“Today is Hari Kesaktian Pancasila, you know,” a friend told me first thing when I arrived in the office.
“Oh? Frankly, I actually forgot about it. Completely. All I remember is that today’s payday,” I said.
She chuckled. “Well, I remember only because it’s the same day of China’s National Day as well. My mom celebrates it.”
“Many people I met only vaguely remember what are 5 principles in Pancasila. What’s there to commemorate?”
Then my mind jumped right away to the movie “The Act of Killing,” a documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer on the 30 September Movement back in 1965, and the genocide that followed afterwards, and I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous this Hari Kesaktian Pancasila is. “Sakti” here is something similar to “powerful,” or “great.” I remember how watching Oppenheimer’s movie, especially the scene when a few of the perpetrators of the post-1965 killings showed how they were glorified for what they did back then in the name of Pancasila. I remember wondering whether they even understand what Pancasila is. Hell, I’m not even sure I truly do as well! For me, it’s just like those overly-idealistic principles that I always read in books.
Then as I found some time for myself when I got home, I became curious of how big this day is, then found some background information of how this day is related to the so-called 30 September Movement, which, despite the debate and controversy of who’s responsible for the ’65 coup, the New Order government decided and proclaimed (as we all know) that PKI (The Indonesian Communist Party) was responsible, and they decided to commemorate (1) the coup on 30 September, famously known as Gerakan 30 September/PKI (G30S/PKI), and (2) the so-called Pancasila on the day after, which is today, known as “Hari Kesaktian Pancasila.” And what’s ridiculous is an article ( Presiden SBY Pimpin Upacara Hari Kesaktian Pancasila ) I saw in Kompas earlier how they want to take in the values in Pancasila for the sake of the nation’s character building.
I felt depressed thinking about the philosophy behind this. What are they commemorating, really? The Pancasila? The “victory” over the massacre on the day before, done in the name of Pancasila? The fakeness of Pancasila?
Here’s Pancasila, by the way:
1. Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa (Belief in the one and only God)
2. Kemanusiaan yang adil dan beradab (Just and civilized humanity)
3. Persatuan Indonesia (the unity of Indonesia)
4. Kerakyatan yang dipimpin oleh hikmat kebijaksanaan dalam permusyawaratan/perwakilan (democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives)
5. Keadilan sosial bagi seluruh rakyat Indonesia (social justice for all of the people of Indonesia)
*translations are taken from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancasila_(politics)
Please, help me out here: “just and civilized humanity”? Our history is full of wounds from bloodsheds and pogroms, dating even way from the 18th century, and even until now many of the victims are still traumatized and paranoid when talking about it, then the government barely do anything about it. What is “just” about it? And humane? Discrimination, racism, and hatred surrounds the country, and the extremists won’t even hesitate to kill others in the name of their god, or the state (mostly god, though). In another documentary by Andre Vltchek and Rossie Indira on 1965 that I watched, “Terlena: Breaking of a Nation,” there’s this narration by Len Tooke that got me chuckling: “Although Indonesia claims to have a population that is 100% religious, it is arguably among the world’s least compassionate nations.” Seriously, “humanity?”
“The unity of Indonesia?” Extremists are burning temples, churches, destroying other believers’ sacred ground, calling them names, then other extremists got back for revenge–please tell me where the fuck is the unity in all these. We got chauvinist conservatives, extremists who are too narrow-minded and “exclusive,” who can barely conform and tolerate anyone but themselves. It sure sounds like “unity” somewhere there…
And “democracy”? You mean democrazy, yes? I laughed so hard when I read how Pram described that the presidents are “clowns” except for Soekarno, and how the painter, Djokopekik called the country is full of “buffaloes” in the documentary “Terlena.” Such representatives, they are.
And help me god, “social justice for all of the people of Indonesia?” A guy walked from his home, already destroyed by the Lapindo mud, to the capital city, wanted to meet the president to ask for what he’d promised: a compensation for his lost home and if I had not mistaken, he didn’t get to meet the big guy in the end (I forgot the link of the article. In case I got the information wrong, feel free to correct me and send me the link). Ask him where justice is.
