Despite the gloomy sky and humidity depressing the city, this month has featured programmes in the showbiz realm which have gone against the prevailing atmosphere. And some have left us with an interesting take on gender issues.
When rumours about the remake of Usana Ploengtham's 1964 erotic novel Jan Dara spread, fans were eager to witness a new version of the dark, twisted story of Jan Dara and his life under the roof of his sadistic father Lord Wisnan who loathes him from the minute he was born. Originally adapted as a film in 1977, it was with the second version in 2001, directed by Nonzee Nimibutr, that Jan Dara challenged the rules of censorship by featuring various sexually explicit scenes. Early this month, the third adaptation of Jan Dara was released (with an 18-plus rating) by the famed director ML Bhandevanop Devakul.
Playing Jan is gay-favourite star Mario Maurer, who sadly, in my view, fails to do the character justice. Surprisingly, this version adds a gay character to colour up the story, although a silly, villain: a stereotype repeatedly portrayed in the media.
In Jan Dara 2012, the head of the maids in Wisnan's house is Somjuk, a transvestite played by the flamboyant actor Piya Sawetpikul. This gay character, however, doesn't exist in the book, but was created for the adaptation. Once a loyal maid to Madame Pichit Raksa, the previous owner of the house, Somjuk later betrays her and becomes a protege of Wisnan being lured with a sexual offer.
Exaggerated, effeminate characters like Somjuk remain a blight in the media. But, the unexpected fact about the film is that one of the female characters is played by a transsexual actor, which is a ground-breaking move.
Pattaraporn Paphawarin, a former contestant at the famous transgender beauty pageant Miss Tiffany 2012, plays Saisoi, a beautiful, free-spirited maid, secretly known as a "sexual playmate" among young men in the house. On top of it all, she is the one who gives Jan his first lesson in sex education. The audience, however, was not told about Pattaraporn's sexual orientation, only her acquaintances know that the actress is a transsexual. And, no matter what reason the director picked her to play the role, Pattaraporn delivers it nicely, as a sexy, playful girl.
Meanwhile, also exciting the entertainment industry is the Thai version of the famous Dutch reality show The Voice. The singing contest has won admiration from fans worldwide for its blind audition, where judges turn their backs to the contestants and vote for each singer based solely on their voice, without knowing their appearance.
With a number of similar singing contests on Thai television today, the arrival of The Voice Thailand marks an alternative for audiences who believe singing contests should be based on vocal talent, not the look of the singers.
One of the judges is gay-favourite diva Jennifer Kim, who shares the stage with Saharat Sangkapreecha, former frontman of the rock band Nouveau, Thai rapper Joey Boy, and pop singer Apiwat "Stamp" Ueathavornsuk.
Beside the signature blind audition, what makes the show special is the variety of contestants of all ages, from different careers, and include some gender-bending characters.
Proudly representing the gay community is 28-year-old Pinpinat "Kaew" Setarun, a transvestite who wowed the crowd singing the poppy track Nid Neung by Lukwa Pijika. Her sentimental introduction video featured Pinpinat sharing her dream and her struggle for "not being a girl". At the end of the audition, with her fun personality and singing talent, she was chosen by judge Saharat and continues to the second round.
Another highlight is the presence of Orawee Pinitsarnpirom, a 19-year-old woman who wears a male haircut and attire. Orawee surprised the audience singing an acoustic version of Nobody by the Korean pop sensation Wonder Girls.
Around the world, The Voice has touched many fans' hearts, including gay followers, because of its philosophy that celebrates true talent, not superficial matters. Before it came to Thailand, die-hard fans wondered whether the Thai version could meet global standards. After a few episodes that introduced exciting contestants and the vibe of the judges, The Voice Thailand is one of not so many TV shows worth tuning in to.
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Pinpinat ‘Kaew’ Setarun
About the author
- Writer: Yanapon Musiket
Position: Life Writer