The Indonesian romantic drama series Cigarette Girl is about the tragic love story of Desiyah, the daughter of a Kretek business owner, and Soeraja, a stranger she came across. Their love story would have remained undiscovered had Soeraja not asked his youngest son, Lebas, to find Jeng Yah. Soeraja was suffering from cancer, and meeting Jeng Yah was his dying wish. Upon going through his father’s belongings at the office, Lebas came across a picture and letters. It was written from Jeng Yah’s perspective, and we are transported to 1960s Indonesia. Jeng Yah, aka Dasiyah, lived with her parents and helped her father run his Kretek business. Their brand was popular among the locals, but a fierce competitor threatened their position. As a woman, Dasiyah’s access to the Kretek business was limited, but she dreamed of becoming an expert scent creator someday. As she navigated through the conservative practices, Dasiyah came across Soeraja at the market, and thus began their love story.
What brought Dasiyah and Soeraja together?
When Dasiyah encountered Soeraja at the market, he was being hunted by loan sharks. She asked her father to hire him to work at the factory. Soeraja was willing to learn, and he turned out to be a great help. We gradually learn that Soeraja’s parents were prosecuted for their involvement with the Dutches, but he managed to escape. He was on his own, but he always made sure to help others, and that was the reason why he got involved with the loan sharks in the first place. Soeraja took note of Dasiyah’s dissatisfaction with the tobacco supplier, Mr. Bodi, and he offered to help her find an alternative. He had worked at a tobacco farm in the north, and he believed he could make some arrangements to buy a small batch. Dasiyah was used to men dismissing her suggestions, and therefore, Soeraja’s attitude was a welcome change for her.
Soeraja secretly gifted the key to the scent room to Dasiyah. He had always seen her wanting to enter through the blue door, and he wanted to help. It was evident that Soeraja liked Dasiyah, and Dasiyah, too, showed interest in him, but her parents fixed her marriage with the son of another Kretek company owner. It was painful for Soeraja to watch Dasiyah with another man, and he did not hesitate to admit his feelings for her when she doubted his intentions. Soeraja wanted to become worthy of Dasiyah’s affection, but he had waited too long, which led to a brief misunderstanding. Dasiyah was finally at peace, knowing that the affection was mutual. It was her love for Soeraja that helped her create the perfect scent with a hint of rose. She finally had her own Kretek flavor, and she decided that the day she would introduce her Kretek flavor to her father, she would also speak about her relationship with Soeraja. Dasiyah eventually broke off her marriage with Seno, and she confessed the truth to her parents. They refused to accept Soeraja and Dasiyah’s relationship, and Soeraja was fired from the job.
What led to Dasiyah and Soeraja’s separation?
Soeraja used to supply tobacco to the Communist Party for extra cash, but he never joined the party as a result of his dedication to Dasiyah’s father, Mr. Idroes. He later worked at the cigarette factory run by the communist party, since that was the only place where he was welcomed. Soeraja met Mr. Idroes at the market one day, and he admitted that his love for Dasiyah was genuine. As a father, Mr. Idroes had always cared about Dasiyah’s feelings, and while he was shocked to learn about her relationship, with time, he became more accepting of the idea. Soeraja knew that Mr. Idroes would admire his daughter’s talent and offered him the Karek that Dasiyah created. Mr. Idroes was absolutely spellbound, and he not only accepted their relationship but also launched the flavor Dasiyah created. The wedding cards were printed, and the new labels for the cigarettes were launched. Things had finally fallen into place, or so Dasiyah and Soeraja thought.
Idroes’s rival, Soe Djagad, did not take his sudden success well, and he tried to poach Soeraja into his company, but Soeraja rejected the offer. The owner of the printing press offered the leftover boxes of cigarettes from the communist cigarette factory that was shut down to Soeraja. After distributing most, he brought a few packs to Mr. Idroes’ place. Everything was fine when he left the house, but there was complete chaos as he returned to Mr. Idroes’ in the evening. Army men forced Mr. Idroes out of his house along with Dasiyah. They accused Mr. Idroes of being involved with the Communist Party, and the cigarette packs found in his house were used as evidence. Soeraja helplessly watched the men take Dasiyah and her father away. He tried to stop them, but was shot in the leg. They could not recover from the incident, with Mr. Idroes losing his life while being taken away and Dasiyah enduring extreme torture.
Who conspired against Soeraja and why?
