In a July 7 article published by MalayMail Online, Metrowealth Pictures producer David Teo was quoted as saying that his company aims to foster talents who are not only famous, but also have the potential to be millionaires.

He cited legendary entertainer Tan Sri P. Ramlee as an example of a celebrity whose fame meant nothing, as he died penniless.

Kalau tak jadi jutawan, jangan jadi pelakon. Buat apa? Gila glamor buat apa? Kita kena kaya raya. Jangan seperti P. Ramlee, tinggal di tepi Bukit Bintang … Kita tak boleh glamor punya time lupa diri, berlagak dan berjoli then after that dah tua tak ada duit,” said Teo in parts of the interview with the online portal conducted at an event on June 17.

(“If you can’t be a millionaire, then don’t be an actor. What’s the point of being glamorous? We have to be wealthy. Don’t be like P. Ramlee who ended up living in the outskirts of Bukit Bintang… We can’t forget about reality during glamourous times, be arrogant and have fun until we end up with no money in our old age.”)

Teo, the producer of box office hits like Jangan Pandang Belakang, Adnan Sempit and Ngangkung, has received backlash from the Malaysian entertainment industry players for his remarks about P. Ramlee.

Actress-director Melissa Saila, who is also P. Ramlee’s niece, said in a Twitter post: “P. Ramlee is an artiste. Not a businessman out for money.”

Meanwhile, producer-director Datuk Yusof Haslam in an interview with mStar called for more sensitivity.

“I urge anyone who wants to comment about the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee to be more careful because you don’t want to be misinterpreted and incur the wrath of the people. I myself will think carefully before saying anything about P. Ramlee because I know that he means a lot to the people,” Yusof said.

Actor-director Afdlin Shauki penned a heartfelt Facebook post, thanking Teo for bringing awareness to P. Ramlee’s life. He said that P. Ramlee was exploited by big studios who robbed him of his intellectual property and rights. An article in The Star published in 2011 revealed that none of P. Ramlee’s family members have received any royalties from his movies being screened on local television as the rights are owned by The Shaw Brother Studios in Hong Kong.

P. Ramlee died of a heart attack in 1973 when he was only 44 years old in Kuala Lumpur. Some of his notable works include classic films like Ibu Mertuaku, Bujang Lapok and Anakku Sazali. He was also the composer of evergreen songs like Getaran Jiwa, Bunyi Gitar and Jangan Tinggal Daku.

Teo has apologised for his statement on Metrowealth’s website in a July 10 post. He said he never meant to insult P. Ramlee, but he also denied making the statement. “I deny and have never made the statement that has spread widely in the media. It never occurred to me to insult P. Ramlee or his creative legacy. I believe this is all due to a misunderstanding and misinterpretation by the party who wrote the (original) article.”

However, the reporter who conducted the interview, recently posted an audio clip of it on YouTube and it does seem like Teo had made the statement.

Teo is currently in Beijing, China and is unavailable for comments.