Although her late grandmother was a psychic medium, Indonesian actress Sara Wijayanto said she didn’t handle it well when she realised she had a similar gift, which meant she could see the dead.
“The first time I realised I could see ‘something else’ was when I was eight years old. I was playing alone in my room when I saw a dark figure only to realise it wasn’t a human,” she recalled in an interview in Petaling Jaya. Sara, 39, was in town to promote the horror movie Sabrina, the third film in The Doll Series, with co-stars Luna Maya and Christian Sugiono.
“Throughout my teens I was in denial. I tried to ignore this ability because I didn’t want to be deemed not right in the head. I just wanted to be a normal teenager,” she shared.
Being viewed as normal was especially important to Sara as she was trying to pursue a career as a singer in the Indonesian entertainment scene. She was one of the backup vocalists for the musical group Slank through her teen years, before embarking on a solo career. Over the years too, Sara has taken on the role of TV host, songwriter, author and more recently, actress.
(Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: her husband Demian Aditya is an illusionist in Indonesia who took part in Season 12 of America’s Got Talent in which he attempted to escape from being buried alive.)
But in her 30s, Sara decided to confront her fear and accept her ability.
“The more I denied it, the more it made me crazy. So I decided to learn about this ability and channel it myself. It’s exciting but also scary at the same time.”
According to Sara, she joined an online paranormal society for support and exchange of information. She sometimes posts photos of places where she’s seen mystic entities on her Instagram (@sarawijayanto).
“Some five years ago, I even started doing some remote cleansing ... I helped people living in the United States from Indonesia. That is why I can relate with what Bu Laras does (in the film).”
In The Doll, The Doll 2 and Sabrina, Sara plays Bu Laras, a confident woman with the gift to communicate with the dead.
In each film, Bu Laras is called to exorcise stubborn demons who want to occupy a human body, and she does it even at the cost of endangering herself and her family.
When asked if Bu Laras is based in any way on her, Sara said: “Director Rocky Soraya did cast me because I have the ability. I would discuss with him about how to cleanse, the mantra and the things needed (for the exorcism scenes).”
She added: “Sometimes I wish I had Bu Laras’s strength, the way she holds on to her faith and faces challenges head on, without any fear. I wish I had that. I am still learning to be a psychic medium.”
As it happens, Sara’s expertise was not only useful as a consultant on Sabrina but also in real life when one of the crew members was said to be possessed on set.
Sabrina actor Sugiono said: “It was a powerful ghost that possessed this crew member. But Sara managed to exorcise it.”
Since she has history with ghosts, does she enjoy watching horror films?
“I love horror films. My favourite horror franchise is The Conjuring Universe (from the US). I am a fan because the films are based on real cases of possession involving paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren
“When I learned about Lorraine Warren, I wrote a letter to her and got a reply from her son-in-law. We have exchanged information.
“Lorraine Warren is one of the reasons I am more open to all of this. She is an inspiration.”