Jakarta. If you grew up in the 1990s, you'll likely be familiar with "Si Doel Anak Sekolahan," or "Doel the School Kid," a TV sitcom about a Betawi family who steadfastly try to stick to their traditional values while having to deal with other Jakartans obsessed with modernity.
The show's hero is Doel (actor and now Banten governor Rano Karno), a young Betawi man who tries to juggle finishing a university degree with staying true to his family's traditions – including occasionally having to drive his father's oplet, an old Morris Minor 100 Traveler converted into a public minivan.
Betawi – from "Batavia," the Dutch name for Jakarta – is the name for the original inhabitants of the city, who are actually made up of many immigrant ethnic groups and acquired the name in the 17th century.
One of the main storylines in Si Doel Anak Sekolahan is the love triangle between Doel, his old flame Zaenab (Maudy Koesnaedi), a soft-spoken, traditional Betawi girl and Doel's distant relative and the rich, outspoken, Western-educated, half-Dutch Sarah (Cornelia Agatha).
"Si Doel The Movie," helmed by Rano himself, will be released in August, seven years after the last episode of the TV series was aired.
The film is produced by Falcon Pictures, the production company responsible for many recent box-office hits including teen drama "Dilan 1990," action flick "Comic 8" and comedy classic remakes "Warkop DKI Reborn: Jangkrik Boss!" part one and part two.
Many of the cast of the original TV series have reprised their roles for the film, including Aminah Cendrakasih who plays Mak Nyak (Doel’s mother). The senior actress had lost the sight in both of her eyes from glaucoma a few years ago.
"We shot the scenes with her before we even began production. I want to make sure she's included in the film," Rano said during a media gathering in South Jakarta on Thursday (07/06).
Other actors in the original cast have passed away, including the legendary Benyamin Suaeb who played Babe (Doel’s father), Srimulat comedian Basuki (Karyo) and Pak Tile (Engkong Ali, Doel’s grandfather). Rano said he has no desire to replace them with new actors.
"They're like family to us and it’s impossible to replace a family," he said. "I want to keep the film as original as possible, I want the audience to reconnect with us."
In the last episode of Si Doel Anak Sekolahan in 2004, Sarah left her husband Doel in unexplained circumstances. Doel then decided to marry his old flame Zaenab who had recently been divorced from her husband Andre.
"The new film will continue the love triangle between Doel, Zaenab and Sarah," Rano said.
In Si Doel The Movie, Sarah now lives in Amsterdam with her son from Doel, Dul (Rey Bong). Longing to meet her ex-husband to introduce him to their grown-up son, Sarah asks Doel’s best friend, Hans (Adam Jagwani), to get Doel to the Netherlands.
Doel flies to Amsterdam accompanied by Hans and happy-go-lucky uncle Mandra but doesn't know that he's traveling on Sarah's request. Once he arrives in the Netherlands, Doel is again forced to choose between two familiar scenarios: a life with Sarah or Zaenab.
"This is a never-ending love triangle," Rano said.
In contrast with the original TV show, which takes place mostly in Doel's house somewhere on the outskirts of Jakarta – Babe's oplet runs the Cinere-Gandul route – most of Si Doel The Movie is set in the Netherlands and was shot in Amsterdam and Volendam.
The seven-season original TV sitcom was a modern adaptation of Aman Datuk Majoindo’s 1932 novel "Si Doel Anak Betawi" ("Doel the Betawi Kid") and a 1972 film of the same name directed by Sumandjaja.
Another adaptation, a film television (FTV) titled "Si Doel Anak Pinggiran" ("Doel the Kid From the Suburbs") was released in 2011.
Producer Frederica said Falcon Pictures intends to revive more classic Indonesian films and TV shows.
"I'm a big fan of Si Doel the TV show. Working on this project makes me go back to the years when I spent hours in front of the TV watching Doel and his family. It brings back so many memories," she said.
For those who have never seen the TV series, RCTI is doing re-runs at 1:45 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
Doel the YouTube Kid?
Rano said he has no plan to continue the Doel franchise as a TV series.
"Making TV shows takes a long time and a lot of energy," he said.
Since many younger people now watch TV and movies online, Rano said he might consider taking Doel to YouTube.
"If I have to come up with another Si Doel TV series, I might do it on YouTube. People now watch everything online, especially millennials," he said.
If that happens, Rano said the story will likely be centered on Dul, Doel's son with Sarah.
"Si Doel's story will never end. I'll be happy to write new stories based on Dul's adventures," he said.
Rano said he expects Si Doel The Movie to do even better than last year's biggest box office hit "Dilan 1990," also produced by Falcon Pictures, that attracted 6.3 million viewers.
Si Doel The Movie will be released on Aug. 2.