Written by Greta

Hello everyone! I am here again. First I would like to thank P’Fia for allowing me to guest write at her wonderful lakorn blog. I hope I don’t bore you guys with my lecture series, though as Humbledaisy said, perhaps it’s better to call it “coffee talk”. Hope you guys do chime in and share your thoughts. I’m sure P’Fia would love that too, very much.

Anyway, hope you have your coffee ready as you might need to stay alert with this academic part.

So what is a Kollabot? As I mentioned in the 30 Min Lecture, the English subbing team of NDFD had a hard time looking for the right translation. To my understanding, the Kollabot is already a complicated matter, even to Thai people as it is. It is so unique to their culture that there is no other word equivalent for it in English. In any case, I was told that the Kollabot is a form of poetry that was used by nobles for leisure, and sometimes also used by soldiers for their battle strategies. It is akin to a riddle, though it is more of a play with words where sounds and letters are kind of jumbled or altered, depending on the style used.

(With that top-bun of hers, Mangmao looks just about like the Kollabot Kung-Fu Master.)

Of course, to the viewers of the lakorn, especially those who do not speak Thai, Taew as Mangmao just appears to be showing her excellence in effortlessly delivering tongue-twisters. It is a skill that is greatly admired by the cast, especially by James – who, in the reverse was teased for having failed to deliver a single line, requiring several takes before he got it right (more of that later.) For those who have watched the lakorn, the Kollabot scenes often involve weird titles such as “Frogs dancing in lotus pond” or “Snake eating its own tail”, as though they were some martial arts move. Perhaps it is akin to that, as it makes the brain do some mental acrobatics. Yet in simpler terms, it is a metaphor of the basic conflict of the story, that is: Things are not what they seem. Like the Kollabot, the characters in this story have at least two sides to them: one that is readily perceptible, and the other is the hidden side that would take some prodding and shaking up in order to be revealed.

(Tiger Khunthong. The first hero of the Lakorn appears more like a bandit than a Knight in Shining Armor – still, he’s nothing less of a hero.)

Take Khunthong for example. The Inwa perceive him to be invulnerable due to black magic, yet it is shown that his power stems from the solemn prayers of a young monk. But most importantly, Khunthong realizes too late that someone from their ranks betrayed them, and it is his sad fate to die not just because of fighting the enemy, but also because a supposed ally sent him to die.

(He is his father’s son. Khanthong surely got his father, Khuntong’s good …locks?)

Ayutthaya later on survives the battle with the Inwa, but it cannot be called a victory per se. The King of Inwa unexpectedly dies and the troops move back to regroup. Yet Khunthong’s death at the hands of a traitor from Ayutthaya hints at the rust corroding the Kingdom at its core. Hence, the battle isn’t over, in fact, it’s only just beginning as our hero, Khanthong, leaves monkhood in order to get to the root of things.

It is at this stage that we meet (for the first and last time) the REAL Aok Luang Khanthin.

(Here we see these two unfortunate eunuchs in one frame, one dies so Khanthong can get his name, the other dies and Khanthong ends up getting his title.)

Khanthin is a foreign eunuch from Turkey, who right off the bat demands that he be promoted as Chief Eunuch, much to the chagrin of Aok Phra Ratchakan. Khanthin argues that Ratchakan is old and outdated, and he is more suitable for the job, his foreign origin notwithstanding. This results in an argument later on, which leads to Khanthin’s “accidental” demise. While Aok Phra Ratchakan seems remorseful for what happened, he nevertheless appears to calm down when he realizes that his position as chief eunuch remains secure and Khanthong and company have provided him with a temporary solution to this problem. But like Khunthong’s death, the very character of Aok Phra Ratchakan likewise shows some form of deterioration in Ayutthaya’s royal court. The Chief Eunuch is old and frail, racked with incessant coughing that can either be brought about by the weakness of his body, or the weakness of his spirit. As a Chief Eunuch, he is expected to be completely loyal to his liege, and to live his life solely for the good of his masters as there was no reason for him to leave any legacy, with his ability to produce progeny being totally stripped off of him (or cut off, as Mangmao casually puts it). Yet, he too is a traitor as he accepted bribes from Khanthong and Co. He staunchly upholds tradition, and yet he also stubbornly holds on to power while he continues to weaken as the threat of his secret getting revealed weighs him down.

Aok Phra Ratchakan’s paranoia only gets worse as the next charade comes into play – Khantong and his friend Nan take the place of the dead eunuchs from Turkey and, with their manhood intact, forges on with their mission.

