Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Secret Hotel - 2014

My Secret Hotel is a Korean drama in 16 episodes of an hour each starring Yoo In Ha, Jin Yi Han and Namgung Min.  It was aired from August to September 2014.

I finished watching Empress Ki some time ago.  It was a fabulous series, but quite serious and full of violence.  It was full of politics among the royalty in the 14th century.  After that I needed something fluffy and romantic to lighten my mood.  I had been quite impressed by Jin Yi Han who had an important side role in Empress Ki as Tal Tal. He looked very handsome in ceremonial robes and a long glossy ponytail.  I picked Jin Yi Han's series My Secret Hotel to get more eyefuls of the hunk.

I was NOT disappointed.  Right at the start, while the credits are rolling, Jin Yi Han bursts into a fabulous dance. Sigh. 

It was a typical K-romance.  Two guys vie for the affections of a girl. She is equally torn between the two.  Who will win?  This romance is embellished by a some mystery-thriller elements.  Here is how the initial story goes:

Nam Sang Hyo (Yoo In Ha) is a dedicated hotelier.  She has risen from a waitress to the Manager of a Banquet Hall.  She specializes in Wedding Planning.  The hotel she works at, called Secret Hotel, is one of the best in Seoul.  Her hotel has just got some bad press.  The Managing Director of her hotel, Jo Sung Gyeom (Namgung Min) asks her to deal with this crisis.  The PR Manager Yeo Eun Joo (Lee Young Eun) and Nam Sang Hyo plan a fancy celebrity wedding to bring back the Hotel's mojo.

The bride is the daughter of a cosmetic company owner. The groom is a well educated son of the richest man in Seoul.  This wedding represents the creme de la creme of the Seoul Society.  But Nam Sang Hyo gets a shock when she sees the Groom. It is Koo Hae Young (Jin Yi Han).  She was married to him for three months when she was in Las Vegas. It did not work out and they got a divorce.  She is cool as she greets him, causing him to do a double take.  He expected her to burst out in tears or at least, act shocked.

Nam Sang Hyo decides to act professional and carry on with her work despite feeling upset about Koo Hae Young. She murmurs a goodbye to him and walks away as the wedding commences. However, the grand wedding is rudely interrupted by a corpse falling at the Groom's feet as he walking down the aisle.

The murdered man is an Assistant Manager under Nam Sang Hyo. He was a nasty piece of work that no one liked much.  This brings in Kim Geum Bo (Ahn Kil Kang).  He is the best detective on the police force in Seoul. He is uncouth in appearance, but has a sharp mind.  He sets to work trying to solve the murder mystery.  He finds that Secret Hotel has many people with secrets.  There are several suspects and he must examine them all, and try to find the murderer.

The Managing Director is here to find out more about his father. His father used to work for The Secret Hotel in the past.  He died when he fell from the sixth floor of this hotel in an accident.  Jo Sung Gyeum has been getting cryptic messages from someone claiming to have information about the death of his father.  He has reason to suspect that it was not an accident, but murder.

 The Secret Hotel hides many secrets.

 Jo Sung Gyeum is interested in Nam Sang Hyo and wants date her.  She agrees, as she is also eager to move on from Koo Hae Young. She does not bargain with Hae Young reacting badly to her relationship with Jo Sung Gyeum and doing his utmost to wreck her new budding romance.  There are times when she finds she still has a soft spot for Koo Hae Young who had ditched her seven years ago and run away from her.

 She had followed him to New York and found this woman in his apartment.  It had broken her heart and she had fled back to Vegas and from there, back to Seoul.  How can she forgive him for running away with another woman just three months after being married to her?

Is Koo Hae Young really a player? Or was there a reason why he ditched Sang Hyo?  If he did not care for her, why does he chase her so relentlessly?

The PR Manager of The Secret Hotel, Lee Eun Joo is also sweet on Jo Sung Gyeum and is forever trying to drive Nam Sang Hyo away from him so she may have a chance to date him.  She even engineers a fix-up between Koo Hae Young and Nam Sang Hyo to get her out of the way.  Will her machinations be fruitful?

In the meantime, there is another murder at the hotel and detective Kim Geum Bo has to step up his game.

With just 16 episodes, the pace of the series is fast.  We have the issue of Jo Sun Gyeum's father thrown in to spice up the story. Nam Sang Hyo was an international adoptee (this means that she was adopted by an American couple when she was a child).  Her foster mother was a Korean too which explains how she can speak good Korean.  The story of her parentage is also linked to one of the secrets of the hotel.

