Before taking on the lead role in Surat Kecil Untuk Tuhan, Bunga Citra Lestari warned her Malaysian actor husband Ashraf Sinclair that things would be different.
In the movie, the 34-year-old Indonesian actress – who is known for her bubbly persona – plays Angel, a lawyer who embarks on a harrowing search to find Anton, her long-lost brother in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“I told Ashraf before shooting began that it was going to be tough because the movie is depressing,” she said during an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Surat Kecil Untuk Tuhan highlights the problems faced by neglected street kids in Jakarta. Bunga explained that most people have an unkind perception of the way street kids roam around in the city asking for money and food from strangers.
“In Indonesia, the general perception is that these kids are lazy. They don’t want to work. But it’s not like that. It’s not their choice to be like that,” she said.
Angel and her brother Anton are orphans who run away from an abusive uncle only to end up in a syndicate where they are required to perform songs in traffic for money.
An accident causes the siblings to be separated. Angel is adopted by a loving family and relocates to Australia while Anton is led away to a mysterious place.
“When I read the script, I got goosebumps and I cried. Ashraf cried as well when I told him about the story,” said Bunga, who married Ashraf in 2008. The couple has a six-year-old son, Noah.
The Indonesian actress said being a parent herself may have been one of the reasons why she was emotionally affected during the making of the movie.
“As parents, Ashraf and I learned about how cruel life is to children who are left to fend for themselves on the streets. I was depressed while shooting this film. There was a dark feeling that I couldn’t seem to shake off,” she reminisced.
Surat Kecil Dari Tuhan was filmed in April this year and Bunga said she maintained a professional demeanour on set. There was never a time when shooting had to be postponed for her to regain composure.
“I’m not that kind of actor. I know how to switch off during filming and just focus on crying for the scenes. If I need time … maybe just one or two minutes? Then I’m ready to start work again,” she explained.
Not the same
After filming wrapped up, Bunga said her 37-year-old husband noticed that she had become distant. During this interview, Bunga assured us that she would not let her emotions get the best of her.
“It’s taking some time for me to get back to being Bunga. Right now, I’m still in the process,” she said.
Bunga is also aware that unlike Angel, she is in a much more fortunate place. “I should be thankful that I still have my husband, my son, parents and so on.”
Bunga made her acting debut in a supporting role on a TV series back in 2002. She then established herself as a successful pop singer with the release of debut album Cinta Pertama in 2006.
In March, Bunga performed a sold-out concert for 3,500 fans in Jakarta. The event took six months to plan and cost RM2.5mil to produce.
A beaming Bunga, who was also one of the producers of the concert, shared why the success mattered. “In Indonesia, a lot of people say you can’t make money from staging a concert. I proved them wrong! My team and I got to do something that most people say is not possible. It was crazy. I have to say it was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.”
When asked about how much she made from the event, Bunga said coyly “Ada lah…”
Social media darling
With 5.9 million followers on Instagram and hailed as one of the most popular stars in Indonesia, Bunga knows that she is in a position to inspire change.
Through her work, she wants to prove that anything is possible with a little bit of courage.
“I gained this understanding that if you really want something, you have to work hard, believe (in yourself) and then you can achieve it.”
With acting, Bunga said she is careful to choose meaningful scripts with an important message to convey and Surat Kecil Untuk Tuhan fit the bill.
“Everybody has their own way of inspiring change. With movies, I’m game for anything that highlights social issues. If it’s also challenging for me, like a role that I have never done before, then I’m all for it.”
Surat Kecil Untuk Tuhan is currently showing in cinemas. Head to GSC for more information.