(Khanthong and Nan most likely signed up for a suicide mission, expecting some fierce battles. While indeed, their life in the palace is about being “fierce”, it surely wasn’t the battle that they were expecting.)

The royal concubines often “exchange gifts” not for the sake of getting to each other’s good sides, but instead as way to establish who is the queen bee. Pitted between factions are the eunuchs who seem to be raring for a bitch fight themselves. Yet their exchanges appear like a delicate glass surface: calm, but threatening to break any minute.

(Jaojom Phen embodies the idiom, “beauty is only skin-deep”)

Of course, while we’re on the topic of superficiality, we definitely can’t miss the B*tch in princess’s clothing of the lakorn, Jaojom Phen. She aspires to be the top concubine in the harem, yet as the story progresses, the audience will discover she wants so much more. She utters, “A firefly should not dare to compete with the moonlight” – referring to her enemies, yet little does she know how poetic justice will work its way to prove her right, except in the end, SHE will be the firefly with the light dying out.

But there’s another secret behind Jaojom Phen’s character. For all her beauty and elegance, she is actually quite insecure. She heavily relies upon an evil monk, a witch doctor if you will – one who concocts magic potions to supposedly unlock spells at Jaojom Phen’s disposal.

(The scammer is scammed. I guess there really is justice in the world, after all.)

Unfortunately for us, there is an even worse character than Jaojom Phen. Everybody, meet Than Jao Khun Phollathep. Does his name ring a bell? At the very beginning of the episode, we hear Khunthong the Thief utter his name, advising everyone to go to his camp for protection. Now why is he suddenly presented in a negative light?

(It is rumored that Phollathep’s character is so bad, with no redeeming values that the actor hesitated to play this role at first.)

Phollathep is shown to be in cahoots with Jaojom Phen, and towards the end of episode 1, he is shown chasing after another nobleman. Finally, we see hints of who may have caused Khunthong’s death and who must be the target of Khanthong and Nan’s investigation.

Love can be like a Kollabot too

You guys still there? I know it’s hard to talk about the bad guys, so let’s move on to brighter things. Nueng Dao Fah Diew (“One Land, One Sky”) may be a political lakorn, but it’s a lakorn nonetheless so it wouldn’t be complete without a love story. Love can be a Kollabot too, and the whole point of having at least 10 episodes in a lakorn is to move from the confusion and mystery in episode 1 towards the happy ending. The more convoluted things are in episode 1, the more time we’ll need to reach the end goal.

But the journey isn’t about the love story between Mangmao and Khanthong only; there are several more love stories that are tackled in the show.

(When the Pra’ek is pretending to be a eunuch for most of the show, you need help from a swoony manly man, like this fine specimen over here, Aokya Wang)

Here we have our resident jock, the head of Palace Security himself, Than Jao Khun Khamhaeng otherwise known as Aokya Wang. He’s so hot that the girls and the eunuchs (well, at least Khun Rakthewa does) love him.

To be perfectly honest, Khun Rakthewa’s flirting technique may seem so old skool now, but it might have been really ahead of its time, if you think about it.)

Aokya Wang likewise serves as a love rival for Khanthong … or is it Mangmao? Well, the story seems to play with that as it progresses, but what’s unique about Aokya Wang is that he’s probably the straightest character (pun intended) in the show. He is the only one shown with no ulterior motives, nothing to hide at all. It’s most likely a reflection of his occupation – being THE knight in shining armor of the palace. He fights fair and square, out in the open. Beside the corrupt officers in the palace, he shines like a beacon of hope. Too bad he easily gets flustered in the love department, despite being a self-proclaimed “lovemaking guru” by the last episode (more of that later!) The whole dynamic between and among Mangmao, Khanthong and Aokya Wang is one of the cutest highlights of the show.

Imagine this: With Khanthin being a eunuch, the straight Aokya Wang is left confused whether Aok Pra Sri Khanthin is a love rival or a spurned lover. With Mangmao thinking Khanthin is a eunuch, she wonders whether Khanthin likes her or if he likes Aokya Wang more. Of course, poor Khanthong who knows everything wants to break up Aokya Wang and Mangmao, but he does it awkwardly by inadvertently flirting with Aokya Wang. The way they fluster each other and draw out jealous moments from each other make their interactions lakorn gold.