I enjoyed the series thoroughly.  My only grouse was with the character of Nam Sang Hyo.  Initially she is a very spunky character, full of beans.  The hotel workers are laying bets to see which young lady of the two - Nam Sang Hyo and Lee Eun Jo will bag the handsome Managing Director.  Nam Sang Hyo loves playing the game of one-up-man-ship with Lee Eun Jo.  But later, she plays a rag doll who is being pulled one way and another by the two men in her life. 

With Jin Hi Yan looking like this, fresh faced with his curly mop, I had no problem with this minor irritant.  The series concludes to the satisfaction of all.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Empress Ki 2013

Empress Ki, a popular Korean Series, was aired from October 2013 to April 2014 in 51 episodes. It is a historical series based loosely on the life of a real person, Empress Ki, a Korean concubine who rose among ranks to become the Empress of Toghon Temur, the last Mongol Emperor. She existed from 1315 to 1370 AD.

Nyang Ki, (Sungyang/Empress Ki) a little girl, is being dragged towards China as a human tribute along with her mother. Their life ahead threatens to be full of misery. The young Korean crown prince, Wang Yu is also a part of the people going towards Daidu in China. He takes pity on young Nyang Ki and opens the door at night to allow all the captive women and their children to flee. Tangqishi, a Chinese Warlord kills all the fleeing women, among them, Nyang's mother. She gives her wedding ring to Nyang before dying and asks her to find her father Ki, who has a similar ring.

Young Nyang tries to fend for herself in Inju, where she is stranded. She disguises herself as a boy, changes her name to Sungyang, and finds employment with Wang Ko, the King of Shenyang. In time, she becomes a trained warrior and an unerring archer. She grows up to help Wang Ko smuggle salt and becomes one his most trusted 'men'. On the side, trying to help her country she is also sending messages to Crown Prince Wang Yu who is trying to curb the salt smuggling.

After a successful stint with helping Wang Yu bust the salt racket of Wang Ko, she discovers Commander Ki posted in Inju. She joins his force to be close to her father. Her father's unit is deputed to take care of the deposed Prince of China, Toghon Temur and keep him safe. This is where Sungyang meets Toghon Temur and makes a lasting impression on him.

Toghon beats all odds to become the Emperor of China. Yet, he is under the thumb of his Regent El Temur, a fact that rankles with him. Sungyang is captured by Tangqishi and dragged to China to become a slave.  He gets some feminine vibes from her and strips her to discover that she is a woman. He now wants her to be his personal slave after they reach Daidu. Wang Yu is also on his way to Daidu as a vassal of the Chinese Emperor, Toghon.

Wang Yu and Sungyang meet each other again later on and fall in love. Circumstances drive a wedge between them and Sungyang (after many plot twists) returns to the Palace as a concubine. She comes close to Toghon once again and finds that she is fated to be with him.

How the three major players, Sungyang, Wang Yu and Toghon cope with the circumstances to achieve what they dream of is the story of Empress Ki. Sungyang wants to help the Korean people as well Toghon. Wang Yu wants his crown to be restored and also wants Korea to prosper. Toghon wants to become an independent Emperor and shed the yokel of his Regent.

Rather than give out plot points which are too numerous to be listed here, it is better to give a brief sketch of all the major characters in the series. There are plethora of strong characters in the series and the story is also full of energy. Till the end, the viewer is kept on the edge of the seat while Ki, Toghon and Wang Yu cope with one crisis after the other. It is not possible to sketch every character in the series, and believe me, there are many great ones. I will limit myself to listing some of the major ones.

I was captivated by all the cute men in ponytails. The Emperor, Wang Yu, Tal Tal and Talahai all sport a pony tail that would put any pony to shame. The women are all very pretty too. It is a splendidly mounted series with gorgeous locales, dresses, horses and silks.

Empress Ki, Nyang Ki, Sungyang. Played by Ha Ji Won.

Nyang is woman of superior intellect. Being orphaned early in life, Nyang discovers it is better to hone her skills as a warrior and hide her femininity to survive. She becomes Sungyang, a boy skilled in warfare.

