THE LADY IS A CHAMP. London-born actress and martial artist Hannah Al Rashid is truly one of a kind. She has come a long way from making her way back to Indonesia through pencak silat to punching above her weight in upcoming action-packed films. Joezer Mandagi discovers more
Dress by MICHAEL Michael Kors
It’s usually not that hard to recognize celebrities on their way to a photo shoot. They may dress casually and try to keep their heads down, but there are a lot of telltale signs that betray their true identities—especially to the eyes of DA MAN’s veteran fashion team. Then came along Hannah Al Rashid, looking for all the world like a college student on the way to campus wearing flip-flops, with a backpack slung on one shoulder and a to-go cup of coffee in the opposite hand. An exceptionally pretty college student, mind you; but perhaps not instantly recognizable as a celebrity.
As we started prep work for the shoot, Al Rashid remarks that her feet still hurt after shooting for her latest movie, “Skakmat” alongside Donny Alamsyah, Tanta Ginting and Cecep Arif Rahman. “I’ve just spent the past ten days doing fight scenes,” she begins. “It was in the engine room of a derelict ship, with oil and rust everywhere. So, I’m a bit beat up, but it’s been very fun.”
Of course, action scenes would be “fun” for her, since the London-born Al Rashid was, at one time, a prolific pencak silat athlete—although at the time she naturally represented the United Kingdom. Her love for the traditional martial art is quite well known, the story of why she started practicing in the first place is quite, let’s just say, unique.
Back in the day, she rarely had the chance to visit Indonesia since it was expensive; but an opportunity suddenly presented itself. “In 2002 there was the world championship in Penang,” she recalls. “And there was the opportunity to go to Indonesia after Penang since it’s close by.” Furthermore, one of her cousins was getting married around the same time, and Al Rashid really wanted to attend. “My dad said, ‘The only way you can go to Makassar is if you come to Penang first. So, you have to train and make the team,’” she continues.
And make the team she did. It was a complete disaster, though, as she had been practicing for only three months by the time for the championships. But it was the beginning of an entire new chapter of her life. “Being among all those sportsmen awoke something within me,” she declares proudly, “I always say that silat is my first love.”
Another new chapter began in August 2008. Just two weeks after graduating, she made the decision to return to Indonesia and find work here. Initially, she tried to find employment with the UNDP [United Nations Development Program] as it suited her major. It didn’t work out, but she did get offers to jump into the entertainment biz. “Since I had to eat, I thought I’d try it out while looking for something else,” she admits nonchalantly, “but as it turns out, I discovered a whole new world; and I quite liked it.”
People started noting Hannah Al Rashid when she became a guest VJ on MTV, but her real breakout role was when she played in “Modus Anomali” under the direction of Joko Anwar, who would later on become her mentor. More importantly, even though it was a small role, her appearance in “Modus Anomali” led to other films, as people in the movie industry started to really take note of her acting prowess, including Gareth Evans, who casted her for “Safe Haven,” which is part of the “V/H/S/2” anthology. We’ll also get another glimpse of her on-screen talent this November, as she’s set to appear in the HBO Asia original production “Halfworlds.”
Dress by Lanvin
At the end of the day, however, what truly sets Al Rashid apart from the pack is her normalcy. “When I moved here, I really felt that I have to still be the same Hannah from London,” she explains. So, instead of living the life of an artis with makeup (she hates makeup with a passion), personal chauffeurs and whatnot, she lives in a kos (a rented room), she washes her own clothes and goes everywhere by ojek (motorcycle taxis, which she absolutely loves).
“I’ve just spent the past ten days doing fight scenes. I’m a bit beat up, but it’s been very fun”
“I’m like the anti artis,” she exclaims, referring to the Indonesian expression that leans heavily toward high-profile celebrities instead of artists in the most basic sense. “My friends from the industry are those whom I don’t see as artis and who don’t see themselves as artis.”
Dress by Lanvin
“But, I love my job,” she concedes. In particular, she loves playing dark and strong women, although she’s also quite eager to step out of her comfort zone. When the conversation eventually shifts to filmmaking and being behind the camera, she says, “You know what? I think that appeals more to me now. Every time I’m doing a shoot, I like to talk to the crew and ask questions: what does this do, how do you get that, the entire production process.”
So, we have a performer with a martial arts background, who likes to chat with film crews, has an awesome sense of humor and aspires to write and direct. It might just be, that we are looking at an Indonesian, gender-flipped Jackie Chan.
Photography Wong Sim
Styling Peter Zewet
Styling Assistants Triska Putri and Jay Robert Davies
Makeup & Hairdo Dave Rio
Videography Dimas Anggakara
Location Roche Bobois (Jl. K.H Wahid Hasyim No.47, Jakarta; +62 21 3902 857; roche-bobois.com)