(Beside the straight Aokya Wang, we have Mangmao’s older brother, Muang, the greatest player in the Nueng Dao Fah Diew Universe.)

Juxtaposed with the cute and innocent love triangle among Khanthin, Aokya Wang and Mangmao is another love triangle. The earlier love triangle’s dynamic was brought about by Khanthin’s supposed lack of testosterone. In this love triangle, it’s the opposite. Muang is married to Inn, but they couldn’t consummate their marriage because of the ghost of Inn’s elder sister (who was supposed to marry Muang in the first place, had she not died), who haunts them every time they get down and cozy. What’s a man with raging testosterone left to do? Go to the brothel of course – and that is where he meets Soon, the harlot with a heart of gold. Muang grows fond of Soon and goes to her not just to quell his physical desires, but likewise to treat her like his wife, instead of patching things up with Inn.

Yet there is more to the characters of both Soon and Inn that gets revealed in the lakorn as it progresses. In the final analysis, Muang is actually a “straight” character too, like Aokya Wang, except that while Aokya Wang has “straight principles” but confused with love, Muang loves straightly, though his polygamy makes his principles skewed. Muang’s greatest virtue and greatest flaw are dabbling into two loves at once, without actually realizing how he had caused pain to both women. To be fair to Muang, he stays honest to both, and shows his sincerity to both – that Inn and Soon end up loving him in their own self-sacrificial (and sometimes stupid) way.

So now we go to our main guy, the one with straight principles and pure heart, Khanthong.

(Love? He doesn’t have a clue, at least not yet, as we’re just in Episode 1)

The author of Nueng Dao Fah Diew is said to have loved James’s portrayal of Khun Chai Puttipat (of the Suparburoot Jutathep Series) and became his fan from then on. Watching Khanthin and Mangmao’s first few interactions in episode 1, you can easily see James bringing back the condescending Puttipat glares.

(See that? If that glare won’t turn you into a proper lady, I don’t know what will.)

Khanthong was a monk while Chai Pat is a nerd – both of them are knowledgeable about proper decorum but ignorant with the ways of the world. They know right from wrong as if their whole world is painted black and white. But what are they to do when a splash of color comes exploding their way?

(Mangmao must have been shooting rainbow colored lasers from her eyes with that smirk.)

Mangmao knows what’s right and wrong too, and decides to put Khanthin in his proper place from their very first meeting. She hates how Khanthin was hogging the store (as he bought supplies for the ladies of the palace), and she was not afraid of backing down, not one bit. She’s always ready for a fight, though as a woman in those times, it was improper for her to do so. Yet instead of having a big fight when they first meet (as what probably would have happened if this were a modern lakorn – Game Sanaeha, anyone?) these two actually subdued each other – Mangmao by reminding Khanthin not to go power tripping, and Khanthin by talking to Mangmao calmly and properly, like an adult. While the explosive fight didn’t happen in the first round, they both had to go for round 2 immediately after.

Khanthin wanted to be noble about it and offered Mangmao some token gifts in order to put the past behind them and make him earn her respect and admiration. Instead, Mangmao takes this as a chance to get even by nonchalantly picking an item, letting him know that she isn’t like the frivolous ladies of the Palace and he can’t win her over with gifts.

(They were rivals throughout the episode. I was actually waiting for James Ji to say “jong hong” though I don’t know if there’s a Boran word equivalent for it.)

The logical Khanthin continuously notes her lack of manners while the upright Mangmao picks on his lack of sense. Of course, the audience know that they are not lacking in both, but it’s still fun to see them butt-heads about it. They are equally matched, and likewise perfectly matched as we can see from the first meeting. They can enrage each other, subdue each other, and even win against each other.

(Both of them can’t stand to lose, and it’s always interesting to find out who gets the final word. Did you keep a scorecard for episode 1?)

Perhaps the final metaphor in episode 1 is that the Mysterious Khanthin is a Kollabot, and the Curious Mangmao is up and ready to solve him. In their few scenes together in Episode 1, she already drew some emotions from him and made him act as Khanthong, not just his alter ego, Khanthin. Later on, we will see her unravel him completely.

Well, if you’re reading this, then congratulations! You made it through the end of the Episode 1 coffee talk! There are still some matters to discuss in Episode 1, but I guess we will have to discuss that with more events that unfold in Episode 2. Finally, we’ll get to see the actual Kollabot in episode 2. Are you guys ready to read about it? Well then, please stay tuned for the next coffee talk. Thanks for reading!