Musikal Laskar Pelangi at the Esplanade Singapore
It started off as a humble novel about a classroom of 10 students and a teacher with a strong passion for teaching. They struggled to get the education they thirsted for and so deserved despite being natives in their own land of birth Belitong, which ironically is a rich mining site. Their so-called classroom was as good as a goat stable and was in the verge of collapsing. Heck, their classroom was not even supposed to have started in the beginning because there were only 9 and the minimum number of students to start a class was 10, but of course at the last minute a kid enrolled and saved the whole troop.
With the novel, I had all the time in the world to follow along their journey, like riding a bike for 80 km to go to school while on the way crossing a river with crocodiles and competitions they owned against other schools and even their puppy love. I savour every moment with the kids with my imaginations running wild and free, I had the liberty of making my own crooked school for the kids, what they looked like, and since I am not familiar with the Island of Belitong, I – like all readers – had the liberty of picturing their surroundings. The beach they go to, the garden they often have their class in when their actual classroom was dripping water from the rain the night before, the Chinese girl Ikal fell head over heels with. And to me, that is the just one of the beauty of reading, I get to visualise what I read.
The novel was published in 2005 and obviously became a major, major hit in Indonesia. And in 2008 the same people who introduced me to Soe Hok Gie (Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza) brought the novel to life and made the film adaptation of the book. These guys, dictated the audience, who most likely have read the novel, with their own visualization. They forced me to put my visualization of the book to rest and I had to digest their version. Was I worried? Absolutely not. Was it worth it? YES. The movie clearly shows that they have a vision for the movie and just Refuse to settle for anything less. With their power of sound and vision, they successfully realised what I only visualise in my head, which was not even close to what they put on screen. I especially adore how they capture the island of Belitong, the purity of its nature and how they keep everything realistic, which I believe was the reason why I cried more tears than when I read the novel.
Was that it? Of course not. Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza just kept pushing their creations to the limit, ironically, with more limitations. With the film, they were limited with duration and screen size. There was no way they could adapt the whole book into a film, it’ll probably last a whole day or 2 weeks if you’re a slow reader like me. Then with the film there was the 2 dimensional factor and how they could only fit so much in a screen, compare to a reader unlimited imaginations. But guess what they are limiting themselves that much more and continue to make history in Indonesian Performing Arts scene by adapting the novel/film into a musical play. Yes, stage and live audience and somehow make their actors and actresses sing and dance live on stage while still keep the plot and still make me cry in duration of 150 minutes. They initially performed in Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta in December 2010 and had to be back on stage in July 2011 due to high persistence demand, and finally they are here in Singapore to perform at the infamous Esplanade later today, tonight and tomorrow, as the apparently “First big-budget musical for Malay Audience” according to the Straits Times.
I am so prepared to be amazed.