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Asa: The “Unfavorite” Third Child

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Like a ray of sunshine, Asa is ready to capture hearts, with his bright eyes and even brighter smile.

Hello everyone! I hope that everyone is healthy and staying sane. Many of us are facing difficulties due to the Covid-19 situation, and I figured that this is the best time for all of us to have a long relaxing walk in a lavender field so here we are with Asa Lavender, as the Thai audience have called him since watching the Lakorn. “Walking in a Lavender Field” is an expression in Thai that means having a relaxing time, and indeed, there is nothing more calming and joyful than watching Asa, brought to life by no other than James Jirayu, on screen.

There was some hullabaloo when James was cast for this role in Krong Karm (internationally released as “Repercussion”) as he was said to be a “minor” character opposite his original koojin, Bella Ranee. However, as explained by James himself, there are no pra’eks or nang’eks in Krong Karm, only characters who each play a vital role in the story. Although he is second billed to Bella (and indeed, Asa supports not just Renu but also his mother, Yoi, in the story) Asa became a highlight of the lakorn due to many aspects. You might call me biased (and admittedly, I am) for saying that it is precisely James’s portrayal of Asa that makes him special, but as I mentioned before in the earlier Espresso Coffee talk for Krong Karm, Asa serves as the white rice of this lakorn – the unassuming gentle character who stays positive all throughout the lakorn. It is because of Asa that we are able to stick to different fiery flavors with all the drama and catfights as he keeps us grounded and wanting to gobble up the whole story more. Is Asa actually the main character of the lakorn? After having watched it (multiple times) I would still say no, he is not. There is truth to him being a support character, however, James Jirayu gives a stellar performance as Asa that it would be impossible not to miss him, or even feel deeply endeared to him despite him not being in more than half of the scenes in the lakorn. That being said, I think that James’s portrayal of Asa is also quite exemplary that despite his modest role, he deserves to win in the 11th Nataraj Awards for his performance. Congratulations to him and the rest of the crew!

So, let’s get immersed into his character, shall we? The Bae brothers’ first scenes are often indicative of their character, as well as their main virtues. For instance, Achai was introduced as a soldier in a sleazy night club in Takhli and as a companion to Renu. Easily, it shows that he has his own mind and is willing to go against convention (and against his mother). Asee is the same, shown as a college boy, flirting with Wanna (who, incidentally, is Renu’s sister) and living a carefree life with his guitar on tow. Atong on the other hand is shown in a more virtuous light, as he is first shown as a monk, carrying out his filial duty for his mother, and even lecturing her a little before finally staying quiet and following her bidding.

Asa, although he flashes a bright smile upon unveiling his face, is shown in the family’s rice mill where the brunt of the manual labor is done. Indeed, Asa is the son who is relegated with the mundane chores but at the same time, the most trained in the family’s trade. Though he is cheerful and seemingly content with his life, he is actually the one who has the least freedom of all the brothers, and this can be symbolized by the thin cloth in his head in his first scene – the cloth that binds him actually protects and prevents him from inhaling the dust in the rice mill (which, might have caused Tia’s lung cancer later on…) in the same way that his filial piety restrains him, but at the same time gives him life – and indeed, even with that wrapped around his head, our boy Asa is still all smiles.

Another indication of the Bae Brothers’ status in life is their first scenes with their mother, Yoi. From left to right, Yoi expresses joy in seeing Achai, goes to Atong  to ask for help with her problem, scolds Asa and wants to do away with him quickly as she has other things to do and typical motherly “critique” for her youngest Asee.

Yoi’s initial reaction to her children, is another good point of comparison. Granted, Yoi was already pissed with Achai when she goes to see Asa and Atong, and also, she just got kicked in the train and is nursing a back injury when she sees Asee. But easily, you already have a sense of how Yoi sees and feels about her sons by their first scenes alone. Achai is the beloved one, whose indiscretion leads to Yoi’s utter heartbreak. Atong is the one who his mother only thinks of when there is a problem, but knows that he is the most reliable. Asee is the favorite who Yoi knows is lazy and hasn’t fully grown up yet so he is treated as a child, but given the leeway that he needs – and then there’s Asa who already receives the brunt of Yoi’s irritation the moment they see each other. Unlike the 3 other brothers however, it is Asa who whines at his mother, and has the courage to actually tell her that she’s overreacting. Familiarity breeds contempt – but not entirely so between Asa and Yoi, as we see their mother-son relationship blossom throughout the Lakorn.

