Khon, the traditional masked dance used to depict the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic poem, has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
A recent production, The Battle of Maiyarap drew big crowds of Bangkok's elite to the Thailand Cultural Center. Featuring elaborate sets and stunning costumes, it was staged by Her Majesty the Queen's Support Foundation.
However, there are monthly khon performances, also under the auspices of the Support Foundation, at the National Theater, that aren't so well attended. And the disparity has lead some to question why the Thailand Cultural Center shows were so popular among Bangkok's trend followers while the National Theater shows, "draw only die-hard fans, many of them elderly."
Anyway, khon is buzzworthy just as a movie about duelling khon troupes is being released this week.
Kon Khon (คนโขน) pits two veteran actors – Sorapong Chatree and Nirut Sirichanya – against each other. They are the leaders of rival dance troupes.
Sorapong is currently starring as the mentor monk in MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's Naresuan 4 while Nirut is probably best known for his recent portrayal of Tony Jaa's mentor in Ong-Bak 2 and Ong-Bak 3.
Sumptuously set in 1965, Kon Khon is about the various relationships and romances within two khon troupes.
It's directed by actor Sarunyu Wongkrachang, a veteran actor who played the corrupt king Ong-Bak 2 and Ong-Bak 3 and was the cop in 13: Game of Death.
With the retro setting, Kon Khon seems to be channeling in the same nostalgia as the recent biopic about '80s singer Pumpuang Duanchan.
Have a look at the English-subtitled trailer (embedded below).