From the mid-1960s until the end of the 1970s, a woman, born Djudjuk Djuwariyah, was known as a famous artist of the legendary comedian group Srimulat. Her audiences protested if she failed to appear in any of Srimulat’s shows.
Djudjuk was indeed a magnet of Srimulat, which was set up in 1950 by Kho Tjien Tiong, more popularly known as Teguh Slamet Rahardjo, originally as a traveling troupe in East Java. This group was named after Teguh’s first wife, Srimulat.
“Actually I didn’t always get a part to play on stage. But as demanded by my fans, Pak Teguh finally gave me a role,” recalled Djudjuk at her residence in Sumber, Solo, Central Java.
But Teguh was not inclined to pamper theatergoers. With the fame of Djudjuk as a rising star whose appearance was expected all the time, Teguh just began to limit Djudjuk’s role.
“Bapak [Teguh] didn’t want to see his members intoxicated by their popularity. That’s how he formed the character of the Srimulat team. This approach was also applied to potential members such as Gepeng, Tarsan, Paimo and Asmuni,” said Djudjuk.
In 1970, Teguh married Djudjuk after his first spouse Raden Ajeng Srimulat died, which got Djudjuk involved in managing and promoting the group with almost 300 members at the time, scattered in four major cities: Surabaya, Solo, Semarang and Jakarta.
“Bapak handled everything from group management, stage setting, script writing and direction, to the sound system. In fact, Srimulat had to perform in four cities every night,” noted the woman born in Solo on March 20, 1947.
As an insider, Djudjuk really felt the ups and downs of the celebrated troupe. In the hands of Teguh, Srimulat was truly a big comedy group. But when her husband was ailing, Djudjuk undertook Srimulat’s management more fully. For the sake of its continuity, she moved to Jakarta in the 1980s.
“It was the heyday of Srimulat, when it appeared regularly off-air as well as frequently on television. I was even overwhelmed. Handling comedians turned out to be difficult,” said the mother of four and grandma of seven.
The golden period of Srimulat was quite long before it entered the declining year of 1996. “After 1996, Srimulat was in suspended animation, with no more TV contracts. It failed to compete with modern innovations of comedy, while going back on stage was impossible as public tastes had changed,” added Djujduk.
It’s ironic that while the country’s comedy scene remains dominated by former Srimulat artists like Tarsan, Tessy, Mamiek, Eko, Gogon, Polo, Kadir, Tukul and Nunung, Djudjuk claimed to face the downtrend with an attitude of resignation.
“The wheel keeps turning. But I feel proud Srimulat managed to survive for 46 years and has remained in the hearts of many fans.”
Djudjuk herself, when Srimulat’s last contract with a private TV station ended, chose to return to Solo, unlike most ex-members of her group, who stayed in Jakarta.
Many later succeeded in “conquering” Jakarta, like Basuki, Timbul (both deceased), Tarsan, Tessy, Nunung, Mamiek, Kadir and Tukul Arwana.
“I decided to go back to Solo, to take care of my grandchildren. My home is here,” said the woman who looks younger than her age of 64. Djudjuk realized Solo was not the lucrative place to make money as a comedian, yet it was her choice.
“Now I’m old. Let younger people come to the fore. I know my position, I can’t sell all the time,” said the lady known to star in various comedy films including Untung Ada Saya (It’s Lucky I’m Here), Gepeng Mencari Utang (Gepeng Seeks Loans), and Gepeng Bayar Kontan (Gepeng Pays Cash).
Apart from her resigned acceptance, Djudjuk acknowledged her wish to revive Srimulat. But she had to abandon the desire completely due to unsupportive market conditions.
“Srimulat still retains a lot of fans but they don’t adequately represent the market. No more TV stations are prepared to renew contracts.”
She said off-air shows in Taman Bale Kambang, where Srimulat first appeared in Solo, for instance, were impossible because Srimulat admirers would demand its heyday stars so most must be hired for the stage.
“It means we have to present among others Tarsan, Tessy, Mamiek, Tukul and Nunung. How can we get the money to pay them? Their honorariums are already worth more than Rp 10 million a show,” Djudjuk pointed out.
On the other hand, if Srimulat recruits new players or presents unpopular ones — with far
smaller honorariums — Djudjuk is pessimistic about the response of audiences.
So, Djudjuk is aware the theater is no longer her world. The golden period is over and the younger generation replaces the previous one. In the words of Djudjuk, old branches will age, but new braches will keep growing.
“I may be away from the stage. But Srimulat will live on and won’t be forgotten,” maintained the woman, now an active member of the Indonesian Keroncong Music Artists Association along with keroncong maestro Waldjinah.