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The title of this lakorn speaks to what it means to be a “model” wife in historical, olden context. Back then not only is a model wife educated and skilled in the world of home making, but she must be loyal and tend to her husband’s every wants and needs. She’s the epitome of a lady on the street and a freak in bed. Initially, I was turned off by the perception of the storyline, do I really need to see another story surrounding domestic stereotypes? Is the heroine going to be bullied because she’s expected to behave in a docile, non confrontational manner? Lo and behold, this story is NOT about that. In fact, toss those impressions out the window.

Instead, Padiwarada is about a strong woman who makes the best and most of the situation life throws her way. Rin (Bella Ranee) was orphaned at birth, left for abandonment by a rich person’s property. Luckily, those rich people took her under their wing, and although she was not adopted to be another daughter (and she performs all housekeeping duties, servant like if you will) she is embraced as one of their own. Rin was trained from the best and was offered education rare to women in that time. Despite her status, she is as good, if not better than the hi-so ladies. She is kind but stands up for what she believes in. Beautiful but strong. She aptly compares herself to a jasmine flower, easy to grow (easy going), doesn’t draw attention (people may pass by the street without even noticing). But what she doesn’t point out is that jasmine also symbolizes sweetness and elegance, a flower that releases an addicting, powerful fragrance. Beautiful, but serves a healing purpose too.

One does not come to appreciate it, but the trace of its scent follows you. Certainly Saran (James Jirayu), our gun slinging Ballad, can attest to that. Our hero has also encountered some tragedy in his life, Saran finds himself- at around high school age- going from riches to rags. His wealthy father fell prey to bad business decisions and lost all of his wealth. Distraught he ends up killing himself, leaving Saran and his mother destitute. Much like Rin, Saran makes lemon out of lemonade. Things got real, fast. He was sent to live in the pagoda for schooling and lived a life of a poor temple boy. But his hardworking, and natural talents land him in government work, where he vows to be an honest Ballad who look after the people. But he also has to make a living too. Saran has a devil may care attitude about his life, he simply puts his life on the line to catch bad guys, but so that he can earn the reward money too. Mainly so he could buy a ring and propose to the love of his life, his best friend and lover, Duangsawat (Mint Natwara).

Little did he know, (well maybe deep down this only confirmed his self realization thoughts), Duang was arranged to be married to a richer, titled gentlemen, and she intends on following through with her parent’s wishes. This came out of left field for Saran, this is the woman he intends on spending the rest of his life with. Heartbroken, Saran decides to take on the biggest bad in a far away province. Unable to witness her son’s depression, mom decides to bring in the big guns- redeeming a betrothal promise from his father’s best friend. Apparently one of his father’s buddies promised his daughter to Saran. (This is a normal practice.) Mom never intends on actually seeking out the promise, since Saran already had a girlfriend, but she believes that the only way to get over somebody, is to get under somebody.. wise woman.

Turns out, Saran’s father’s best buddy is Rin’s employer/hero/surrogate father. He has two daughters, both of marrying age. But he’s a warm and loving man, although he intends on honoring his vow to his bestie, he still considered his daughter’s feelings. It’s not something that is forced, but the respect and love for their father would entail any one of his daughters to willingly comply. Mom, Rin’s heroine, is distraught over this arrange marriage and the possibility of sending either one of her beloved daughters to a man they know nothing about. Rin feels at a loss on how to help, but feels badly for everyone involved. She wishes she could help, at least find a way to repay her surrogate-like parents for her gratitude.

You guessed it. Rin agrees to the arranged marriage with Saran. She figures it’s the best way to repay them, and besides her “mom” was arranged to be married to her “dad” and they sure ended up well, what’s the worse that could happen? Dad already did some research on Saran and doesn’t have reservations on what type of a man the younger man turned out to be. He feels rest assured that he can send any one of his daughters, including Rin. The caveat, or deceptive part is that in order to make it seem like Rin is actually his daughter, she needed to change her name and surname to the oddest daughter’s name, and no one must know of her upbringing.

