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Jalanan Movie (Photo: traxonsky.com)

Refusing To Give Up On Jalanan

Pangeran Siahaan

My favourite scene from Jalanan is when Titi and her friend were learning for theirexams and encountered a question about politics. If my memory didnt fail me, the question was comparing the political system in China and UK. Then came another question that was asked rather naively by themselves, “What’s the system where there’s no the rich and the poor?”. The question left them blank before the camera cut to another scene.

Jalanan is a great and fun watch. It’s a rarity to see an Indonesian film sans cheap horror, shallow comedy, or tasteless popcorn love story theme, let alone a documentary – the pariah genre of commercial films. So it’s very encouraging to see XXI has Jalanan on its screens. I watched it at Plaza Senayan a few days ago. Actually i had the chance to see it last year at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival but pints of lager had the best of me.

A lof ot people have written about how entertaining the characters of Boni, Titi, and Ho that make Jalanan feels like a feature film rather than plain documentary in terms of mass appeal. Average Jakartans at least have been in a Metromini once in their life, so they would easily relate to what the buskers trio offer on screen.

As a character, Ho stood out compared to the other two because his wide array of vocabulary and sense of humour. I dont want to be patronizing, but reflecting on the things he said, Ho must’ve been an avid reader or someone who’s into social and philosophical discourse, no matter how casual it was.

“Hidup harus dihidupkan” (Life must be fully lived) that was uttered by Ho is the most memorable line from the film and i think it’s worthy of being an indirect dissidence to Nietzche’s nihilist perspective of live. If a street busker thought that his life was valuable and he makes the most of it – including by wooing a widow in a Restoran Padang before he swept all the food served on the table – , middle-class moaners who constantly bitch out about how their lives are pointless and dull must look like total assholes.

My favourite character, however, is Titi. Unlike the other two, she didn’t live under the bridge. She lived with her then-husband, whose status of employment is dubious. He didnt look he had much to do apart from caressing his chickens. Titi gave a significant portion of her income as a busker to her husband, who in turn kicked her out of the house because she didnt want to give up singing in the bus. Class A smug.

I was touched when Titi returned to her parents house in East Java where the family lived in a considerably more comfortable space than the one she had in Jakarta. It shows the failure of Indonesian dream: moving out from villages to the country’s capital just to be marginalised by the ruthless life in Jakarta.

What i like about Titi is she took Ho’s creed that life must be fully lived to another extent. She took a bold move to apply for Paket C that enabled her to obtain a high school diploma. It’s like Titi pondered on her previous life on the streets, said “fuck it”, and went on for something better. We, the middle-class Jakartans, took high school for granted. But for somebody like Titi, it’s a quantum leap. I felt chills down my spine when finally Titi finished her Paket C and stood in front of her classmates and teachers, testifying about how she finally made it.

Life can be so cruel, but refusing to give up is an option and you can kick it right in the butt. I think that’s what Jalanan is all about.

Pangeran Siahaan is a satirist and a social critic. This article has been published in his own blog: www.pangerant.com