The favorite versus the unfavorite child. Isn’t that the cutest eyeroll?

So why the title, the “unfavorite” child? Just in the same way that Achai’s first sequence is juxtaposed with Atong’s, Asa’s scene can actually be juxtaposed with Asee’s. Both Asa and Asee are shown as more carefree and less formal with their mother, with Asee being the baby and easily sucking up to Yoi. Although Yoi has none of Asee’s shenanigans, she nevertheless spoils him and gives him what he wants. Asa on the other hand has to work hard and rarely asks for anything from his mother. He isn’t spiteful for his lot, however, and instead, takes it as it is.

Though he may not be the cutest son in Yoi’s eyes, Asa is the joker among the lot. That he can joke around with the strict and disciplinarian Yoi means that he has some level of closeness to his mother, despite not being the favorite.

Despite being the least favorite child, Asa refers to himself as “noo” when talking to his mother. In Thai Language, it is not uncommon for people to refer to themselves in third person. However, the word “noo” is more commonly used by children, especially girls, to refer to themselves when talking to their parents to sound more endearing. Though I do not know the nitty gritty of the language, the word “noo” could also mean little mouse, so it is akin to telling your mother that hey, I’m just a teeny tiny mouse mom, I am at your disposal!  Or maybe it had also been Asa giving Yoi the power of suggestion? Knowing he was the least loved, he had to make ways to make himself more endearing to his iron-lady mother.

Indeed, while Yoi isn’t exactly a sweet doting mother, she keeps Asa close as her helper, or perhaps, it’s more accurate to call him their intern in running the family business. He is content with being their errand boy as staying with them ultimately makes him their little baby boy forever, thus making him worthy of his title “noo”.

When I first watched the show, I asked, why is Asee the one in college, and not Asa? Asa is older and normally, would have been the one given the opportunity to study, and yet it is Asee, who Yoi herself claims is lazy and prefers to have fun, who is given the opportunity to have a college education. Achai and Atong were born at a point when the family was still struggling to grow their finances so the two had to work hard to help out the family, instead of continuing their studies. Asee was presumably born when the family was already able to finance his college education. So, what of Asa? At the beginning of the story, Achai and Atong were away, doing their civic and filial duties, – thus leaving the family short of two members to help in the business. It was thus Asa’s task to pick up where his older brothers left off, so the youngest one can be free to leave Chumsaeng and do something more with his life. After all, being older than Asee, Asa would have already known the ropes of the business better, so instead of training Asee, Ma and Pa decided to let college professors teach him another trade instead. Yet that is the tragedy of Asa’s situation. Even when he is the “intern”, it was clear from the start that he was never meant to inherit the family business (as it was already set aside for Achai, and eventually bestowed upon Atong) and he didn’t have the means to start another career (“trading is the only thing he knows”- says Yoi of Asa). Had the whole story not happened, Asa would have been left working for his brothers or building a trading empire of his own. Looking at the glass half full, while the three other brothers have tangible assets set aside for them, like the family home (where the store is), the family business  or a college education (with a house at Pak Nam Pho to boot), Asa is groomed to have the most experience in the family trade, a valuable asset in its own right.

Ultimately, by the beginning of the story, it’s only Asa who has never left the family home since he was born. That quality is an integral part of his character – he’s a homeboy and he is often shown at ease in his territory. Although he has no claim to greatness, although he’s just an ordinary guy, he’s well known for just being that – a good boy, plain and simple. He’s the everyday fixture of the Bae family in Chumsaeng, and he’s arguably the one who the townsfolk know the most as “the Bae boy” – he’s not the son who Yoi’s proud of, nor is he the virtuous son who is married off first. He is also not the college boy, but he is simply just plain old Asa who goes around Chumsaeng, eating, making chit chat and going around in his dilapidated yet trusty bike.

One cannot think of Asa without thinking of him on his bike.

For a boy who has been restrained and was given little freedom by his mother, Asa is shown most carefree in a bicycle, which he not only uses to go from one point to another, but also to carry around everyone – his brothers, and even his Tia and Ma. He even volunteers to give Renu and of course, his love interest, Chanta, a ride. But more of that later.