She loves Korea to distraction and will do anything to fell the people who hurt Korean interests. She helps Wang Yu, the crown prince of Korea, to uncover the Salt smuggling which is draining the Korean economy. She falls in love with him, but because of the constant strife in their life, they are not able stay together.

Tangqishi, the son of El Temur had killed her mother. The El Temur family also killed her father. Hence, she vows to take revenge. She could have returned to Korea and lived peacefully there, but she opted to join the Emperor's concubines to gain enough power to wreck vengeance upon El Temur. She helps Toghon overthrow them. In the process she also falls in love with him. Till the end, she is torn between her love for Wang Yu and her love for Toghon.

The role is played to perfection by Ha Ji Won. She has the requisite looks and talent for the role. Her face is the most perfect oval that I have ever seen. She has a beautiful eyes. Yet she looks perfect as a man with her swagger. It is not for nothing that she is one of major Hallayu stars of Korea.

Toghon Temur, Emperor of China, played by Ji Chang Wook.

When we first see Toghon in Empress Ki he is a mere boy. He is sent to Korea apparently under banishment, but El Temur's true intent is to kill him there. Thus, he would get rid of an Emperor Apparent and also be able to put the onus of his death on Korea.

Toghon knows this and is very scared. He tries to run away from the Korean Camp under Commander Ki but runs into Sungyang. She protects him and takes him under her wing. She teaches him how to use the sword and also how to shoot arrows. He becomes very attached to Sungyang but betrays her father to El Temur. Ki Nyang hates him for this for a long time.

Later, when he becomes an Emperor and learns that Sungyang is a woman, he falls deeply in love with her. He sticks by her through thick and thin and ultimately makes her his Empress. He grows from a frightened, unsure boy into an Emperor who rules on his own. Ji Chang Wook puts in such a natural performance that you are convinced absolutely by his act of a petulant boy who wants his way in everything. He looks ravishing in his ponytail as a fugitive Prince, and very handsome as the young emperor in his ceremonial robes.

Wang Yu, Crown Prince and later King-in-waiting of Korea., Played by Joo Jin Mo

Wang Yu is wise and sagacious. He has all the qualities needed to be the perfect King of Korea. Unfortunately, Korea is still the vassal state of China. He tries his best to do as much as he can for Korea from outside. He stays close to the Regent of China, El Temur in a bid to watch the Korean interests. He is also deeply in love with Sungyang. He tries to do all he can to help her, often putting his own life in danger in the process. He understands that a Korean Empress will be able to help Korea better and does all he can to ensure her success at investiture.

Most times the lead actors in Korean series are very cute looking. Joo Jin Mo, by contrast has rugged looks and a strong physique. He is one of the manliest actors that I have seen in K-series. In this drama, the Emperor is jealous of his good looks and feels he will lose Sungyang to his handsome looks.

Tanashiri, the first Empress of China, played by Baek Jin Hee

Tanashiri is the daughter of El Temur the Regent. Her father is the most powerful man in China. In an attempt to create a link with the Emperor, her father marries her to Toghon.

She is not keen on the marriage, but when she sees Toghon, she falls in love with him. Toghon is never able to warm up to her because he hates her father. This creates frustration in her. As it is, she is a spoiled, petulant young girl, fired by Emperor's rejection she turns into a hateful, vengeful young woman who does not think twice before getting people killed.

She creates such mayhem with her plotting and scheming, that she puts El Temur in the shade as the chief villain.  For a long time, she captures Ki's attention as she is constantly doing something vile.

Baek Jin Hee has put in an absolutely stupendous performance as the nasty Empress, Tanashiri. She steals every scene she is in.

Yeon Chul – El Temur – Regent to the Emperor, Played by Jeon Kuk Hwan

Another magnificent character, another great performance by Jeon Kuk Hwan. Yeon Chul was Regent to three Kings. Toghon's father, Khutughtu Khan, his younger brother and Toghon. He started off by being a very loyal and a trusted aid of the King.

After tasting power as the Regent, he becomes corrupt and power hungry. He kills Khutughtu Khan and tries to install his younger son on the throne. He thought that the young boy would be easy to manipulate. But the boy-emperor dies of illness soon. When El Temur meets Toghon who is under banishment in Korea, Toghon acts like a fool and a very submissive boy. He fools El Temur into thinking that he would make a good 'sleeping king'. As it is, Temur has ensured that Toghon does not even know how to read and write.

