Saturday, August 2, 2008

Is this goodbye then, Tony Jaa?

Tony Jaa's demands aren't likely to be met. This means that he will not return to finish Ong-Bak 2 and that he will disappear from public view.

To recap one of yesterday's reports by Bangkok of the Mind:

Jarupol, Jaa's lawyer, declared that if the demands were not met, Jaa would probably do another disappearing act.

His father, as you can imagine, turned pale. 'Where would he go?' Jarupol was asked.

'I don't know...into the monkhood...something like that,' he replied nonchalantly. 'However, he would really like to finish the film.'

Bangkok of the Mind followed that up late yesterday with a second report , saying "The forest cave again beckons ... or perhaps, this time, the solitude of a temple", with lawyer Jarupol Reuangkeht telling Matichon newspaper that Tony would likely enter the Buddhist monkhood.

Tony is free to enter the monkhood or do whatever he wants, says Tony's mentor Panna Rittikrai. But he and other producers at Sahamongkol Film International wish Tony would come back and finish Ong-Bak 2. Fearing that Tony "has been led astray by people", Sahamongol execs are keen to talk to Tony one on one, without the lawyer. But with Tony or without him, they plan to finish Ong-Bak 2.

Sahamongkol, says Panna, is unlikely to accept Jaa's demand for a flat 50-million-baht share of net profits. His original deal is for 25 percent, which could actually make him more money. But Tony is now thinking the movie is going to tank.

A big sticking point is Tony's 10-year talent contract with Sahamongkol, under which he's paid 50,000 baht monthly, but cannot work for any other film company. Previously, Sahamongkol boss Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert has stated that Tony is free to stay in the temple, or go back to his parents' farm and raise elephants -- Tony will still draw that salary, but he'll never be let out of that contract.

Has Tony been led astray, as Sahamongkol officials suggest? What about Tony's parents, filing a police report, saying their son had been abducted? Who is this Korean producer or financier, whose "heavies" bundle Tony away in a van? Is Tony really doing black magic?

The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee, in his every-other-Saturday column, wonders about all this, and he points out just how big a deal Tony Jaa is to the Thai film industry. Here's an excerpt from today's column (cache):

Wisps of rumour also have it that Jaa's obsession with black magic and guru monks has distracted and derailed him. Yet, with or without the influence of voodooism, the nature of this conflict is not unprecedented in the heavily commercialised realm of cinema capitalism.

On the one hand is a promising star accused of being fame-drunk and greedy; on the other, we have big movie producers said to have mistreated, even exploited, their valuable human asset.

Above all, this is a classic Thai narrative of a simple rural family which suddenly becomes dysfunctional after getting a shot at wealth and heady fame.

This is totally unnecessary. Jaa is not some hotshot wannabe who was propelled to stardom by luck or a hollow marketing ploy -- he is a genuine talent, a five-star Otop actor from a humble Surin village, now exportable throughout the globe. He is the first Siamese actor in our history whose mere name is enough to sell movies to international distributors. Tom-Yum-Goong made 200 million baht in Thailand, but its worldwide box-office receipts -- it was released in the US as well as a dozen other countries -- exceeded $25 million. And the man has got this far because of his hard work and dedication. He must not waste it, and it would be a shame if his producers are not generous enough to see this complication through with complete sincerity.

It's crucial that his producers not regard Jaa simply as a product -- that's so Hollywood! -- but as a person. Most importantly, though, Jaa must not allow himself to believe that he is a product - a money-spinning machine for himself and the people he works for. What he's been doing on-screen, his balletic grace and gymnastic genius in the orchestration of cinematic combat, is the honour of Thai cinema, a national treasure even. It'd be such a stupid anti-climax if he lets it all fall apart because of his own undoing. Meditation sure helps, but not always.

Related posts:
Related posts at Bangkok of the Mind:

1 comment:

  1. 50,000 baht? Seriously? While Sahamongokol bagged millions of dollars with his movies? That guy's a SLAVE. Jesus! That's ridiculous...


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