This bicycle riding Asa is quite a simple, unassuming guy, who gets to places – though not quite far. The bicycle is given more importance in the story later on, when it is revealed in Tia and Ma’s flashback that Tia’s preferred mode of transport was the same.

But in Tia’s case, he did get far, as far as his bicycle can take him so he can go on and peddle his wares. And one day, this bicycle likewise led him to his love, Yoi, and life was never the same.

The simplicity of the bicycle, and the simple life that his parents, especially his father, made him live, made Asa who he is. Sure, he was not able to see as much of the world as his brothers did, but Asa was able to see all of Chumsaeng, its people and all that the town had to offer, down from the roots so to speak. Asa knows not just what food to buy and where to buy it, but he also knows everyone in town and has a good relationship with them. He knows everything, not because he likes to snoop around, but because people generally confide in him and knows that he would not judge. Name all the secrets in the Krong Karm universe, and surely you’ll realize that Asa was told more than half of them.

Asa’s conclusion, when he learns that Renu staged the scene outside their home and that Je Muinee “conspired” with Renu, was that “All women are so deeply wicked” – for all the drama stirred by them in this lakorn, I’d say his conclusion is true. Yet the way he delivers it is light and free of judgment.
It thus captured Chanta’s gaze for the first time. She too was hiding a “wicked” past, but knew Asa wouldn’t judge. What’s this? Asa is now God’s gift to women? (In the Krong Karm universe, I’d say yes.)
Ultimately, Asa’s openness is the perfect set up to the scene where Renu finally confesses her secret to Asa, that she had a child out of wedlock with her sister’s husband. Instead of causing a rift between them, revealing her secret only makes Asa and Renu closer, like two best friends having a solemn oath with each other.

His modesty and innate kindness makes Asa the ostensible target for manipulation – yet instead of getting manipulated, Asa turns things around and shepherds everyone to the right path. Who would have thought that this ordinary nobody can be the noblest character of all?

First up is Renu who sees Asa as an easy target to secure as an ally in her fight to fit in the Bae Family. He becomes more than her ally and becomes the brother who helps her protect and cherish the Bae Family.

Asa and Renu are presented as darkness and light, with Renu loaded with experience of hardships that made see more of the world, including wickedness and scorn, while Asa more or less lived a “mundane” life and whose only taste of chaos was living with his domineering mother. Yet when they came together, they did not alienate each other, but instead reached a balance and learned more from one another. Renu knew more about love, having experienced both love and hatred in her life, yet that doesn’t mean she did not learn from Asa’s own innocent and almost blank view on it. In the same way, learning about the darkness of the world and the tough decisions that Renu had to make allowed Asa to have more perspective about the women he encounters in his life later on (i.e. his two wives, Piangphen and Chanta). Renu is Asa’s biggest supporter in his own quest for love just as he had cheered her and Achai all along.

 I’ve said this in the introduction how Renu and Asa’s relationship is one of the highlights of the lakorn. While this former “koojin” was relegated to a brother-sister relationship, Asa and Renu’s scenes together are truly heartwarming after Jiranee’s chemistry ultimately worked its magic.  I wonder if those hardcore fanatics such as myself likewise imagined them to be together, this time as brother and sister. There’s something inexplicably WAFF-y whenever James used to call Bella, “Kaew” or “Lhon.” Oddly enough, hearing him say “Sor” elicits an automatic warm and fuzzy feeling from me, as well.

Many people waited for a twist in Krong Karm for Jiranee; but the ultimate twist was how these two made a platonic relationship look so precious in a lakorn.

The second time Asa became a supposed target of manipulation is his very own story arc early on in the story. Asa’s initial story arc is when he was made the scapegoat husband of Piangphen, a poor little rich girl who had a child out of wedlock with Karn, a pauper. It is a double whammy in this case as he is manipulated by his own mother and they are both manipulated by Piangphen’s family.

Sure, Mothers know best – but not in this case.