Along with his two sons, Tanqishi and Talahai, he is on the road to absolute power. His daughter is married to Toghon and he wants to make her son the emperor which will ensure that power remains in his blood line. His plans are foiled by Ki Nyang who wants vengeance for her mother and father.

Empress Dowager - Budashiri – Played by Kim Seo Hyung

The Dowager Empress, Budashiri is the former Empress of Khutughtu Khan. After his death she tries to nurture Toghon's younger brother who is named emperor.

On Toghon's return, she attaches herself as his mentor. He treats her like his mother and gives her all respect. After the fall of the Temur clan, Budashiri tries to get more power attached to herself and works against Nyang Ki, who had supported her to get rid of the Temurs.

Budashiri does not want a Korean woman to be given any importance. In a bid to protect her own child, Empress Ki hit back and a power struggle ensues between the two women. She is another strong woman character on this series.

Tangqishi - Dank Ke Se – Played by Kim Jung Hyun

He is the older son of El Temur and is being groomed to take up the Regent's role. He is extremely cruel and mean like the rest of the people in his family. He loses his temper when the tribute women in his entourage, that he is escorting to China from Korea, are set free by the boy prince Wang Yu. He kills all the escaping women, among them Ki Nyang's mother.

Ki has several run-in's with him and always gets the better of him. Yet he manages to survive and come back to haunt Nyang. At one point he even falls in love with Nyang in a perverse fashion and wants to possess and destroy her. His younger brother Talahai is seen more as his shadow in the series, usually following him as Tangqishi goes around creating mayhem.

General Baek An- Bayan – Played by Kim Young Ho

Another fabulous character full of many shades of grey. When we are introduced to Bayan, he is with Toghon, escorting him to his exile in Korea. We soon learn that El Temur has ordered, on behalf of the boy emperor, that Toghon be murdered cleverly to make it seem like the Koreans failed to protect him.

Bayan is not very happy with the decision. He is more of a warrior, he does not like these cloak and dagger politics. He is happy to swear allegiance to his Emperor and fight for him. He was a true follower of Khutugtu Khan and does not think too highly of El Temur.

After almost killing Toghon, he decides to help him retain the throne. He also helps Ki Nyang initially. She is all set to return to Korea at one point when something happens that makes her decide to return to Daidu and help Toghon become the Emperor he wants to. At this point, Bayan steps in and nominates Ki Nyang as his candidate for a concubine, as his foster daughter. Later, his character becomes darker and darker as he gains power. He also becomes very anti-Korea.

Yeon Bi Soo – Batoru – Played by Yu in Young

Batoru was another fabulous female character that started out with a big bang. General Batoru is the faceless terror of the Silk Road, who vanquishes enemies wearing a mask.. He (people perceive him as a man) is a master of guerrilla warfare.

Tangqishi despatches Wang Yu to this area to bear the brunt of Batoru's attacks. He means to annihilate the Korean troops by putting them in the front and then sweeping in with General Bayan to finish Batoru and secure the Silk Road. Wang Yu uses his superior war tactics to defeat Batoru. He is surprised to find that the face behind the mask is a young girl.

After this encounter, Batoru helps Wang Yu and Ki Nyang actively. However, Yeon Bi Soo loses her edge as a character and becomes sidelined. It was sad to see such a promising character lose steam.

Tal Tal – Toqto'a - Played by Jin Yi Han

I have saved one of the best characters in the series for the last. He was, in fact, a real person. He was a respected scholar who became a Grand Chancellor under Toghon.

In the series, he is, as he was in real life, a nephew of General Bayan. He was extremely well-read and wise. In the series, he stays in the background to begin with. He just observes the actions of all around him. From his observations, he realises that Ki Nyang has the true interests of the people at her heart. Initially he opposes Bayan's decision to sponsor Ki Nyang as a candidate for a concubine. He feels she would not do justice to interests of his clan, being an outsider. To some extent, his fears are justified until Nyang tells him that she would always keep the interests of the common people above feelings of clan or class.

This resonates with him and they become thick associates. In fact, there are times when I feel the chemistry between them was much better than the one she shares with Wang Yu or Toghon – her romantic partners. Jin Yi Han is very impressive as Tal Tal.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Pradeep Kumar Songs from 1960 to 1963

I have taken a long time to return to some more good songs picturised on Pradeep Kumar.  My first post was full of songs by Hemant Kumar, Talat Mahmood, Mukesh and Rafi from the 50s.

