I have a confession to make. I am addicted to Korean movies. So are thousands in Mizoram, Manipur. Well basically the whole of Northeast India. I have heard it is more so in countries like Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Philippines, etc.
It has been some time now since I watched my first Korean movie – it was My Sassy Girl. (Incidentally, My Sassy Girl was the most popular and exportable Korean film in the history Korean film industry according to Wikipedia. So popular that it outsold The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter which ran at the same time. It sold 4,852,845 tickets!) That was around two years ago. By now I have watched scores of them – Windstruck, Sex is Zero (Korean version of American Pie?), My Wife is a Gangster 1, 2 & 3, The Classic, Daisy, A Moment to Remember, Joint Security Area, My Little Bride, A Dirty Carnival, You are my Sunshine, Silmido, etc to name but a few!
I am completely totally hooked!
When a friend first invited me to watch My Sassy Girl I was frankly not sure if I would enjoy it. But the spunky, don’t-care-a-damn-tomboy heroine in that movie made me fall in love with Korean movies (and soaps even!). It is not particularly surprising to me that I fell in love with Korean movies considering the fact that I love French movies. Korean movies have the same treatment of their subjects like that of French movies. I regularly watch TV5 French movies and Arirang TV whenever my cableguy allows me! Of course different genre of movies give you a different perspective on Korean movies. I think comedy is where Korean movies are the best.
Now the Korean movies and soaps, as I have said, are very popular in the Northeastern states of India. Even in New Delhi there is a video library or two where you can get Korean movies. You can be sure I am a regular! In a more serious note, the question is why…why do the northeasterners love Korean movies?? Even after decades of Hindustanization with Bollywood, Hindi lessons and Indian politics are we somewhat longing for HOME!
It is really good to see one of your own (read chinkies?) on the screen after so many decades of it being filled by the Amitabhs and the Khans and the Roshans of Bollywood. Korean dramas are like a breath of fresh air after so much stale Bollywood movies which I seldom watch except for Ram Gopal Verma movies. The intricate plots of twists and turns and much more urbane emotions are what attracted me to Korean and French movies. Maybe, just may be, race does have a role here. Being racially similar, our habits and cultural nuances are so similar! Their body language and facial expressions are so similar to our expressions. The rather alien Punjabi or Bihari nuances of Bollywood deters me from so many good movies!
Korean movies are also technically superior to Bollywood movies and can even compete with Hollywood movies. Awards and recognition even in the Cannes Film Festival are becoming a yearly occurance for the Korean film industry. In fact Hollywood biggies Dreamworks has paid $2 million (US) for a remake of the 2003 suspense thriller Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters) compare that to $1 million (US) paid for the right to remake the Japanese movie The Ring.
It is true that we, Northeasterners, love everything that is new to our culture unlike our mainland Indians. We actually welcome change and changed we are to an extent. We effortlessly copy the western style of dressing jeans, T-shirts and et al. That may be another reason for our recent addiction with Korean movies. But somehow I doubt that it is a passing thing like teenage love affair. It has got cultural affinity overtones written all over it. Bollywood will have to counter this onslaught of Korean movies with more Chak De characters! It has already lost much audience to Korean film industry.
A couple of weeks back while having a chit-chat about our lives in New Delhi – the awkward stares, the down right patronising calling of names and the abuses in workplaces – with a friend of mine he remarked,”Are we in the wrong country?”. “Will you be happy if you are treated like a guest in your own country?” asks one of the two Northeast characters in Chak De India. As for me it is bearable with the help of movies like My Sassy Girl and the like from our kin Korean film industry. Laugh your heart out and forget the troubles of this country until, of course, Chak De India has bigger roles for Northeasterners!
Carey Suante is a blogger who blogs at Zo Aw (http://www.zoaw.blogspot.com) about everything that interests him!