By PARINYAPORN PAJEE
Almost a year has elapsed since new film company GDH 559 was launched and now the studio is releasing its second movie. Titled “Pohnjakfah” (“A Gift”), it’s an anthology of three stories connected by one central idea: all are inspired by His Majesty the King’s royal compositions.
And surprising as it might seem, the project has not been quickly put together as part of the tributes to the Monarch, who passed away on October 13, but has in fact been in the pipeline since the middle of the year.
The anthology replaces a planned project by Parkpoom Wongphoom, which film fans will recall was due to follow Banjong Pisunthanakun’s “Fanday” released in September. The studio later said that Parkpoom needed more time and in June announced that its second film would be “New Year’s Gift”, which many assumed would be a kind of “Love Actually”, the stories within a story that delighted the world when it hit screens just in time for Christmas.
The project is the brainchild of Jira Maligool, who is also one of the four directors involved in “A Gift”. He tells XP he’s been pondering making a film about the King for years but had always been waylaid.
“A few years ago, I had the idea to make an animation based on “Tito”, the King’s translation of Phyllis Auty’s biography of the former Yugoslavian president. But after reading the book, I found the story was too difficult to turn into a film. Then I was kept busy with other projects until late last year when Jina Osothsilp [GDH’s president] reminded me,” he explains.
The seeds for “A Gift” were sown when Jira discovered that the song “Porn Peemai”, which opens the New Year’s festive season every year, had been given by the King as a new year’s gift to the Thai people on January 1, 1952.
“We all knew that the song was composed by the King but I was surprised to learn about its history. That was a very creative idea as Thailand was still undeveloped then and also sandwiched between countries that were either at war and or in political turmoil. His Majesty’s song cheered the people up,” he says.
“A Gift” was developed with much more speed that is usual for a GDH project with the intention of releasing it in December for the King’s birthday.
It does not, Jira insists, have anything to do with last year’s “Kita Raja Niphon” anthology made to mark the 50th anniversary of His Majesty the King being honoured for his compositions with honorary membership of the esteemed Institute of Music and Arts of the City of Vienna, in which two GTH directors Yongyooth Thongkongtoon and Parkpoom were involved.
“A Gift” takes the royal compositions “Yarm Yen”, “Still On My Mind” and “Porn Peemai” as the foundations around which the stories of six people are woven.
“We looked for both directors and actors who were either musicians or music lovers,” says producer Vanrudee Pongsitthisak.
Jira directs the first part, “Porn Peemai” (“New Year Greeting”), which is set in an office. At the centre of the story is ‘Llong’ (Chantavit Thanasevee), a former lead singer with a rock band but now a financial analyst. When his co-worker Kim (Neungthida Sophon), finds out about Llong’s musical past, she tries to inspire him to become part of an ad-hoc amateur band made up of other employees who enjoy playing music after office hours. Llong tries to move on and forget his failed attempt at becoming a rock star but ironically, once he starts playing with the office band, rediscovers the same inner joy as when he played music for the very first time.
Chayanop Boonprakob (“May Who?”) and Kriangkrai Vachiratamporn (TV series “Hormones” seasons 2 and 3) share directing duties on “Yarm Yen” (“Love at Sundown”).
“The song is so beautiful and so romantic as it compares the sunset to a person missing someone he loves. So we based our film on a couple who falls in love in one day,” says Chayanop.
It focuses on two strangers, serial womaniser Beam (Naphat Siangsomboon) and Pang (Violette Wautier) who are asked to be stand-ins for a Russian scholarship awards ceremony and farewell banquet rehearsal. Although Pang is on high alert after finding out that her boyfriend has been unfaithful, she cannot help but be drawn to Beam.
For his part, Nithiwat Tharatorn (“Teacher’s Diary”) has chosen “Still on My Mind”, His Majesty’s only English composition.
His segment centres on Fa (Nittha Jirayangyuen) who has to quit her event-organising job to look after her father who is stricken with Alzheimer’s. One day, as Fa tries to remember how to play her mother’s favourite song on the piano, she notices that the song acts as a trigger for her father’s memory. Fa then decides to practise and perform the song “Still on My Mind” as a wedding anniversary gift for her father. She enlists the help of Aey (Sunny Suwanmethanont), her late mum’s eccentric piano tuner, to help her out.
“Every protagonist in this film has to sing or play the music themselves,” says Jira.
The film has already completed and edited and the studio was working on the trailer for a December 1 release when the news came through of the King’s passing on October 13.
“We thought about postponing the project but Jina felt that we had made the films with good intentions so we should stick to our original plan,” Jira says.
And so they made a new trailer and re-edited small sections of the film, changing, for example, the New Year party to 2018 from 2017.
Jira says he has learnt from his experience with an earlier anthology for GTH – “Rak 7 Pee Dee Jed Hon” (“Seven Something”) – that it is better not to separate the stories but instead to interweave them as much as possible.
“I think the audience found watching ‘Seven Something’ tiring because none of the stories were related in any way. They would get to know the characters in one story and then had to do the same all over again in each of the next two parts,” he says.
“I believe that audience will feel like me when I first watched the final version – that all three stories would come together in the final frame before the credits roll.”
Truly "A Gift"