Celebrated actor, writer Gunawan Maryanto passes away at 45

Actor, writer, and theater director Gunawan Maryanto, who famously portrayed missing Indonesian poet and activist Widji Thukul in a 2016 film, passed away yesterday evening. He was 45 years old. Photo: Instagram/@teatergarasi
Actor, writer, and theater director Gunawan Maryanto, who famously portrayed missing Indonesian poet and activist Widji Thukul in a 2016 film, passed away yesterday evening. He was 45 years old. Photo: Instagram/@teatergarasi

Gunawan Maryanto, who famously portrayed missing Indonesian poet and activist Widji Thukul in a 2016 film, passed away yesterday evening. He was 45 years old. 

Gunawan’s family said he died at a hospital in Yogyakarta following a cardiac arrest. The actor’s cousin, Agus Basuki, told local media outlets that Gunawan attended a meeting at Teater Garasi (Garasi Performance Institute) ⁠— a theater collective where he served as an artistic director ⁠— in Bantul regency before he was brought to the hospital. 

“In the middle of the meeting, Mas Gunawan felt sick to his stomach, vomited, and he had difficulty breathing at 4pm,” Agus said today.

“The doctor performed cardiac pacing until he passed away at 8pm.”

Gunawan’s body was taken to the Teater Garasi Studio for a wake overnight before he was brought to the funeral home. He was buried at a cemetery near his home this afternoon. 

Theater director and Teater Garasi founder Yudi Ahmad Tajudin said Gunawan had led a meeting where they discussed plans for a podcast aimed at supporting local artists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Born in Yogyakarta, Gunawan Maryanto was active in Indonesia’s theater and literature scene. Other than his activities in Teater Garasi, Gunawan also co-organized the annual Indonesian Dramatic Reading Festival. He directed a number of plays for Teater Garasi, such as an adaptation of Yerma by Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca titled Sri (1999), Gandamayu and Krontjong Mendoet (2012), among others.

Gunawan had arguably his biggest silver screen success through biographical drama Istirahatlah Kata-Kata (Solo, Solitude) in 2016 by director Yosep Anggi Noen, where he played renowned poet and government critic Widji Thukul, who disappeared in 1998 in what is widely suspected as a government abduction. The actor, who’s fondly called Cindhil by those who were close to him, won Best Actor for the role in the 2017 Usmar Ismail Awards for cinematic excellence.

Gunawan then starred in Anggi Noen’s Hiruk Pikuk Si Alkisah (The Science of Fictions) in 2019, where he played Siman, a man whose tongue was cut off after discovering a group of film crew shooting a fake moon landing video. He won numerous awards for his performance in the film, including Best Actor in Piala Citra Awards and Maya Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

As a writer, Gunawan had published a collection of short stories and poetry including Waktu Batu (2004), Bon Suwung (2005), the award-winning Sejumlah Perkutut buat Bapak (2010), The Queen of Pantura (2013), and Sukra’s Eyes and The Other Tales (2015), to name a few.

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