Taokaenia Yoi, for all her street smarts and business acumen, got scammed into marrying off Asa to Piangphen. The Thai idiom here is “getting sold a pup” as little did Yoi know that Piangphen comes as a buy-1-take-1 deal.  Despite the cuteness of Asa and Yoi’s scene when this arc was introduced in Episode 2, in retrospect, it was already quite heart breaking at that point. As I earlier mentioned, Asa is this homebody who has never left Chumsaeng and never experienced anything unfamiliar in his life and then here comes his mother, telling him to get married and move out of the house to have his own assets and be set for life in a town far away. Asa asks his mother about ordination and military service which he is yet to do – but his mother says it’s just a waste of time: as though his contribution to the family honor and merit was no longer needed as Achai and Atong already did their part. But this doesn’t cause Asa to rebel. Instead he packs his bags and leaves Chumsaeng for good, just as his mother had asked him to.  

The sad part was that it was Ma Yoi who couldn’t see through the Phor Kamnan’s trick. Asa’s innocent ride with Chanta served as a catalyst for his marriage to Piangphen and it was Yoi who actually brought doom upon her own child when Asa was placed in the very situation Yoi had been preventing.

He did tell his P’Renu that he had never been in love, and the only love he knew, that was “to die for” was for his parents. He would do their bidding no matter what. And so, when his mother set up his wedding, even when he told Renu that he could decline, Asa jumped right into unfamiliar territory where he had no clue about the business (farming, not trading) and no love, or even a smile from his bride. He knows that he is the unfavorite child after all, and sending him away to scratch him out of his mother’s list of worries was the best route to move forward.

Yoi got Asa a bride for a lower dowry, but little did she know that it was actually her son who she bargained at a cheap price.

Asa is actually romantic – as can be deduced when he told Renu how he believed people who are destined to be together are meant to cross paths with each other – yet there was nothing romantic about Asa and Piangphen’s marriage, no matter how much “bhuppae sanniwat” was getting thrown here and there by Aunt Somsri (who incidentally is played by the same actress who played as one of Karakade’s maids.) They were, in the very context of the term, put in a marriage of convenience. Yoi thought she secured Asa’s future by marrying him off to Thai family with assets while Phor Kamnan was able to save their family’s honor by having Asa stand in for Karn as the father of Piangphen’s unborn child.

It would have been a good deal… if only they both didn’t love someone else and ended up loving each other instead. Good thing they didn’t though… because Asa’s love story is actually the most romantic plot point of this lakorn. But more of that later.

In some ways, Asa and Piangphen are the same. They are the residuum of the lot, with Asa being the unfavorite child and Piangphen being the youngest unmarried daughter. Piangphen is also restricted by the societal code that her father is imposing – they are a well-off family with honorable status and she definitely cannot marry a pauper. Their status is her cage, so is her gender, that despite not having any handicap, her father cannot find any other use for her, other than for her to marry well. For most of the lakorn, Piangphen is often in the same spot – either in her room or later on, in Renu’s old house at the back of the Bae ricemill. She is often hiding or restricted, unable to break free. This cage makes her act like a spoiled rotten brat who throws tantrums – and she’s so annoying that we can’t even use her first trimester of pregnancy as an excuse. *cough* I digress. Anyway, despite her flaws, Piangphen has one great virtue, and that is, she loves truly and steadfastly. (Koo Gam anyone? Am I to understand that this is the “Thai Woman’s ultimate virtue”? All the Thai ladies in the lakorn display this; Renu, Yoi, Chanta and Piangphen.) Sure, she may have had a child out of wedlock and had gone against her father’s strict rules, but her love for Karn never wavered (for the most part) despite everything that came their way. This same love made her act immaturely. Yet, in the end, when she gets a good grip on her feelings and settles everything with Asa by telling him the truth and allowing him to get out of the marriage, fair and square, Piangphen suddenly grows up a bit more and has more courage to break free.

Perhaps Asa sees a kindred spirit in Piangphen for they are both trapped in a cage of karma with their parents as sentinels. While Asa is plucked out of his home and brought to a new place against his wishes, Piangphen is ready to leave everything behind in order to finally live. One wanted in while the other wanted out, but ultimately, they both just wanted their own place in the world.

Against all odds, Piangphen fights for her love, even when Karn tells her to forget it and ultimately abandons her. With Asa’s help, she is able to come into terms with her love for Karn, the child that became the fruit of their love, and how she plans to move on with her life – freely, uprightly and morally. Piangphen friendzones Asa (it was mutual!) but the end result of their friendship is her having a better outlook in life. That’s the Asa effect for you, and we’re just in the halfway mark of the lakorn.