In this post, I go to the 60s which had some really very good songs picturised on Pradeep Kumar.  To reiterate, he is not my favorite actor.  He was very adequate, I feel the word really fits him.  He played a solid middle- class man who looked dependable.  He even played a Nawab or a Prince very well.  He looked handsome enough (in a solid sort of a way). His dialogue delivery was adequate.

He was lucky to have worked in an era where the story was the king.   It was the songs that were the crowning glory of the movie experience.  A line up of good songs could make or break a film.  Even now, after five decades, the movies have achieved immortality because of the songs.

As I did in the earlier post, I am working through Pradeep Kumar's filmography on IMDB and picking songs that I like best.

Yeh Rang bhare badal from Tu Nahi Aur Sahi (1960)

The music is by Ravi and the lyrics by Asad Bhopali. The singers are Asha and Rafi.

The movie was kind of odd.  Usually, the heroines get cautioned that their lives could be spoiled forever if they did not choose a good boyfriend.  In this movie, it is the hero whose life is 'spoiled' horribly because he chooses to trust a wayward girl.

The movie was borderline tolerable but had good songs.  I love this carefree song picturised on Pradeep Kumar and Nishi as they are eloping.

Yeh Mausam Rangeen Sama from Modern Girl (1961)

Now this is exactly the kind of a song that will never let Pradeep Kumar fade from our memory.  It is a swinging song that makes you want to dance the minute you hear.  The flirty hero (Pradeep Kumar) is complemented perfectly by the coy yet acquiescing heroine (Saeda Khan).

The music is by Ravi and the lyrics by Rajinder Krishan.  The song is sung by Mukesh and Suman Kalyanpur.

Hai Zindagi kitni Haseen from Apsara (1961)

The movie seems to have been a mythological fantasy if we look at the poster.  The heroine is supposed to be Padmini.  She does not look like one of the Travancore sisters.  Or maybe the poster is not very good.

This song has no video, so I can only guess it was picturised on Pradeep Kumar.

The song is written by Qamar Jalalabadi and music provided by Husnlal Bhagatram, sung by Talat and Asha.

A lovely song.

Ik Manzil rahi do phir pyar na kaise ho  from Sanjog (1961)

With Madan Mohan's line up of lovely songs, it was hard to pick one.  I chose this peppy duet as it is one of the few happy songs from the film.

The movie was quite a weepy one.  Poor Anita Guha is run through a wringer emotionally.

The music was by Madan Mohan, lyrics by Rajinder Krishan.  You can enjoy all the songs of the film here.

Saaze dil chhed de from Passport (1961)

This song was famously referenced in Jawani Diwani which came out in 1972.  The song was used while a bunch of youngsters were playing antakshari.  The youngsters claim that the song was made up, which prompts the hero to start an original song 'Agar Saaz chheda tarane banenge'.

This made me aware of the original sweet song.  It is so romantic with lovely lyrics. Which were by Farooq Kaiser and music by Kalyanji Anandji.  Sung by Lata and Rafi. Madhubala and Pradeep Kumar cavort blissfully in a garden. Ah, sweet love.

Saiyan chhod de baiyan  from Rakhi (1962)

 Again our Pradeep Kumar is in a garden chasing a pretty Waheeda.  He is quite determined to hold on to her wrist while she demurs demurely.

Another lovely song that reminds us of the wonderful music of the era. The lyrics are by Rajindra Krishan and music by Ravi.  Sung by Lata and Mukesh.

The title of the film suggests that the dominating emotion here was love between a brother (Ashok Kumar) and sister (Waheeda). Poor Pradeep Kumar was just the consort, methinks.

Aapne yaad dilaya to mujhe yaad aaya   From Aarti (1962)

Aarti was the second movie starring Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumari.  There were a good number of films (four I think, Aarti, Chitralekha, Bheegi Raat and Bahu Begam) where  Ashok Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, and Meena Kumari were in a romantic triangle.

This movie had lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri and music by Roshan.  And it was so good, all the songs are winners.

There is a flirty song in the film - baar baar tohe kya samjhaye - but it is not filmed on the couple, hence I chose this rather moody song sung by Rafi and Lata.

Yeh Kisne Geet Chheda  from Meri Surat Teri Ankhen (1963)

The movie was a bit like The Phantom of the Opera.  The main protagonist was Ashok Kumar, the older son who is shunned because he is ugly.  He falls for pretty Asha Parekh who is not disgusted by him.  But she is in love with Pradeep Kumar already and cannot reciprocate.

