Exclusive Feature: Raline Shah

MISS INDEPENDENT. Growing up with a zoo as practically her house backyard, actress Raline Shah is not your ordinary beauty pageant favorite. Her role as Fatma Pasha in “99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa” is anything but sexy, yet this seductive ingénue reveals to Chris Andre how power is life’s most fascinating story to tell.

Jumpsuit by CK Calvin Klein

Her svelte figure makes an unforgettable introduction, let alone the sensual lips. Long fingers clutching the black leather bag and her beautiful tress cuddling the smooth neck can’t fail to impress any beholder. Yet beauty takes a second place once Raline Shah opens up and expresses her wit.

“I don’t believe in taking the elevator to success; you have to take the stairs and learn,” the 28-year-old thespian stresses. She leans forward to the mirror, scanning for little details on her makeup before the exclusive photoshoot for DA MAN begins. The makeup artist intends to utter a slight comment, however Shah cuts in quick, rummaging her bag and immediately unrolling the pack of her cosmetic products. “I bring my own [cosmetic] stuff. Just in case.”

More often than not, beauty beguiles the eye and makes up for the lack of intelligence. But never is the case with this pretty darling who happens to be the graduate of political science and new media & communications of the National University of Singapore. “I’m very much interested in the study of power and why people are so into power. Politics is all about power,” she unapologetically responds.

Dress and coat by Emporio Armani

“I don’t believe in taking the elevator to success; you have to take the stairs and learn.”

Being a newcomer to the national movie industry, Shah gives it all and doesn’t regret. Her first big breakthrough was winning the Miss Favorite title at the 2008 Putri Indonesia pageantry. The girl, who at first didn’t know how to walk on high heels, rarely put on makeup, and was carefree in voicing her thoughts, underwent a personality overhaul. People fed her with answers to various questions, and in the process Shah admitted that she finally gave in to their expectations. “At some point at the stage, I was going to respond to one of the answers with my own say, but then I relented and used the typical answer they dictated to me before.”

She realized then that pageantry is, one way or the other, politics. “Women are always obsessed with the concept of beauty, and beauty pageant is crème de la crème of beauty, so to speak,” says the doe-eyed Medanese. “If you won it, it’d be like one feather in your captick, you’re beautiful; tick, you’re powerful.”

And those ticks unexpectedly opened many doors of opportunities for the bubbly actress. She initially stretched herself into the modeling industry. When cosmetic brand Pond’s held an audition for a commercial to be broadcasted in 13 countries, Shah followed her guts and registered herself in. Shot in a series of episodes, the fair lady snagged the antagonistic role who ruthlessly ripped the heart of the main character. She looked fierce and garnered much praise in India for her acting. “That was my first big check,” Shah chuckles. “Then I thought ‘Oh man, I think I can do this.’”

Dress and coat by Diane von Furstenberg

Acting or, simply, impersonation is what she actually liked to do when she was still at school. “I liked theatre a lot, and I usually got funny awards from my school mates, like being the class clown,” she treads down the memory lane. “I copied people’s accents too, Indian, Southern American, because the idea of being someone else for a while is a cool one. But I didn’t think of it seriously back then.”

To date, Raline Shah has starred in two major productions. One is “5cm,” a film by well-known director Rizal Mantovani, and the other is “Timun Mas,” a musical theatrical show in Jakarta. “I had so much fun,” she beams as the subject turns to movies. On “5cm,” she portrays the only girl out of five close friends living in the big durian, a.k.a. Jakarta. “People think that’s me because it looked easy, but I had to learn the Jakartan accent because I’m from Medan. I also spent two months hanging out with the boys, since we’re supposed to be best friends.”

The hard work did pay off, as the actress stood out amid the rest of the cast. From playing a Jakartan girl, she transformed into a fairy-tale princess in “Timun Mas.” “I was this nice girl, but then I got possessed and went berserkI did salsa and suddenly had a big, loud voice,” she enthuses. That was quite a challenge to nail, as the good character in the end resurged back to the surface and the princess was once again a dear princess. Shah attributes her childhood role-playing games to the success in embodying such an odd character. “When I was younger, my parents were quite conservative, so I had to stay at home and play with my brotheracting like Indians or mimicking superheroes. Growing up with such a crazy mind and now being able to express it is so much fun. I get paid to be crazy!”

Dress by CK Calvin Klein, glasses by Marc Jacobs from Optik Melawai

“Women are always obsessed with the concept of beauty, and beauty pageant is crème de la crème of beauty, so to speak.”

Shah’s latest role in the “99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa” (99 Shines in the European Sky) is quite at the other end of the spectrum. She plays Fatma Pasha, a Turkish woman who inspires the lead character to gradually embrace Islam and eventually cover her head with a veil as a religious symbol. Shot in four different cities in Europe, namely Paris, Cordova, Istanbul and Vienna, the actress is immersing herself in this pious figure for over one and a half months. “I had to learn Austrian German, since I’m Turkish in the movie,” she bursts excitedly.

Having read the novel which inspires the movie, Shah claims how much knowledge she gains on the history of Islam in Europe. “I didn’t know that Islam has such a long history in Europe, from the Ottoman Empire to the crusaders and even to the architectural details,” tells the young Muslim. Despite the renewed understanding about the religion, she isn’t yet ready to change her lifestyle to adopt the character off the camera. “I just hope people realize that it’s just a role; that I’m not going to wear a veil all the time. Say, if after the movie there’s a producer offering me a prostitute role, I might take it.”

In a similar vein to the abrupt change of roles, Shah is undergoing a change of style, too. “I’m trying to simplify my life right now. I get rid a lot of stuff because I travel so much. But I’m obsessed with shoes and bags,” her inner-shopaholic arises. “Simple basics are important, like a lace smoking blazer from the past Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel and Givenchy bags. I like the new Givenchy’s designer, and the accessories are quite nice.”

Dress by Emporio Armani

Asked if she dubs herself a shopper, Shah appears hesitant. “This year, yes, I’ve shopped a lot. I went to Europe for the movie production and the US in October for holiday… I picked a bag and thought ‘this is me; that could be me; oh, that one is me.’ Acquiring things is quite a powerful activity,” she once again entangles the topic with the notion of power.

As the photoshoot setting is ready, the slender model rises from her chair and tries on a stunning classic-cut Emporio Armani dress. She twirls cheekily, checking how the fabric swaddles her body exquisitely. Her smile lights up the room; and her long legs on nude high-heels inevitably draw the attention.

“I always travel,” her words flutter while she gracefully moves in the splendid cocktail dress to strike a daring pose. “It doesn’t have to be overseas. Like three days in Medan, and then I’d go to Toba lake. I like nature and animals; my dad owns a zoo in Medan. I like cities, too, and if I have to pick the best city in the world, it has to be New York. It feels like the whole universe cramped into one city.”

She pauses a bit and lets the camera take the best sides of her. “As an actress, I want to make it to the US one day. But for now, I’m happy to be here, to ride along the rise of the Indonesian movie production. I believe if you love what you’re doing and you do it sincerely, the energy of the universe will get you there.” No more words exchanged afterwards, only poses fill the room and fingers are crossed, silently wishing for the best for this aspiring miss independent on her journey to Hollywood.

Outfit by Diane von Furstenberg

Photographer Ricko Sandy
Stylist Asti Tiara
Hair & makeup Ryan Ogilvy