Sun, 08 Jun 2003

Books on Inul not just for 'drill' seekers

Tarko Sudiarno, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Mengebor Kemunafikan: Inul, Seks dan Kekuasaan. (Drilling through Hypocrisy: Inul, Sex and Power) By FX Rudy Gunawan Kawan Pustaka & Galang Press 2003 xv + 151 pp Rp 19,500

Tuhan diantara Inul & Gang Dolly (God Between Inul and Dolly Alley) By M.Luqman Hakiem Bayumedia Publishing xiii + 128 pages Rp 24,500

Singer Inul Daratista's 15 minutes of fame are far from over. She has emerged as a figure of sympathy to many, the small-town girl made good who must battle jealousy and resentment from self- righteous, meddlesome detractors.

For the latter, her sensuous stage act, and particularly that trademark "drill" dance, are putting the final nail in the coffin of morality and women's dignity in the country.

Everything and anything about Inul sells, whether it's a tabloid carrying her picture on its front page or a TV show composed almost entirely of rehashed footage. The Inul phenomenon has succeeded in elevating dangdut, a distinctly Malay variation of Indian and Arab music, from its low-class associations of young men dancing the night away in their sandals to a wider, well-heeled audience.

No further confirmation was needed than a demure looking Inul on a recent cover of Femina, the country's leading women's weekly.

It was inevitable that the publishing world would jump on the Inul bandwagon, with two new books rushed into print. After all, sex sells, and it does even better when it's in the sacred- profane combo of religious condemnation.

Galang Press, which also published Jakarta Undercover: sex 'n the City, the steamy tale of underground sexual shenanigans, now in its 40th reprint, has prepared a promotional tour that is also scheduled to include appearances by the singer/dancer.

But in the book published by Bayumedia, Muslim cleric Muhammad Luqman Hakiem, in what may be a surprise to some readers, does not provide an outright condemnation of the singer. In several chapters he explores the Islamic theories included in Sufism, which assists in understanding his argument that Inul's emergence has underscored the moral decadence and hypocrisy in the country.

In one piece, he tries to interpret the ideas of KH Mustofa "Gus Mus" Bisri in his painting Berdzikir Bersama Inul (Chanting Part of the Confession of Faith along with Inul). The writer asks whether there is any essential difference between Inul's wiggling bottom and the faces of hypocritical leaders, or even those of some of our religious figures.

Hakiem writes that Gus Mus is right in showing how Inul, and our reactions to her gyrating movements, tell more about us than they do about the singer. The most insecure and crass people (and that includes clerics) will make the loudest protests about "Inulism".

In a bold stance, the writer argues that the self-righteous shamelessly hold up Inul to scrutiny to conceal their own moral failings.

Other articles continue in a similar vein: Melihat Allah di Gang Dolly (Seeing God in Dolly Alley), Pelacur pun Bisa Lebih Mulia (A Sex Worker Can be More Noble), Sadisme, Dakwah dan Kesenian Kita (Sadism, Propagation and Our Art), Teknologi Porno (Porno Technology) and Paha, Dada dan Ayam Goreng (Thighs, Breasts and Fried Chicken).

A self-admitted fan of Inul is reporter Rudy Gunawan, who put his book together from media clippings. It opens with comments about Inul from public figures, ranging from her defenders, such as writer Arswendo Atmowiloto, to her staunchest critic, Rhoma Irama, the onetime king of dangdut.

But Rudy is not trying to defend Inul, instead trying to "drill" through the hypocrisy pervading Indonesian society. It is through the phenomenal issue of Inul that he discusses the problems the country today.

In his eyes, Inul is like the sharp-pointed part of a drill, penetrating through the hypocrisy demonstrated by our society in many respects. Her innocence and honesty in facing up to the storm of controversy show up those who lash out at her.

The book's five chapters (Rudy calls them "drills") discuss the Inul craze, her emergence in relation to moral, social, cultural and other issues, the eroticization of Inul's body and movements, as well as sex and power.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla's epilogue, Over Moralisasi (Overmoralization), argues of the danger of religion being taken as a norm that regulates all aspects of life.

"Overmoralization regarding social life through the reinforcement of religious norms in society has led to unhealthy impacts," Abdalla said.

Interestingly, the most famous buttocks in the country are not found on the cover. Instead, Inul, like a modern-day Mona Lisa, smiles cryptically in a painting by Hari Budino. It is if she is looking on knowingly as the public and media, including in these two books, pay homage to the queen of drilling.