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'Perempuan perempuan Chairil' shines light on Indonesia's literary charm

Liza Yosephine
Liza Yosephine

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, November 13, 2017  /  02:31 pm
'Perempuan perempuan Chairil' shines light on Indonesia's literary charm

Indonesia's brightest stars took to the stage over the weekend to perform a biographical play of Chairil Anwar, a legendary poet from the 1940's era, with Reza Rahadian (left) taking the starring role in the production titled 'Perempuan-Perempuan Chairil' (Chairil's Women).  (Courtesy of/image dynamic)

Love may be romanticized, but Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar once defined it as "Cinta adalah bahaya yang lekas jadi pudar" (Love is a danger that would only soon fade).

Indonesia's brightest stars  took to the stage over the weekend to perform a biographical play of Chairil Anwar, a legendary poet from the 1940's era, with Reza Rahadian taking the starring role in the production titled Perempuan-Perempuan Chairil (Chairil's Women).

Performed at the Teater Jakarta in Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) for two nights only, on Nov. 11 and 12, the play delivered powerhouse performances from its small cast, which also included Marsha Timothy, Chelsea Islan, Tara Basro and Sita Nursanti as the women in Chairil's life.  

Directed by Agus Noor, who also cowrote the script along with Hasan Aspahani and Ahda Imran, the play adapted its story line from Chairil's collection of poems and inserted several of his most famous lines. It specifically delved into the aspect of how the women had inspired the charming young poet, who passed away at just 26 years of age in 1949.  

Opening the scene with a monologue by Chairil, the young man contemplated women, specifically prostitutes, bantering with himself over a conversation he had with his best friend Jassin, or HB Jassin, who was also a writer at the time. 

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Soon after, Chairil was tempted by a lady of the night who had asked him for a cigarette, setting the premise of the play. 

In the next scene, the audience is introduced to Ida Nasution (Marsha Timothy), a beautiful, intelligent and strong-willed young woman, who is focused on making a name for herself in the literary world. Chairil adored Ida and considered her an ideal partner, but the feeling was not returned as Ida fended off Chairil's advances.

Coming off worldwide accolades from her starring role in feature film Marlina Si Pembunuh Dalam Empat Babak (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts), Marsha's first onstage rendezvous came as a magnificent performance, which haunts throughout the remaining of the play, much like her character. 

Chairil then moved on to Sri Ajati, played by Chelsea Islan, who at the time was a radio announcer, known for her beauty. While their interaction was flirtatious and friendly, Sri announced that she was soon to marry. 

Read also: Jakpost guide to the National Library of Indonesia

Actors Reza Rahadian (right) and Chelsea Islan (left) in theatrical production 'Perempuan-Perempuan Chairil (Chairil's Women), a biographical play of poet Chairil Anwar.Actors Reza Rahadian (right) and Chelsea Islan (left) in theatrical production 'Perempuan-Perempuan Chairil (Chairil's Women), a biographical play of poet Chairil Anwar. (Courtesy of/image dynamic)

Next, it was the passionate and tumultuous relationship with Sumirat (Tara Basro). While their bond was inevitable, Chairil refused to make her his wife, choosing instead to amuse his tortured soul and venture deeper into loneliness. It was in this phase that Chairil defined love as a danger. 

Tara delivered an outstanding performance, depicting the emotional frustrations of a woman left hanging, despite having given everything she had. 

Chairil eventually settled down with Hapsah (Sita Nursanti), an average woman whom he lovingly nicknamed gajah (elephant), due to her obesity. Coming from a different world, Hapsah admitted to never understanding his poems or musings. 

Their relationship was full of conflict, which were mainly rooted by the lack of mutual understanding. Hapsah could not comprehend Chairil's tortured-artist ways, while Chairil was frustrated by Hapsah's demands to provide, as well as her soulless, bureaucratic views. Though they eventually separated, Hapsah and Chairil had a daughter, who they named Evawani.  

Overall, Reza perfectly embodied Chairil, delivering his poems and prose effortlessly while carrying the play with ease from start to finish.   

Set in the 1940's, the costumes and music also pinned the era perfectly. The play gave a breath of fresh air to classical poems, with an A-list cast also creating an opportunity to introduce old literary works to a new audience. (kes)

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