It is agreed that Rin would travel to the rural province and live in the same house with Saran (his mom as chaperone) a month before the wedding. Lots can happen in a month’s time. Saran didn’t actually think that the older man would honor his promise, who in their right mind would send their daughter to live in a dangerous province and with a poor Ballad? He was wrong, but it doesn’t mean he has to like it. Their first impression was not to Rin’s expectation, heck she didn’t know what to expect, but certainly not this. Not only did the man forget to pick her up at the train station, when she first met him, he had a gun pointing at her face. He suspects that she’s lying to him, because just a few months earlier, his best friend had pointed him out to the eldest daughter with the same name as Rin, but she’s actually a different person. He knew immediately that he was being duped. Feeling insulted and correct in his original assumption that they would never send their daughter to him.

Rin couldn’t help looking guilty at him, it’s as if she’s conning him. But she is still determined to make the best of it and hold her end of the bargain with her “parents.”

For the first time, in a long time, we have characters who are lovable, in line with their characters and they totally do things that actually make sense. Imagine that! Rin is kind, respectful, but not a pushover. When she notices that her future husband keeps slighting her, she gets to the bottom of it. As if she can read him, in the middle of his unkind rebuttal, she throws a comment that takes the wind out of his sail. She surmised that he is less than thrilled about their marriage because of another woman. He is still in love with her and vows he would never give his heart to someone else. This gives Rin at least a measure of understanding for her future husband. He wasn’t being nasty because he’s a jerk, but he’s just heartbroken. She figures her future will not include love- although her mother in law truly believes that a broken hearted soul requires the most love, and at its weakest state, is the most susceptible to love. She believes that Rin’s daily actions: cooking meals with love, gardening with love, weaving yarn with love, will circle Saran with so much love, he could not resist. Her daughter in law made the house a home.

That is one of the strongest case that this show is trying to make. And it’s an argument that even though some people may not agree with, the show does such an excellent job proving it that one simply cannot deny that it works for this case, this couple, and this period. This story is written with an end goal, with meaning. The events and the conversations that occur truly felt thought out. More so than the thoughtful story, the characters are so well written, they’re three dimensional, conflicted and developed. My favorite part is following our main character’s relationship, this lakorn is romance centric (while other Lakorns can be focused on family drama, action or comedy), Padiwarada is a story about an arranged marriage that can possibly work but will be challenged by outside factors, until our main duo start to realize how they feel about each other. Saran is a stubborn man, but a hurt man who starts to see the colors, smell the fragrances, and hear the birds again now that Rin has entered his life. But things are getting complicated because his ex girlfriend has resurfaced and wants to get back with him (her marriage didn’t turn out the way she expected, her husband lied about his financial situation), which causes Saran to question the way he feels and who he truly wants to be with now. Like his mom questioned, which type of woman do you love, and which type do you want in your life? Now that’s a real question that is so relatable.

Meanwhile, Rin truly believed Saran when he said he could never love another woman. But she has to stay married and do her best. I love that Saran can ruffle her feathers and make her do things she wouldn’t normally do, like lose her temper, make her feel jealous, and most of all, make her feel the heart flutter. I love that the two can relate with each other in some experiences (like being abandoned) and are so compatible that under normal circumstances, could easily have a happily married life. But in lakorn world, that happily ever after has to be earned. Otherwise, what’s the meaning of watching Lakorns anyway? The overall story about catching the big bad and doing right by the people is also interesting.

Acting wise, both Bella and James own their characters. I love both together and individually, whether they’re defending themselves against others or against each other. Each scenes are addicting and propels the story forward, making me eager to find out what’s going to happen next. The characters also manage to surprise me and go against so much of the typical lakorn tropes. Misunderstandings are quickly resolved (if there are any at all), the verbal banter is like watching a tennis match, and even the antagonists are relatable and being totally human. I love this story world, but I am also left not feeling too comfortable with what can happen next. Your guess is as good as mine, I’m just asking that our duo earn the right to be happy together, forever.

This lakorn will suck you in, fast forward button need not apply. Let’s see how this love story between two strangers who are arranged to be married unfolds, just know that this lakorn’s take will be refreshing, challenging, and totally addicting. Padiwarada, the model wife, will win her husband over with her homemaker skills, her excellent communication skills, her no nonsense attitude, but most of all, her ability to heal and awaken his broken heart. Just like a jasmine plant that is beautiful with healing qualities.

Last but not least, forgive me if I left out the obviously most important part, Bella and James are wonderful together. They make such a great pair, and with the storyline and characters, there’s nothing else left to do but to tune in.

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Padiwarada airs on Primetime Channel 3, Weds & Thurs. Pic cred to owners.

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