Exclusive Feature: Arifin Putra

DEFYING REALITY. A likeable villain on screen and a likeable human being in reality, Arifin Putra believes in beating the odds, planning his years ahead and getting lost in movies, as told to Gabriela Yosefina

Daman Arifin Putra 1

Outfit By Gucci

Fifteen minutes into a conversation with Arifin Putra and you cannot help recognize his “best buddy” quality: He strikes conversation with ease, about anything he sees in front of him, and in this particular case, it is his notebook. His life story then effortlessly unfolds, from the particularities of the particular notebooks he owns (“I bought a cheaper notebook to jot everything down, so now my Moleskin one stays pretty much untouched”) to his younger days in Germany when he had to leave Indonesia due to the political and economic crisis in 1998. Eleven-year-old Putra was not accustomed to the German village where he was sent, and that inconvenience led him to keep a diary. “Although I am not the disciplined type,” he says. “It’s more like a time capsule. Every time there is an important moment in my life, I’ll write it down. And it’s fun because I can always go back and review my own life whenever I like.”

An especially important scribble in his diary is a plan Putra wrote five years ago. “I had this idea to make a thirty-year plan and divided that into six five-year chapters. In the first five years, for instance, I listed all goals I wanted to achieve, and so the list went on.” What could possibly be included in the actor’s list of goals then? Putra collects his thoughts for a while before replying, “I’ve actually forgotten quite a few of the goals, that’s why I write them down! However, flipping through the pages, apparently in the first five years, I accomplished five out of my seven goals. Not bad, huh?” He seems contented. “Subconsciously, I think that my brain navigates my life in the right direction. But there are some specific goals I wanted to achieve. For example, I wanted to buy a new car, which I’ve done; I wanted to play in a movie that would be screened internationally, and with “The Raid 2: Berandal” this can be crossed off the list. Another one is that I wanted to be in a serious relationship: done. But the upcoming five year chapter is quite heavy … ” He turns serious, then guffaws, “Getting married, however, is part of the fifteen-year plan!”

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Outfit By Lanvin

Regardless of whether Arifin planned it or not, 2014 is definitely his year. Starring as the antagonist in the highly anticipated thriller “The Raid 2” (released March 2014), Putra steals the audience’s attention with his portrayal of a twisted character named Uco. The movie itself, directed by Gareth Evans, was screened in Sundance Film Festival and garnered international followings thereafter. After being involved in the “The Raid 2” however, the 1987-born thespian would soon land a role of a very different nature in an on screen interpretation of bestselling book “Supernova: Ksatria, Putri dan Bintang Jatuh” (Supernova: A Knight, A Princess and A Falling Star) as a gay science student named Ruben. Yet he has also secured a place in another action-filled gig, “The Night Comes for Us,” scheduled to be released next year. Furthermore, despite his busy schedule he also managed to appear as a cameo in a Bruneian production “Yasmine.”

One might reasonably wonder how Putra does it all. He humbly began his career as a TV commercial talent and television series heartthrob before his movie career was initiated in a romantic flick called “Lost in Love.” He cut his teeth in some notable titles thereafter, including playing a cannibal in a thriller movie “Rumah Dara” (Macabre). “You have to love the character and try to see the world from their perspective,” he answers when asked about how he gets into the roles. “An example: When I was playing a cannibal, I brought a knife to keep with me every day. Once I got all the makeup and wardrobe done, I would just sit down and look at people around me, trying to imagine them as potential meal. ‘What would be the best way to kill them? How should I cook them?’ were just some of my thoughts.” He laughs before asserting, “It sounds dark but it’s just what I have to do to get into character!”

Daman Arifin Putra 3

Sweater By Lanvin, Shoes By Tod’s

Daman Arifin Putra 4

Outfit By Gucci, Shoes By Tod’s

“When I was playing a cannibal, I kept a knife with me every day”


He adopted a similarly dedicated approach when playing a gay student in the upcoming movie “Supernova.” “I gravitated towards the character ever since I read the book, given to me by author Dee Lestari. So after that, I told my manager, ‘No matter what, I have to get this role.’ And after that, I did a lot of research, because Ruben’s relationships were platonic, rather than physical. It has been a different and unique experience since the story itself is mind-blowing.” Thrilled, excited and passionate, Putra shares more of his acting habits. “For every character, I always create a playlist. Every character has their own beat: for Ruben, I included Pavarotti’s works, big and dramatic music. For Uco in “The Raid 2” it was Slipknot, Rage Against the Machine, a lot of angry music. For my role as a cannibal, I listened to a lot of Marilyn Manson to open my mind. Then, I always make this thing called the scene board. It is like a cheat sheet; I write the summary of the scenes, what happens before and after, how the character feels, what his motivation is. I also create a full characterization, imagining from the moment he was born to his current self. I invent this little story for each of my characters to help me in every movie.”

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Outfit By Kenzo

However, what Arifin truly aspires to be, is an “international actor.” Yet he explains that this doesn’t necessarily mean Hollywood. “It’s about eliminating the cultural boundaries,” he claims. “I’d love to work with as many people as possible, in as many countries as possible, as long as the story is enthralling.” In terms of which roles he wants to portray, he has already had this wish fulfilled: to play truly likeable bad guy. “Even Gareth Evans told me that I am his go-to guy for characters that are total pricks!” Putra confesses with a wide smile. “I like ambiguous characters whom the audience can’t help but rooting. It intrigues the audience because even though they know my misgivings, they still root for me. It’s like toying with their minds it’s what a grey character does to an audience.”

Nevertheless, Putra does not want to become typecast. “Like Jason Statham! I mean, he’s everywhere and he does everything well, but his role is always the same. I’d rather be like Gary Oldman. A chameleon on screen, he can transform into totally different characters from one movie to another.” His passionate respect for certain actors and movies are clear, he notes “Gladiator” and “Forrest Gump” as his top two picks. The cinemas, also, is a cure for his stressful days. “The whole purpose of watching a movie in a cinema is to escape reality you release your attachment to the world and just get lost in the movie. At least, that’s what I do. Every time I have an unresolved, serious problem, I go to the cinema on my own and disappear in it,” he explains.

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Sweater By Givenchy By Riccardo Tisci, Shoes By Tod’s

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Outfit By Givenchy By Riccardo Tisci, Shoes By Tod’s

The term “escaping reality” has apparently also been an inspiration in Putra’s life. Taken from Steve Jobs’ biography, Putra is fixated on the concept of “reality distortion field” that refers to Jobs’ resistance to the rules of the real world. “He pushed people to design an iPhone when everyone said touch screen was impossible. He didn’t take no for an answer. To me, that tells us that as long as we believe, we can achieve what people say is impossible.” “Beating the odds” is how he describes the principle of life that he learned from Apple’s late founder. “Because in my life, I’ve had to beat the odds a few times. For example, when I was still a newborn. I had a problem with my arms because my my mother’s umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, which forced my arms into an unnatural position. My chance of having normal arms was only 40 to 50 percent. Luckily, my mom came to the rescue, submitting me to physiotherapy as soon as possible. I love her to death for it, because otherwise I wouldn’t be doing action movies, or maybe any movies, today. And if that’s not beating the odds, I don’t know what is.”

“I’d love to work with as many people as possible, in as many countries as possible, as long as the story is enthralling”



Photographer: Nurulita
Stylist: Peter Zewet
Styling Assistant: Triska Putri
Grooming: Ria Sambuaga
Videography & Editing: Dimas Anggakara
Styling: Intern Oddy Pranatha