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Boxing Boys at Bangkok

Articulating through art

LEKHA J SHANKAR

Theatre Ekachai Uekrongtham’s ‘Boxing Boys’, a play without dialogue, was a sell out in Bangkok.



Energy and spirit: Scenes from Boxing Boys.

It is not everyday that one encounters a two-hour play that has no dialogue! But well-known Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham is no ordinary artist and his latest production ‘Boxing Boys’, studded with music, dance and pulsating action, ran to packed houses in Bangkok. He has now got numerous requests for overseas tours, in both Asian and Western countries.

“I would love to stage it in India,” says the director, who states that his main aim in the play, is to show the clash between Asian and Western art forms.

So the play has Thai khon and Likay dance forms, muang thai boxing stunts, street dancers and B-Boy artists, apart from rap and pop rhythms.

“Most of these Thai art forms are more popular abroad, than here” he points out and adds, “which is why I resurrected them in a play involving the youth. My target audience is the young people, who are out of sync with their own country’s art forms.”

Judging by the huge number of young people who came to see the play and cheer the youthful cast with their six-pack bodies and endless energy, he seems to have succeeded.

“I wanted to do something that had not been attempted before,” he says about the play, for which he held a nation-wide auditioning test.

Young cast

He finally selected a cast of 17, between the age-groups of 15 and 23. These include trained boxers, street dancers, an equestrian champion as the romantic hero, a Ms Teen Thailand Runner Up as the heroine, and many others who had no training at all, but were put through the grind for eight long months.

“Most of the cast had never been on stage before, but they made up for their youth and inexperience with their great energy and spirit,” states Ekachai, who has worked with music and dance gurus, boxing masters, his colleagues in the cinema field, for the special effects of this multi-media production.

The director admits that it is his “Most difficult production to date. It really put my stage and screen skills to the test !”

Ekachai, who spends his time between Singapore and Thailand, founded ‘Action,’ a theatre group in Singapore, with whom he has staged more than 100 productions.

The best known of these, is ‘Chang & Eng’, based on the story of the Siamese Twins, which has been staged in many countries and won him world-wide acclaim.


Director Ekachai Uekrongtham.

It was in 2003, that the talented artist made his first film, ‘Beautiful Boxer’. The riveting drama centres round the real life story of a Thai transvestite boxer, and went to more than 30 festivals around the world, winning many awards, including the Silver Peacock at IFFI, Goa.

Ekachai made three films after that, including one in the horror genre, ‘The Coffin’ (which was also screened at IIFI), ‘Pleasure Factory,’ a tale about the prostitutes of Singapore that went to the prestigious Cannes festival, a romantic comedy (which had two superstars from Singapore apart from Malaysian and Taiwanese ones) and ‘Wedding Game, which’ was a big ‘hit.’

Admirer of Bollywood films

The innovative director says he is happy to make multi-cultural films with other Asian countries, “as long as they’re not too rigid about their cultural outlook.”

In fact, he has an ardent desire to do a co-production with India, as he is a great admirer of Bollywood films. “I love their music and dance, and will love to do a film with AR Rahman!” he exclaims

Ekachai is presently working on two films with Thai and Mandarin scripts, supported by the two countries he lives in. The Thai script, called ‘Enemies’ (which was pitched’ at the Cannes festival, last month), is a story based on the drug warfare between the police and the drug warlords. “It is about extra-judicial killings,” he informs and adds, “Everyone needs an ‘enemy’ to look good like the U.S. needed Osama Bin Laden! So, I question, who is the real ‘enemy’ ?”

The Mandarin script, called ‘Pole-dancing Queens’ (which will be ‘pitched’ at the Shanghai festival, this month) centres round the current craze for pole-dancing among Asian women, who seek ‘liberalisation’ through the dance-form.

“If you do what you like, it doesn’t seem like work, and I like doing many different things,” says the talented artist, who was once named, ‘One of the 20 Leaders of the New Millennium for Society & Culture’ by Asia Week.

“Whether it is theatre or cinema, I always want to ‘say’ something through my art,” says Ekachai, “after all, as artists, we are in a position to reach out to so many people and say so much.”

And judging by the impressive response to his works, in different parts of the world, it’s obvious that the talented Thai director has a huge and varied audience to ‘listen’ to all that he has to ‘say.’

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