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'Maling Kondang': Lighthearted parody of Minang folktale

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sun, May 24, 2020  /  10:58 am
'Maling Kondang': Lighthearted parody of Minang folktale

Online stage: The Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation broadcasted on YouTube the satirical 2012 play 'Maling Kondang' (Famous Thief) on May 23-24 as part of its #NontonTeaterDiRumahAja campaign. (Courtesy of Image Dynamics/-)

Enjoying a bit of culture this weekend, when people celebrate Idul Fitri at home during the pandemic, does not require you to walk out your door.

Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation’s #NontonTeaterDiRumahAja campaign has consistently showcased their repertoire of plays for viewers at home, from dance-theater Citraresmi to an adaptation of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Bunga Penutup Abad (The Flower that Ends a Century).

Its latest highlight, however, is a bit more lighthearted to keep spirits high.

This weekend, on May 23-24, the foundation streams on its website and on YouTube a recording of Indonesia Kita’s Maling Kondang (Famous Thief), which was first performed in October 2012.

At its heart, Maling Kondang is based on the West Sumatra folktale Malin Kundang, a cautionary tale about an ungrateful son who is ashamed of his humble origins and refuses to recognize his mother, causing her to curse him and turning Malin Kundang and his ship into stone.

However, like many Indonesia Kita productions, the play was given the satirical treatment, injected with a sense of political playfulness that has become a trademark of the troupe.

Directed by Yusril Katil, Maling Kondang keeps Malin Kundang as the main character. In this play, Malin returns home a successful and rich man, intending to use his wealth to develop his village, run for office and build a monument of himself.

With Malin’s arrival, many in the community proud of his achievements try to get into his good graces in the hopes of getting some of Malin’s riches thrown their way. However, Malin’s pure-hearted mother continuously wonders about the source of her son’s wealth, at the same time disapproving of his arrogance.

In Indonesia Kita’s works, the traditional Malin Kundang storyline gets turned on its head and has a pointed, political tone slapped onto it.

In the play, Malin includes a lampshade of the folktale, arguably breaking the fourth wall by saying that he is not like the old Malin Kundang, as he is not ashamed of his mother’s lack of wealth.

While this is probably a heartwarming moment, Malin continues by saying that poor people are, of course, very beneficial, especially during election campaigning.

The humor in the play is mostly political, referring to various events in the Indonesian social and political sphere in 2012, which, in a way, makes the play feel dated.

For instance, a joke utilizing two similarly unpleasant choices offer two different outcomes, with one option leaving the recipient’s face looking like Hambalang if he goes to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) office and looking like a simulator if he goes to the police precinct, referring to the Wisma Hambalang and the driving license simulator graft cases, respectively.

Another, raunchier one is when Malin starts posing emulating a statue, with the final pose having him lying on his side with a come-hither stare. Immediately, his companion started freaking out, saying the pose would make him become part of a pornographic student test sheet, parodying a scandal involving a picture of the adult film actress Maria Ozawa in such a worksheet. 

However, the play does have a few laugh-worthy – or groan-inducing – moments, depending on your stance on cheesy jokes, like a line involving national cars that turn out to be models by various Japanese manufacturers like Baleno and Pajero, likely a potshot at the Timor national car project.

Raunchy jokes also get some airtime, such as the aforementioned Maria Ozawa line, as well as Malin’s mother guessing someone’s name by blurting out the name Udin Petot – the short version of a phrase indicating an inclination for sexual acts.

It’s not all political humor though, as there are some non-skit highlights, such as a performance by Minang rapper Tommy Bolin and others featuring traditional Minang cultural performances like Tapuak Galembang, Ginyang Mak Taci and Badendang.

Admittedly, while watching a recording does have its benefits like the ability to rewind and pause, the process becomes an annoyance when your internet connection is spotty and you end up having to refresh the page every minute or so, as happened while watching the stream on on Saturday.

Thankfully, the stream on YouTube was much more stable, though it did start a little later than the one on Indonesia Kaya’s website.

Agus Noor, one part of the Indonesia Kita trio, the other two being actor Butet Kartaredjasa and the late musician Djaduk Ferianto, said in a statement that in the middle of the explorations of humor and culture, Maling Kondang is a form of anxiety and criticism of social issues like corruption.

“Some people no longer feel ashamed about being corrupt, even boasting about it in public. Some are blinded by social status and wealth without looking into how the person acquired them. Hopefully, the broadcasting of Maling Kondang in #NontonTeaterDiRumahAja can open new perspectives for art enthusiasts in seeing social issues,” he said. (ste)


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