Ever since its inception dangdut has been very closely connected to the world of cinema. The songs used in Indian films are one of the most important inspirations for dangdut’s musical development. So it doesn’t come as no surprise when came the time where dangdut musicians express their interest in making dangdut-themed films.
Joining forces with director A. Haris, Rhoma Irama went to become first dangdut musician to produce Oma Irama Penasaran, a dangdut themed-film released in 1976.
Rhoma Irama has his own reasons when deciding to collaborate with A. Haris. A seasoned player, A. Haris had traveled around the scene of orkes Melayu with Orkes Melayu Sinar Medan and managed to compose one of the most successful Melayu tunes, “Kudaku Lari”. A Haris was also familiar figure within Indonesia and Malaysia’s cinematic industry. Oma Irama Penasaran was well received by the community, and was followed string of other films starring Rhoma Irama, such as Gitar Tua Oma Irama (1976), Darah Muda (1977) and Rhoma Irama Berkelana I & II (1978).
The success of dangdut-themed films that features Rhoma Irama as the star went to become the starting point of dangdut’s existence in Indonesian cinema. It inspired Indonesian film producers to incorporate elements of dangdut to the films they were producing as it was evident in films like Pandangan Pertama (1979), Miliku (1979) and Dari Mata Turun ke Hati (1979), starring A. Rafiq. In addition, films starring Warkop DKI, such as Mana Tahan (1979) and Gengsi Dong (1980) also featured dangdut songs. Those two films even went on to cast Elvy Sukaesih and Camelia Malik, two dangdut’s most prominent musicians, as main the stars. Considering the quantity of dangdut-themed films released in 1979, it wasn’t an exaggeration when the year was deemed as the year of dangdut.
The peak of dangdut-themed film in the late 70s to mid-‘80s met its declined when Indonesian film industry went dormant in the early 1990s. It wasn’t until the resurgence of Indonesian cinema in the early 2000s that dangdut began to regain its footing in the industry. Rudi Soedjarwo’s 2006 film, Mendadak Dangdut, was said to be the indication of dangdut’s return in Indonesian cinema. Soon after, dangdut-themed films began to emerge in a more varied format such as sinetron (soap opera) and FTV (made for TV movies).