So, Pancasila? Somehow it’s becoming more and more of a nonsense…
I have no idea what ‘Lobakan’ means. I’ve checked both Google and Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian Dictionary) and found nothing about the word, but the words after the colon mean: “A compilation of short stories (The silenced thunderstorm of Bali in ’65).” The number 65 at the end of the title there refers to the year of 1965.
That is the title of the book that I just read.
*edited March 20, 2012 – Just found out from my grandpa that Lobakan is actually a Balinese term for lamp–the old, ancient, petromax lantern. (Doh, I’m such a fake Balinese!)
So, back in December, my grandpa gave me this book Lobakan after I shared with him my interest and findings on one of the darkest history of Indonesia about the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia). After getting enough courage to finally asked him about the incident, my grandpa decided to give me this book ‘if I’m interested.’ (He’s gotta be joking. Of course I’m interested!)
Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a bit of background information based on my findings:
Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, once proposed a political concept called as ‘Nasakom,’ which literally is an abbreviation of three words: ‘Nasionalisme’ (nationalism), ‘Agama’ (religion), and ‘Komunisme’ (Communism). This is the notion invented by Soekarno as a part of his vision to unite three big political parties existed in Indonesia at that time–PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia/Indonesian National Party), Islamic parties which were divided into two parties at that time: Masyumi (Partai Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia/Council of Indonesian Muslim Associations) and NU (Nahdlatul Ulama–a traditionalist Sunni Islam group), and PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia/The Communist Party of Indonesia)–in order to create harmonies between the three, and hence: peace amongst society.
By 1965, the member of the communist party had rapidly increased to 3 million people, and this worried the other 2 parties. Negative sentiments against Soekarno also grew as he supported and protected PKI, along with his ideology as it’s similar with his own.
Long story made short, the tension finally broke by September 30, 1965 as a movement called the 30 September Movement kidnapped several Indonesian war heroes in the army and killed them. Hence, General Soeharto (later the 2nd president of Indonesia) took control and provoked massacre of those known or suspected as “communist allies.” As the army publicly announced that the communists had killed Indonesian respected war heroes to encourage and approve the killings (of the PKI partisans), the Islamic forces did the same thing as they labeled those “communists” as atheists–a word that does not make any sense to most Indonesians, even until now, as Indonesia is not an “atheist country.”
Today it is speculated that the movement was actually a coup d’etat provoked by Soeharto and his army friends, backed by the CIA as they were afraid that Indonesia would become a strong ally to the communist (remember the Cold War?) and the PKI and its “allies” were merely victims of false accusations.
Of course, I might get this wrong, so feel free to correct me.
Here are the links to the sources (most of them, of course, will be Wikipedia):
Okay, enough about history. As my old man put it, “History is about perspective. The more you read, the more you find out.” Well said, grandpa!
Now, aside from the fact of who actually did what, or who was the bad guy, or even who was right or wrong, the thing is that the massacre killed a lot of innocent people. The army encouraged citizens to kill their neighbors, friends, and even family members without trial. And those were the people who might not even know what on earth PKI actually was. Most of them were actually those who merely hired to entertain the actual PKI members in one of their events/propagandas, or hired as a guard during a PKI meeting, and these people are poor peasants who, even if they actually owned the land or the field they were working on, they were really poor that eating rice was considered a luxury for them. Worse, they could even be poor farmers who didn’t even own a land, and merely working on a landowner’s land and gained almost nothing as a result of their hard work. Uneducated people, already suffered, and then suddenly stabbed or even tortured for reasons unknown to them.
