Omaswati, also called Omas, is an Indonesian comedian and actor, and otherwise known as an actor of the Lenong ethnic group. A native of West Java, Omas is best known for his role as Kaffir Joe in the film, The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2021). Omas first gained attention when he was selected for the jury selecting the film that went to international film festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival in America. Omas then won the award for best comedian at the same competition.
After that Omas decided to pursue his acting career, and so started learning the English language, and it is here in this language where we can find the germ for Omaswati’s comic material. This is the same humourous content that we can find in his early films such as the silliness involving a pair of American exchange students in Jakarta, where a rather overweight American tourist is made to sit by a group of starving street children, all wearing colourful outfits. Here in Omas we also have an Indian named Cinta who is the local go-between for the Americans and the locals. As the relationship between the American and the Indian improves throughout the film, so too does the relationship between Cinta and Omas.
However, Omas’ greatest claim to fame may be for his role of Panji Manus in the animated Indonesian movie, Grand Vacation (1990). Here, he plays what is perhaps Indonesia’s equivalent to Santa Claus, and it is through his efforts and those of the other characters that Christmas is commemorated in the country. Omas’ role of Panji Manus is important in that it shows the continuing cultural inter-relationship between East and West Java, and it also helps us understand some of the language that is used. In a culture where English is not even recognised as the official language, Panji Manus makes a strong case for the use of English, and this is especially true when translated into plain English in the subtitles.
A slightly less beloved character of Omaswati is the titular “lahir Sari sulistyaningrum”. Although commonly referred to as “laahir sani” or “lamahirsi”, this is actually derived from two different Indonesian words – “lamahirs” being a feminine noun and “sani” meaning “cloth”. Therefore, the cloth which is commonly referred to as “lahir Sari sulistyaningrum” is actually called “lamahirsi” which means “cloth of the girl”. But while the meaning is clear, the word itself has a slightly more complex history which is detailed in this article.
The word “lamahirsi” first appears in Indonesian as “lamahir”, which means “a garment made of silk”. However, according to some linguists, it should be pronounced as “lam-uh-sigh-nahs” since “lamahirsi” lacks the sound of the letter “h” in Indonesian. In fact, linguists who write in Indonesian consider that the correct spelling is “lamahirsi” and that there are no traces of “h” in the word. In addition to this, many people believe that the name “lamahirsi” should also be derived from the English word “lambais” which means “bridal clothes”. However, the exact spelling is uncertain and may come from “lambai” which was originally derived from the Hindi language meaning “net”. Either way, it’s safe to say that the most commonly used spelling of the word in Indonesian is “lamahirsi” which means “gown”.
This movie, which has been made into a feature-length animated feature film by Pixar, also features one of the few appearances of original Indonesian film star Anetta Kahara as the headmistress of a boarding school. Anetta played the role of wanting to be a teacher but her desire for the job is hampered by her feelings for ailing Saleh, who she strongly adores. The two share a love affair which is challenged when Saleh falls ill and Anetta must take care of him. It is here where the romantic relationship between the two characters takes a turn for the worse when Anetta’s jealousy over Saleh driving with his father resulted in the school authorities arresting Saleh on charges of homosexuality.