Dharma meets modern love in a new feature film
When director Penchan “Mink” Wongsompetch released her first dharma-oriented short film last year, she was surprised and delighted at how well it was received. Now she’s back with a follow up, “Dharamsala: Hope and Faith”, a full-length feature that blends religion with a modern-day love story. Her aim though, remains the same: “to support Thai people to be fully in tune with dharma and to practice it in daily life.”
“The new generation believes that dharma is very boring and unfashionable. I hope they will come and see this movie, which is not only concerned with dharma and also with romantic love. Watch it with your boyfriend and he might become more caring about your feelings,” Penchan says.
Penchan adds that she was inspired to make last year’s 30-minute film by Phra Teppariyattisuthi, the abbot of Wat Phra Non Jatsri Voraviharn in Sing Buri province, who raised funds for the construction of a Thai temple in Dharamsala, India, and who is also known for propagating dharma in English to the world.
Dharamsala is the second winter capital of Himachal Pradesh and the seat of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Founded by the British, Dharamsala first the caught attention of international community after the Tibetan spiritual leader established the Tibetan government-in-exile here in 1960. Over the years, Dharamsala has emerged as important tourist destination both for domestic and international visitors.
“Actually, we were only intending to make a short film but changed our mind after learning that Luang Phor would go on a pilgrimage for peace from Dharamsala to Leh in Ladakh, a journey of 700 kilometres. It would be pity if we didn’t record the walk so we decided to recreate it in our romantic style and combine it with dharma teachings,” explains Penchan.
“We came up against unexpected problems during the entire shoot. Firstly, we weren’t familiar with the climate and faced heat, rainstorms, hailstones and even snow. The further we walked up the mountain, the colder we were. Fortunately, the Dalai Lama had lent us his doctor for the trip.
The second episode of “Dharamsala”, produced by Bailan Entertainment, has hope and faith as its theme.
“We heard that last year’s short film stopped a man from committing suicide after losing his lover. Our main character Sarut also lost his lover and thought that he would meet her if he died. But, after listening to dharma, he found that suicide wasn’t a solution to his problem. He learned to acknowledge that sorrow is in the mind and thus can only be resolved with the mind. After that, Sarut took the Buddhist teachings into his life,” Penchan says.
“Sarut, who is played by Trairong ‘Job’ Chainaranond, is still the main character in this second film and he is surrounded by other people with problems. There’s Methawee (Apa ‘Maggi’ Bhavilai), who strongly believes in her religion but has fallen in love with Inn (Thun Thanakorn), a selfish and bad-tempered man. She thinks that if he acknowledges the Buddhist teaching, he will be a better person. Love isn’t hard but what is hard is to keep it forever.”
The story starts with Inn, a talented photographer, whose arrogant ways lead him to fall out with his sister Ying (Apisara Rakchart) and brother Chin (Chitawan Akranopthana). After a massive row with Methawee, Inn decides to follow his friend, Sarut, to India and take photographs of the pilgrimage. Again his arrogance and selfishness come to the fore and the young man is soon left to his own devices. Lost and fed up, Inn starts thinking about how he behaves and why he is disliked and after listening to the teachings of novice monk Chanok (Nachanok Charoensatitpong) starts to understand himself.
Inn also gets to hear about other people’s problems during the journey. He listens to another novice, Korn (real-life novice Thitikorn Ngarmying) who was badly injured in a violent attack. His father was very upset about the incident but felt better when his son told him he would be ordained.
Leela, Sarut’s sister, too had problems. She became involved with a married man and was humiliated by his wife. She fled Thailand and turned to dharma. Jitra (Kessarin Ektawatkul), believes that she must be better than others, because she makes more merits than others.
But when this motley band listens to the sermon by the monk Ton (Phra Songsak Paetpien), and Luang Phor Phra Teppariyattisuthi, everybody turns over a new leaf.
Inn finds out that Methanee is following him and goes back into her loving arms.
“Methawee has a very strong faith and wants her lover to share that faith,” says Maggi of her character. “And during the journey, Methawee discovers a way to help her lover and people around her to reach that faith. I was raised a Buddhist and my faith is real.”
Model, actress and MC Amalawan “Mmy” Sirikittirat plays Mee, a former model turned nun who travels to India to observe religious precepts. She behaves like a real nun; waking up early in the morning to prepare Thai food for the monks.
Much to everyone’s pleasure, the entire crew enjoyed a rare chance to have an audience with the Dalai Lama.
“He is so very nice and friendly and even offered us lunch. After lunch, he shook hands with all of us,” says Penchan with a happy smile.
And the director is already thinking about the third chapter in the series.
“It will probably take the form of a documentary,” she says.
A better frame of mind
“Dharamsala: Hope and Faith” is now showing at Major Cineplexes nationwide. It’s rated P.
View the trailer at https://tinyurl.com/kyzs9g3.