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KUALA LUMPUR: Described by fans as the 'quintessential gentleman of Malay cinema', Datuk Mustapha Azahari Maarof had an illustrious film career and remained active in the entertainment industry until his final days.

The 79-year old silver screen legend, known for his portrayals of dignified men, died of a lung and kidney illness at the Tuanku Mizan Armed Forces Hospital in Wangsa Maju here at 8.38am.

Born in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 1, 1935, he began his acting career in the 1950s starring in the historical movie Hang Tuah alongside Tan Sri P Ramlee.

Mustapha starred in more than 50 films, among them Sumpah Pontianak (1958), Raden Mas (1959), Bawang Putih Bawang Merah (1959), Seri Mersing (1961), Sultan Mahmud Mangkat Dijulang (1961), Detik 12 Malam (1979), Jasmin (1984), Matinya Seorang Patriot (1984), Tuah (1990), Fenomena (1990), Abang 92 (1993), Putih (2001), Chermin (2007), 1957 Hati Malaya (2007) and Lembing Awang Pulang Ke Dayang (2009).

Hati Malaya, directed by Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba, saw him play the Yang Di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan Tuanku Abdul Rahman who became the first King of Malaysia.

Besides acting in films and more than 100 television dramas in Malaysia and Singapore, Mustapha also produced television programmes and advertisements as well as corporate videos via Warna Motion Pictures.

He was active in artistes' associations such as Persatuan Seniman Malaysia, where he helped establish Tabung Seniman, the association's charity fund for artistes.

Mustapha also initiated Hari Seniman every May 29 which honours artistes' contributions to nation building.

The actor became a board member of the National Film Development Corporation or Finas and was head of its wajib tayang (compulsory screening) committee.

Mustapha won numerous awards for his services to Malaysian entertainment, and these included the Veterans' Award in the 10th Malaysian Film Festival and the Finas Film Industri Icon Award 2010.

Mustapha was twice married, first to actress Suraya Harun (from 1962 to 1965) and second to actress Roseyatimah (from 1967 until her death in 1987).

He is survived by three children and seven grandchildren.

Mustapha's father, banker Maarof Zakaria, is honoured with the major road Jalan Maarof in Bangsar Baru.

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