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Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

Both episodes are available to watch now

Boow Live and Indonesia Kaya's musical series #MusikalDiRumahAja (Musical at Home) first debuted in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeking to bring musicals to the millions of Indonesians cooped at home, the series got millions of views from its six episodes. Now the series returned with two brand-new episodes: GATOT, an acrobatic adaptation of the Gatotkaca mythos, and BATU GANTUNG, a dramatic retelling of a Batak legend by the same name.

In this 2022 rendition, both episodes were filmed on a real theater stage (at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta) by the same cinematic director as well (Robin Moran, of Pendekar Tongkat Emas fame), creating a more unified look and feel to them. Additionally, the filmed-on-stage approach allowed the theatricality to shine through, the result of close collaboration with the respective theatrical directors of GATOT (Rama Soeprapto, who helmed Malin Kundang in the 2020 edition of #MusikalDiRumahAja) and BATU GANTUNG (Rio Silaen, who wrote and directed another Batak musical titled SINAMOT back in 2017).

Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

GATOT is a modern adaptation of Gatot Kaca, a folk hero originally hailing from the Indian epic of Mahabarata but who has become a national favorite of Indonesia through the traditional shadow puppet tradition of wayang. He's a half-giant warrior famous for his mighty strength, or 'otot kawat tulang besi' (muscles of wires, bones of steel).

This time around, Gatot (Sandhidea Cahyo) is a young actor in a wayang orang - a form of traditional theatrical art - troupe led by his stern grandfather (Teguh Kenthus Ampiranto). He desires to play the role of Gatotkaca at the troupe to follow the footsteps of his father (Galih Rangga), to the point of daydreaming and drawing himself in the heroic role in his little sketchbook.

Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

Yet he is filled with self-doubt, unwilling to step up, despite the support of his childhood friend Giwa (Woro Mustiko). But after the actor playing Gatot Kaca failed to take the stage due to his health condition, and after some additional prodding by Giwa, Gatot donned the garb of Gatot Kaca and faced his fear - symbolized by him taking on four phantom Gatot Kaca and then a rakshasa played by the grandfather - finally earning him the right to play the role.

As the name of Gatot Kaca itself conjures the image of action-packed spectacle (thus making him a particularly popular figure to adapt in pop culture, with a big budget Gatot Kaca movie releasing just a few months ago), Rama Soeprapto leaned into this; he made use of fight choreographies, stunts, and even wires. GATOT is one of the most action-packed musicals in recent memory, with unexpectedly satisfying and fierce fight scenes, all of which are beautifully captured through the lens.

The script was written by Chriskevin Adefrid, one of the most prominent young scriptwriters in the theatre scene, whose writing credits include RARA J, NURBAYA, and the upcoming USMAR ISMAIL. GATOT is another testament of his skill in adapting a folktale for the modern audience. The framing device of the in-universe Gatot Kaca play kept things fresh yet true to tradition, a remarkable feat. The internal conflict of Gatot's indecisiveness is likewise one that's likely to be familiar with millennials and Gen Zs. The characters also felt real and alive, particularly with the natural lines of dialogues written for them.

Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

However, perhaps due to the limited screen time, some particularly intriguing parts couldn't be expanded upon more. The grandfather's stubbornness wasn't really explored beyond being a necessary obstacle for the story; on the other side of the coin, Giwa's supportiveness was likewise one-tracked. These two, in particular, felt like moving parts instead of fully realized characters, perhaps due to the necessity to keep the script brisk.

Another point of confusion arose when the grandfather had seemingly yet to choose an actor to play the lead role of Gatot Kaca even one week before showtime, before giving it to one of the ensemble cast. And even the climactic point in the narrative, when Gatot decided to step up when said actor couldn't make it, felt rather sudden without a definitive trigger that pushed him to fight his insecurities.

But these points of contention are largely easily ignored when taking the show as a whole. It is still an inspirational show, especially with the great acting by the lead roles. Of particular note is Teguh Kenthus Ampiranto, who played the faultless strict grandfather figure with much aplomb and charisma.

Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

The music, by composer and music director Ammir Gita (whose latest musical theater work was the horror musical IBU) brought a vibrant and modern energy to the story, even bringing synths to the mix. Ammir's composition is, once again, beautifully made and a great match to each scene. One thing to note, however, is that the synth effect can come off as a little jarring to those expecting a more traditional musical sound.

Taken as a whole, GATOT is a refreshing take on the Gatot Kaca mythos, with some stand out performances and great fight choreography. It was also a great blend of different performing art disciplines, putting together musical, theatre, wayang orang, and even traditional wayang. Beyond its own merits, GATOT can also become a gateway to discover other art forms.

The other episode, BATU GANTUNG ("Hanging Rock"), is adapted from a legend of the Batak people of Northern Sumatra. Seruni (Jennie Rebecca) is a young woman who lives near the Toba lake in North Sumatera with her parents, Among (Haikal 'AFI' Baron Nasution) and Inong (Dhita Barus).

Seruni is also deeply in love with her boyfriend Doli (Ricardo Simatupang). Yet, their love is not meant to be, as Doli has to leave in order gather the dowry needed to take Seruni's hand in marriage, as tradition dictates. Seizing the moment, the rich Bonar (Joshua Panjaitan) offers to marry her instead, a proposition that her parents quickly agree to.

Not wanting to spend her life with Bonar and betray her true love, Seruni steps off a cliff. As she falls, she shouts "parapat, parapat batu" ("come, oh rocks"); the rocks from the cliffside engulf her, creating a hanging effigy on the cliff that stays to this day.

Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

Compared to GATOT, BATU GANTUNG is a more straightforward adaptation of the legend. As legends wont to do, they serve as a morality play with black-and-white characters. Perhaps it's this will to preserve the authenticity of the tale that led to a similarly clear-cut story that's easy to follow but without a lot of complexity.

The music is written by Nathanael P. Winarto, an award-nominated composer. His score includes not only original songs that take from the modern musical tradition, but also arrangements of familiar Batak folk music. While the original songs were good, as someone from Batak descent, the modern and peppy arrangement of Batak songs was a personal highlight.

The cast did a satisfactory job bringing the story to life, although there wasn't much to explore. It was rather odd to see Seruni's parents as mostly one-dimensional antagonistic force, but Haikal Nasution and Dhita Barus still played them wholeheartedly, as the stoic and stern father and cheery and theatrical mother, respectively. Their acting chops did leave me wanting to see them explore more complex roles in the future.

Review: #MUSIKALDIRUMAHAJA RETURNS WITH GATOT AND BATU GANTUNG at INDONESIA KAYA

Furthermore, Jennie Rebecca played the resolute and heartbroken side of Seruni really well. She's a confident actress with the charisma to play the lead character. If there's one thing to note, however, it's the rather confusing decision to have her so openly dour in the opening number, a big group number where the village is holding a celebration. Perhaps it would have been more powerful to have her donning a cheerful mask to blend in with the tight-knit community only to have her drop the facade once it ends.

What few shortcomings the script had was more than made up by the directing and cinematography. BATU GANTUNG is a gorgeous production, both from the theatrical and cinematic lens (with Robin Moran as the film director). The climactic scene of Seruni falling from the cliff was depicted with a humongous and thoroughly impressive set piece of cliffs and falling rocks, a truly proper way to convey theatre magic.

BATU GANTUNG is a book-accurate adaptation of the legend of the same name. If you come to it expecting to see a truthful adaptation that's accessible and readily available on YouTube, it's a beautiful work of art that can preserve the ages-old legend for many more years to come.


You can watch GATOT here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KOcEyBG0oA and BATU GANTUNG here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wChe7ajL-I

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From This Author - Rakaputra Paputungan

Rakaputra Paputungan is a Jakarta-based musical theatre aficionado who seeks to spread the love of the art form in Indonesia. Often volunteering for musical or theatrical productions, he's alwa... (read more about this author)


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