The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Sunday, August 26, 2012


The Monas mystery gold heist:  Episode One

 Why doesn’t Indonesian television produce local detective programs?

Instead of banal sinetron following a predictable plot, viewers could pit their wits against cunning sleuths battling vile villains across Southeast Asia’s Sin City, home to 12 million stories.

The BBC has been telecasting such programs since John Logie Baird first caught a cathode ray.  The US has never let go of the genre.  Nor has Hong Kong where kung fu cops jump off 40 storey towers to chop up snakeheads..

So why no Achmad of the Archipelago, a silat-master righting the wrongs, defending the poor, confronting the corrupt?  What an arresting idea!

Maybe there’s insufficient wrongdoing in the Republic to stimulate scriptwriters?  Methinks it safe to eliminate that theory.

Could such programs be haram?  Negative: Goodies always vanquish the baddies, though sometimes the two can be inseparable.

So here’s a few suggestions to get the creative juices haemorrhaging.  First we need a hero.

Haji Sjahrit Holmes (I Gusti Ayu Puspawati ) of Jl Bond, disguised as a street musician deducts the obvious others have overlooked while giving his pipe a workout in the kampong. Tobacco sponsorship?  Elementary, my dear Wayan.

Hamzah Poirot promenading La Rue des Thamrin spots clues missed by the clumsy gendarmerie, revealing the dominatrix in the Hyatt as the guilty one, not the scowling satpam.

Nyonya Marples would have no problem seeing the flaws in the alibis of a sinister itinerant vendor poisoning the innocent with toxic bakso. (Is there any other sort?)  This would be The Curious Case of the Kaki Lima.

Murder on the Yogyakarta Express could have a cast of candidates, one wearing a yellow jacket, another green and the third red.  One goes missing. The train gathers speed. It’s heading downhill.  The guard has disappeared.  The emergency lever doesn’t work. A metaphor for the state of politics?

Not interested?  So how about a police series:  The Thick Khaki Line could feature the gallant gumshoes of Precinct 13 covering the notorious Tanjung Priok waterfront. The lads ensure nothing gets through without their knowledge.  And cut.

Too British?  Here’s an original idea – let’s steal from the States.

The Funda Mentalist would have a bland, near mute actor (Nicholas Saputra) playing the role of a psychic.  He and his sidekick Fatima (Alya Rohali) fetching in a blue burqa with matching sunglasses, dispenses with old fashioned policing methods, like door knocking and DNA testing. 

They solve the crime in 38 minutes plus commercials just by looking mysterious.  Should do well in superstitious Java.

There’s no shortage of adaptable ideas to suit Indonesian tastes.  The Modest City, (preserving Asian values), The Touchables (story consultants - KPK), Irian Five-0 (“obscure, confused,” say critics) and BD (Big Durian) Confidential (the smell says it all).

Ponder the plotlines.  It’s dawn at Matabukit Police Station in an overcrowded, rubble-strewn industrial area known for its sleaze.  And that’s just the cops.

A man rushes in, blowing a whistle, waking the duty sergeant.  “The 50 kilograms of gold atop Monas has been stolen,” he shouts, and is promptly arrested for disturbing the police.

What the flatfoot doesn’t know is that the whistleblower has top contacts.  Minutes later the phone rings.  Within seconds the crimson-faced cop releases the prisoner.

The man then reveals himself as Jusuf Bond (Dude Harlino), famous foreign agent assigned by Blok M (Christine Hakim) on the trail of the crim behind the Great Monas Mystery.

Some character tweaks would be required.  Yusuf’s tipple is three fingers of Teh Botol on ice.  His favorite car is a custom-built black Kijang with a bed in the back for kips during daylong traffic jams.

Pak Bond only beds his wives, but being polygamous is allowed four.  They always wear headscarves so their tresses don’t tangle in helicopter blades while choppering over the Presidential Palace or speed-boating down the Ciliwung. Proprieties must be maintained.

Enough imagining.  Now it’s over to the TV stations. Naysayers might argue that viewers aren’t ready yet for programs featuring smart and honest police – the idea is just too fantastic.

Far more believable to the poor are the antics of the rotten and restless in millionaires’ mansions.  Duncan Graham

(First published in The Sunday Post 26 August 2012)

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