It was an entirely delightful night of vintage cinema and deep nostalgia (sometimes very deep) last Thursday at Thailand Cultural Centre. Featuring 28 movie soundtracks sung by an illustrious parade of crooners, from an 83-year-old national artist to an indie rocker in tooth-achingly red pants, the concert Nang Thai Nai Siang Pleng, or "Thai Films In Music", hosted by Thai Film Archive, was a charming showcase that proved that the evocative power of cinema is never a complete experience without the songs that brought back a flood of yesteryear memories _ and something like forgotten happiness.
Sawalee Pakapan and Suthep Wongkamhaeng in a duet, with the film Sawan Mued on the screen.
Move over kiddos, let your parents (and grandparents) have a ball at least for once. I understand if anyone under 30 won't get it that most of the numbers performed in the concert were classics, eternally singalong-able, and cultural artefacts that defined the era when they came out. Take the first song of the night, Ban Sai Thong (House of the Golden Sand), from the 1956 movie of the same name and sung by the original: National Artist Sawalee Pakapan, who starred in the film and who must've sung the song a few thousand times over the past 50 years and yet managed to make it feel new every time. Clips of the film were shown in the background; this music-movie format went on for the rest of the night. Another National Artist and smooth operator Suthep Wongkamhaeng, 77, did a playful duet with Sawalee in Jon Jing Mai Jon Rak (We're Poor But Not Love-poor), a number from the 1958 tragic love story Sawan Mued, which starred Suthep himself with a head full of hair and a voice as silky as beer froth. He also gave us the movie's theme song Sawan Mued (Dark Heaven), a heart-crunching ballad about a blind man's undying love. It's a wonder that the texture of his voice has hardly changed after half-a-century.
Suda Chuenban and Chantana Kittayapan did the bluesy Kliad Khon Suay .
Utane Prommin came on to sing Ruen Pae (The Houseboat), from the eponymous 1961 movie, followed by luk thung godfather Surachai Sombatcharoen, who rendered a song once sung by his father Surapol in an action film Petch Tad Petch (Diamond Versus Diamond, 1966) _ this is a kind of madcap rock 'n' roll film with flamboyant art direction that Quentin Tarantino would love to remake.
The high point of the night, to me, was when Chairat Tiebtiam sang three soundtracks from the teen romantic comedy films of the mid-1970s.
Nostalgia, I think, is when you suddenly realise how many years have passed between now and the first moment you saw or heard something that got stuck in the back of your memory _ these three songs did just that to a lot of people that night, especially when Pairoj Sangworibut and Lalana Sulawan, two heart-throbs from those years of loose shirts and funny hairdos, made a surprise appearance on stage and nearly brought the house down.
Two sexagenarian wildcats, Chantana Kittayapan and Suda Chuenban, came on to do the bluesy, mischievous Kliad Kon Suay (I Hate Beautiful Women), an upbeat lament of an ugly duckling from the 1975 film Khao Nork Na, which tells the story of a dark-skinned half-breed born of a Thai mother and an American GI. Suda _ a funnier, tougher version of Diana Ross _ then screeched out one of the all-time classic soundtracks Pleng Sud Tai (The Last Song), from the 1987 movie of the same name that tells the hard life of a transsexual showgirl.
Surachai Sombatcharoen did a song from the film Petch Tad Petch .
Some of the younger performers that night included Tul Waitoolkiat, a rocker who showed up in red pants to sing Europe, a high-octane number from the 1984 high school drama Wai Ra Raeng; Nipaporn "Zani" Thitithanakarn sang another classic, Kwan Khong Riam from the 1977 film Plae Kao; and Po Yokeeplayboy, in a retro dinner suit, gave the crowd their singalong moments with three numbers: Tone from the 1970 film of the same name, Term Jai Hai Kan from 1989 and a faux-country swagger Krai Ja Metta, an old song that was popularised by the film Tears Of The Black Tiger in 2000.
The last stretch of the nearly three hours of merry-making featured more classics _ in two different temperaments. We had Srisalai Suchartwut, the singer who has the most sexily raspy voice in the Kingdom, doing a jazzy version of her signature tune Chua Fah Din Salai (Eternity), from the till-death-do-us-part love epic of the same name that was made into movies three times in 1957, 1980 and 2010.
Rounding off the night was The Impossibles, a five-man band that were the rage of Bangkok back in the 1970s. The sight of them, led by Setha Sirachaya, attested to the idea that the old-fashioned could also be cool (despite the Gangnam Style moment) when you stick to what you do best.
The Im, as they're often known, did a melancholic Talae Mai Koei Lab (The Sea Never Sleeps) from the 1972 film Suan Son and set up a jolly climax with the theme song of Petch Tad Petch.
Fittingly, the show was a real diamond and in no way rough, and the Film Archive would garner many more fans if they considered putting together something like this again.
Pairoj Sangworibut, Lalana Sulawan and Chairat Tiebtiem.
About the author
- Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Deputy Life Editor