Karn himself is likewise touched by Asa’s kindness. In the beginning, he wanted to kill off goody-two-shoes Asa in order to eliminate the husband who was meant to steal his wife. Yet when Karn himself sees with his own eyes how kind and pure Asa is, he realizes that his wife and child are better off with Asa rather than to continue living at the edge and fighting against all odds with him. Karn has his own cage – and it is poverty, or so he thinks. Initially, Karn and Asa are pitted against each other, with their most obvious difference being Asa’s riches and Karn’s lack thereof. In some ways, Asa has the privilege to be kind as he did not experience the same hardship as Karn did, and even had some riches to spare – yet didn’t Asa’s kindness emanate from within? Asa gave not because he had something to give, but because it was in his nature to give. Asa encountered choices too and he always chose the upright and generous path, when he gave up something even when he was not obliged to. It is his heart that is always willing to give that makes him earn kindness in return. It’s his good karma, if you will.

Yoi got Asa a bride for a dowry of 5,000 Baht, but Asa saved his own life by shelling out 9 Baht (to help Karn buy medicine for his mother). Talk about good deals!

Poverty or his lack of something, anything, had always been Karn’s excuse for living dangerously and immorally – for instance, his stolen moments with Piangphen were supposedly because he was too poor to be allowed to court her. His choice to shoot down Asa at the beginning was because he was “left with no other choice to stop their marriage”. His choice to run away from everything and to seek greener pastures in Bangkok was because he had no other means to forget – and ultimately, his choice to get down and dirty with Bangorn was because was unable to get the warmth from the one he loved. He was also blackmailed into marrying Bangorn because he had no one else to take care of his mother – and yet when he was finally literally down to nothing, he realizes that he still had something: his pride. His pride enables him to make something more of himself and to pick himself off the ground, so he can stand upright.  He has an innate value as a human being that his mother or even Piangphen are able to love and worry about him. With the loss of his mother, he has a new lease in life and a new chance to break free from his promise to Bangorn. He decides to work and make himself worthy to be his mother’s son, Piangphen’s husband, the father of their child and the son in law to Phor Kamnan. It’s the ex-husband, Asa who serves as their bridge, and it’s another problem solved by Asa Lavander.

Asa and Piangphen’s divorce, while inevitable, does not leave Asa unscathed. The end of their marriage comes at a time when Asa is facing problems at the home front. Asa, despite being a mama’s boy, actually loves his father just as much. In fact, Asa may have been Yoi’s least favorite but he is actually Tia’s favorite son. The two of them spent the most time together and they have the same disposition as well. Asa is truly his father’s son, as he says so himself later on. Asa’s marriage with Piangphen caused him to be away from home and no one even sent him news of his father’s worsening sickness. It was only when they filed for divorce that he was able to go back home.

Tia’s dying wish comes at a time when Asa has no means to grant it. What can be more painful for a son who loved his parents with a love that was “to die for”?

His sadness about his failed marriage is compounded with his need to keep it a secret as the family is going through the tragedy of losing Tia to cancer. Worse, Asa was at that point think that he not only lost his future, he was also losing his father and he has no idea if he still has a place back in his home. Added to that is the gossip and stigma that he has to face with his supposed fortunate marriage turning out to be a scandal worse than what his older brothers have been through.

With his bag still packed in the darkness of what used to be his room, Asa is a stranger in the only place he knows as his home.

Still, he has to face everything with a smile as he has his parents to take care of and his home to keep intact. Asa finds his rightful place in the Bae household when he takes care of Tia and eventually takes care of the store once more. Just when he thinks things are under control, everything spirals into chaos. His ex-wife Piangphen had nowhere else to go and asks to stay in Asa’s wing while his parents are in the hospital. AND THEN his two older sisters in law decide to start a war.

Talk about raw! These are the best action shots that I can capture!

It doesn’t end there! He then has to buy peace with Philai so she won’t report to the police and further damage the Bae family honor – and then he even has to admit to Philai his secret about Piangphen so she’d stop prying. After that, he has to appease Pom and Plook, the Bae family’s help, when Philai insults them as well. Lastly, Philai accuses Asa of lingering around when he ends up left with nothing in a last-ditch effort to steal what was hers. Whew!

