By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul
Much has been written in recent months about Thailand’s idol trend and with good reason. Since BNK48 – one of the overseas sister groups of Japanese idol girl group AKB48 – came into the world in 2016, the attention span of their tough-looking male fans, known as “otaku” in Japanese, has grown exponentially and this has led to other idol groups being formed and following in their sisters’ success.
Now the time has come for BNK48 to expand its territory and strengthen its presence.
“First of all, we will not after all be auditioning for the third generation of BNK48,” said Jirath “Tom” Pavaravadhana, chief executive of the BNK48 Office during the recent “We Talk to You” event held at Siam Pavalai Royal Grand Theatre on the sixth floor of Siam Paragon.
“We feel it is essential to turn our attention to improving the skills of the first and second generation BNK48 members in order to get more jobs. And so the auditions have been on hold,” he explained, much to the disappointment of the otaku.
“Our first territorial expansion, called ‘Location Base’ is an important mechanism for bringing a wider dimension to the story of BNK48. We will be king the girls around the country and across borders for several events and activities with our neighbours, namely Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
“The second expansion will see BNK48 members becoming part of the worlds of entertainment through movies and TV series as well as mobile games and other digital content. Those kind of showcases will help BNK48 cross the border from Thailand into other parts of Asia and around the world. I like to joke that if BNK48 members were warlords, they would come with their warhorses to conquer other nations. Right now, we are looking for business partners to co-develop the contents, which will help BNK48 members to have a new image in addition to their music. The content is very important to complete the strategy,” he explains.
Last year saw some of BNK48’s 51 members make their movie debuts with roles in the films “App War”, “Girls Don’t Cry”, and “Homestay” as well as the series “Great Men Academy” in a collaboration with film producers Nadao and GDH.
Coming out soon is “BNK48 Story”, a documentary based on the back stories of all 51 members, which will be translated into several languages. It will first be aired on PB5 in Cambodia then screen in Myanmar and Laos.
“It will introduce BNK48 to our neighbours,” says Jirath.
The BNK48 Office has also co-invested with Sahamongkol Film International in Prachya Pinkaew’s movie “Krasue Siam” starring Nannaphas “Mewnich” Loetnamchoetsakun, in Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s “Where We Belong” – a movie receiving funding as part of the Busan International Film Festival’s Asian Project Market and which features eight BNK48 members, and with Serng Production and Organiser in Surasak Pongsorn’s “Thibaan The Series”, in which BNK48 members star and speak the Isaan dialect.
Cherprang presents her collectible figurine, which will be sold to raise funds for the BNK48 Foundation.
“We will not make a second episode of the documentary ‘Girls Don’t Cry’ but instead film ‘Real Me’ directed by Donut Manasnan. “One Year”, a new series produced by GDH and Nadao Bangkok, is getting good feedback and other countries are interested in purchasing the movie copyright. That’s why the content is essential to us. It is also a good chance for us to create new senbatsu members from other projects,” says Jirath. “We will not wait for luck like a hit with ‘Fortune Cookie’.”
“BNK48 Oshi Festival” is the idol group’s new game and is expected to draw even more fans.
The BNK48 application has been further developed from just live chat into a centre for BNK48 content, including a theatre show and ticket sales. Mobile game “Star Keeper” is being upgraded with more stages, more bosses and more spaceships, and new game, “BNK48 Oshi Festival”, will soon be released in cooperation with Gameloft video game developers from France.
BNK48 members take part in the CSR event, “Love & Hope”.
Fans attending the recent press conference were delighted when BNK48’s captain Cherprang Areekul came out on stage and greeted her with loud screams. She talked about BNK48 Office’s CSR events held under the name of “Ruam Palang Rak Lae Wangdee” (“Love and Hope”) and the launch of BNK48 Foundation to help children, women and victims of natural disasters.
Her collectible premium figurine dressed in the costume the girls wore for their single “Aitakatta”, is priced at Bt9,990 and the proceeds go to the foundation.
Jirath Pavaravadhana, Cherprang Areekul, Oraphan Monphichit Pavaravadhana, and Natapol Pavaravadhana talk about BNK48’s plans for the coming year.
For her part, Oraphan “Rose” Monphichit Pavaravadhana, chief operating officer of the BNK48 Office, spoke about the management system upgrade to ISO 9000 and the recruitment of more personnel. These include a psychologist who will observe BNK48 members and a legal team to protect members’ rights and benefits in cooperation with Royal Thai Police Headquarters and the Technology Crime Suppression Division.
And the fans once again roared their delight when Natapol “Job” Pavaravadhana, chief marketing officer of the BNK48 Office, came out on stage to announce the idol group’s upcoming activities. Among them is the release of a three-single album a year starting with “The Beginner” together with the debut performance of BNK48 senbatsu members led by Cherprang. A handshake event is being held from April to September, along with a solo concert, a fan fest, and a Sport’s Day.
And then there’s the BNK “Thank You & The Beginner” road show, which will see the members travel to five provinces. It kicks off in the parking area in front of Hard Rock Café in Siam Square, before heading to Hat Yai on March 23-24, Khon Kaen on April 27-28, Chiang Mai on May 4-5, and Rayong on May 11-12. Each two-day event will feature a Hi-Touch group and a mini concert.
“Fans asked me why we are kicking off in Siam Square. The answer is simple: to show off BNK48 members to a wider range of people in addition to their fans,” Natapol explained.