By Tony Ryanto
JAKARTA (JP): The compelling and best-selling novel by Remy Sylado, Ca-bau-kan, will soon graze the big screen with a release scheduled for next year.
Over the years, Ca-bau-kan, which means woman, is often misinterpreted as cabo, which has attached to it the pejorative meaning of prostitute.
For the making of the film, director Nia Iskandar Di Nata, who makes her directing debut, received plenty of support, including from Indonesian fashion designers who provided her with free costumes and discounts.
""This is great because we need an awful quantity of costumes, considering that Ca-bau-kan is a film that spans over several decades, from 1932 up to 1951 and on to the present, and set in old Batavia,"" said the 31-year-old New York University graduate and daughter of Indovision's senior executive Dicky Iskandar Di Nata.
According to a local film critic, the film, which is estimated to cost several billions of rupiah, explores the lives of several Chinese Indonesians. ""It is an interesting tale of the good and bad Chinese Indonesians,"" he said.
The story starts with the arrival of Giok Lan (played by leading actress Niniek L. Karim), a Dutch national of Chinese Indonesian descent who is in search of her ancestors.
But the film itself does not center around Giok Lan's search for her family. Instead, it highlights the ups and downs of the leading character Tinung (Lola Amaria), the ca-bau-kan.
Forced to marry at the age 14 to a man who already has four wives, Tinung is driven out of her husband's house, accused of bringing bad luck to his family as he dies five months after marrying her.
Feeling lost and desperate, she is encouraged by her promiscuous cousin Saodah to sell herself at Kali Jodo (Jodo River).
Soon, a womanizer from Tangerang by the name of Tan Peng Liang (Moelyono) finds himself obsessed with Tinung and takes her to live with him. Pregnant with his child, Tinung finds life unbearable with the man and escapes, going back to Kali Jodo. This time, she's a pregnant ca-bau-kan.
After giving birth to a baby girl, she becomes a dancer and learns to sing Chinese classical songs. Her new profession leads her to know a wealthy Chinese businessman from Semarang. His name (believe it or not) is also Tan Peng Liang (Ferry Salim), a married man with two grown-up sons.
Unlike the first Tan, the second one allows her and her baby to live at his luxurious mansion in the center of Batavia.
Enjoying her new life, Tinung gives birth to a second daughter. Both children are named Giok Lan.
Tinung's life takes a twist as the good Tan leaves for Macao.
Finding herself and her two daughters without a home, Tinung goes back to Kali Jodo.
Her fate takes her through many trials and tribulations. When she becomes seriously ill, she is forced to give her daughters up for adoption. The girls are adopted by a Dutch couple and taken to the Netherlands.
But the most severe and degrading ordeal she endures is when she is forced to become a Jugun Ianfu, Japanese sex slave.
Learning about the life of her mother from her brother, Giok Lan, who is in her sixties, is not ashamed.
""I'm not upset if you call aca-bau-kan a cabo. But I do get upset if aca-bau-kan is considered an immoral woman....