Tuesday 31 May 2022

I binge on – Kdramas

More than a year has passed since I stumbled upon What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim? It hooked me to Netflix in a way I would not have believed possible. I have been a hardcore romcom fan since my teens, and over the last 12 months, the South Korean TV shows that I have scoured Netflix for have not disappointed at all. I keep looking for any old Kdramas I might have missed, all the while looking out for fresh fare too. I feel sad every time I see a serial with the notification, “Last date to watch …”. That made me rush through the 2012 Immortal Classic once more!

Secretary Kim will remain for me a serial apart from all else, but my heart also flutters every time I revisit Doctors, Inheritors, One Spring Night, Oh My Venus, When My Love Blooms, Secret Garden, Pasta and Romance is a Bonus Book. And these are in random order. Others that I occasionally watch again are Crash Landing on You, Legend of the Blue Sea and Boys over Flowers. The last mentioned is more popular among Kdrama fans than Inheritors, but my preference is certainly the latter.

For me, the hardships endured by the brave heroine in the 2009 serial Boys are at times too over the top, and the mom too heartless by half; I don’t mind Kim Tan’s father in Inheritors as much. I also can’t bear to watch the cruel mothers in Something in the Rain and Legend of the Blue Sea, and the hatred and evil some characters display in CLOY and Doctor Stranger.

Kdramas treat heartbreak and heartache with great sensitivity, but some are so poignant that it’s almost impossible for me to go back to them, such as Marriage Contract, Black Knight, My Mister, I Hear Your Voice, and the recent Thirty-Nine. And, of course, the 52-episode My Golden Life.

I was still new to the Kdrama phenomenon then and so binge-watched Golden Life into the early hours of successive mornings, riveted as the sad lives of the heroine and her father unravelled. Their inner conflicts made me overlook the emotions of the male lead, whose heart is torn between familial and romantic love. I couldn’t fully understand what had happened, so I went back to the scenes where their feelings undergo change and the sacrifice he makes to win her over.

That made me look for the undertones in Kdramas I had not noticed before. I was till then simply enjoying them as the modern equivalent of Georgette Heyer novels. Now I began to look for nuances, for subtle messages of unconditional caring and sharing; of facing and fighting one’s fears; of relentless and ruthless exploitation of the poor or less privileged by the uber rich; of the determination in love to overcome the impossible; of change of heart that comes about because of the pure love of another; of empathy and sympathy; of the futility of hatred; thoroughly researched themes such as recipes, hospitals, political intrigues, weather reporting and much more that I found so impressive.

A few plots are simple, but most are multi-layered. The romantic lives of the lead pair are intertwined beautifully with situations of others around them. Nagging mothers, doting grandparents, spoilt kids, prodigals returning home, star-crossed lovers, office intrigues, murderous business rivals … all stuff that is universal to television and cinema, but Kdramas deal with them in such novel and impeccable ways and settings that I haven’t yet got over them, and I don’t think I will for a long time.