This film was shot at Manggarai train station in central Jakarta. Ujang, the person who reads Binhad Nurrohmat’s poem (“The People on the KRL”) works on the train line which runs from northern Jakarta (Kota) to its final station in the south, Bogor. Ujan sells crackers on the train, moving from car to carr. The trains are frequently over-crowded, lack doors which close, and of course the generally ubiquitous air-conditioning. The KRL trains, however, are intense spaces of action. Buskers perform music, blind singers recite verses in Arabic, people sell whatever passengers might need: mangoes, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, toys, school textbooks, and as Ujang does, a vast array of crackers.
The title of the poem in Indonesian is “Rakyat di KRL: “Rakyat” can be roughly translated as “the people.” This term has a long and strong history within the political discourse of Indonesia. Politicians claim they act for “the rakyat” and that their motives are to improve the fate of “the rakyat.” Members of the so-called rakyat speak of being forgotten, disregarded and abused by politicians.
This film was shot in June 2009, in the lead-up to the general election – an election eventually won by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. During the election campaign, the leading candidates frequently invoked the aspirations of the rakyat as a means to justify their election. Binhad Nurrohmat’s poem, “Rakyat di KRL” is an ironic perspective on who the “rakyat” are and the spaces in which they move.
The poem is indeed written by Binhad – one of Indonesia’s more controversial poets – yet it is through Ujang’s performance that the poem takes on a new meaning and a new life.
Also see Fuller's video of Nurrohmat in Cirebon, posted here in April.