Jakarta. Filmmaker and novelist Richard Oh will be at the helm for a movie adaptation of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s classic novel "Perburuan," or "The Fugitive," first published in 1950. Richard has written the script and is set to start filming in July this year.
Richard, known for novels such as "The Pathfinders of Love" (1999) and "Heart of the Night" (2000) and films such as "Koper" ("The Lost Suitcase, 2006) and "Melancholy Is a Movement" (2015), revealed his plan during the Jakarta Globe Reading Club's inaugural event on Saturday (12/05) at Dia.Lo.Gue Artspace in Kemang, South Jakarta.
Perburuan was Pramoedya’s first novel. It was written in 1947-1949 when Pramoedya, or Pram, was incarcerated in a Dutch prison camp. It was translated into English in 1975 by Harry Aveling and in 1990 by Willem Samuels.
Set during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in the Second World War, the book tells the story of Raden Hardo, a Javanese aristocrat serving as a platoon commander for the Japanese army.
Hardo organizes a revolt, but one of his friends betrays him by revealing the plan. Hardo becomes a fugitive and is forced to disguise himself as a beggar when he returns to his hometown.
Richard said he initially wanted to film another novel by Pram, the seminal "Gadis Pantai" ("The Girl from the Coast"), but production house Falcon Pictures thought the novel was too wordy.
"The social tension is also a bit difficult to visualize," Richard said.
Perburuan, on the other hand, has more action sequences to explore.
Producer Frederica told the Jakarta Globe that Pram's daughter Astuti Ananta Toer offered both Gadis Pantai and Perburuan to be turned into feature films.
Falcon also obtained the film rights to "Bumi Manusia" ("This Earth of Mankind"), the first book in Pram's "Buru Quartet," four interlinked novels he wrote during his 12 hellish years as a political exile on Buru Island.
Richard said Bumi Manusia is a great novel but its sheer scale means the budget for the film adaptation will have to be massive.
The novel’s wide historical scope – it traces the birth of nationalism in Indonesia – and slow pace will also challenge any filmmaker wanting to tackle the project.
Director Hanung Bramantyo and scriptwriter Salman Aristo are now reportedly working on the adaptation of Bumi Manusia.
Richard said what struck him most about Perburuan is its "universal humanism." He said in this early novel Pram spoke about humanity and freedom in a less political way than he later did in the Buru Quartet.
"Pram was heavily influenced by Kartini and the concept of emancipation — the concept of not wanting to be conquered or oppressed by anyone," Richard said.
Pram's English translator Max Lane, who also spoke at the reading club event, pointed out that Pram’s writing is often already "filmic."
Richard said this was because Pram chose his visual metaphors very carefully, for example in the famous opening scene in Gadis Pantai when the girl from the coast rides in a horse cart carrying a keris, the Javanese dagger, that represented her new husband in an arranged marriage.
Perburuan is now in pre-production stage, producer Frederica said.
Richard said he is now looking for filming locations and actors to play in his adaptation.
Filming of Perburuan is expected to start in mid-July.