Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
K-Wave


SHAILEE BASNET


A young man reluctantly helps a drunk girl he doesn't know regain her senses, but, alas, is jailed for all his troubles when people suspect his intentions. Hollywood's My Sassy Girl, Bollywood's Ugly Aur Pugli and Kollywood's Mero Sansar all begin with this scene, copied from Korean blockbuster My Sassy Girl, which was released in 2001.

This is no one-off, either. Korean films and serials have gripped audiences worldwide. My Sassy Girl was so popular in Asia people began making comparisons to Hollywood mega-blockbuster Titanic. Hollywood actors and producers immediately took notice and a spate of successful remakes of Korean movies hit the market. Many American theatres even run Korean movies with English subtitles.

The trend has caught on in Nepal as well. This year's Mero Euta Saathi Cha, for example, is a remake of Korean movie Millionaire's First Love, and many scenes from Sano Sansar were lifted from Korean films. Director of Mero Euta Saathi Cha Sudarshan Thapa says the movie was in part an 'experiment' to test local receptiveness to remakes of foreign films. It seems the movie's success at the box office has proven his point.

However, Korean films themselves may be more popular than remakes, as the popularity of DVDs of Korean films attests. DVD shop owner Ganesh Ghimire says Korean films have been popular here since the emergence of Korean language schools in 2007, particularly with Nepalis seeking work in Korea. He suspects that initially many people bought Korean films to learn the language. The movies have gained a much broader appeal since, even though much of the audience today doesn't understand Korean.

Indeed, Korean movies are now so popular DVD sales rival that of Hindi DVDs, the traditional heavyweights in the local market. Dev Chulagain, who runs a DVD shop, confirms this: "While people only buy recent Hindi films, there is demand even for Korean movies released four to five years ago."

People are especially keen on 2001's My Sassy Girl, 2006's A Millionaire's First Love, 2008's Ta Gutgi, and romantic movies more generally. Inevitably, Korean language and fashion have caught on. For example, instead of saying "I love you" many have started using the Korean equivalent, "Sarang hyo."

Part of the reason Korean films have been so popular is that they are easier to relate to. Bollywood films are shot in western locations these days and tend to have fanciful plots. It's no surprise, then, that demand for Bollywood movies has diminished just as that for Korean films has grown. Usha Lama knows the names of Korean actors by heart. She says, "Korean films are fun and easy to relate to." Director Thapa is also a fan. "Korean films are thoughtful, and commonplace plots are presented very well."

Romantic Korean films can also be slow and plodding and have turned off some, like Mero Sansar director Alok Nembang. But they continue to grow in popularity and are easily accessible on TV channels like Arirang or the Internet. A couple of years ago, Nepal Television and Doordarshan began running Korean TV serials. Many more TV channels air these shows today. Businessmen add that cinema halls that show Korean movies have made a lot of money. It's clear the K-wave is here to stay.

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