Meanwhile, the religious parties (those who does not want to be associated with atheists) also made propaganda as they identify all communist partisans as atheists. They used folklore, myth, legend, belief, and they toyed with people’s faith to encourage the killings. They believed (and I am not referring to a specific kind of religion here because this includes all kinds of religion existed in Indonesia at that time) that killing communists was a religious duty. I am not a big fan of religion so of course I mock this idea. Were I lived during that time, I would definitely be assassinated.
Many believe that at least half a million people died during that time. In one article I read, people were getting used to seeing tons of dead bodies in the river, floating from one village to another village, spreading awful smells of rotten corpses. “No one wanted to risk coming out of the house,” said my grandpa. If I had not mistaken, the biggest killing happened in either East Java and Central Java or Bali, where they said that it was one step closer to become an anarchy.
These are the stories I read in Lobakan. All of them are, of course, fictionalized, because, as I read in the foreword, most of the victims interviewed (or talked to) tried so hard to erase those tragic events from their memories that most of them tried to deflect or even talked about something irrelevant instead of retelling the truth. In the end, no one actually ever find out what actually happened, and I doubt anyone will ever do.
One of my favorite stories is titled Monolog (Monologue), by Putu Fajar Arcana. It contains a speech of one of the victim of the massacre, who told his story of how he got involved with the PKI (although it is not explicitly stated whether he realized and fully acknowledged PKI at all) and later caught and killed. He said he came from a very poor family, whose field were taken by landowners and later were forced into a huge amount of debt by those landowners where in the end they had to work on the land they were supposed to own. The PKI held meetings talking about possibilities to get their land back, and as a poor peasant, how could they say no? The idea alone already seemed like ‘water from the moon’ (meaning impossible) to them. Later, of course, it costed him his life.
Another favorites are Warisan (Legacy) by Putu Satria Kusuma and Menanti Tantri (Waiting for Tantri) by Soeprijadi Tomodiharjo. The first one tells a story about Wayan Guru who was suspected as a PKI partisan and were hiding at his parents’ house while many people were waiting in front of the house, ready to ambush and slay him. His parents told the masses that Wayan Guru was away in Java, yet they waited. At the same time, Wayan Guru begged to see his son, Kadek, who stayed with his wife in his house near his parents’. He was determined to see Kadek, even if it would cost him his life, but his parents asked him to think it through, because death means missing his son’s 3 months ceremony, as well as watching him growing up.
The latter, Menanti Tantri tells a story about Made Arka Wiratma, an activist in fighting against illiteracy, who got a visit from a respectable figure: The governor of Bali, when he was lying sick on a hospital bed, suffering from malaria. His wife who accompanied him at that time was pregnant with his son. The governor suggested to name the unborn child Rai, taken from Balinese war hero: I Gusti Ngurah Rai. To them the visit was such a great honor. Little did they know that the governor was a leftist, and hence, a PKI partisan, as well as what the visit would cost them later.
What’s ironic is how I Gusti Agung Ayu Ratih put it in the foreword about how the government seemed so easily dismissed the tragedy and instead polished the so-called “The island of the gods” with monuments, malls, hotels and clubs to attract investors and tourists from around the world by making the native of this “island of gods” to work (I actually intent to use the work “slavery”) for these visitors who’d see Bali as, indeed, their “heaven on earth.” Try ask the people whether they think it’s a heaven on earth to them.
What? You didn’t expect me to write the complete stories as well as all of the short stories included, right? That wouldn’t be fair to the writers (says the person whose life is devoted to download free stuffs). >:D
I owe my grandpa for willing to give and share this with me, and I love the inscription he wrote on the first page of the book (I always love inscriptions on the first page of my book!) for me:
Earlier today I went to visit my grand father in Denpasar. For someone who admit to be awkward in socializing with others, not to exclude family, I have to say I had a great day.
As I’m not a morning person at all, I woke up earlier today at about 11ish. 10.30ish. 10.45ish. Around that time. And then my mom finally managed to make me take a shower. (Yes, finally!) So after I cleaned myself, ate my breakfast, and took care of the laundry, I called my grandpa and told him that we’re coming soon. That was around 12 PM.