This song is written by Shailendra and set to music by SD Burman.  It takes me away to another place altogether when I hear it.  It is sung by Suman and Mukesh.

Milte hi nazar unse ham ho gaye diwane from Ustadon ke Ustad

This was a crime thriller which starred Sheikh Mukhtiar, Ashok Kumar, Pradeep Kumar and Shakila.  I saw it quite a while back, as far as I remember, I was not bored.

I was really hard pressed between this song and Sau Baar Janam Lenge which is so haunting.

The music is by Ravi, lyrics by Asad Bhopali.  The qawwali is sung by Manna Dey, Asha and Rafi.  It is picturised on Sheikh Mukhtiar, Pradeep Kumar and famous Qawwal Shakila Bano Bhopali.

Paon choo lene do phoolon ko inayat hogi  from Taj Mahal (1963)
This was a lavish film about the great love between Khurram and Arjumand.  This is no legend, these people really did exist and there seems to be ample evidence that the couple was very fond of each other.

The lovely Bina Rai played Arjumand, later known as Mumtaz Mahal.  Pradeep Kumar stepped into the shoes of Shah Jahan.

The movie has a line up of memorable songs, a big achievement by Roshan.  The lyrics were by Sahir.  Among all the songs of the movies, I had no trouble picking this intensely romantic number.

I have completed 10 songs, each from a different film and yet reached only 1963 in Pradeep Kumar's filmography.  I will cover the next four years, until 1967 in the next post.  After 1967, Pradeep Kumar was playing mostly character roles, also, the standard of songs was going down.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Secret Garden - 2010

After watching two excellent K-series, Faith and Boys Over Flowers I was wondering which series to latch on to next.  I was recommended Secret Garden by my fellow blogger and friend, Dustedoff. I did not really know the lead actors in this series but was familiar with Lee Philip who had an important role in Faith.  I had loved him there and was eager to watch him once more.

Secret Garden starts with montage shots of a pretty garden and a rather magical looking rain with lightening in the background.  We zoom into the high-class home of Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin). Kim Joo-Won is the CEO of a very high-end departmental store called Loel.  His grandfather owns the store and he is next in line.
Kim Joo Won
He is a pragmatic fellow, very arrogant and likes to speak his mind.  His family has arranged a match for him.  He tells the girl, Yoon Seul, straight away that he does not believe in love and is happy to let the family find someone for him.  Yoon Seul (Kim Sa Rang) is perplexed by this.  She wants to marry Kim Joo Won too and puts up with his abrupt behavior.
Yoon Seul
Yoon Seul has a secret.  She once dated Kim Joo Won's cousin, Oska (Yoon Sang-hyun).  She was badly jilted by him and is in a vengeful mood.  Oska is a Halayu star and has many followers.  But his popularity is fading.  He is the mascot of Loel Store.  He is short tempered and prone to throwing tantrums and getting his way.  He is a compulsive womanizer too.  He is forever getting into trouble for dating and dumping women.  He had been very serious about Seul though.  He had dumped her because she had gone off to the USA with another man.
Oska with a girl
Oska has fallen foul with a girl he has just jilted.  She claims to have pictures of them both and is threatening to expose him by giving a press statement against him.  Oska asks his cousin Kim Joo Won to go and find the actress Park Chae Rin (Baek Seung-hee) and detain her so she may not be able to go to the press conference.  When Kim Joo Won reaches the shoot location, he is pointed to Gil Ra Im by mistake.  Gil Ram Im (Ha Ji Won) is the stunt double for the heroine.  Kim Joo-won takes Gil Ra Im away with him,
Gil Ra Im and Kim Joo Won

Gil Ra Im is creeped out by Kim Joo Won but is tempted by the promise to meet Oska whom she adores.  Kim Joo Won is captivated by Gil Ra Im but cannot figure out why.  He is the scion of a rich family.  He is just too upper-class to like a tomboyish, shabbily dressed girl like Gil Ra Im.  He is dismissive of his feelings but is drawn to her anyway.  He continues to outrage Gil Ra Im by his high-handed arrogant behaviour.

