Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thai soap ‘The Air Hostess War’ may end in court battle

Just a soap opera: A scene from the steamy Thai soap opera ‘Songkram Nang Fah’ (The Air Hostess War) where Cherry (left) and Rin (right) are choosing shirts for Ning, the two-timing pilot.

Thai Takes

A SCENE from the controversial Thai soap opera Songkram Nang Fah (The Air Hostess War) showed catty flight attendant Cherry fighting with her colleague Rin for the affection of a two-timing pilot.

In another scene, after sleeping with Rin’s husband, Cherry called Rin to inform her of the tryst. There’s also a scene of Cherry placing Rin’s baby on a moving escalator.

Well, you get the picture that Cherry is the bitchy villain in the lakorn (Thai for soap opera).

Imagine if the viewers assumed that you’re the inspiration behind the villain.

A 44-year-old Thai Airways flight attendant can, as she was identified as Cherry, when her photograph was posted on a Thai website about a month ago.

“Upset, angry ... everything,” relates the stewardess, who wished to be known as 'Cherry' as she did not want to compound her ordeal by revealing her name, when asked how she felt when she saw her visa application photograph on the Internet.

The stewardess, who is not a lakorn fan, watched some episodes of The Air Hostess War after friends and relatives informed her that the bad character is supposed to be based on her.

“(When I watched it, my impression was) that’s not me. I did not do anything like that. She made up the story,” she said.

The “she” the stewardess referred to is Airky, the author of a 200-page semi-autobiographical bestseller that became the inspiration for the steamy lakorn that tells the story of a flight attendant, Rin, whose marriage with Ning, a pilot, was destroyed by Cherry.

Songkram Nang Fah, which bubbled into controversy on Jan 21 when flight attendants urged the Thai government to axe the primetime drama series because it showed stewardesses wearing short skirts and fighting while in uniform, ended recently.

But for the real-life characters, their life began to unfold into a soap opera.

On March 7, the police arrested 52-year-old Airky for defamation after Cherry lodged a report accusing the writer of posting her photograph on the Internet and damaging her image as many believed she was the inspiration behind the villain.

Airky, however, denied the accusation and she was released on bail.

It was not all cheery for Cherry after the posting of her photograph.

“My friends from my university days who had never contacted me started calling me asking whether I did the bad things (the villain) did in the soap opera,” revealed the stewardess on Wednesday after returning from a flight from Stockholm.

“Those who don’t know me think that I behave like the Cherry in that soap opera. But my family and friends – particularly Thai Airways senior flight attendants – know the truth and they are supportive of me,” she said.

She then showed two inspirational greeting cards (“the sun will shine again soon ... you’ll see”) she received from her colleagues on that day.

“But junior flight attendants (who do not know Airky because she quit as a Thai Airway cabin crew in 1995) are wondering whether the gossip is true. And some of them are gossiping behind my back.”

Most Thai Airways passengers are oblivious that Cherry is linked to a villainous character.

But there are some passengers (especially fans of Songkram Nang Fah) who jokingly ask the airline’s cabin crew “is the pilot of this plane Captain Ning?”

On Airky’s motivation to write the novel, Cherry, who two years ago married 55-year-old Ning, who divorced Airky about a decade ago, said:

“This story is more than 20 years old. I don’t know why she wrote the novel. Maybe she is envious that I have a happy life. And that I had a wedding reception (when she married Ning) while she did not have one.”

Has she ever been involved in a catfight with Airky? “No, no fighting, no slapping. That’s not my personality,” said the demure Cherry.

“Do you think there is such a person in this world who does bad things all the time. It’s just a soap opera.

“It’s not real life when you have a pregnant stewardess fighting with another pregnant stewardess.”

The Air Hostess War final episode ended with Rin divorcing Ning and marrying another pilot. This real-life drama, however, may have a court battle ending.

(Published in The Star on March 22, 2008)