So we tried to stop a taxi, and finally arrived at grandpa’s house at around 1. Not to mention that we were lost before we finally found his house.
Now, let me get this straight first.
I was born in Java, and I have Javanese, Balinese, and Chinese Indonesian heritage from my parents. My grandpa here is a Balinese. The sad thing is that the last time I visited him and met my Balinese family was 2 years ago. And before that, it was about 19 years ago when I was only 4.
So not only I don’t know my Balinese family very well, I was as well having trouble finding my grandpa’s house in Pekambingan area.
I’m also suck–really suck–at navigation, FYI.
So yeah, we almost enter a stranger’s house, mistaking it for grandpa’s house.
Anyway, I finally called him and asked him to show me direction through phone, and we finally arrived.
Yay! Let me do the happy dancing for a while.
* * *
Okay, happy dancing done.
Then we did some catch up, gave him a Tempe Kripik, which is the traditional food from my hometown (a small city called Purwokerto) and chatted for a while.
After that, we went to visit my grandmother–or my grandpa’s sister-in-law, which I should refer to as Kompyang, or simply Nenek. Oh, she’s actually my great grandma. Then as we chat and chat, I start to recollect the family I have here. Apparently, aside from my grandpa, who I refer to more as Pekak, I have plenty other grandpas (Pekak) and grandmas (Oda): Pekak Ned and his wife, Oda Endang, Pekak Made, Pekak Nyoman, Oda Catri, and Pekak Tude, the youngest of all, who could be simply mistaken as my uncle (Uwe). And then the uncles and aunts: Uwe Sunan, Uwe Leila, and Uwe Surya, my 8 years old uncle (according to the family tree, he’s supposed to be my uncle!).
After visiting each one of them (except for Uwe Sunan who’s in Lombok atm, Pekak Nyoman and Pekak Tude), my Pekak and Oda Endang invited me to see Denpasar Festival 4 which was held in Udayana. The traffic–as it has gone crazier and crazier towards New Year–was a complete disaster. So instead of driving to the location of the festival, we parked the car somewhere near the festival, and then decided to go there on foot. Oh yes, there was a heavy traffic jam.
So there, I held my Pekak’s arm tight, while my mom and Oda Endang went window shopping and ended up shopping, indeed. As we separated ways in the festival, I finally managed to persuade Pekak to have dinner with me as he had not eaten anything since we arrived at noon. It was around 9 at that time. I would definitely starving by then, but he kept reassuring me, saying that he’s fine and I don’t have to worry at all about him.
Of course I was worried.
So finally we stopped at this place selling Kambing Guling, Sate and Soto Ayam.
Now, this is my favorite part of the day.
As I accompanied Pekak while he ate his dinner, I started to ask him about the books he has at home.
Pathetically, I just found out earlier today that my grandpa apparently is really smart and open-minded, as well as a devoted reader like me. Only he doesn’t read novel. He read non-fictions about Politics and Philosophy. I was really tempted to steal his Dialogue with Socrates as I glanced at it. But of course I didn’t.
He said he likes reading about Politics and Philosophy, and he’d wanted to major in Social & Politics earlier in the university, but as he was born on October 12th 1940, by the time he entered university, there hadn’t been any university which provides good quality of Social & Politics study around. So he went to study law instead, at Airlangga University in Surabaya.
And that was the time when I finally had enough courage to ask a question I’ve been wanting to ask him for years:
“So, grandpa, I was actually wondering… Were you involved with PKI during the 60s?”
And I got a firm “No,” along with a head shake as an answer.
I think I was actually almost disappointed.
To answer your question: No, I didn’t ask that question out of nowhere.
There has been a rumor–well, not actually a rumor. When I was a kid, my grandma and my dad told me once that my grandpa once joined the PKI, and when the national army went around Indonesia to capture PKI members, he was captured and kept in prison for years.
That’s when my grandma decided to remarry again.
