There is an exciting Thai menu at the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) being held in Goa (November 23- December 3), apart from a ‘Retrospective' of noted Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr.

Last year, the IFFI had witnessed a large package of Thai films and the presence of four top Thai stars. Nonzee is the progenitor of the ‘new wave' movement in Thai cinema and five of his best-known films will be screened at the festival. These include his 1997 film ‘Dang Bireleys and the Young Gangsters,' based on a real-life gangster, which created waves on the international festival circuit and was also a huge box-office hit.

Hit at festivals

His second film ‘Nang Nak', which is based on a famous Thai ghost-legend, also created a stir at top festivals such as Rotterdam and was also a big hit at home. Nonzee is one of the few directors who gained both critical and commercial success. In fact, ‘Nang Nak' also won an award at IFFI in 1999.

Then came ‘Jan Dara,' the first pan-Asian production of Nonzee, where he teamed up with famed director Peter Chan, to produce a film with a multi-Asian cast. The controversial film had Hong Kong actress Kristy Cheung playing an older woman who initiates a youngster into sex, in a famed ‘ice cubes' scene, that created waves in Thailand. It also had scenes of incest and a messy abortion, that shook the audiences at home and abroad.

Attending the festival, is young, dynamic actress May Pataravarin, who took part in the controversial abortion scene in the film. May is the daughter of the legendary Thai theatre icon, Patravadi Menuhin, and is a multi-talented artiste in her own right.

The other two films in the Retrospective are ‘Queens of Lankasuka' and ‘Ok Baytong.' The latter is a unique tale of a Thai monk who comes to a violence-ridden town of the Muslim-dominated South Thailand, and is stirred by many things, including the religious unrest, and a young girl.

‘Queens of Lankasuka', a grand historical sea-drama, is Nonzee's latest film. It took five years to make and cost 100 million baht - the most expensive Thai film ever made! The film had a special screening at the Venice festival last year.

It boasts of a big star cast, including master character-actor Sorapong Chatree and current superstar Ananda Everingham (who attended the IFFI, last year).

Nonzee, who presented a highly popular, action-packed TV serial last year, and is shooting for another serial in Pranburi province, has taken time off to attend the IFFI. He said he is delighted by the Retro in India.

Among the Thai films at IFFI are the country's Oscar entry for this year, ‘Best of Times' by well-known Director Yongyoot Thongkontoon, who is also the Artistic Director of the Bangkok International Film Festival.

The film encapsulates two love-stories - a unique and moving story of an elderly couple, and a more casual and down-to-earth youthful pair, who are brought together, by a cute dog!

From stage to screen

The older couple are well-known artistes in Thai cinema, but this is a debut film for the young couple who are famous pop singers.

Also showing at IFFI this year is the latest film ‘Samchuk' of noted Thai director Thanit Jitnukul, who hit the international headlines in 2000, with his epic drama ‘Bang Rajan,' which impressed Hollywood director Oliver Stone so much that he distributed it in the U.S.

Jitnukul's period-film ‘First Flight' was screened at last year's IFFI, and his new one, this year, is an arresting social drama that revolves round a teacher trying to ‘reform' a young group of drug- addicted students.

The last film, in the Thai package, is a psychological horror drama, ‘Memories,' starring Ananda Everingham and famed pop singer-actress Mai Charoenpura. This debut film of young director Torpong Tankamhaeng, centres around the love-affair that takes place between a young psychiatrist and a psychologically disturbed, older woman, whom he ‘treats'. The twists in the tale, come from the ‘haunted' visions of the lady's child, and the doctor's fiancée.

Last year, IFFI screened in the Competition category, the Thai horror film, ‘The Coffin,' by noted director Ekachai Uekgrontham after it had made an impact at Cannes. The film terrified Bollywood and Iranian actresses Taboo and Niki Karimi, who were members of the Jury ! Hopefully, Indian audiences are strong enough to face the arresting Thai cinematic fare this year.

In fact the Kerala International Film Festival, to be held from December 11-18, will be having a ‘Retro' of acclaimed Thai indie director Penek Ruttunaruang.

The five films to be screened include his haunting social rural drama, ‘Monrak Transistor', ‘Last Life in the Universe,' ‘Invisible Waves' starring Japanese superstar Asano Tadanabo, his taut urban tale ‘Ploy' and his latest spooky, ghost-drama, ‘Nymph.' The first film won the Japanese actor an award at the Venice festival, while the last two films premiered at the Cannes festival.

While ghost and horror tales are extremely popular in Thai cinema, but the other Thai films being screened at IFFI and other festivals in India prove that the country does produce varied cinematic tales, for varied tastes.