Fri, 30 Nov 2001

'Max Havelaar's Saijah and Adinda', a tragic love story

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Dance drama Max Havelaar's Story of Saijah and Adinda, a love story based on a book written by Edward Douwes Dekker in 1860, the assistant resident in Lebak village in Banten, West Java, presented the audience with a narrative communicated through theater and dance.

More than 80 dancers and actors took part in the 120-minute performance at Pagelaran Hall of the Yogyakarta Palace on Sunday. President Megawati Soekarnoputri, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung were expected to grace the occasion but were unable to come.

"I call it Langen Krido Swara," said the show's director and choreographer S. Kardjono. He said the blend of theater and dance was deliberate as it successfully conveyed the performance's message to the audience.

According to Agus Pakpahan, chairman of the Max Havelaar Indonesia Foundation that organized the performance, Max Havelaar's Story of Saijah and Adinda was designed to carry a political message.

"Through the show, we would like to appeal to all the political elite to stop quarreling," Agus said, adding that many prominent political figures were invited to enjoy the performance, which reportedly cost Rp 1 billion to produce.

As the organizers had invited political leaders to the event the performance had to be rescheduled from Nov. 3 to Nov. 25 as the earlier date coincided with the People's Consultative Assembly Annual Session. The dance drama is to be aired by private TV station RCTI on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.

Yogyakarta Palace had to break its own rule that forbids any kind of performance during the Ramadhan fasting month which involves the playing of the gamelan. As a result, a fee as compensation had to be paid to the palace's pemangku (manager).

"The dance theater is relevant to the present situation. Hopefully the message it carries will touch everyone's heart, to end any form of discrimination and exploitation of the weak," Sultan Hamengkubowono X said in his opening speech at the performance.

Max Havelaar's Story of Saijah and Adinda was based on a book written by Edward Douwes Dekker, the assistant head of a residency under the Dutch colonial government, who used the pen name Multatuli.

The story set in the mid 19th century was about Max Havelaar, an assistant resident in Lebak, who narrates a story about the cruel administration of Governor General Van den Bosch. A forced planting program applied by the government at that time obliged indigenous farmers to give 40 percent of their agricultural produce to the Dutch colonial government, or they had to work without being paid for 20 percent of their working days.

The story begins with a scene showing Max Havelaar (R.M. Krefianto) and his wife Tine Havelaar (Cornelia Agatha) while receiving two guests at their house. They discuss the present situation in which government officials oppress the powerless indigenous farmers.

In that setting, the story of two lovers Saijah, a son of a poor farmer, and his girlfriend Adinda is narrated by Max Havelaar. As an illustration of Max's story, dancers perform to the accompaniment of the tembang (Javanese song) on the main stage. At this moment, Max's voice along with three other characters involved in the discussion, fades away.

Sometimes, Max highlights the scene described in the dance with his words. Satirical remarks relevant to the present political situation were occasionally voiced by Max or the other characters.

Saijah (Miroto), it is told, is forced to leave his village after his father dies in prison after trying to escape from the forced labor program. As the eldest son, he has to take responsibility for his family. He then decides to go to Batavia to work and promises to meet Adinda (Retno Nooryastuti) in three years time.