The Jakarta Post
Fearless: Turning 50 this year, actress Dayu Wijanto has been the most familiar face on the silver screen for four years in a row. Two of her latest films were released in January. She finished the filming of five projects in the past three months, while another one has been postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak. (Courtesy of Dayu Wijanto/-)
Ever since she assumed the role of the conflicted widow Ci Surya in Lucky Kuswandi’s Selamat Pagi, Malam (In the Absence of the Sun) in 2014, Dayu Wijanto had been named the most-selling actress since 2016 -- side by side with actor Ence Bagus.
The title was bestowed to those with most films in a year with their names on it regardless of how brief their appearance was. But in the case of Dayu, it was much deserving considering her chameleonic appearance and her ability to steal a scene.
Her acting in Selamat Pagi, Malam was highly appraised, and she was named Best Actress by Tempo magazine later that year and nominated for Best Newcomer in 2014 Piala Maya. She also received praise for her role in Bulan Di Atas Kuburan (Moon over the Graveyard) also released that year, despite her brief appearance.
No wonder she got nine job offers to be carried over in 2015. In 2016, she made a milestone with 16 films, not including numerous web series and commercials.
In 2019 alone, she appeared in 14 films and four web series, with her latest family drama Nanti Kita Cerita Tentang Hari Ini (One Day We’ll Talk About Today) and drama horror Janin (Fetus) and more web series released in early January.
All the roles she got might seem typical for women in their late 40s, but whatever it was, she could pull it off.
A woman of Javanese descent and born in Malang, East Java, in 1970, Dayu could act as a mother of the Batak ethnic group or play a character of Sundanese or even Chinese descent, all with a flawless local accent.
She could make her characters soar, whether it was in a comedy, teary drama, thriller or horror that the audience secretly expected her to appear scene after scene.
“I was lucky, because at the time I started, up until now, the competition was sparse. There are not many actresses my age available for the roles,” she told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.
There were indeed many turns of events that have shaped up the actress.
Dayu, who will turn 50 on July 21, grew up in Pare, a small town in East Java, in a family that loves arts and sports, listening to all kinds of songs and watching any movies played at the cinema called Mustika with her grandfather, Soetikno.
“The cinema screened different films every day unless for the most popular that might stay for two or three days. My grandfather took me along every time, except for some genres he was not keen on, but that did not happen often,” she said.
“Growing up I knew I love movies, but I never thought of being involved in the production or having a career as an actress.”
Her athletic and tall build qualified her for the national basketball squad, which she joined during her younger years.
Dayu is also a law school graduate from the Christian Indonesian University and continued her studies at New York University. While in New York, she had a job in the wholefood market. There, she got acquainted with film students and was asked to be in their experimental films.
Nothing big, but the seed sprouted without her knowing at the time.
Strong impression: In the press photo of 'Bulan di Atas Kuburan' (Moon over the Graveyard), Dayu Wijanto takes the role of Dahlia. Her brief appearance in the 2014 film gained her praise and landed her on the list of the best actresses. (Courtesy of Dayu Wijanto/-)
Because Dayu loved to write, she regularly won writing competitions since elementary school – and chose to pursue a career as a journalist upon her return. She went to Munich, Germany, for a while to get aircraft training, which she put to use worked under the late Indonesian president B. J. Habibie, while he was still the minister of research and technology.
Upon her second return to Indonesia, Dayu worked for Harper’s Bazaar and the Hello! Indonesia lifestyle magazine under MRA Group. As the managing editor of the latter, she wrote a piece about the awakening of the national film industry in 2016, which required her to talk to filmmakers.
That led to them asking her a favor to fill in for some small roles.
“They are my friends, and I wouldn’t mind helping them. I’ve been in some talks with Lucky about another film when he suddenly stopped and said: ‘Why don’t you do it?’” she said.
“I still had no idea until he gave me the script and I realized that it got serious. Before filming I was afraid I wouldn’t make the cut, and when it was done, I was afraid I would be criticized.”
The discipline instilled in her as an athlete and her willingness to go through painstaking preparations for her roles made her the directors’ favorite.
Her love for acting and her ability to immerse in the character saw her listed as one of the best actresses. But they were all just work to her until she took part in the production of Night Bus (2017).
“It’s incredible that I found acting was my true calling while sitting on the set at dusk watching the crew setting up the lights. I felt so grateful to be in this amazing world of film production and I thank God for allowing me to be in yet another film.”
The one thing she hasn’t got the chance to do yet was to be in an action film.
“I want to be the one doing the fighting scenes,” she laughed. “I have basic training in martial arts.”
As her father taught her to always be thankful for small things, Dayu said she was currently at the point where she has everything.
“I’m rich with experience and incredible life stories that eventually brought me here. Everything seems to fall into place. I love my job, and I want to be an actress for the rest of my life.” (ste)
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