Stories inspired by late Thai king's music

The cast of A Gift includes Naphat “Nine” Siangsomboon and Violette Wautier (above) and Sunny Suwanmethanon and Nittha “Mew” Jirayungyurn.
The cast of A Gift includes Naphat “Nine” Siangsomboon and Violette Wautier (above) and Sunny Suwanmethanon and Nittha “Mew” Jirayungyurn. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES
The cast of A Gift includes Naphat “Nine” Siangsomboon and Violette Wautier and Sunny Suwanmethanon and Nittha “Mew” Jirayungyurn (above).
The cast of A Gift includes Naphat “Nine” Siangsomboon and Violette Wautier and Sunny Suwanmethanon and Nittha “Mew” Jirayungyurn (above).PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

The producers and cast of Thai film A Gift pay tribute to his familiar compositions

Thai omnibus film A Gift, which is dedicated to the late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej, tells three stories inspired by three of his musical compositions.

The first story, titled Love At Sundown after his 1946 song of the same name, is a romantic comedy about the budding romance between two college students (played by Naphat "Nine" Siangsomboon and Violette Wautier). The segment is directed by Chayanop Boonprakob and Kriangkrai Vachiratamporn.

The second story, Still On My Mind, is a family drama about how a young woman (Nittha "Mew" Jirayungyurn) copes with her father's worsening Alzheimer's disease, with the help of a piano tuner Aey (Sunny Suwanmethanon). This part is directed by Nithiwat Tharatorn.

The last story, New Year Greeting, is a wacky comedy about two finance colleagues (Chantavit "Ter" Dhanasevi and Nuengthida "Noona" Sophon) eager to start a band in their strait-laced office. This part is directed by Jira Maligool.

The Straits Times finds out about the production process through e-mail interviews with the team behind the film.

How familiar were you with the king's musical compositions before making this film? Jira: Most of his musical compositions have been familiar to us since we were kids. Over the years, these compositions have been played, rearranged and covered by various artists. In this movie, we also rearranged Love At Sundown into a modern version, which people of all ages will be able to sing along to.

Directors, how did you choose the songs for your individual stories?

Jira: I read in an article that the king wrote New Year Greeting as a New Year's present for the Thai people in 1952. Since then, this song has been playing every year during the new year in Thailand, so it's like a tradition of passing down happiness from generation to generation.

Then I came across an interview given by the king, in which he said: "Music is a part of my life and it's a part of everybody's life as well." I was so inspired that I decided to make a film with the concept that music is a gift for everyone.

Nithiwat: The lyrics and melody of Still On My Mind are very beautiful and romantic, and the song also goes well with the themes of my story. There is a character suffering from Alzheimer's and this song was the perfect one to tell his story.

Chayanop and Kriangkrai: Love At Sundown is a love song about how you have to bid farewell to a loved one when the sun is about to set. That matches perfectly with our story where the two main characters meet and soon have to say goodbye to each other.

For the cast members, many of you had to learn how to play musical instruments from scratch. What was that experience like?

Chantavit: I was nervous about taking on this character because he is good at the saxophone and I have never played it before in real life. I had about one month to learn and I was worried at first, but I practised every day. I was really pleased when I finally managed to play a whole song.

Nittha: I used to play the piano when I was a kid, but it was never my cup of tea. So I had to start all over. But I didn't learn how to read the musical notes because that would take too much time. I just memorised which piano keys to press and I practised whenever I had free time. In the end, I managed to play the song without using a stand-in.

Sunny: My character is a piano tuner, but in real life, I don't know how to play the piano at all. So I had to learn how to tune and play the piano, which was really challenging. But I couldn't turn down this role.

The story is so touching and the song Still On My Mind is so beautiful. When I close my eyes and listen to it, I feel so happy.

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

• A Gift opens in cinemas today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Stories inspired by late Thai king's music'. Print Edition | Subscribe