Tiga Dara (Indonesian for Three Maidens) is a 1956 Indonesian musical comedy film starring Chitra Dewi, Mieke Wijaya, and Indriati Iskak. Directed by Usmar Ismail for Perfini, the film follows three sisters who live with their father and grandmother. When the eldest sister, Nunung, shows no interest in marrying, her family tries unsuccessfully to find a husband for her. Nunung initially rejects the advances of a young man named Toto, who instead dates her younger sister. However, when he becomes jealous and travels from Jakarta to Bandung to profess his love, she agrees to marry him.
Produced using government credit and written in an attempt to cover Perfini’s outstanding debts, Tiga Dara was intended to be commercial despite Ismail’s disapproval of such works. After it was released on 24 August 1957, the film was an immense popular success, launching the careers of its stars, earning the highest box office returns of any Perfini film, and being screened in first-class cinemas. However, even though Tiga Dara was shown at the 1959 Venice Film Festival and received Best Musical Arrangement at the 1960 Indonesian Film Week, Ismail considered it a compromise of his initial vision for Perfini.
Since its release, Tiga Dara has been considered a classic of Indonesian cinema, with themes which remain relevant for modern Indonesian society. It was remade as Tiga Dara Mencari Cinta (Three Maidens Seek Love) in 1980 by Djun Saptohadi and influenced Teguh Karya‘s Pacar Ketinggalan Kereta (Lover Left by the Train, 1989). A second remake, Ini Kisah Tiga Dara (This Is the Tale of the Three Maidens), was produced by Nia Dinata and released in September 2016. In 2015 Tiga Dara was restored and converted to 4K digital by L’immagine Ritrovata Laboratory.
Three sisters—Nunung (Chitra Dewi), Nana (Mieke Wijaya) and Nenny (Indriati Iskak)—are being raised by their grandmother (Fifi Young) in Jakarta after their mother’s death. Though the sisters’ father Sukandar (Hassan Sanusi [id]) lives with them, he is too involved in his own work to pay them heed.
While the sisters are out with Nana’s boyfriend Herman (Bambang Irawan [id]), their grandmother tells Sukandar than she will not live to see Nunung, already aged 29, marry. He agrees to invite his colleagues to the house. When they come several days later, Nunung impresses all present with her piano-playing and singing. However, the men are all too old, and Nunung’s grandmother insists that Sukandar find a younger man. Nenny, overhearing the conversation, suggests that they hold a party; this too is a failure, as Nunung takes no interest in the festivities.
Nana is then asked to take Nunung out with her, in the hopes that the eldest sister will meet a marriageable young man. At a party, while Nana mingles with several men, Nunung sits out every dance and eventually leaves with Herman. Asked why she has returned home, Nunung tells her grandmother that she felt too old among the younger party-goers and asks why she was told to go. Nenny, again eavesdropping, shouts out that their grandmother is hoping to find her a husband. Though Nunung is initially angered, she understands her grandmother’s good intentions.
The following day, Nunung is stricken by a scooter driven by Toto (Rendra Karno). Despite an injured leg, Nunung insists on taking a pedicab home; without her knowledge, Toto follows her. He later returns to apologize, and, though Nunung treats him harshly, is quickly accepted by Nana and her grandmother. Nana asks Toto to visit frequently, and over the next several days Nana pushes away Herman. Nenny, meanwhile, uses her sister’s interest in Toto to become closer to Herman. When Nana announces that she and Toto are engaged, her grandmother is furious; if Nana marries before her sister, she says, Nunung will never marry.
After Nana and Nunung fight, their guardians decide that it is best for Nunung to go the home of her uncle Tamsil (Usmar Ismail) in Bandung and rest. While there, Nunung writes a letter to her father that Joni kisses her goodnight every day. This news sparks Nenny’s titillation and Toto’s jealousy. Nana insists that Toto choose between her and Nunung; Toto decides to go to Bandung and protest Joni’s impropriety. He confronts Nunung and confesses his love for her. She spitefully tells him that she sleeps in the same room as Joni every night.
Herman, at the insistence of Nana, takes the remainder of the family to Bandung, where they meet up with Toto, Nunung, and Tamsil’s family. As Tamsil introduces his sons, Joni is revealed to be a young child. Nunung and Toto embrace, while Nana and Herman make up.