Drupadi and Kantata Takwa

On Tuesday I met with members of the Banda Aceh-Melbourne Ladies Auxilery (BAMLA) to attend the Indonesian Film Festival.

We saw two films and they were both greeeeeaaaat!



Drupadi, an adaptation of part of the ancient Sanksrit epic Mahabrata, was about Drupadi, the wife of five brothers known as Pandawa. Drupadi was “born of fire” and the most beautiful woman in the world. One night, Pandawa was invited to a dice game against Kurawa Brothers. The eldest of the Pandawa, Yuhistiram, lost…a lot. First all his wealth, then his kingdom, then his brothers, himelf, and finally Drupadi. Drupadi made the excellent point that Yuhistiram couldn’t have gambled her away because he’d already gambled his own power away! But sadly, justice did not win the race that day, and Drupadi spent 12 years being “beaten and shamed” until, I think the brothers eventually fought back. Some very beautiful scenes relying on symbolism told the end of the story, so I’m reluctant to assume that my interpretation of those symbols was correct, but there was blood splattered and the final scene shows Drupadi and her five husbands standing by her side – so I think it was a happy ending.


Kantata Takwa

The second film was Kantata Takwa, which I was dying to see after hearing a bit of it on Radio National. This film was 19 years in the making, originally filmed in 1991, during the repressive Suharto New Order regime, but only completed in 2008. It centres around a concert held in Senayan Stadium in Jakarta in 1991 in which the band, Kantata Takwa, made up of popular and politically vocal artists, played the first of what was set to be a series of concerts, but they were banned after the second show in Surabaya. The film showed some footage of the concert, but to make it more “suitable for an audio-visual medium” as they put it, they shot melodramatic scenes of poverty and violence using masked actors and scenes of these ‘badies’ in gas masks hunting down villagers in the jungle. The soundtrack for the film is the music from the Jakarta concert and poetry by W.S. Rendra. Rendra died about two weeks ago so while this film is screening I’ve heard poeple recounting times they saw him at a recital or reflecting on their favourite pieces. I didn’t know of Rendra before I heard about this film, but I am certainly a fan of his poetry now, especially one piece from the film that I thought especially moving. Sadly, I’m having trouble find translations online. Instead, I offer a clip from the film and the audio of a review from the radio that includes the poem (skip to 1:56 of the audio file if you don’t want to hear the review)

Follow this link to download the audio: Brisbane International Film Festival report on Kantata Takwa


2 thoughts on “Drupadi and Kantata Takwa

  1. elbento

    hey i heard that speech from the second movie on radio national too (twice!). Was pretty epic.

  2. Shankar

    You might be pleasantly suprised by the fact that Draupadi does in fact get some form of justice when she washes her hair in the blood of those who abused her… “I will not tie my hair unless it is washed with the blood of the Kauravas,” she says following her treatment. Peter Brook’s amazing adaptation of the Mahabharata includes a telling scene where she D. kneels down and dips her hair into the bloody chest of one of the slain Kauravas. All of this has created a debate of whether Draupadi was in fact Kali – The ‘Dark’ Goddess.

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