Reza Rahardian might only be 23 but he has won two Citra awards at the Indonesian Film Festival (FFI), making him one of the country’s most wanted actors.
Reza recalled how surprised he was when he was named Best Supporting Actor at the 2009 FFI for his role in Hanung Bramantyo’s film Perempuan Berkalung Sorban, or Woman with a headscarf.
The hustle and bustle of customers at a cafe in a posh mall in Senayan, South Jakarta, could not distract him from his thoughts.
Reza said he was touched, speechless and even teary-eyed when on stage at the FFI ceremony. Winning the award meant he beat veteran actors, such as Deddy Mizwar, Frans Tumbuan, Mamiek Prakoso and Verdy Sulaiman.
“I’m really proud of being nominated at a big event like the FFI alongside my seniors, such as Deddy Mizwar and Frans Tumbuan. I was just 22,” he said.
“My hard work finally paid off. Perempuan Berkalung Sorban was quite a difficult film for me — in terms of the filming process and the character itself.”
The moment repeated last year, when Reza was named Best Actor for his performance as Rosdi, a young man trapped in a love triangle, in Benni Setiawan’s 3 Hati, 2 Dunia, 1 Cinta, or 3 Hearts, 2 Worlds, 1 Love.
At the same time, he had also been nominated for Best Actor for his work in Deddy Mizwar’s Alangkah Lucunya Negeri Ini, or How Funny This Country Is.
“It’s kind of funny having to compete against myself but it feels great,” Reza said.
“Before, I might have been recognized as an actor, who played serious characters in weighty films.
Tiga Hati is a light movie and Rosid is portrayed as lighthearted simple man. This role shows that I can play different characters.”
Since childhood, all he ever wanted was to act like the people he saw on TV, Reza said, adding that his mother inspired his acting career.
“My mom has literature background. She knows many things about movies and actors. She told me much about classic movies and legendary actors,” said the oldest of two siblings.
He first joined his high school’s drama group to sharpen his acting skills before taking part in a modeling contest in 2004.
“Yes. I used to join cover boy competitions held by local teen magazines. I was named one of the favorite finalists.”
“Modeling, however, has never been my main career goal. I used it as a stepping stone for my acting career. I joined in the competition in the hope that people from production houses or TV stations would cast me for their movies or TV shows,” he said.
Reza made the right decision. He was later offered parts in some sinetron, or TV soap operas, such as Culunnya Pacarku (My Nerdy Boyfriend) and Idola (Idol).
He spent only one year acting in sinetron before landing on his first big-screen role in 2007’s Film Horror (Horror Film). Reza followed his debut with a part in Pulau Hantu 2 (Ghost Island 2) directed by Jose Poernomo, who also helmed the blockbuster horror hit Jelangkung (The Uninvited).
“I was very excited after landing my first role. When I got the part, I did not think about the script or the director. The only thing that popped into my mind is that I finally acted in a movie.”
But Reza said he decided to stop acting in horror films after he heard too many people blaming the genre for Indonesian film industry’s woes.
“There’s nothing wrong with genre [films]. It’s all about the script and story,” Reza says.
So he started to look for better scripts and finally got an audition for Perempuan Berkalung Sorban, which was directed by one of Indonesia’s most popular directors, Hanung Bramantyo.
“When I heard about Hanung, I thought that this film will going to be a huge turning point for me. It’s going to be a ‘wow!’,” he said excitedly.
The film centers on the struggle of Anissa, who fights for women’s equality inside an Islamic boarding school (pesantren).
Anissa (played by Revalina S. Temat) suffers many bitter moments in the film, such as when she is forced by her father to marry Samsudin, man whom she does not love, who abuses her and eventually forces her into a polygamous marriage. Reza said he showed up at the audition in Muslim attire for the role of Wildan, who appeared in only six scenes throughout the film. “I was ready to put myself in character. I was very excited about it and I wanted to make it serious,” he said.
But Hanung trusted him with bigger role as Samsudin, Anissa’s abusive husband. The role opened the door for Reza’s first Citra for Best Supporting Actor at the 2009 FFI.
“It was a challenging role. Samsudin is a typical man who does not care about his wife’s welfare. For him a Muslim wife should stay at home, cook and take care of him and their children,” Reza said.
After winning the award, Reza said he felt an obligation to continue to choose quality roles in the future.
“Winning the award does not mean that I can take as many offers as possible. I tend to be more picky after the triumph, taking deep look at each script before agreeing to star in the movie.”
Reza’s broadened his horizons by choosing roles in different film genres, ranging from comedies such as Kirun + Adul to teen films — Hari Untuk Amanda, or A Day for Amanda, and Queen Bee — to critically acclaimed dramas, such as Alangkah Lucunya Negeri Ini and 3 Hati, 2 Dunia, 1 Cinta.
In April, film fans will be able see Reza in The Mirror Never Lies, helmed by young director Kamila Andini and produced by arthouse director-turned-impresario Garin Nugroho.
In the film he plays as Tudo, a dolphin expert who decides to accept a job in Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi, to mend a broken heart after splitting from his fiancée. Tudo finds a new world in Sulawesi when he meets the region’s famous seafaring Bajo people.
Reza said that to delve into his character he went to Ancol in North Jakarta to learn more about dolphins.
Reza is again collaborating with Hanung, this time on the director’s latest Muslim-themed film, along with Revalina S. Temat, Rio Dewanto, Agus Kuncoro and Endita.
In the future, Reza hopes to star in a biopic.
“I want to star as an Indonesian national figure, no matter whether it is someone from the movie industry, a national hero, a president or a songwriter.
“Indonesian national heroes still get little attention from our filmmakers. There are only few films about the stories of our national figures.”
Reza’s interest in cinema runs deep. One of his dreams, he said, is to open a Indonesian film museum showcasing everything from ticket stubs — he’s a collector — to posters to DVDs and more.
He wants to work in the film industry for a long time to come.
“I’m amazed to see how our dedicated veteran actors still actively act in movies, during the high and low of their careers,” Reza said.
He said hoped to work with two of the country’s most famous directors, Riri Riza and Joko Anwar.
“Like every actor’s dream, I still want to win awards at international festivals. I still want to make contribution to Indonesia’s film industry,” Reza said.