Jakarta. Indonesian actor Oka Antara has returned to star in another crime thriller, but this time not as a gangster, such as in "The Raid 2: Berandal," or a killer, like in "Killers," but as a police detective in "Brata," a new web series produced by on-demand platforms HOOQ and MAXstream.
Created and written by E.S. Ito, the six-episode series narrates the story of a group of detectives solving a case of mutilation. Ito said during the series launch on Thursday (06/09) that he started to develop the story in 2014, inspired by "reality, crime and police stories that normally don't make it to the big screen."
Oka plays the titular role of Brata, a detective working for the National Police. He is the type who dares to be rough on suspects, either injuring them in unusual ways, or killing them.
Oka said he was free to improvise, including making the character more violent and constantly cursing or calling suspects offensive names, because the web series is not submitted to the Indonesian Censorship Board (LSF).
"We [the cast] could express ourselves as free as we wanted and it was a dream come true for actors to channel their creativity that might be unsuitable for film or television," he said.
He added that the creative decision to include violence and cursing made the performance more natural and all-out.
"We're here as characters living in Jakarta. It's impossible to be a polite cop … Ito's script was already bloody to begin with. As the writer, he made use of his creative freedom and so did we, the actors," Oka said.
The actor, who also featured in the film "Aruna dan Lidahnya," said what is interesting about Brata is that there are layers underneath the cop's rough exterior.
"He's sometimes frustrated. He's drowning in debt. You see [in the first episode] that a bearded man asks him to pay his dues. Sometimes Brata takes the easy way out [with suspects] because he doesn't have much time to think," Oka said.
The character's violent problem-solving ways, which include putting chili in one's eye and stuffing a cigarette into another's mouth, actually stems from the pressure of his job.
"It's sadistic, but it also shows how policemen put pressure on each other. Brata is actually just a Bripda [equivalent to a second sergeant]. He's pressured by his superiors. It shows what happens in a social circle, in this case the police; what happens when someone is doing his job but he is placed under more pressure? Of course, he will find less powerful people to bully," Oka said.
Directed by Kuntz Agus and Michael Pohorly, "Brata" is HOOQ's first original Indonesian series. The series also marks the first time HOOQ partnered with MAXstream, Telkomsel's on-demand platform as part of the state-owned mobile operator's foray to the digital content production.
"Over the past few years, we've been transforming ourselves into a digital company. More than half of our revenue comes from digital services," Telkomsel chief marketing officer Alistair Johnston said.
"Brata" was selected as the companies' debut co-production because of the quality of the storyline.
"HOOQ and Telkomsel decided to produce this last year because the story has everything, from detective story to thriller and romance. For OTT [over the top] players, television series are important because in Indonesia, films make up most of the content [on OTT], while the shows are free-to-air. Those shows have many episodes made in a rush. This one is movie-quality and will keep people coming back every week," said Guntur Siboro, country managing director of HOOQ.
Fauzan Zidni, one of the producers of "Brata," said experimenting with a web series is good for the producers because films have time constraints while television is saturated with long-running soap operas.
Oka also expressed his hope that more web series would be made because many Indonesians are turning to their smartphones and tablets for entertainment.
"Even the big broadcasting companies have channels on YouTube. I hope many more filmmakers will make web series so that we can maintain the quality. Actors will also feel more comfortable participating if the director has prior experience in creating a web series," he said.
The HOOQ application has been downloaded 28 million times in Indonesia since 2015, while MAXstream, which was launched in May this year, now has more than 5 million users.
The pilot episode of "Brata" became available for streaming on HOOQ and MAXstream on Friday last week.