Act Art Production, along with our ratings queen, Taew Nataporn, has graced our small screen again with Monday-Tuesday lakorn, Nakee – The Serpent Queen. This lakorn aired on September 26th but due to the mourning period, has released six episodes thus far. If the steady incline in ratings is any indication, this one is a hit with Thai viewers. It seems the combination of producer, director and actress has garnered those high ratings since their collaboration from Khun Chai Ratchanon of the Suparburoot Juthathep series. But Act Art has been known to consistently produce excellent lakorns in their small screen repertoire, and this one is no exception.
I’ve finally gotten the chance to give the first episode a go, right on Halloween, and I can’t say there’s a more appropriate day to begin. The CGI and even the real snake has me recoiling in fear, trying hard to look away but peering through my fingers anyway. If you have a fear of snakes, this one might send you running for the woods – actually you might want to run opposite of the woods since snakes are prevalent there – but it is a story about snakes and serpents, so you have been warned. The garden variety might not be as scary, but when you get a hold of the vision of an albino snake the size of a giant basket, you might start clutching your prayer beads.
Many villagers believe in Nakee, The Serpent Queen – especially the townsfolk of Baan Don Maai (Timber Village) which is located by the Mekong River. There is an ancient temple that honors Nakee, including a large statue in the shape of a giant serpent where people would visit and pray for their wellbeing and prosperity. This belief, this figure, and superstition is not to be messed with, otherwise wretched fate or worse, death, befallen you. We find out just how incredibly vicious this Serpent Queen can be.
19 years ago, pregnant Kamtong was praying to Nakee for a healthy baby, when she finds out her husband captured an albino snake and wants to sell it for profit. Kamtong tries to stop him, pleading that only death will befallen them based on the superstition. The albino snake represents the Nakee queen, and they cannot touch this sacred reptile. But husband who does not believe in this, or maybe he believes in the power of money over superstition, ends up selling this albino snake to a foreigner anyway. Husband has not been harmed by even touching snakes in the past because he was given a lucky ring from a monk which protects him from all harmful snakes, whether the live variety or the spiritually potent ones. Yet as he sells off the albino snake, his “friend” keeps the ring and we suddenly see that Mother Nature is very angry of this transaction. The cloud darkens, the wind gathers – then a giant serpent appears and kills everyone in sight, the “friend” who took possession of that lucky ring though gets to live and tell the tale. Kamtong happens to give birth to her daughter by the foot of the temple at that same time, and we see the giant serpent slithering right up to the newborn.
Fast forward 19 years, Kam Kaew (Taew Nataporn) grows up to be a fierce, capable and beautiful woman. But the villagers think her strange and treat her like an outcast. Kam Kaew minds her own business and lives with her mother at the far end of town, in seclusion. The resident village bully likes to pick on her but could never get the upper hand because Kam Kaew gives as good as she gets. This probably upsets her to no end, but what the whole village finds even stranger about Kam Kaew is that she can communicate with snakes ever since she was born. They labeled her as a freak and Kam Kaew’s only buddies are snakes. It’s really quite sad.
The tone of this lakorn has a stark, sad tone to it. We see Kam Kaew alone with her mother most of the time, and their home is shot in the dark, with lingering candle light. She has no friends and go about her day selling vegetables, tending to her farm and raising snakes.
But things start to lighten up upon the introduction of Thotsaphon (Ken Phupoom) who is a last year archaeology student in the city. He’s always been fascinated by Cambodia’s art and has been frequently visited by a goddess in his dreams. He then starts getting visions of her everywhere. During one of his classes, the main focus is on Nakee and its history. The professor propose they go on a field trip and research more about the Nakee temple in Baan Don Maai.
Unfortunately they are not aware that the village is preparing for some sort of historical event. In 22 days, the Serpent Queen may wreak havoc like she did 19 years ago, so they are to have a blessing ceremony and provide offerings at the temple. The village folk dislikes visitors, especially city folk, and vows they will do everything necessary to protect their village and the temple from these intruders. Thus, the day that the bus of city folk arrive (Phon and his classmates), the town chief sends them packing.
