The Jakarta Post
Note the unique cut of Manoj Punjabi’s Milanese-made Vittorio Marchesi dress shirt. (J+/Riman Saputra)
Walking into his sleek and minimalist corner office – with its secret doors, spiral staircases and antechambers – is like entering the set of a James Bond film. It’s the perfect place for meeting the nation’s leading movie producer.
Punjabi’s made 80 movies since launching MD Pictures in 2007, including cult horror hits (Joko Anwar’s Kala, or Dead Time) and beloved biopics (Habibie dan Ainun, about former president BJ Habibie). His romantic drama Ayat-ayat Cinta (Verses of Love) is the all-time box-office champ in Indonesia and MD Pictures captured 25 percent of the market for local movies in 2017.
The 45 year old dresses for the part of a stylish producer, sometimes appearing in a bespoke three-piece suit perfectly cut to his slim frame, sometimes hiply dressing it down with a tee-shirt.
During an interview, he fingers the tall, point collar of his Milanese-made Vittorio Marchesi (vittoriomarchesi.com) dress shirt, showing off its contrasting linings and signature doubled buttons. “Fabric and fashion is part of my creative side,” Punjabi says. It’s a lesson he learned after his start in a garment factory, buying product in the Tanah Abang market in Jakarta and running a retail business. “I know movie stars who don’t dress up well – most stars learn how to dress up later on. In this business, you want to dress well. When you dress well you define your personality.”
Style begins with suits. On his go-to designers, Punjabi says he brings extra luggage to pick up more suits from Calibre (calibre.com.au/) when in Australia. “It’s the right fit for me. It brings out the personality that I like about myself,” he adds about the Melbourne- based label founded by Gary Zecevic. “Very detailed...very young, yet that stylish, elegant touch is there.”
Punjabi’s also partial to Pal Zileri (palzileri.com) , the Italian luxury menswear label that’s channelling the spirit of Venice under its new creative director, Rocco Iannone, and Stefano Ricci (stefanoricci.com), the Firenze fashion maison, when looking for a fancier touch.
He leans back into the rich maroon leather of his office chair, virtually the only touch of color amid the dark tones of his office. Punjabi agrees when asked if using a single point of contrast, like the chair, is something he likes to repeat sartorially. “I’ll do that one golden touch that makes me different, but not too much, that would make me ‘out there’.”
J+ by The Jakarta Post asked Punjabi a few more questions about his style. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Sharp-dressed man Manoj Punjabi says he has upwards of 40 suits. (J+/Riman Saputra)
How many suits do you have?
I think maybe 40 or so...I have maybe about 10 that I haven’t worn as I tend to buy a few at a go when I’m in shopping mode [laughs]. I like my suits in perfect condition, so I take good care of them.
How do you define your style?
I like to create my own trends. Comfort is very important, but stylish comfort. I don’t like gaudy colors. The simplicity should be there, but toned down. I make sure when I wear something I am super comfortable. I don’t like to fake it.
Has your style changed over time?
Twenty-five years ago I used to wear stronger colors. Now, I don’t like wearing something that makes me look older than my age. I try to wear something as young as possible. I don’t want to look bapak-bapak [staid]. Even my batik should look as cool as young as possible–100 percent contemporary.
On suits, single or double breasted?
I like single. Double breasted makes you older, less cool, more formal and you become more stiff.
Sneakers with a suit?
I’ve not adapted to it yet. I need to go proper. It doesn’t feel right...yet. Maybe I’ll change tomorrow, if the style allows me to. You never know. I believe in change.
Is costume design your favorite part of making movies?
No. Not at all [laughs]. But I am very particular about what the stars wear. I am particular about everything when it comes to style. The look matters. For example, in Surga yang Tak Dirindukan, the director shot [test footage]. Cynthia Laudya Bella–they were making her look so loose and with no style while wearing the hijab. I said she should be a very trending hijaber–simple and stylish–so she could create a trend on how to dress up. And suddenly “Boom!” It made a difference.
On accessories, are you a watch collector?
I am a little bit. Now I am in the mood of Richard Mille. I like this RM015 [tourbillon dual time zone]. I have the Bubba Watson White Legend RM055, RM011 chronograph and RM028 diver. The style is there. It is simple, not too much. This is so me. I like luxury watches that have a value. I like when the price maintains or sometimes goes up.
Aren’t there easier ways to make money than show business?
It’s more than making money–it’s very difficult to make money here, but if you’re really good at it, you can do it. I want to contribute. I can influence people for the greater good. By my movies, I can set the culture of the country. I can influence values for the public. Look at making a movie like Habibie dan Ainun. If 1 percent of the viewers can become just 10 percent of him [Habibie] by watching the movie, I’ve made somebody better.
This article was originally published in the April 2018 edition of J+ by The Jakarta Post with the headline “Style and Cinematic Flair”.
J+ by The Jakarta Post (J+/File)