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'Local culture is my specialty': Dimas Djayadiningrat

Asmara Wreksono
Asmara Wreksono

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, May 25, 2018  /  05:48 pm

An internet video commercial of a famous department store went viral recently, with a memorable scene, a qasidah singer’s head appearing from inside a rice cooker, popularly referred to as a "magic jar". The scene inspired a range of funny memes that circulated on social media, several even attempted to dissect how the lady’s head managed to stick out from the rice cooker.

The director of the video, Dimas Djayadiningrat, said to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday that the style of video commercials had shifted from TV to digital. 

“Digital commercials tend to be more casual and relaxed than those made for television. They can be more unique and bold. The commercials made for TV usually come out as very stiff and conventional,” he said. 

Digital commercials, according to Dimas, can be an excellent starting ground for aspiring video directors as they provide much more opportunity in terms of creative exploration.

“A lot of digital commercials have great storytelling. Maybe it’s because the duration is more flexible,” he added.

The Ramayana commercial that went viral is a success story in its own right. However, Dimas said he could never predict whether an ad will go viral, “I always say [to clients] that virality can never be predicted. It’s the same thing with movies, sometimes the material and story are great but it just doesn’t capture the audiences’ hearts.” 

Although the qasidah theme of the viral video can easily be connected to the qasidah meme craze among Indonesian social media users, Dimas admitted that he wasn’t even aware of the meme. “I wasn’t aware that there were qasidah memes. The basic qasidah idea came from the client and agency, but I didn’t know about the memes. I do watch qasidah, the popular Nasida Ria group especially,” he said. 

Read also: Local ice cream commercial gains worldwide attention

Incorporating qasidah, which is a form of performance very close to the Islamic community, Dimas was very careful about his approach. 

“I didn’t want to mess with the original form of qasidah. The lyrics to a qasidah song are usually politically correct, as they include pieces of advice for us to live mindfully. So when I wrote the lyrics for the qasidah song in the video, I tried to stick to that principle,” he said. 

“We have to be careful with our sense of humor, because playing it safe can risk being unfunny. However, being overly funny can risk being seen as disparaging. We played between the lines and that was the hardest part,” he added.

With several successfully viral commercial videos under his belt, including the memorable Indoeskrim ad, which was styled as a typical Indonesian superhero show, and the Indomie ad, which derived its inspiration from a Mexican telenovela, Dimas is a hit among local clients. 

“Local culture is my specialty, therefore I get involved mostly with local clients. I have handled international clients, but the jokes are usually very dry and don't really cater to the local taste,” Dimas said. “I would love to try working with international clients and apply these kind of local jokes because as mindless as they may seem, these are the jokes that work for the local audience. I just hope international clients realize this,” he added. 

Like a seasoned chef, Dimas keeps the secrets of how he executed the rice cooker scene air-tight. 

“It’s simple. I called the lady one day before filming. When she arrived, we cleaned and soaked her in water just as you would with rice, then we switched the rice cooker on. The next morning, she appeared as a wanita matang (Indonesian expression for a mature woman, which also means ‘cooked woman’),” he said jokingly.