The night is upon them and the group finds a secluded home at the far end of town where they ask to spend the night. It’s Kamtong’s home and she could not turn away people in need, but she does warn them that the village is getting ready to honor the Nakee, so they best be on their way first thing in the morning. By allowing these city folk to take shelter, Kamtong is already making enemies with the Chief.
At any rate, the next morning, the group goes to the temple to do their research, and that’s where Phon finally meets Kam Kaew. He was already fascinated by the woman in his dreams, but when he sees the same face in the flesh and blood, it makes him question whether she’s real (or if he’s seeing things). Kam Kaew finds this stranger, well strange, and he keeps following her around like a puppy (he certainly looks as cute as one). Phon is convinced he has met her before, and it doesn’t matter when, but he’s now smitten and wants to continue seeing her. Though this poses a problem because the Chief’s son has also staked his claim on Kam Kaew, while one of his female classmates has staked her claim on Phon. Not to mention, the village bully has also been struck by his handsomeness. Thus, a catfight ensues (or more like chicken fight) and Phon even exchange blows with the Chief’s son.
The city folk just reminds me of rude tourists, they go to an unfamiliar place and just doesn’t respect the people and their cultures. Granted, the village folk do not own the temple and does not have a say legally who can and cannot pay a visit, but like Kam Kaew mentions, the law does not bode well in this town, as the most powerful always wins.
What I find interesting about this lakorn introduction is that we don’t know everything from the first episode, there’s so much to learn about Kam Kaew – and even things she doesn’t quite know herself. This makes me curious and want to get to know Kam Kaew as a character – what are her interests? What does she want to be? She has no friends and she’s always so alone, does she want more than just befriending snakes and going about her daily routine? She told her mom that the temple feels most familiar to her, it’s like home, and she could live in it. Thus every time she gets hurt or sick, all she has to do is go to the temple and she is healed. Based on what we’ve been given so far, we see apparitions of the Goddess and the albino snake, and I start to wonder, are these all forms that Kam Kaew is able to take? She seems dazed when she wakes up, not sure what has happened or how she got there.
I’ve finally succumbed to reading the synopsis just to acquaint myself with the story more, and to essentially find out the plot and where we’re getting at. The story feels very rich. From birth, Kam Kaew is possessed by the albino snake, and without her even knowing, she can take on three forms. The human form, the goddess form (the divine entity that Phon sees) and the albino snake. I’m not sure how all of these three entities will come together, clash against each other, or merely seek out their own will through Kam Kaew. The goddess form she takes is actually a woman that has been dated back thousands of years before. She has been looking for her beloved, the man that looks like Phon, and is determined to do anything to get him back. So it’s really important that Kam Kaew finds herself and what she truly wants.
Meanwhile Phon feels like the good ole puppy to me. I like that his passion is in archaeology and learning about old things, which brings him to her. But there’s another side to him that’s looking for love. His dad doesn’t give him the time of day, he’ll go missing for a month or go on excursions and all his dad could say is that he’s busy. It’s no wonder he finds love and warmth from the goddess who visits his dreams. It’s no wonder he seeks wonder and love from old artifacts, and art dating back to Angkor Wat era. I do hope that he’ll eventually fall in love with Kam Kaew not only because she looks exactly like that goddess. I hope that the two will form a bond, learn from each other, and make each other better because of their real self, not merely because of a bond that dates back lifetimes ago.
The ratings are climbing as the episodes and story progresses, so that’s saying something. I did feel that the first episode is a little slow as we establish the world Kam Kaew lives in, or maybe I’m just excited to see all facets of her and hope we can get there sooner. So let’s get to it. You’ll dig this one if you’re a fan of Taew, Ken Phupoom, and a pretty fascinating story, just be prepared to get goosebumps. And there’s no better production team out there that can give you goosebumps and a good story like Act Art.