The New Paper
Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Funnyman Gurmit Singh said he will be retiring from showbiz at the end of the year. That's when his contract with MediaCorp expires - and he's not renewing it.
He is best known as Phua Chu Kang, the ah beng contractor who declares himself as the best contractor in "Singapore, JB and some say Batam".
The sitcom debuted in Singapore in 1997 and ran for eight seasons. And it was so popular that Phua Chua Kang became the "archetypal ah beng". No, we didn't say that. The 'honour' came from Jock O. Wong in his book "The Culture of Singapore English."
That's right, our favourite ah beng was even the subject of an academic publication. Phwor! So let's recall the five things we love about our favourite ah beng contractor.
1) Those yellow boots
Come rain or shine, he's always decked out in those yellow plastic boots. Standard gear for a contractor? After all, he wears them everywhere - even when he is walking around Toa Payoh.
2) He attended NTUC's Basic Education for Skills Training (Best Classes) to improve his English
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had said in his 1999 National Day Rally speech that the Singlish-speaking Phua Chu Kang was a bad influence on young students learning to speak proper English.
He said: "Gurmit Singh can speak many languages. But Phua Chu Kang speaks only Singlish. If our children learn Singlish from Phua Chu Kang, they will not become as talented as Gurmit Singh. We learn English in order to communicate with the world."
3) He's the "best in Singapore, JB and some say Batam," ...and Kuala Lumpur?
His credentials at home, in JB and some say Batam are widely known. But how many of us realised he had bigger amibitions - to make his name in far-flung Kuala Lumpur?
While the spin-off series only lasted for one season, at least our favourite ah beng had the guts to try and expand his business.
4) He has been seen on the small screen, silver screen and stage.
It's not just television. Phua Chu Kang has a musical to his name. And it was publicised on the side of a plane. Take that, Hello Kitty! He has also appeared on the silver screen.
5) He is a rapper
Not only can he build you a sturdy cupboard, he can also put together sturdy rap lyrics. The most famous one? That "Sar-Vivor" rap, released during the SARS crisis in 2003.
He also did one for the Land Transport Authority's campaign to promote graciousness on public transport.
While Gurmit Singh is quitting showbiz, he didn't say he's shutting off the Phua Chu Kang persona for good. So we wish him well in his future projects.
Meanwhile, if you need a dose of ah beng-ness, then head on down to the Madame Tussauds Singapore wax museum, where a replica awaits.