Jakarta. In the army romance movie "Jelita Sejuba: Loving a National Hero," Indonesian actress Putri Marino is posed with the challenge of portraying a girl from Natuna, Riau Islands, in three stages of life: adolescence, marriage and motherhood.
Putri told the Jakarta Globe after the press screening at Epicentrum XXI in South Jakarta on Tuesday (03/04) that her character, Sharifah or Ipah, is complex. Sharifah starts off as a naive, cheerful girl – quite similar to Lala in "Posesif" ("Possessive"), the role that won her the Citra Award for Best Leading Actress last year.
Both Sharifah and Lala experience their first love in their respective movies – Sharifah to a noble serviceman, and Lala to a sweet schoolmate who turns out to be abusive.
"Sharifah is a girl from Natuna, while Lala is a girl from Jakarta. They are both naive; they both have never fallen in love before," Putri said.
Sharifah and her friends Hasna (Abigail) and Rohani (Mutiara Sofya) are portrayed as innocent, happy and always joking with each other. Putri said the three of them decided to make the characters that way, though, in reality, the Natuna girls she met are generally more reserved.
"All they [Sharifah and her friends] think about is what they're currently doing, their friends, their dreams, things like that. I was able to incorporate Lala's character into the young Sharifah in high school, but I had to cut off the character when Sharifah became a wife," Putri added.
As Sharifah gets married, there is a visible change from being cheerful to contemplative, especially because she has to face separation from her on-screen husband, Jaka (Wafda Saifan Lubis), for months when he is posted outside Natuna.
Putri only recently got married to actor Chicco Jerikho, so she did not know how to act as a wife at the time "Jelita Sejuba" was filmed. She spent a month being coached on how to be a Natuna girl, including how to speak in a Malay accent and dance Malay-style, as well talking to as many people as possible about being a wife.
She consulted members of the Army Wives Association (Persit) about how they felt when their husbands were called for duty, but they were not the only role models.
"I dug up as much information as I could about being a wife – about what it's like to be a housewife. I also referenced my mom, how she became a housewife whose part was to be a genuine wife and sincerely serve her husband," Putri said.
The challenge was raised when she had to play a mother raising her son, Andika (Yukio), alone and had to console him when the father was continuously absent.
But the main obstacle was having to jump between scenes. Since the scenes were not shot chronologically, Putri had to shift from being a teenager to a newlywed, to a mother each day.
Moreover, Putri only had a six-month break after "Posesif," so her previous role was getting in the way.
"It was difficult in the beginning because Lala's character stuck with me. It was my first film and it was hard to let go," she said.
Yayu Unru, a senior theater actor who plays her father in both "Posesif" and "Jelita Sejuba," helped her overcome that problem.
"The most important thing is how we accept the roles given to us. We have to be sincere and open ourselves to the characters and deliver according to what the director wants," Putri said.
Despite the challenges, Putri said she enjoyed filming in Natuna because "it's a full package," meaning a hidden paradise full of good food, people and culture.
"It's quiet. It's still untouched by crowds. It has many beaches, but they're still clean. The people I met were also very kind. Maybe it's because they are not used to newcomers. So they were super excited to see newcomers. 'Oh, there are people visiting our place.' They are very kind," said the former host of the television show "My Trip My Adventure."
"I think it's Indonesia's treasure," she added.
After "Jelita Sejuba," Putri's next film is "Sultan Agung," set to be released late this year.