Asa’s extreme tight shot in this scene shows us a teeny tiny glimpse of James’s signature pra’ek bitch face as the anger flashes in his eyes for about a second until the demons that be disappears into Asa’s bright light once more. After all the crap that Asa’s been served in this lakorn, this is the only time he actually snaps and shows that he is capable of anger too. Yet the way his anger is actually tempered in this scene shows James’s skill as an actor as the same emotion (anger) is served by a simple yet cool headed character – one he had not played before this.

When it rains, it pours, and so just when all the bad things are happening in Asa’s life, Tia eventually passes away. Before he dies, he leaves Asa with a lesson on how to be a good boss and how to act in order to be accepted as a son in law in a Thai household. Tia, in his deathbed knows that Asa already left the family and is in the custody of Phor Kamnan. Asa is the son who had flown away from the nest (more like thrown off, if you ask me) yet Tia’s last request is for Asa to take care of Yoi. He may have been booted out of the Bae family enterprise, but his closest tie is still as Yoi’s son – quite tragic, if you think about it, considering he sees himself as Yoi’s least favorite child. He loves his mother no less than his brothers, yet the thought that she cast him out – to get a better future, sure, but without changing the fact that she still gave him away – it is still a big thorn in Asa’s heart. Asa, who has a generous heart, knows what it is like to give something away. Yet the circumstances of his marriage had not been the same as him giving money to those in need, giving a little “extra” to Sor from the store supplies, or giving his brothers a free ride in his bike – Asa knows, at the back of his mind that he had been given away as a bargain deal. How heart wrenching it must be to have to beg Yoi to take him back!

To me, Asa’s most heart wrenching scene is when he begs his mother if she could take him back as her son. Asa knows his place, or at least he thinks so. This poor little lost boy thinks that what little space he had in the Bae home had already been closed off. With his beloved Tia gone, he has to beg his mother to get back in.

But ultimately, it is Yoi’s heartbreak that hurts the most, because with Asa’s plea, she realizes how much she was shortchanged, and how she unintentionally alienated her own son, when all she wants is to give him a better future. Asa’s failed marriage is one of the disasters from Yoi’s meddling with Karma – one of the poor choices she makes out of love, that extreme love that ends up destroying what she hold most precious: her sons.

It is after their marriage that Asa and Piangphen’s parents realize just how precious they are. Asa turns out to be a real diamond in the rough that Phor Kamnan still wishes to call him son even after he and Piangphen call it quits.

Yoi becomes considerably kinder to Asa and even tries to set him up with Wanna. Yet Asa, staying true to his promise to his Tia, proclaims that he has no plans of marrying and wishes to stay with Yoi to take care of her. Asa’s status as a mama’s boy is cemented after Asee’s untimely death. With Asee gone, Asa becomes the youngest child, and the only unmarried one to boot, and so he stays in the family home to take care of his mother.

Asa ends up the only one without a portrait in the Bae Family’s wall of honor. Though he had not ordained, he is alive and well – and he becomes his mother’s go-to not only when it comes to the family business or handling Philai, but also in coping with the loss of Tia and Asee.

It is when Asa’s status as Yoi’s “unfavorite child” is lifted that he finally encounters his biggest dilemma – breaking free from the cage his mother had created. Krong Karm ultimately is a story about parents and children – how a person’s life is changed by the choices that his parents have made and how a person’s fate is changed by the birth of a child. It’s almost as if the concept of karma is tied to life itself. We sow what we plant and in the farm that is life, parents and children are like seeds and plants that grow continuously. Asa, of all the brothers, is presented as THE son. While not completely as obedient as Atong, as beloved as Achai or willful as Asee, he is a good mix of all three. He interacts with Tia and Ma the most and he gets sent away, only for him to come back – and ultimately, his path is to chose whether to stay or to leave the nest on his own accord.

At the very beginning, we already see glimpses of Asa having a pure and innocent crush on Chanta, a quiet, unassuming servant girl who works at Ama and Je Muinee’s place. Both Asa and Chanta are characters below the radar, with nothing special or notorious about them, but ultimately these two are paired up with the greatest number of characters in the story (Asa: Piangphen, Chanta, Wanna; Chanta: Asa, Atong, and Palad Chinnakorn). Suffice to say, it seems the two of them are the most attractive. Indeed, they are so. Chanta, for her simplicity and timidity is presented as a gentle beauty, the traditional damsel in distress. Of course Asa is far from a knight in shining armor, but he steps up when the occasion calls for it. We learn later on that it is their purity of heart that makes them so attractive, and well suited for each other.