Anyway, just in case you’re confused what the hell PKI is, it’s a communist party that once dominated Indonesia. Its career ended after the 30 September Movement, and not until Soeharto resigned in 1998 did people start to wonder and talk about what happened. Sadly, these ‘people’ mostly refer to foreigners who study or interested in Indonesian culture and history. I don’t really know many Indonesian who put so much interests in their own history.
(You could click the link for further, clearer, and more complete information.)
Then my grandpa continued and set things straight:
“I wasn’t involved in PKI, to be precise. I was actually involved in the youth organization in campus. The thing is, after the 30 September Movement, the army started to slay and capture those who either actually involved in PKI or those who simply didn’t oppose PKI’s idealism. As a university student, you know, we were full of idealism and thoughts. We want things to be better, and we urged the government to do it. It’s not that we were pro PKI or against it, but we opened ourselves to good ideas and thoughts, especially related to this country. If PKI offered good solutions for this country’s problem, why should we oppose? Sure, were there any other good solutions offered by others, we’d definitely support it. The problem is, the army didn’t see us that way. At that time, there were many prejudices, and our youth movement in campus was not excluded. They simply accused us as PKI supporters, so they captured us and put us in jail. Without proof.”
I also told him that I’ve watched the movie Sang Penari, which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s novel Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk and has the story set in the 1960s–sometime before and after the 30 September Movement. I also told him that I read some articles about the PKI and watched The Year Living Dangerously.
I think he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t prejudice toward him, so he asked me first, what do I know about the ‘Movement’ and the party itself. So I told him all I know and all I read.
“There are two kinds of history. One that is told from this perspective, and another one that is told from that perspective. Only reading and listening from one side of the story could mislead you. The more you read, the more you know the truth.”
I’m not gonna argue with someone whose grades in history are always next-to-excellent. I saw his school certificates earlier–from elementary school up to university. He’s really fond of history, turns out.
“So grandpa, how long were you in jail?”
“10–(noise on the street)–minus 1 month.”
“No, sweetie. 10 years,” and he chuckled.
My eyes widened.
“Yes, minus 1 month. Your grandma was pregnant with your dad at that time. 3 months pregnancy. I had to leave.”
I remember my dad told me that it wasn’t until he was entering primary school that he found out that his dad at home is not his biological father. He said he called my grandpa a loon who thought he’s my dad’s dad.
I couldn’t imagine being in a cell for 10 years, with… nothing to do. So I asked him what did he usually do there. He told me about the size of the cell. It’s about 1.5 m x about 3.5 m, if my memory serves. They usually fit 3 skinny men in there, so my grandpa simply chat with them. Playing chess sometimes. Take a shower at 8 AM and later 4 PM.
“Well, there’s really nothing much you could do in a place like that. If you’re not strong psychologically, you’d crack.”
Deep in my heart, I was thankful that he was still alive up to now.
Then I told him that in the article I read, many influential and smartass were in the PKI and they were put in prison. One of my favorite author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer was in it.
“Oh, Pramoedya? Yeah, he’s really smart. And kind, too. He used to walk around, back and forth–remember there wasn’t enough space in there, so you could simply go back and forth in the same direction–he’d usually walk with dignity.”
“He was there?”
“Yes, yes.” And he nodded.
My grandpa was talking about my favorite author like he’s this cool guy who you usually met at school. “Oh, him? Yeah, we were in the same class. He’s the one who’d usually ask the most questions in class.”
“It’s just unfair how the government treated those people, pops. I mean, they are not criminals who’d steal your wallet or kill you for your money, right? They’re smartasses, who’d actually be very useful to this country.”
My grandpa nodded. “Yea. I changed cell mates for about three times, and almost all of them are educated abroad and very brilliant.”
Holy shit, my grandpa was there to witness the history! He’s there!
And then we went back to the festival.
While we wait for my mom and grandma as they shopped around, I continued my discussion with grandpa. We changed the subject though, this time.
