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NJ2: When Laugh and Cry Collide

September 9, 2007

NAGABONAR is the father of every average Indonesian who was born of parents who lived through the end of the Dutch colonial time and during the Japanese occupation in Indonesia.

Nagabonar Jadi 2 (2007)

Bumi Prasidi Bi-Epsi & Demi Gisela Citra Sinema
Executive Producer: Giselawati Wiranegara
Producer: Tyas A. Moein
Director: Deddy Mizwar
Writer: Musfar Yasin

A Review by Rohayati Paseng
University of Hawaii at Manoa

DEDDY Mizwar reprises his title character in this sequel of the award winning Nagabonar (1987), and after 20 years he plays the character as charmingly as he did in 1987. This time he also directed it. In 1987, Nagabonar was portrayed as a skilled pickpocket, who joined the war against the Dutch who tried to regain control over Indonesia during the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945. He was illiterate and he spoke Indonesian with a very strong Batak accent. He often acted silly and even mischievously, but underneath all that laid a harmless heart. His motivations for joining the war were simply to gain material and social status –to be rich and to be a general. At the end he was a real soldier and managed to call himself a general.

In this sequel, he is an old man. He fathered four sons who died in infancy, and his wife died after giving birth to his fifth and only surviving son, Bonaga, (played by Tora Sudiro). He raised Bonaga alone who now has become a young successful businessman, and very well educated. The film starts with a scene of Bonaga in a car on his way to his father’s village somewhere near Medan in North Sumatra. He is going to take his father to Jakarta for a short visit. The next scenes show that Nagabonar did manage well after the war, because now he owns a palm oil plantation. We also know that his mother, wife, and brother, whom he loves dearly, were buried in the plantation. The rest of the film deals with Bonaga trying to convince his father to turn the plantation into a resort. Nagabonar opposes the idea, and just when it seems like he might change his mind, he finds out that his son’s investors are Japanese. He falls into a deep emotional trap. On the one hand, he loves his son very much and he tries hard to understand the gap between his generation and his son’s. On the other hand, he still has bad feelings toward the Japanese, and he is concerned about the three graves in the plantation.

Nagabonar is the father of every average Indonesian who was born of parents who lived through the end of the Dutch colonial time and during the Japanese occupation in Indonesia. He makes people cry and laugh (sometimes simultaneously) because they could see their own fathers in the Nagabonar character. The relationship between Nagabonar and his son ultimately represents a negotiation between two different sets of values, each shaped by its own time, that try to accommodate each other. Despite their differences and a few very striking similarities, the love between father and son in this film is as solid as a rock. Every child wants to have a loving father like Nagabonar and every father wants to have a sensitive child like Bonaga.

Furthermore, I must say that the representation of Indonesian women in this film is very positive. Bonita (played by Wulan Guritno) is Bonaga’s business partner and love interest. She is beautiful, smart and independent, but not a bitch as is often the case in many Indonesian films. Another thing that feels fresh in this film is the recognition from Bonaga that Bonita is not the stereotypical submissive Indonesian woman, and he is fine with that quality.

Nagabonar jadi 2 is funny, smart, and critical. There are a few poignant scenes that would make audience laugh and cry simultaneously. Tora Sudiro’s on and off Batak accent is not necessarily negative because presumably his character grew up speaking mainly Indonesian like most Indonesians his age. Yudi Datau (Denias: Senandung Diatas Awan, Arisan, Gie, The Last Bissu) once again was behind the camera and produced beautiful cinematography. Apa kata dunia? Holong rohangku di ho!

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