Coming-of-age comedy turns electrifying with the GTH Studio's new film "May Who?"
HE’S BEEN VERY quiet in the four years since the release of his directorial debut feature, “SuckSeed Huay Khan Thep”, the wildly successful comedy about a teenage rock band, but now Chayanop Boonpakob is back and it’s with another teenage comedy.
“May Nhai Fai Raeng Fer” (“May Who?”) tells the story of a girl with a special power – she can release electricity from her body once her heart rate reaches 120 beats per second.
The May in “May Who?”, played by Sutatta “Punpun” Udomsilp from “Hormones the Series”, is a Mattayom 5 student and she’s not in the least proud of her special power. Worried she might hurt someone, she tries to hide it from her classmates and teachers by laying low in school. Helping her is the fact that there are many girls in school who are also nicknamed May, among them the bespectacled May Waen and cheerleader May Lead. So when anyone asks about the mysterious May, the answer is inevitably “May nhai?” or “May who?”
Pong (Thiti Mahayotharak) is an ordinary student who feels that he is a nobody. In his mind, the school classifies students into categories – the popular kid, the best student, the best at sports and the best looking.
Both May and Pong are happy with their invisibility until the day comes when they each develop a crush on a fellow student. May falls for Fame (Thanapob Leeratanakajorn), a popular and handsome senior who is the star runner on the school track team. She is forced to keep her distance as every time she approaches, her heart beats faster and threatens to shoot out its electrical charge.
For his part, Pong likes Ming (Nareekul Katepraphakorn) who is not only a good student but is the leader of the Sport Day activities. Pong confides his feelings to his diary in both words and cartoons, drawing comics of how he imagines life with Ming. But both kids know underneath that their dreams are unlikely to come true, at least until the day when Pong discovers May’s secret and promises to keep her secret only if she cooperates with him to win over both Ming and Fame.
“Teenagers are always dissatisfied with what they have and when they compare themselves with their peers, they feel they are not good enough,” says Chayanop. “May’s special power is her Achilles’ heel while Pong’s is his talent for drawing. So how can they use these skills to get over their inferior complexes?”
Chayanop acknowledges that the idea behind his characters is not very different from “SuckSeed”, which followed schoolboys who form a rock band in hopes of attracting girls but fail to recognise that they don’t have any talent.
“But the characters in this film are more serious, so serious in fact that the story could be presented as a dark drama. Pong thinks that everyone is better than him, that he is the lowest. But I preferred to make the film a coming-of-age comedy,” he says.
Chayanop also has plenty of memories of his life at school. He shared his love of music in “SuckSeed” and this time puts his passion for cartoon art comes to the forefront. The character Pong, he says, is inspired by his own life.
“I kept a diary and also drew comic stories, especially when I had a crush on a girl. At that time I didn’t have a camera to take her picture and couldn’t look into her life because Facebook didn’t exist. I never showed my drawings to anyone though,” he says.
Chayanop and his producers Jira Malikool and Wanrudee Phongsitthisak developed the idea further, coming up with the notion of a girl with special powers.
Visual effects and animation play a major role in the film. Not only is animation used to visualise the electric shocks coming out of May, but also to bring Pong’s cartoon diary to life.
“Cartoons represent Pong’s feelings. It would be boring just to use stills of the comics and using them as moving pictures reflects Pong’s attitude towards himself.
“When people draw a cartoon for their own pleasure, they tend to draw themselves much smarter and better than their real self. But if they intend to show their cartoon or draw it for friends, they will draw themselves less attractive than the friends’ characters,” he explains.
“I did it that way when I was young. My character always looked more handsome in my diary. But when I drew for friends, they were the ones who looked perfect whereas I was just the supporting role. I guess that’s because I was using my talents to make friends,” says Chayanop, who had problem re-integrating at school after spending two years in the US while his father continued his studies.
“I didn’t want to come back [to Thailand] and it took me the better part of a year to adapt. Former friends played pranks on me and my fellow students didn’t want to know. The situation did get better after a while though,” he recalls.
In fact, Pong’s character is so close to his personal life that a comic book detailing his bad experiences will be released under the same title as the film in line with a new GTH tradition of coming up with a book that serves as a kind of side story. “The comic is like a prequel of Pong’s life,” says the director.
Like Punpun, the other leading actors are all alumni of “Hormones the Series”.
“I did try to cast new actors as I didn’t want the series to influence the film too much but ended up casting them as they were all so perfect for my characters,” he laughs. “When the project began, I only had Punpun on my list. I’ve followed her since her debut in ‘Laddaland’ and wanted to work with her as she has real talent. And Thiti is the kind of person who is still happy even when he’s being teased,” says the director.
Punpun hasn’t been involved in promoting the film because she has been suspended from working as punishment for being involved in an untoward subway-dancing incident while the cast of “Hormones” was visiting Japan earlier this year. She officially can’t make public appearances until after October 7, six days after the movie is released.
“It’s a pity but I accept the rule,” says the director.
The inclusion of animation in the film, which runs for about 10 minutes and was developed by Riff Animation Studio, is something new for both GTH and Chayanop. The director says he’s thrilled with their work and that it’s every bit as good as he expected for a company that mostly does animation for video games.
While the animated segment caused the film’s release to be delayed for about five months, Chayanop has no regrets. “It was definitely the right decision because the animation has come out great,” he says, adding that he has still managed to keep costs within GTH’s average budget.
IN FOR A SHOCK
“May Nhai Fai Raeng Fer” (“May Who?”) opens in cinemas on Thursday.
For clips and other details, see maywho.com or www.facebook.com/MayNhaiTheMovie