I don’t really remember how it started, but what I remember most is that I was asking him about Sesajen–the offerings made by the Balinese Hindus for the gods.
Now, what’s really interesting and unique about Bali is the custom of offerings. Other than having tons of Pura’s, every Balinese Hindus has at least their own Pura at the front of their houses. Depends on the size of the house (and depends on how rich you are), the size, height and beauty of the small Pura varies. Well, the term Pura might not be the right one, but this ‘small Pura’ is used to put Sesajen, or offerings. Some houses (mostly the wealthier ones) would also have an altar–like a small hall–aside from the small Pura.
My Pekak’s and Kompyang’s house are not excluded.
Then I asked him about the Sesajen.
He told me that the usual Sesajen is called Canang. People usually make Canang as soon as they finished cooking their breakfast. Before they eat their breakfast, they ought to put chunks of whatever they eat for breakfast in the offerings and then put it in the small Pura. Once they finished this, they could then eat their breakfast. Unless you’re sick or away from home, you should put the Sesajen every day as a prayer for all the meals that you’re gonna eat that day. Praying that the nutrition will fill your body and improve your health, and to make sure you’re not to starve.
Another one is called Banten. This one is only made on special occasion. Tourists could see Banten everywhere in malls in Bali where people would put Banten near the front door, or somewhere on the corner of the street, as a prayer for luck and success for their business. When I was here, my mom’s best friend (who mostly pay for my trip and fun here in Bali) hires a driver. He’s a Balinese and whenever we go around to visit some tourism resorts, I would always see a Banten on the car’s dashboard next to the steering wheel.
I love Bali because it’s one place where you’d see art and culture blended into one in harmony.
Later we continued on talking about random subjects and random stuffs.
I found out that apparently our ancestors were part of the Ksatrias. But since we don’t really believe in caste system and instead, believe that caste system would only create further discrimination and prejudice, so we no longer use nor acknowledge it. Awesome, though.
Also, apparently, my great-grandfather used to be in the Dutch army. He was trained in the Dutch school for police, and later, he switched side and join his fellow Indonesian to fight for independence. He died sometime later after that, which caused my grandpa to be fatherless. But my great-grandmother and my grandpa received some benefits as a reward for my great-grandpa’s patriotism. Awesome, again.
I learned a Balinese word “Sing Ken Ken” which means “No problem.” Also awesome.
I promised myself that I would write something about the movie Sang Penari (The Dancer) which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s book titled Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk as soon as I finished the book.
And now I’ve finished the book. So here we go.
First of all, I usually try to discipline myself in a way that I ought to always read the book first before I watch the movie (of course, we’re talking about movies which are adapted from the book). But then Sang Penari came up, and I was so intrigued by the trailer alone. Then I met my friends and we talked about it. I was actually thinking: “Okay. Let’s gamble. I’ll ask her if she’d watch the movie with me, but if she–like me, insisted on reading the novel first, then I’d read the novel first no matter what. The movie came later.” Yet when I met my friends, my lips are locked. I don’t know. I feel like I ought not to gamble on this one. Or maybe I’m just too afraid of getting the answer and see how it’d turned out. (Really? Over a movie and a novel?–Yes, really really.)
Then something unexpected happened. My friend, out of nowhere, became the one who asked me, “Hey, do you remember the movie Sang Penari? Do you want to watch it togehter?”
I could hardly contain myself, really. The movie it is!!
So, anyway, here’s a bit of the trailer for you guys to see:
In brief, Sang Penari tells a story which revolves around a girl, which turned into a beautiful woman called Srintil. Srintil was born and raised in a small village in a rural area called Dukuh Paruk. This village is crucial as it becomes a place which pretty much shape Srintil’s destiny and personality.