What pra’ek acts like this? Always pining, and pining for 14 episodes, seeming never to have any chance to finally win his love’s heart.  

Chanta is first introduced as Atong’s love interest, as she’s the love that never was. While the feelings they had for each other seemed to be mutual, nothing came out of it after Atong was forced to marry Philai. Later on, we learn that Asa had liked Chanta first all along but saw how his older brother loved her too so he had to take a step back. Even when Atong was out of the game, Asa still did’t get his chance as Palad Chinnakorn came into the picture and he was likewise forced into marrying Piangphen. Just when he finally got a divorce, Asa still couldn’t pursue his love as she was engaged to Palad Chinnakorn.

He even had to take her wedding photo with someone else. Oh man. Asa just can’t get a break.

Ultimately, Chanta’s secret is revealed. In a very lakorn twist, Chinnakorn’s brother in law turns out to be the guy who seduced Chanta and took away her innocence. Without knowing any better, she gave her heart and her chastity to that scum, and had no idea that he was married. Finally, they were discovered by his wife and she brutally beat her until she had a miscarriage. Such a stigma for a pure and innocent girl made her think that she was no longer worth anything. It was when she finally had the courage to love again that her nightmare came haunting her back.

“Love never dies. It will be in our hearts forever. It never diminishes.” Asa, the romantic, finally tells Chanta his feelings without directly revealing how he has loved and still loves her all along.

Love perhaps is the only concept that is as true as the concept of karma, for all people who truly lived must have loved and this love can either make or break us. Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone who has loved is faced with the decision to test fate and the rules of karma. Finally, Asa experiences the love that is “to die for” that Renu spoke about early on. His experience with both Renu and Piangphen made him understand Chanta’s predicament. His crush for Chanta is now deep that he had the love that enabled him to endure anything and everything. Asa’s problem wasn’t that he now deeply loved Chanta, but that he did not love his mother any less. How can you die for two people? Ultimately, he chose to live instead.

From infatuation to love: Asa is somber when he finally decides to take the first step to take over his life and be a man.

Asa is confronted by Renu’s worry that Chanta might leave his life forever, or even kill herself. Meanwhile, his supportive big brother, Atong, tells him to make a choice, not for anyone else but for himself. The decision that Asa was about to make was not just whether he should be a knight in shining armor who would finally carry off Chanta to bliss – but actually whether he would finally grasp that woman he felt he was destined to be with or let her go forever. Asa had so many missed opportunities to be with Chanta and when he finally has a chance, it ends up being a choice between all or nothing.

Noo cries like a baby and begs his mom for his life back. “I am a man now, Ma. May I have my life back?”
Asa dons a solid dark shirt for the first time and addresses himself as “pom”, the pronoun used by an adult male to refer to himself. There is no turning back for him. His decision is firm.
But at the last moment, when his mother lets him go, Asa clings to his mother’s knees for dear life.

Leaving for Chiang Mai was not the first time that Asa left home. Before, it was his mother who sent him away and forced him to become a man. With Chanta, it is Asa’s choice to leave with only his dowry and the things he learned from Ma and Pa. He leaves for Chiang Mai with Chanta, not knowing whether she loves him or not. The only thing he knew when he bought that one way ticket was that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Chanta forever and he knew he was doing it out of love, that love that made him leave his cage just like what Renu, Piangphen and his Ma and Pa did early on. Suddenly, the cage that his mother enclosed him with was not that restraining after all, but actually cloaked with love that steered him towards the right path and made him who he was – so that he can go out into the world as a morally upright individual. With such loving chains, how can he possibly break free? But break free, Asa did and we get to see his happy ending with Chanta.

These two find their happiness in their simple life. The turmoil they face together only makes their love sweeter.

The life Asa has in Chiang Mai isn’t the comfortable life his mother envisioned for him, but it is happier beyond Yoi’s expectations. Asa remembers all that his parents taught him fondly and with his own toil realizes what it was to be a true taokae like his father. Asa, who was used to being the unfavorite child, who had been forced into an unwanted marriage, finally found a place where he belonged and where he was the most important. By cherishing Chanta, he became her most precious person in return.

