Love on the slopes
Banjong Pisunthanakun returns with a romantic drama for the debut outing by new film studio GDH
Three years after breaking all box office records with his ghostly comedy “Pee Mak Phra Khanong”, director Banjong Pisunthanakun is back, this time with a heart-warming romantic drama.
“Fanday…Fan Kun Khae Wan Diaw” (“One Day”), as the film is called, tells the story of a technician who falls for a marketing colleague and claims to be her boyfriend after she suffers contemporary amnesia following an accident.
The phenomenal success of “Pee Mak Phra Khanong” has led to many offers but Banjong has remained down to earth and says there’s nothing he enjoys more than a challenge.
“It would have been easy to do another comedy like ‘Pee Mak’ but I like doing something different,” he says.
“I loved the romantic films made in the 1990s. My favourites are ‘Untamed Heart’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’’. ‘Fanday’ follows that same kind of storyline but with an Asian touch.
“I haven’t seen mellow romances for years and never in Thai movies,” he says
Banjong, who has seen success after success since co-directing the horror film “Shutter” with Parkpoom Wongphoom 12 years ago, made his solo directorial debut with the 2010 romantic comedy “Kuan Muen Ho”(“Hello Stranger”). His CV reads like a roll call for cinematic hits with “Faed” (“Twins”), horror anthologies “See Phraeng”(“4Bia”) and “Ha Phraeng” (“Phobia 2”) to his credit.
“Fanday” is his first original story though and thanks to a strong story is likely to be another blockbuster.
The film stars Banjong’s long-time collaborator Chantawit Dhanasevi as Denchai, a man who works in the IT department of a large company. A nerdy kind of guy with unruly hair and glasses, he is all but invisible to his colleagues and only recognised by the rest of the staff when they have IT problems and need help. Only Nui (Nittha Jirayungyurn), the beautiful woman in marketing remembers his name and it isn’t long before Denchai is totally smitten. During the company trip to a ski resort in Hokkaido, Nui is involved in an accident and wakes up with no memory of what happened.
Amnesia has been used to death in the movies over the past decades so Banjong decided to make the condition more interesting by having Nui diagnosed with transient global amnesia, during which a patient suffers loss of memory for recent events and an impaired ability to retain new information. Symptoms typically last less than 24 hours. As the syndrome resolves, the amnesia improves, but the patient may be left with a distinct lapse of recollection for events during the attack.
Denchai picks the moment to tell her he’s her boyfriend.
While that part of the plot brings to mind the 2004 Adam Sandler amd Drew Barrymore comedy “50 First Dates”, Banjong is quick to insist that it’s different.
“A person with TGA still remembers the past but has problems with recent memories. It’s far more complex that than other kinds of amnesia and that’s what makes it interesting. Also in the film, there’s a certain ambiguity about Nui having TGA or not,” he explains.
In “50 First Dates,” Banjong points out, Lucy resets her memory everyday. TGA is infinitely more complicated, not least since 80 per cent of the action occurs in Hokkaido in a single day.
“For me, the most difficult part of the project was the development of the story. I’m used to doing comedy and while ‘Fanday’ has its humorous moments, we’ve all worked hard to make sure they are incidental to the story.
“It’s not heavy romantic drama and not that kind of feel-good romantic stuff for which GTH was known. Making comedies like that no longer interests me. It’s a case of ‘been there, done that’. I want to have something new in my work,” he says.
Scepticism has always surrounded Banjong’s initial ideas. For example, in “Hello Stranger,” fans were surprised when he cast actress Nuengtida Sophon in the lead role and wondered on the social networks if she was right for the character. Banjong responded by insisting he wanted to take the risk. The same questions were raised in the early days of “Pee Mak” after he cast thoroughly modern Mario Maurer in the lead.
The scepticism was erased the moment the films were released with Banjong proving he was right in sticking to his guns.
And “Fanday” hasn’t escaped the sceptics. The trailers clearly reflect the mellow drama and filmgoers are questioning the story’s idea.
“I always go all out on every project and I don’t hesitate in my decision. I believe in taking risks and don’t see why I should have to play by the rules,” he says.
“If my decision is right, then the movie will prove the sceptics wrong. Obviously I can’t guarantee that every time. I’ve been lucky in that it has worked for every project, but luck doesn’t hold forever. I’m just hoping that it won’t desert me in this project,” he says with a smile.
“Fanday” is also a gamble for GDH as it is the studio’s first project following the dismantling of GTH at the end of last year.
After the romance, Banjong wants to try a thriller. One of his dreams is to make a movie for gigantic IMAX theatre and he’d also love to earn some international acclaim.
That may have to wait for a bit as one of his projects, the short story “Khong Kong” from “Phobia 2”, was snapped up by Hong Kong director Stephen Chow for a remake only for the censorship board of China reject the script because of its ghostly content.
The project is however going ahead and will be made as a co-production between Thailand and the Chinese company.
“I’ll be directing it,” Banjong says.