When Visinema Pictures dropped the official trailer of third Filosofi Kopi movie Ben & Jody on January 5, it came with a whole bunch of surprises. Ben & Jody still stars Chicco Jerikho and Rio Dewanto as the titular protagonists, but the saga has thrown out the drama-first narrative blend of bromance and coffee. Instead, Ben & Jody is a pulse-racing action films that explores issues such as agrarian conflicts and land eviction.
Last but not least, Ben & Jody introduces new faces to the saga – including Ari Lesmana, vocalist of indie folk band Fourtwnty. The band were already connected to the Filosofi Kopi films, having contributed the two songs ‘Zona Nyaman’ and ‘Aku Tenang’ to the second movie (the new film also has a Fourtwnty song, ‘Kursi Goyang’, on its soundtrack).
But things go up a notch in Ben & Jody as 28-year-old Lesmana makes his film debut playing Gele, one of the subordinates of the film’s antagonist played by Yayan Ruhian, the martial artist and actor whose credits include The Raid and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Lesmana was up for the challenge, telling NME that he had always been intrigued by the idea of “starring in a movie, at least once”.
“Outside music, I see movies as one of the art forms that are not easy to pull off,” he explains. “I love watching movies, for sure, and I feel like I have this different angle every time I watch a movie, so I always wonder how a certain movie would take shape if I were in it.”
Ahead of Ben & Jody’s theatrical release in Indonesia today (January 27), NME speaks to the singer about how he got his role, Angga Dwimas Sasongko’s directorial style, messing up on the first day of filming, and how the saga’s new direction resonates with his upbringing in Riau.
I understand that this is not your first partnership with Visinema Pictures, but how did you end up getting an acting role in the film anyway?
“Well, Fourtwnty was tasked [by Visinema Pictures] to contribute to the soundtrack album once again. Then, Angga, Chicco, and Rio approached me and offered me a part in the movie. I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ Anyway, I thought it would be light and easy, so I said yes.
“I was asked to audition afterwards and then, I got a little suspicious because I had to hold a pistol and long-barreled guns. On top of that, I was asked to get grumpy and stuff. [laughs] Long story short, the film’s script arrived at my doorstep and when I found my lines, things finally dawned on me: this was a pretty big part!”
“It was Yayan Ruhian that made me feel like this experience was a dream. I deeply and utterly idolise him”
Ben & Jody has a different, action-oriented tone from the previous films. How did you adapt to that?
“When it came to mastering my lines and my body language, I learned from [castmate] Yayu Unru. I also asked a lot of questions of my fellow costars Arswendi Nasution, Ruth Marini, and of course Chicco and Rio. For the fighting scenes, Yayan [Ruhian] and the others were showing me the ropes.
“All in all, the film’s tone didn’t pose too many difficulties for me because they have been preparing for this film for quite a long time.”
So are you saying that you never felt nervous at all during the filming?
“It was quite nerve-racking on the first day, when I did my first take. [laughs] When they said ‘camera, action!’ my sweat broke out immediately even though our location was not hot at all. Also, I was eyeing the camera for far too much.” [laughs]
How would you describe Angga Dwimas Sasongko as a director? Also, did anyone get you starstruck during filming?
“Angga is pretty chill but unyielding. He really trusted us and in return, we trusted him as well. He’s also very fun to work with. Ben & Jody was the first time he directed an action movie, so looking at him, I was like, ‘Whoa, this is some gripping stuff!’
“I was cool with Chicco and Rio because I have known them personally for quite some time. Working with them felt sentimental because they’re my friends and we talk a lot. It was Yayan, though, that made me feel like this experience was a dream. To be honest, I deeply and utterly idolise him and when I came on board this project, I didn’t know that Yayan would join the cast as well!
“I discovered that these veteran actors are always generous with their knowledge, especially to me who is practically a nobody in this business. There are lots of things about them that truly earn my respect.”
“There is this one Fourtwnty song, in particular, that I would like to adapt as a movie. Something with a noughties vibe in the vein of Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?, 3 Hari Untuk Selamanya and Janji Joni”
Now, without spoiling too many details about the plot, Ben & Jody deals with agrarian conflicts. How did you relate to that subject matter – especially on a personal level?
“The way I see it, not many people have discussed or even understood this subject. I can relate to it, though, because I hail from Riau which is known for its woodlands and illegal logging. Those things often happen there and I couldn’t help but reminisce about my childhood. As a kid, I saw those things happen, but I didn’t quite understand it myself.”
Apart from your work in Ben & Jody, is there anything we can expect from Fourtwnty this year?
“Definitely an album. We are planning to release it in April and there will be nine songs in total. There is this one song, in particular, that I would like to adapt as a movie. Something with a noughties vibe in the vein of Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?, 3 Hari Untuk Selamanya and Janji Joni. The song’s title is ‘Termangu’ and it is very dramatic. It’s about my best friend and his wife.”
Will we see you on the big screen more often after Ben & Jody?
“Err… I think it depends on the script. [laughs] The other day I was offered another role and there was a crying scene. I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t think I can do that’.” [laughs]
Ben & Jody is out now in Indonesian theatres.