Im Jong Soo
Im Jong Soo (Lee Phillip) is a stunt director.  He is very protective of his team in general and of Gil Ra Im in particular.  He is in love with her completely but being her boss he does not want to seem exploitative by dating her.  He is very jealous of Kim Joo Won for hovering around her and tries to make him back off.

Gil Ra Im is an orphan and has to work very hard to make ends meet. She lives with her friend Ah Young (Yoon In-Na) who works as an attendant in Loel Store.  She is besotted by Oska and listens to his songs to keep her spirits up.  She is both fascinated and repelled by Kim Joo Won.   

On a trip to Jeju Island Gil Ra Im and Kim Joo Won are stunned to discover that their bodies have changed.  This results in several funny situations when Gil Ra Im is grossed out by having to go to the bathroom and Kim Joo Won has to learn how to wear a bra.  They are forced to live in each others' world and wind up developing a better understanding of each other.  Their friends are puzzled by sudden uncharacteristic behavior as Gil Ra Im turns brash and manly and Kim Joo Won becomes polite and well-mannered.

Despite the body change, Kim Joo Won and Gil Ra Im are still not ready to fall in love.  Most times Joo Won is very blunt with Ra Im which is very insulting to her.  She keeps kicking him when he annoys her. Poor Director Im hovers in the background, unable to say anything to Ra Im.  Oska is the only one who is gallant towards the girl.  He becomes friends with her and always treats her very nicely.  At one point, Oska brings Ra Im home in his car and flirts with her sweetly while Joo Won and Director Im watch from the sidelines.  Despite the example, they do not stop being gruff with the girl.

It is much later in the story that Ra Im finds that she is indeed in love with Kim Joo Won.  She decides to take matters in hand and go and talk to Kim Joo Won.
Gil Ra Im dances with Kim Joo Won
The path of their love is not easy, thanks to the disparity in their backgrounds. Kim Joo Won's mother is NOT pleased about the development and tries to do all she can to keep the couple apart.  They also have to deal with this strange situation where their bodies are suddenly interchanged.

Oska finds he is still in love with Seul.  She is not easy to please and Oska must make major changes in himself before she thaws.  Oska has to grapple with his failing popularity and tries to claw back to the top slot.
Rock Star Oska
The plot uses several fairy tales to illuminate the story of the lead characters.  At one time, Gil Ra Im is Alice who has stumbled into the wonderland of Rich People's World.  At another time, she is the Little Mermaid who cannot fit into the life of the Prince.  Then she is Cinderella who gets to spend time with her Prince with the help of a Fairy Godmother (Oska).

The series are beautifully shot. The scenes are well arranged and directed.  The acting is superlative.  Ha Ji Won is a complete winner in each scene.  She is amazingly pretty and very expressive. Hyun Bin scores with his faultless portrayal of a Rich Boy puzzled by his feelings for a Poor Girl.

I was captivated by Oska's character.  He is childish and spoilt.  But he has a warm heart and is the only one to treat Gil Ra Im with such respect.

Lee Philip as Director Im, a boss too grim to propose to his protege, was as delicious as ever.  It would have been so simple, I felt, if Ra Im had fallen back in love with her Director.  They would have really got along well.

The series dragged majorly in the middle.  It was as if the couple would never fall in love and the story would not move a centimeter. I nearly gave it up then.  I was prevailed upon by my mother to stick with it and I am glad I did.  The story recovered its zing in the 14th episode and from then it was all fine.  There was a satisfactory explanation about why Kim Joo Won was so afraid of elevators. His past story was brought up and explained which added a lot of meat to the plot.  The starting episodes and the final ones are very lyrical and beautiful and take away the sting of the slightly draggy middle.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Boys Over Flowers - 2009

 Geum Jan-Di (Ky Hye Sun) is not very well off.  Her parents run a Dry Cleaning Store.  She helps them with deliveries.  She also works at a porridge shop and goes to an ordinary school.  

One fine day, she goes on her bicycle to deliver a dry cleaning to the famous Shinwa School where the creme de la creme of Seoul study.  She is amazed to learn that her client Lee Min Ha is on the verge of flinging himself off the roof of Shinwa School.  She tries to talk him out of jumping off the building.  When all else fails, she leaps up to grab him when he jumps.

This incident brings Geum Jan-Di instant fame.  She is plagued by paparazzi and featured in magazines and on television.  This puts pressure on the Chairman of Shinwa Group to reward her as the student's attempted suicide has been attracting bad press for School.  As a reward, Geum Jan-Di is awarded a scholarship to attend this top notch, pricey school.

