TVB tribute: Eric Tsang recalls how Ng Man Tat nearly killed himself because of gambling debts

PHOTO: Screengrabs from YouTube/ TVB (official)

To his friends and co-stars, he was an extraordinary actor, friend, and person. And now, they want the world to know.

In memory of one of its former actors, Hong Kong broadcaster TVB recently telecast a special tribute episode on comedian Ng Man Tat, who died on Feb 27 aged 70 after a battle with liver cancer.

Many of his close friends — including celebrities Alex To, Kingdom Yuen, and Tenky Tin — shared special and sometimes hilarious memories of Man Tat, whom they fondly called Tat-kor, or Brother Tat.

One of the most poignant stories shared in the episode was from veteran actor Eric Tsang.

"This is one of Tat-kor's personal experiences. It's a very positive and uplifting story that I often share with younger actors and showbiz friends. Tat-kor was a spectacular actor but in his youth, he loved to drink and gamble, to the point that he was saddled with debts," Eric, 67, said.

"He went around asking friends and production crew members to lend him money, and eventually, people were afraid to call him for acting projects. 'If we hired him, would we have to lend him money again?'

"One of his good friends, now a very famous actor, helped him many times until one day, he told Tat-kor that he couldn't do it anymore. This friend said he would only be hurting Tat-kor if he continued to help."

While Eric didn't name the friend, media reports claim that it's renowned Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat.

Eric continued the story, saying Man Tat lost all hope in life after that.

Ng Man Tat with Andy Lau in one of their projects. PHOTO: Screengrab from YouTube/ TVB (official)

"Tat-kor felt that, if even such a close friend refused to help him, then he had certainly reached the end of the road. He thought of killing himself, so he went to a pond and crossed one leg over the threshold," Eric said.

"Before he jumped, he looked at the sky and prayed that he could be reincarnated as a human in his next life, so that he could live a new life and be an even better actor. He wanted to show others what an actor should be. But then, he thought, he might not be reborn as a human."

ALSO READ: Ng Man Tat was living in Johor Bahru for many years but wanted to return to Hong Kong prior to his death

Man Tat realised that instead of waiting for his next life, he should start afresh in the life that he already had. He banished all thoughts of suicide and went home for a long deep rest.

He later returned to TVB and asked all the directors and scriptwriters to cast him again, and promised he had turned over a new leaf. 

Ng Man Tat with Stephen Chow in one of their many projects. PHOTO: Screengrab from YouTube/ TVB (official)

From then onwards, Man Tat became famous in TVB for being an actor who never had to bring his script into the film set because he had already memorised all his lines — and sometimes even his co-stars' — no matter how long and difficult they were.

Eric lost his composure at this point and struggled to hold back his tears. "This is the lesson I want to share with everyone: you will experience tough times in life, but if you have the opportunity to live life anew, you can become a new man. Tat-kor is the best example."