A bloody survival battle: on Netflix’s drama series, ‘Squid Game’

A still from the show   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

From slow burn romances and horror to period dramas and comedies, K-dramas top viewership charts across the globe. India is no different, with storylines and narratives passionately discussed on Facebook and WhatsApp groups, and Korean actors mostly household names. Now, it is time to get acquainted with K-games — Ojingeo Geim (squid game), a popular Korean children’s game, to be exact. In its 2021 avatar, it’s a survival game and the plot of Netflix’s much-awaited drama series, Squid Game, which released on September 17.

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What’s in a game?

The eight-episode series is directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk (The Fortress, Miss Granny) and unfolds like a dystopian drama. Masked figures lure 456 contestants from diverse backgrounds to participate in the game with a cash prize of 45.6 billion Won (approx $40 million). But they don’t realise how extreme things will become. Played out on a board-like set, deceptively painted in pastel colours, contestants in green track suits are watched over by anonymous masked entities. It soon becomes a telling statement of class divide and the competitive battle for survival, as the angst and desperation of the characters surface, even as each tries to outwit the other.

A still from the show

A still from the show   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The drama (which calls to mind The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner) stars Lee Jung-jae — known for his suave on-screen characters, be it the stoic bodyguard in Sandglass or the ruthless killer in Deliver Us From Evil. He plays Ki Hoon, a debt-ridden, unemployed man who becomes a willing participant in the game. “My character continues to change in terms of his personality and the emotions portrayed in the story as he perceives each game,” he says during a video interview for The Hindu Weekend, accompanied by co-star Park Hae-soo and an interpreter. “As an actor, that intrigued me the most and making it look real was the challenge,” he says.

Survival of the fittest

Park, a familiar face in dramas such as Prison Playbook and Racket Boys, plays Sun Woo, Ki Hoon’s childhood friend who is on the run after failed investments at work and agrees to become a player. “My character makes the most reasonable choices during each obstacle of the game. He shows subtle and detailed emotional changes, and I found that appealing yet challenging,” says Park, who is set to reprise the role of Berlin in the Korean remake of the popular Money Heist series. Would he participate in a survival game? “I am happy and content with the way things are,” he laughs, adding, “I would not put my life on the line for [something like] this.”

Also on the show...
  • Squid Game also stars Wi Ha-joon, last seen in the popular rom-com Romance is a Bonus Book. And popular actor Gong Yoo, of Train to Busan and Guardian: The Lonely and the Great God, makes a special appearance.

For both the actors, apart from the script, picking the right team was paramount. "Everyone from the director, the cast and crew is important. You approach your work like a Bible and you solve all tasks together as a team. So when you have an amazing group of people with great chemistry, the set becomes an enjoyable place. Hae-soo’s humorous personality lifted everyone’s spirits,” concludes Lee.

Squid Game is now streaming on Netflix

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 6:27:09 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/netflix-squid-game-korean-drama-2021/article36511391.ece

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