Chairman, Shinwa Group
Before leaping, Lee had told her about the dreaded F4.  Any student who falls foul of this group has to suffer untold misery and often leave school.  After joining the school, Geum Jan-Di finds herself facing the F4.

Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho) is the leader of this dreaded group.  He is a scion of the famous Shinwa family.  He is the richest man in Korea. He is spoilt beyond words, selfish and completely insensitive to others.  
Gu Jun Pyo

Yoon Ji Ho (Kim Hyn Jung) is the second most influential member of the group.  He is artistically inclined, plays violin and is madly in love with Min Seo-hyun (Han Chae Young) a famous model and his childhood friend. 
Yoon Ji Ho
Min Seo Hun
So Yi-jung (Kim Bum) is a skilled potter and is extremely rich as well.  Song Woo-bin (Kim Joon) is the fourth member of the group.  His family owns a large construction company and has links with the mafia.

So Yi Jung and Soo Woo Bin

Geum Jan Di

Geum Jan-Di falls for Yoon Ji Ho initially.  She finds him sensitive and caring.  But he is deeply involved with his girlfriend so Geum Jan-Di draws back.  She values his friendship and he bails her out of several difficult situations and eventually falls in love with her.

Gu Jun Pyo

It is Gu Jun Pyo that Geum Jan-Di has her spats with.  His arrogance rubs her up the wrong way and she usually lashes out at him, unafraid of the repercussions.  During one such face-off, Gu Jun-Pyo decides that Jan-Di is particularly fiery with him because she is actually in love with him, deep down. 

This leads to a lot of mirth amongst his friends who egg him on because they enjoy watching these spats between Jun-Pyo and Jan-Di.  Gu Jun Pyo tries to make Geum Jan Di confess her love for him.  In the process, he falls for her.

Geum Jan Di confused by Jun Pyo's soft side
 Geum Jan Di is confused by the softer side of Gu Jun Pyo and is not certain if she can love him.  Gu Jun Pyo tries to integrate into her world by hanging out with her family and going on double dates with Geum Jan Di and her best friend Ga Eul (Kim So-Eun).  He even takes her off on a group holiday with Ga Eul and his friends. 

 One day Gu Jun Pyo waits for her despite bitter cold and snow.  This impresses Geum Jan Di and she begins to fall in love with him too.

 The path of their love is not easy.  Gu Jun Pyo's mother is an influential woman and can do anything to prevent her son from forming and undesirable alliance with an ordinary girl.

Most times the series see-saws between a rift between the two and then, at times, sweet and romantic encounters.

As time passes, Gu Jun Pyo finds himself changing for the woman he loves.  Geum Jan-Di also becomes mellower and begins to value Gu Jun Pyo for his constancy, his will to better himself, and his loyalty towards his friends.

Ga Eul
In a sweet little sub-plot, So Yi-Jung falls for Ga Eul and mends his playboy ways to win her over.

There are a lot of people who try to cause a rift between Gu Jun Pyo and Geum Jan Di.  Most notably, his family tries to fix his wedding with the daughter of another influential Korean business family.

Through all her trials and tribulations, Geum Jan-Di relies more and more on the advice and support of Yoon Ji Ho.  He falls in love with her, but stays in the sidelines, mindful of his friendship with Gu Jun Pyo. There are many times that he could have turned Geum Jan-Di from Gu Jun Pyo and towards himself.  But he plays a selfless lover and friend and always assists Jan-Di and Jun Pyo.

Yoon Ji Ho
The series has 24 episodes of one hour each.  It is very light hearted initially.  It becomes a little more serious later.  I found it a little tedious as the end neared.  But it picked up its pace again and chugged off to a good finale.

This is one of the most popular K-Dramas that contributed to a worldwide Halayu.  It popularised the term 'metrosexual' for men who groomed themselves meticulously.

Initially, I felt that the series seemed to promote a consumerist culture.  But soon, it settled down to promote good values like hard work, sensitivity towards fellow humans, love and friendship.

All the actors have put in great performances.  It is lavishly mounted and well produced.  Ky Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di totally owns the series.  She is cute and fiery and brings the lead character to life with her bravura acting.  This is the series that established Lee Min Ho as the leader of Halayu.  He became a rage and a heart-throb of countless fans across Asia.