Through the course of Cigarette Girl, we learn that it was Mr. Soe Djagad who conspired against Soeraja and Idroes Moeria. He had always been competitive, and by using money and gimmicks, he tried to convert the local consumers. After the release of the new flavor, Djagad was all the more desperate to somehow shut down Idroes’ business. He shared a good relationship with the general, and he paid him money to have Idroes’ name on the list of offenders. Raja always blamed himself for Idroes’ arrest without realizing that it was Djagad who broke the family apart. Djagad knew that Raja would be of help since he had a connection with the tobacco farm, was good at sales, and knew the secret recipe of the Kretek Gadis. He promised to protect Raja in exchange for his labor.
Raja dedicated himself to the job, assuming that his effort would help Dasiyah survive, but Djagad refused to help her unless Raja produced the exact copy of Kretek Gadis. With the help of Dasiyah’s recipe books that Raja found in the old flavor room, he created the perfect replica. Raja proposed that Djagad accept him as the new partner of his company, but his suggestion was ignored. According to Djagad, he only considered members of his family for partnerships, and that was when Raja decided to get involved with Djagad’s daughter, Purwanti. By the time Dasiyah was released from prison, Raja had become a successful businessman after partnering with Djagad.
Seno supported Dasiyah and her family after the massacre. But Dasiyah could never forgive Raja for his betrayal. She attended Raja and Purwanti’s wedding, and she was completely devastated when she figured out that Raja had stolen her recipe. As she walked out, Raja tried to stop her. He attempted to justify himself, stating that he did what he had to do to protect her. But when Dasiyah asked him to leave his lavish life behind and start over with her once again, he showed a lack of courage. Eventually, Raja figured out that it was his father-in-law who destroyed Dasiyah and her family, but he was already too involved in the business by then. While Purnwanti yearned for his affection, Raja only had Dasiyah on his mind. One day, he spotted Dasiyah at the station, and he could not believe his eyes. He got off the train and walked up to her. By then, Dasiyah had been married to Seno and had given birth to his child. Unfortunately, Seno was killed in action, and Dasiyah was left a widow. Even though they had been apart for years, Dasiyah and Raja’s love for each other never died. Raja promised to fix the mistakes he made, and he proposed they start their lives over again. They promised to meet at the same location next week, and while Raja waited, Dasiyah never showed up.
What happened to Dasiyah?
The ending of the series finally revealed to us that Arum is Dasiyah and Seno’s daughter. All her life, she believed Rukayah was her mother, but it was a picture and pages from a journal that suggested that Dasiyah was her mother. As dementia started to set in, Rukayah realized it was time to tell Arum the truth. It all started with Lebas searching for the woman his father had asked for, and in the process, he met Arum, and they started to read the letters together. He was the only person who understood what Arum was going through after years of staying in the dark. He, too, had no idea that his father was in love with another woman and that his parents’ marriage was just a business deal. He had grown up to admire his grandfather, but clearly, there were mistakes that he made, and the next generation had to pay the price for them.
In the end, Arum meets Raja at the hospital. She informed him that the woman he was searching for had passed away. Arum recently found out that Dasiyah was willing to start a new life with Raja, and she believed he would accept Arum as well. Rukayah had lost her trust in Raja and advised her sister against it. But Dasiyah was hellbent on reuniting with her lover. The day before their reunion, Dasiyah feel sick all of a sudden. The doctor believed that her body had started to deteriorate because of the time she had spent in captivity, and as a result, a virus had infected her. Dasiyah succumbed to the viral infection, and Raja was left waiting at the train station. All these years, Raja believed she had broken her promise, only to find out that she wanted to be with him till her very last breath. Raja wanted to compensate for all the past mistakes he had made. He had built an empire with the recipe stolen from Dasiyah, and he believed it was time to pay the price of his mistakes instead of running away from them. Raja could not reunite with his lover when she was alive, and he wanted to spend time at the burial ground where her body was buried. In the end, Raja passed away in peace. In one way or another, he tried to right his wrongs, and even though their love story was a tragic one, at least he found out the entire truth about her. Dasiyah’s Karek, Karek Gadis, finally made it to the museum. Her creation now has a wider audience, and she will be remembered for her contribution. Arum and Lebas made sure that at least one of Dasiyah’s dreams was fulfilled.
During Cigarette Girl‘s ending, we see Arum and Lebas riding away in a scooter, and this time, Arum wants to find more information on her father. While we do not know if Arum and Lebas’ friendship will transcend into anything romantic, their friendship alone is worth admiring. They somehow became each other’s support system, and even though they had barely just met, the past connection of their parents brought them closer together and helped them build a friendship of a lifetime. All surely did not end on a sad note for Dasiyah and Raja.