“A Man Called Ahok” Star Daniel Mananta Talks About The Biggest Biopic Movie of the Year

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN – Daniel Mananta chats with DAMAN’s Ricky Ronaldo about his role in “A Man Called Ahok,” how shooting the movie went down and what kind of impact he hopes it will bring

Outfit by Versace

Daniel Mananta loves to talk. this, of course, comes as no surprise as the man is best known as an MTV VJ, presenter for “The Voice” along with “Indonesian Idol” and so on. But we’re not here to talk about Daniel Mananta the presenter; we’re here to talk about Daniel Mananta the actor, particularly in the movie “A Man Called Ahok.” And he’s got a lot to say on that matter too.

First of all, for those who haven’t seen the film, you really should. No matter what your personal views are, it’s nevertheless quite astonishing to see Mananta’s onscreen transformation into, well, the man called Ahok. What’s more, the movie shows another side of Ahok that most of us probably don’t know. In particular, his childhood and the time he spent in Bangka Belitung. More than anything, the movie focuses on his relationship with his father, Kim
Nam, and how that transformed Ahok into the man we know today. It can even be argued that the movie is more about Ahok’s father than Ahok himself. If you’re looking to see Ahok as he was as the governor of Jakarta, you got the wrong movie. As Mananta puts it: “We all could see his life in Jakarta. It’s in the news, the media and YouTube. So, why bother to make a movie about it?”

Outfit by Givenchy
Outfit by Burberry

So, how did Mananta get the role? For sure, when the announcement was made that he would be playing Ahok, it sparked quite the debate. “No matter what the producer said, I was not their first choice,” he says with a laugh. “To be honest with you, I don’t think I’m Mr. Ahok’s first choice as well. I’m pretty sure he has someone else in mind.”

This, by the way, is Mananta’s second acting credit. The first was in the 2009 film “Macabre.” That’s perhaps why his first audition for the role did not go very well. He hated looking himself in the camera because what he showed was his presenter self. He asked Putrama Tuta, the director, to give him a second chance. “I was really fighting for this role,” Mananta points out. So, for a whole month, Mananta went through a series of intense acting classes to break his identity as a presenter and to become comfortable with showing his vulnerable side. Long story short, his casting video convinced the director, particularly with his voice. Even Ahok’s son, Nicholas Sean, said that he could feel his dad’s presence in Mananta.

Ahok himself also showed support for the movie and for Mananta’s role. Interestingly, when Mananta met Ahok in preparation for the movie, it caught him by surprise. Initially, the producers told him that he was going to meet Ahok at least five times before shooting began, but that didn’t end up happening. Instead, Mananta met Ahok when he was
on his second day of shooting. Since they didn’t have a lot of time, he was in full costume when he met Ahok. “I shook his hand and it was like the real Ahok meeting the fake Ahok, and that was the most awkward moment of my
life,” he recalls, “Then he looked at me in the eye, back and forth, and he said to me that only the hair looks similar.” He also recalled that Ahok noticed how Mananta was wearing a body suit—to make the latter look bigger. “He said, ‘Hey, that’s insulting. I’m not that fat,’” Mananta looks back while laughing. “And i’m like, ‘Oh no, what I have done?’”

Outfit by Valentino
Outfit by Burberry

Appearances aside, many other challenges awaited Mananta along the way. He had to overcome his self-doubt and get over the fear of being compared to others. The differences in personality between him and Ahok was yet another one. “I don’t have high-self esteem, but Ahok does,” Mananta elaborates. “He is so bold while I simply like to entertain people and make them happy. For example, he wouldn’t say sorry if he’s not wrong. And I’m like the total opposite from that. Like, even if I’m not wrong, I would say sorry to make other people happy.” Mananta had to put
in a lot of work to portray that kind of boldness while also delving into “why he [Ahok] is so principled and why he is so firm in his values.”

That being said, it was those values and integrity that Mananta admired of Ahok. “His faith in God is something that I really admire,” Mananta reveals. “This is what makes him so bold and brave in confronting anything that is wrong, because he knows that God is with him.” That’s also one of the many reasons that first drew Mananta to the role.

“Ronald Liem said it best in the editor’s letter of DAMAN’s last issue when he wrote ‘You don’t imitate the lives of your role models—you imitate their attitude.’ So, what we recreated through this movie was his attitude, his principles and values as a new and modern hero—a role model,” he explains. “And to be involved in the creation of all that is such an honor for me.”

Naturally, it is those values that Mananta hoped the movie would instill in the millions of viewers. “It’s not so that they can glorify Ahok,” Mananta points out, “but for them to have those values, such as integrity, honesty, principle
and compassion.”

Outfit by Lanvin

As our conversation veered into other topics, Mananta briefly discussed about his other projects, including being the host of “Indonesian Idol Junior,” branching out his Damn! I Love Indonesia business and producing the movie “Susy Susanti Love All,” which he hopes will be nominated for an Oscar. He also expressed that in ten years’ time, he would be doing all four—acting, presenting, producing and running his own business—on a grander scale.

“My purpose in life is to spread peace, love and joy through the platforms that I have,” Mananta answers in short, when I asked him what keeps him going every day. “And that gives me a rewarding feeling and a boost of energy and positivity again.” that said, I think we all can learn something from the man called Ahok, as well as the man called Daniel Mananta.


Text Ricky Ronaldo
Photography Thomas Sito
Styling Primawan Hakim
Grooming Arimbi
Videography Adityo Wisnu
Location Pantjoran Tea House (Jl. Pancoran Raya No 4-6 Glodok, +62 21 6905 904, pantjoranteahouse.com)