Sunday, July 6, 2008
Sangtong Seesai sighting at National Film Archive
The day might have belonged to regal leading lady Aranya Namwong, but my memory of it will be dominated by seeing the distinctive, smoosh-faced visage of character actor Sangtong Seesai on an eight-foot-high screen in a cinema.
The Kotee Aramboy of his day, singer Sangtong appeared in dozens of films in the 1970s. But before yesterday, I had only seen him in one other film, Tone, which it turns out was his first appearance. And, had it not been for the insatiable curiosity of Todd at Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!, Sangtong would have forever only been known to me as "that funny lookin' guy". But thanks to helpful folks like Tao and Thai 101's Rikker, now even the English-speaking world knows about the late, great Sangtong.
Yesterday, as part of an Aranya Namwong celebration at the National Film Archive's Sri Sala cinema, the 1971 musical comedy Wiwa Pa Fan was shown. Aranya stars with Sombat Metanee as a couple who becomes married but can never make the connection because Aranya's too busy flying airplanes and Sombat's always drunk. Or their parents, wacky friends and scene-stealing maid are always barging in. Even Sombat getting naked, as he often did on film, fails to woo Aranya. It's a song-filled spectacular, with one of the highlights being a scene in which Sombat pursues pilot Aranya in a Royal Thai Air Force training plane, sings to her over his communications headset and then parachutes out of his plane and into a swimming pool.
Sangtong appears as a singing soldier. Because there were no subtitles, I am unsure about the context of the setting, so to me it appears his scene is totally unrelated to the rest of the film -- just a funny scene and a song from Sangtong, which audiences of the era had come to expect, and demand.
According to his Wikipedia entry, as translated by Rikker, Sangtong, born Piak Sihera in Suphanburi Province, was a well-known singer and actor. Because of his appearance he was nicknamed the "demon-faced angel". His stage name comes from a Thai folklore play about a prince who changes his appearance, and only people with good hearts can see through the ugly disguise. In a tragic turn, Sangthong was convicted of attempted murder and spent some years in prison. He continued to sing, and wrote the biographical song "Rak Kham Kamphaeng" ("Love That Crosses Walls"). It became a hit after his release and return to singing and acting. Sangthong was married to Jantana Sisai. They had one son, "Pop" Surat Sihera (born 1969). He died around 1982 in a car accident.
I'll have more on Aranya Namwong's appearance at the National Film Archive in the coming days.