There’s a tradition which has been going on and on for years in Dukuh Paruk, where they would always have an icon called Ronggeng. Put it in a simple way, Ronggeng is pretty much similar to Japanese Geisha. The difference here is the role of Ronggeng in the society especially the society of Dukuh Paruk. Ronggeng is the symbol of art and sex, I’d say. Ronggeng usually dances and performs in various villages and places during the day, and though the dance is pretty much a Javanese dance, but from what I’ve seen and read, I got the impression that the dance is more of an erotic dance, where people would shout remarks which refer to sex. The audience were also able to give tips to the Ronggeng by slipping money in the inside part of her clothes which cover her breasts. Later at night, men, who are mostly married, would pay as much as they could to have sex with her. Surprisingly, their wives would not mind at all since they believe that after their husband have sex with the Ronggeng, their husband would be able to give them offsprings. There’s this one scene where a housewife picked up her husband, and thanked Srintil the Ronggeng then expressed her wish that she now hope she could get pregnant again.
Srintil had been dreaming to become a Ronggeng all her life, so when she finally became a Ronggeng, she was really excited. There’s only one problem: Rasus. Rasus is her childhood friend and later became her lover. At least until she finally became a Ronggeng. To think logically, who could stand having your girl friend becoming a public’s “property” anyway? So Rasus fled the village and joined the army, leaving Srintil broken hearted.
Basically, the movie is a love story between Rasus and Srintil who ended up getting caught up in the midst of the chaos of the 30 September movement. Srintil and all her friends and relatives in Dukuh Paruk ended up suffering in a concentration camp for suspected communists while Rasus is a part of the army who put people in the camp. He was tormented between choosing to follow orders as a soldier or to follow his heart in Dukuh Paruk. He ended up going from camp to camp looking for Srintil though. Did they finally reunited and get the happy ending? Well, do you really want spoilers?
Now, the book.
My curiosity was pumped after watching the movie. And I’m getting even more excited as soon as I found out that I could get a 20% off in the bookstore if I purchased the book with the movie ticket. So I called the bookstore. After making sure that I’d get the 20% off, I bought the book. (Okay fine, it’s only 20%, but it could actually save me a meal, believe me. It’s worth it!)
Now, one thing you must know is that this newer version of Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (the cover above) is actually a 3 in 1 version of a trilogy. The whole movie itself is actually inspired by the whole trilogy.
The first part of the trilogy is titled, of course, Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk, followed by the second part of the trilogy: Lintang Kemukus Dini Hari, and the last part: Jantera Bianglala.
The decision to name the whole 3 in 1 version as Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk is not a bad one, I guess, since the story itself focus indeed on the Ronggeng.
Reaching the first five pages of the book, I thought, “Damn. Thank God I watch the movie first.” I know I’m gonna hate the movie if I read the novel beforehand.
The thing is, for you who actually expect the movie to be exactly or at least 80% similar to the book or vice versa, you’d definitely get disappointed.
I mean it.
But then, I also remembered that ever since the trailer came out, it was never said that movie was “adapted from” the book. They always put it as “inspired by” the book. Not adapted. Inspired.
So I was kinda guessing, actually, (with fear, of course) that the book might actually be completely different from the movie.
And my hunch was right.
One of the main difference that I noticed right away is the age of the main characters.
In the movie, both Srintil and Rasus were already grown-ups (at least Srintil must be in her early 20s) when she became a Ronggeng and finally lost her virginity. In the book, Srintil was only 11 and Rasus was 14. Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise considering the area where they live and grew up. They was born and raised in a rural area, where young marriage (an extraordinarily young marriage) was considered pretty common, not to mention it was only 1960s at that time, which make it more common, supposedly. Yet the movie make it so different. On the other hand, I think many people would definitely surprised and protest if they actually bring an 11 year old girl to merely act like she was losing her virginity to a 14 year old boy. Fine, of course, that might happen here and there, but to display that in a movie might still be a contradiction. I remember that they actually need to ask for Olivia Hussey’s permission before she could actually showed up naked in the 1968’s version of Romeo and Juliet.
