She is a familiar face in Indonesian films and a popular judge in a talent show, but Rianti Rhiannon Cartwright says she is patient in pursuing her career, preferring to focus on the present.
“Good job, I like it!” Her comments ring familiar to viewers of the talent-search show Indonesia Mencari Bakat (IMB), broadcast in prime-time on Saturdays and Sundays on TransTV.
Rianti is one of the celebrity judges alongside drummer-actress Titi Sjuman, actress-emcee Sarah Sechan and composer Addie MS in the weekly show, which brings people from all ages — individuals and group acts — to present their artistic talents, from singing and dancing to playing music.
The 27-year-old said she was proud and happy to be part of the show for the second consecutive season.
It allowed her to see many gifted youngsters from across the country, she said.
“Personally, I get new knowledge from this show,” she told The Jakarta Post one Saturday afternoon just before an IMB episode.
Before joining IMB, she said she was not familiar with sasando, a traditional musical instrument from East Nusa Tenggara, until a contestant named Berto Pah showcased his great sasando talent.
“I feel like I’m getting to know the richness of Indonesian culture,” said the former MTV VJ.
The participants’ marvelous talents amazed her so much that she had a hard time naming her favorite contestants.
“I like many of them. There is Brandon, a 9-year-old hip hop dancer, who is truly a wonder kid, and also Putri Ayu, a 13-year-old soprano, who has this amazing voice.” Rianti says. “Sometimes people come up with surprising talents that amaze us.”
Compared to other judges, Rianti is like an angel for the contestants, staying nice with her positive commentary, just like American Idol’s former judge Paula Abdul.
Rianti confessed she is not that confident sitting among the other judges on the show, feeling a bit inexperienced. At times, she feels she does not have enough authority to comment.
“I can’t dance. I don’t know much about music either. What I am trying to bring to the show are comments from the viewers’ perspective, whether the performance is entertaining or not,” she says. “Fortunately, there is Mbak Titi and Teteh Sarah who provide good criticism.”
Born in the West Java capital, Bandung, on Sept. 22 to an English father and Indonesian mother, Rianti started her career in the entertainment industry as a model for a magazine but it was her stint as an MTV VJ which brought her fame.
She said that at first she did not have much confident in taking the job since she could not speak Indonesian well and had zero experience as an emcee.
“I always said I was busy, sick or whatever every time the MTV people called me to come to their office. I later made up my mind and decided to give it a try.”
She made the right decision. Her job at MTV opened up more opportunities for her as she was later offered a role in the teen flick, Eiffel I’m in Love, which starred teen sensations Shandy Aulia and Samuel Rizal.
In the movie, she had a small role and appeared only in one scene.
“Papa was very happy when he knew that I played in a movie. He went to a cinema to watch me, but once the film ended, he had not even seen my face. It’s because he came late and my scene was at the beginning of the film,” she says, giggling.
The small role, however, led to other, bigger parts in different films, like Jomblo (Singletons), Pesan Dari Surga (Messages from Heaven), D’Bijis and blockbuster drama Ayat-Ayat Cinta (Verses of Love). She also appeared in some sinetron TV (soap operas) like Jomblo the series, Munajah Cinta and Dewi.
Rianti said that her most challenging part so far was in Ayat-ayat Cinta. In the film, which is set in Egypt, she portrays Aisha, a woman of German and Turkish descent, who comes to Egypt for research and falls for an Indonesian man named Fahri (played by Fedi Nuril). In this role, Rianti had to hide her beautiful face beneath a burka.
Some of her breathtaking experiences when filming were learning to speak Arabic, taking a 33-hour train trip with the film crew in India, falling off a camel and filming in Lawang Sewu, in Central Java’s Semarang, the former administrative center for the Dutch during the colonial era that is now rumored to be a haunted.
Rianti is currently busy promoting her latest comedy flick Kabayan Jadi Milyuner (Kabayan Becomes A Billionaire) where she plays Kabayan’s love interest, Nyi Iteung. A number of actresses — from Lenny Marlina, Paramitha Rusady and Nike Ardilla — had played the famous role in the older versions.
“I’ve been a fan of Kabayan and watched the old Kabayan movies. The reason I took the role in the movie is that this film highlights Sundanese culture. Since I am Sundanese, I really want to take part in a movie that helps promote the culture.”
“I feel comfortable playing a character who can speak Sundanese. Even though I don’t speak the language fluently, it’s easier for me than if I have to speak other traditional languages such as Javanese or Batak, for instance.”
In the movie’s older versions, Iteung was presented as a naïve, sincere and pretty young woman who lives and grows up in a village. The latest interpretation offers a different feel, as the new Iteung is a modern and ambitious career woman living in a big city.
“The [Iteung] character is more complex than ever. It’s all gray areas. She’s not a 100 percent protagonist. She is also an antagonist.”
“I myself did not try to follow Paramitha Rusady’s or Lenny Marlina’s styles. I tried to interpret the role in my own way. Whether it’s good or not, you can judge it,” says Rianti, who hopes to play in a historical or biopic flick in the future.
Working in the entertainment world is way beyond Rianti’s imagination. She said the job she had always wanted was to be a journalist.
She even had paved her way in the journalism world by taking broadcasting classes while she was in high school and being a language editor for a magazine.
“My dream is working for a magazine. I like writing. I plan to get my master’s in journalism, but maybe not in the near future because I’m very busy at the moment,” she said.
Rianti, who also hopes to host a traveling or culinary show, realizes she was not instantly shot to fame but took a more slowly-but-surely approach. However, she is grateful.
“I don’t set high targets in terms of my career. I just go with the flow,” she says.
She attributes some of her success to her parents for supporting her career in the entertainment industry.
But, she recalled, there was a time when her father was really worried about her. She was juggling working as an MTV VJ, actress and ambassador of a toothpaste product while she was still studying in university.
“I did not have free time on the weekends. Papa later told me, ‘Stop! You’re killing yourself.’ That was the one and only moment he ever complained,” Rianti says.
“My parents basically allowed me to do want I wanted as long as I enjoyed it. During that time, maybe they saw me ‘torture’ [myself]. And yes, I was stressed out and got very skinny,” said Rianti, who attended the Bandung International School in Bandung, West Java and the University of Tasmania in Jakarta.
Learning from her “mistake”, Rianti now tries to balance her life between work and leisure — whenever she is not busy working, she watches films and bakes cookies.
“I like baking cookies. I cannot cook, but I can bake cupcakes and cookies. It’s fun and it makes me happy,” she says. “It all started when I bought a new oven for my apartment. I later tried some recipes and I found it very exciting.”
Her spare time also means quality time with the love of her life, Cas Nainggolan.
“I feel grateful everyday for meeting Cas, someone who can be my best friend. I’m happy.”