Cigarette Girl (2023) Season 1 Review

Season 1



Episode Guide

Episode 1 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 4.5/5


Cigarette Girl (Gadis Kretek) is an Indonesian drama airing on Netflix. It is adapted from an Indonesian novel named Gadis Kretek by author Ratih Kumala. The drama chronicles the life and love story of Dasiyah and Raja. The two meet unexpectedly and their lives’ trajectory is forever changed. The drama consists of five episodes of almost one hour long each.

Dasiyah (aka Jeng Yah) is a young woman in 1960’s Indonesia who aspires to grow her father’s cigarette business by lending a hand in making new cigarette flavours. She also has ideas to market the product and tap into new customers bases, but her ideas go unnoticed because she is a woman.

The society then was not so progressive, and restricted women to mingle with people outside of their families. Despite having no intentions to marry, Dasiyah is forced into a marriage since it will help her father’s business and also keep the society at bay. 

As the story progresses, we see that Dasiyah is doubly marginalised. Firstly, because she is a woman. Secondly, because her father was blacklisted for having connections with a now-prohibited political party and so was she. After her release from prison, she pretty much lived in seclusion with her sister and husband. Despite having big dreams of owning a cigarette business, she had to settle for a small mixing room and a small scale business with scant popularity.

Dasiyah’s former lover Raja is shown to be a progressive man. He supports Dasiyah in her dreams and encourages her to try new things. But society is a vicious thing when it wants to be. 

It is true when they say that one’s action don’t only affect oneself but also those around you. With Dasiyah and Raja’s story, we see that happen in abundance. Manipulation by rivals, ostracization by society, short-term decisions for long-term goals; all this factored into a story of loss, heartbreak and tragedy spanning decades.

Speaking of the dramatisation in the show, it was beautifully done. The title montage featured a beautiful splash of blues and purples. One could say that the colours were artfully chosen to foreshadow the emotions that would run prominent in the story. Dasiyah’s moments in the mixing room were artfully captured. When watching those sequences, all five senses are welcomed to participate. The scents mentioned are familiar to all of us, thus adding to an olfactory nostalgia.

The drama is presented in two time periods. First is 2001, the year when Raja and Dasiyah’s story begins to unravel. Secondly in the 1960’s, when the story actually takes place. This keeps viewers’ curiosity alive to find out what happens next. It also helps contrast the socio-political and economical situations of then and now. Furthermore, since we see Raja’s family and his riches as well, it adds more to the hurt caused after finding out that his success was based on the success of the cigarette flavour created by Dasiyah.

All in all, Netflix’s Cigarette Girl gives the audience an enjoyable viewing experience along with a life lesson or two. It also re-introduces the world to the beautiful epistolary art form. With computers and mobiles replacing the pen and paper, that touch of nostalgia invoked by letter seems to be lost somewhere. 

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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