And what do you know, he becomes Ma’s precious one as well. How’s that for a win-win situation?

For the remainder of the lakorn, Asa becomes Yoi’s teddy bear, always hugged and cherished, so much that we all want to be his mother too. *ehem* Asa fulfills his promise to his Tia and takes care of Ma till the very end. Chanta is also accepted by Ma as a daughter in law, and all is well. As a bonus, Asa and Chanta adopt Asee’s child with Mala and raise her with love, together with their own biological child(ren). With that, Asa fulfills his second promise to Tia, that is to raise the next generation of Baes with the family’s values and traditions. Notably, all Asa’s children at the ending are girls – I wonder if he will teach them not to be (deeply) wicked? But with Asa as their father, I wonder how they’d even know the concept of wickedness.

Asa, as a character, isn’t very complex. In fact, he steadfastly stays the same all throughout the lakorn – He is a simple man who is morally upright. But it is precisely his simplicity that makes him so complex. Asa is so ordinary, so plain and yet so pure. I can think of no other metaphor other than what I already mentioned – white rice. He is the unflavored, unprocessed, plain boiled white rice who teaches us that ordinary beings just like you and me can choose to be good people while not being extraordinary or great. Goodness is greatness in itself.

As an actor, James portrayed larger than life characters who are spectacular and dashing. As Asa, he had to strip all grandeur away and leave us with this plain, bumbling yet adorable character.

We’re so used to seeing James with coiffed hair and crisp suits, and his trademark had always been that snooty almost condescending superior character type. As Asa, he is reduced to mortal level, but at the same time, he is outstanding in his plainness. I remember P’Fia’s description of how despite his basic looks, Asa, from his very first scene had that main character light. Even when he wasn’t doing his deep pra’ek voice, even when he was eating with one leg up and being completely uncute, Asa, as portrayed by James still had that shining aura about him that emphasizes the low-key greatness of Asa’s character. James’s first character in a lakorn was Mom Rajowongse Puttipat Jutathep, an aristocrat with Noblesse Oblige and that image kind of stuck with him that he always had these “gentleman” roles which some have noted to be pretentious. Even when he had bratty roles, like Ittirit in Ruk Sud Rit, he still had that air of superiority about him. His characters just had no chill at all. Asa had no airs about him, but he is no less a gentleman. It is the genuineness or perhaps some would say naturalness in James’s portrayal of Asa that makes his character so relatable and endearing. In some scenes, he acts like that kid next door you want to bully, or that old pal you want to eat noodles with. James did not act like a pra’ek in this lakorn, he just acted as a normal human being in a human drama. Of late, James seemed to be cast just to be handsome on screen, but there’s none of that here in Krong Karm. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying James is ugly here, but what I am saying is that I actually focused more on his expressions, what he is saying, how he is feeling while watching this show as he bares it all, as he acts as if he doesn’t care if he looks stupid, weird or uncouth. He just looked like is keeping it real, as Asa.

For Asa, happy is happy, sad is sad, delicious is delicious.

Krong Karm is a love story between mothers and their children, between siblings, between friends, and also between lovers, and if you think about it, there’s also love for food *sweatdrop*. Asa shows us all these facets of love and much more. I don’t know why they keep on emphasizing James’s crying scenes in Krong Karm when the actual hits for me are those instances when Asa is stuttering about, sucking up to Renu to get more desserts, exchanging glances with Atong and even that glee that brightens up his face after having a quick chat with his crush, Chanta. Those little nuances in James’s acting as he played Asa makes the character more endearing and memorable. By winning the 11th Nataraj Awards, I hope producers would give James opportunities to get cast in more roles like this, where he really shines. He has proven time and again that he’s more than just a handsome face, and definitely more than a good crier. He has such a wide range of emotions that he can portray so well. So again, congratulations to my boy James Ji for winning the 11th Nataraj Award for Best Actor and thank you very much for giving us Asa Lavander. This looooong coffee talk is not enough to do Asa justice, I know, but I hope that those who’ve read this would consider watching or re-watching Krong Karm to see just how much of a masterpiece it is. With that, I wish you all good health and may we all stay strong in our ongoing quest for goodness. Till next time!

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