An Offbeat Nangek (นางเอก)

3 October 2014, TV = 883.4 hours

The little mustachioed man wearing the yellow shirt is one of the delightfully odd minor characters that populate นางเอก (Nangek)1, a lakorn I recently finished watching. Here he responds to his master’s oh-so-earnest questions about love with short ironic quips — in a rather emphatic English, no less — that sharply strip away any notions of romance or seriousness, instead reframing the topic at hand as farce. Well, perhaps the kind of servant who’s sharp enough to not totally buy into his masters’ agendas inevitably winds up an actor, one who can’t help but see the boards of the stage he finds himself on, and who lacks the luxury of viewing himself as anything other than a bit player. In short, a buffoon — but one with an unusual vantage point.

Nangek never became compulsively watchable entertainment, and it was only after the halfway point that I kind of started liking it, in a cool sort of way. Slow and meandering, I sometimes lost track of (or never really “got”) the characters’ relations to each other, and I can think of at least one subplot that disappeared for a long time only to resurface much later on, and another that vanished from view without resolution. Were parts of the version that I watched missing, or was this poor scriptwriting/storytelling?

Or could it have been deliberate offbeatness? Nangek turned out to have a surprisingly unconventional ending that I didn’t see coming. And the heroine too was a little unusual. A basically honest, straightforward person, a schoolteacher from the countryside, Dokgew suddenly finds herself adrift in a Bangkok showbiz world largely characterized by deceit, manipulation, and insincerity. It’s not a world that holds any real appeal for her (she only agrees to become a lakorn star in exchange for getting her school fixed up!), and sensing the dangers she reacts by becoming guarded and withdrawn. Not an unbelievable reaction given who she is, but Dokgew is self-possessed to the point where there is something about her that remains hidden, inaccessible to the viewer.

Making the nangek of Nangek someone who is neither seductive nor seducible is an unusual move; the other irony is that the world of the lakorn industry turns out to be a poor place to find the kind of romantic or true love that’s the centerpiece of the typical lakorn. Anyone looking to Nangek for vicarious romance will probably be disappointed; I ended up kind of liking this quirky, offbeat lakorn.

Oh and, just for fun, here’s another scene with the little man; here the servant plays at being the master:

Heard in the background is the lilting, jesting music used in so many scenes throughout Nangek; and which seems to be saying, along with the little man himself, “Hah-hah, hah-hah! Don’t tell me you take all this seriously? It’s just a game, you know — we’re all acting! Ha-hah, hah-hah, there’s no problem — right?”

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1.  A nangek is the lead female role in a lakorn, i.e. the heroine. The term can also refer to the actress playing the nangek.

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