Friendship and food in ‘Aruna and Her Palate’
Following its debut film Posesif (possessive), which took home awards at the 2017 Indonesian Film Festival (FFI 2017), Palari Films production house has returned with Aruna dan Lidahnya (Aruna and Her Palate or The Birdwoman’s Palate).
Unlike Posesif , which emphasized the dark side of puppy love, Aruna and Her Palate brings up a rare topic in the Indonesian film industry: Friendships and lives of people in their 30s with food as the base.
Adapted from Laksmi Pamuntjak’s novel of the same title, Aruna and Her Palate was directed by Edwin, who also helmed Posesif. “It’s a drama but with many spices,” said Edwin, when being asked to describe the film, during the press conference on Thursday, May 31, in Kemang, South Jakarta.
Aruna and Her Palate is a film about friendship and food that is wrapped with intrigue and conspiracy. Aruna (Dian Sastrowardoyo) is a single woman in her 30s. Apart from her job in an NGO, Aruna is passionate about food. One day she is assigned to investigate bird flu cases in several places in Indonesia. She then travels along her friends; the food critic Nad (Hannah Al-Rashid) who wants to write a book and the chef Bono (Nicholas Saputra), who wants to discover authentic recipes of Indonesian culinary. In the middle of their journey, Aruna meets Farish (Oka Antara), a former colleague who secretly keeps an eye on her.
The four of them have different traits; Aruna who is still innocent and simple, Bono who is calm and adventurous, Nad who is elegant and Farish who is different from the three.
“Basically Farish is a stern person who does everything based on rules,” said Oka Antara. “He’s the opposite of Aruna who depends on her instinct. But that’s where the dynamic happens. Behind the journey of people who like foods, Farish sees foods as something superficial and the function is to make your stomach full. But Farish has a secret beneath his weakness.”
Meanwhile, Dian described Aruna as a person who has a romantic relationship with foods. “Outside of her work, if she gets to choose between food and a romantic partner, she will choose food,” said Dian who admitted that she liked to eat and try new menus.
“Actually the four characters here are different,” said Hannah. “But it’s always interesting for them to gather and talk about love, politics, foods – everyone has different opinions. Sharing opinions, debating – it’s all relatable in real life.”
Nicholas, who confessed that he likes to cook for himself and his friends, hoped audiences could relate to the film. “It’s because Indonesians like to chat, make friends and appreciate foods. Even if they try new places to eat, they will always bring their friends. There are also people who travel with foods as their base,” Nicho said. “Hopefully this film can inspire and become a reflection of ourselves.”
The director Edwin believed it would be good to adapt the book into a film as the former contained moments where people chatted over food. “It’s how we see humans revealing their thoughts [while eating and chatting],” said Edwin. “The book contains foods that many of them I don’t know. I really wanted to try them, not all people could taste them.”
However, not all the places in the book were visited during shooting as they only traveled to four locations, such as Surabaya in East Java, Pamekasan in Madura, East Java, Pontianak in West Kalimantan and Singkawang in West Kalimantan. “The book has around nine to 10 places, but the ones that we chose already represented the textures of the foods in the book,” said Edwin. “We don’t want to try one type of food only, we want to show new things.”
Despite of the locations, the film’s producer Meiske Taurisia said they did not go too far from the book. “We have interpretations toward characters that we adapted here, there are conflicts that may not exist in the book, but we make it as something new in the film,” Meiske said. “But we don’t let go important things, starting from their discussion topics, life problems – we keep pushing all of them in this film.”
Aruna and Her Palate is slated to be screened at the end of September. (asw)