Another difference is the plot. They still do include the conflict and tragedy of the 30 September movement, including the communist influence of small villages like Dukuh Paruk, but the whole story is pretty much more complicated in the novel. (Of course, it’s a novel, AND a trilogy, to be exact, so what do you expect, eh?)
Despite the differences, I have to say that I love both the novel and the movies, and I then realize that to keep comparing the movie with the novel is a useless effort. The movie was inspired by the book, not adapted. So what I’m actually doing right now is treating the novel and the movie as two different work of art and literature. They’re similar but different. That’s it. I love the movie. And I love the novel. I love both plots. I love both endings. (You still don’t want spoilers, don’t you?) I love each of the characters.
Since the novel has no visual, of course it relies heavily of Ahmad Tohari’s narrative throughout the novel. And I have to say: wow. The way he narrates things, I was wow-ed with the way he played with words alone. Not to mention the way he takes his readers to this rural areas where Dukuh Paruk is located, where its citizens all live in poverty, yet none of them seem to want to have better life–they simply thought that that is what life is all about: acceptance of their poverty, despite the fact that they don’t eat good food, they suffer from malnutrition and other horrible stuffs. To them, having a rice and scrambled eggs are already considered luxury.
The movie, on the other hand, has many elements in it. One the most important element is of course the act of the actress and actor. The actress playing Srintil is, later I found out, a new actress in the movie industry: Prisia Nasution and the actor playing Rasus is Oka Antara. I have to say that I’m not very familiar with Indonesian actress and actor since I’m not used to watch many Indonesian movies before. Other than Sang Penari and Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops), I used to have this stereotype that Indonesian movies are mostly teenlit, and is definitely not my favorite genre. Of course I was wrong. There are plenty other movies which are definitely not teenlit or chicklit. So right now, I’m trying to catch up by following some famous titles such as Perempuan Punya Cerita, Merah Putih and Merantau. Anyway, I heard some people said that Prisia Nasution is not the right actress to play Srintil in the movie because she looked like a dark-skinned Japanese. Well, she has narrow eyes, indeed, but I think she did splendidly in the movie. I was wow-ed with the way she played with the emotion inside Srintil: when she was about to lose her virginity to a guy she didn’t like, but then Rasus suddenly showed up. Her despair and broken heart toward Rasus, the way she danced and sing, the way she act like a woman who’s desperate for a child. Wow. I think she acted so well there in the movie. And Oka Antara? Same wow. One
thing that really surprised and excited me when I was watching the movie is that the language used in the movie is the Banyumasan Javanese–the Javanese with the local accent used in my hometown. Of course, I was then like, “Right. Ahmad Tohari is from somewhere near my hometown, of course his story would revolve around the places around it and of course the people in the story would talk like that.” But still, I was surprised. Now, in the movie, Oka Antara played a young man named Rasus, who went from this stupid guy from a small village and can’t even read, and can barely shout or speak firmly the first time he join the army. I chuckled every time I remember him speaking, “I can’t read, sir,” to his commander in the army with a thick local accent. When the army took him to their place, he looked like this lost little kid and seemed scared of everything and everybody. But the army educated him, and then he became this firm, stern-looking guy who’s considered one of the best soldier in the army. I mean, how many people can actually showed such a progress so obviously and yet so naturally? Really, wow.
Another character that really wow-ed me is this character named Sakum. He’s one of the musician who always accompany Srintl whenever she performs. What’s special about Sakum is that he’s the complement of each show. He’s the one who always make each performance spicy and lively with his obscene remarks. What makes it even more special is that he’s blind. He can’t see. But he’s one of the musician. He is said to have a sharp sense on things around him. He’s one person you look up to because he’d know what you feel inside you just by listening to your voice and smelling your aura. And the guy playing Sakum in the movie picture this perfectly.
Of course there are plenty other elements in the movie, including the costumes, the setting, etc etc. But what really left a deep impression in me is the emotion conveyed by each actors and actresses. I’m gonna say it again: I love them. The movie and the novel. Such a masterpiece.