Hubert Burda Media

Cover Story: Manoj Punjabi

Two of Indonesia’s screen kings, Reza Rahadian and Manoj Punjabi, are the stars of Prestige cover this August. Manoj Punjabi tells us about his admiration for former President B.J. Habibie.

When it comes to shaping public opinion, film can be a powerful medium. This is the view of Manoj Punjabi, CEO of MD Entertainment, one of the biggest production houses in Indonesia. Having produced a lot of hit TV shows and several movies, Punjabi knows only too well how big an influence he has on society as a film producer.

“I think I’ve proven myself from our hit shows and movies that I can influence people,” says the 44-year-old entrepreneur. “A movie is really a weapon, and I have the opportunity to use that weapon to inspire and influence people to do good things. As many people know, in management, we learn about 4Ps, which are price, promotion, product and place. But I believe that today, you need the fifth P, which is power. I feel that power is very important, because only with power can we influence people for the greater good.”

Together with his father, Dhamoo, Punjabi founded MD Entertainment in 2003. This company focuses on producing Indonesian soap operas. In 2007, the two entrepreneurs expanded into films, establishing MD Pictures.

manoj punjabi reza rahadian

Outfit by Dunhill London

Starring Reza Rahadian, Chelsea Islan, Indah Permatasari, Ernest Prakasa and Boris Bokir, Rudy Habibie is MD Pictures’ latest movie. It explores the life of former President B.J. Habibie before he met his late wife, Ainun. Directed by Hanung Bramantyo, the story premiered at the end of June and is a prequel to national hit movie Habibie & Ainun, which was released in 2012. “Rudy Habibie has a different concept,” explains Punjabi. “Habibie & Ainun is an epic love story. It’s about his love for his late wife – a story about Habibie’s journey from meeting his wife to falling in love with her and facing problems together during their marriage. 

Meanwhile, in Rudy Habibie, the audience would be able to watch the story of Habibie in different phases of his life. The story is about his struggles as a university student in Germany, his passion for his work and his love for his ex-girlfriend Ilona Ianovska (played by Chelsea Islan). Here, we can see that despite the fact that he was once the President of Indonesia, Habibie is just a normal person after all. So that’s what we want to expose, this side of him that people never knew about. This is a zero-to-hero, nobody-to-somebody story. It is a story that makes people think: ‘Oh, I could be him too!’” 

After the success of Habibie & Ainun, Punjabi is challenged to surpass the first movie. How does he feel about it? “I think producing Rudy Habibie is more challenging than the first one,” he replies. “We were faced with big challenges every step of the way, from the creation of the script to promotion of the movie.” Staying at number one is top of Punjabi’s wish list. “I want to recreate history by being number one,” he says. “I want to beat my own record. I want to bring value through this movie and inspire people. Starting with Rudy Habibie, I want to be a consistent maker of good-quality commercial movies that are a hit at the box office. With that kind of consistency, I will be able to create an industry and a brand. I want to let the public know how much power this movie has in store.”

Punjabi and Habibie’s strong ties began in 2010. “President Habibie and Ainun used to watch our TV series. They met me and the stars, and we became close,” recalls the producer. “I read his book and found the story very interesting. I knew that it had a lot of potential as a movie. So that’s how it all started. After the first film’s huge success, we decided to make a prequel to explore the younger life of Rudy. He’s a very inspiring figure.”

Having worked with Habibie on two movies, Punjabi finds the former President similar to himself, making them a good match when it comes to collaborating. “Since he was young, he has always been the kind of person who has that kind of drive to be the number one. So for me, it’s very easy to work with him because I am like that too – I also want to be the number one. If somebody challenges me, I can challenge him back, and together we can take the bar higher. For Rudy Habibie, he was very hands-on and I had to keep him updated every step of the way. I feel honoured and privileged to work with a man like him. He inspires and motivates me to keep doing my best, because he always tells me that ‘the best is good enough.’ He is a charismatic, smart and intelligent person who knows exactly what he wants.”


Shirt Vittorio Marchesi | Suit Arthur Galan

Photography Ronald Liem

Fashion Direction Peter Zewet

Styling Koko Namara

Shot on location Grand Hyatt Jakarta, Jl. M.H. Thamrin kav 28-30, Central Jakarta. Phone: (6221) 2992 1234. Website:

Grooming Arimbi

Hair Rindi Princelya

Fashion Intern Melisa Kohar