectual life of the Malay people, include Melayu Hilang Di Dunia and the poetry collection Bukan Apa-Apa, while his theatre scripts were collected in Kena Main.