The years I pursued my higher studies were immensely disappointing rather unfulfilling for a creativity-monger like me. I’d always catch myself feeling out of place, out of time, out of things to do that I would gladly get out of my bed for. While me and most of my friends waited for that life sentence of an era to end; we kept filling our minds with interesting movie plots and ethereal soap operas. I remember deciding to shut off my wandering thoughts that dangerously blew on the side of clinical depression with nonexistent/unreal story lines; ranging from action thrillers to the corniest of romantic dramas; the cornier the better.
Speaking of which, one day, during my 2nd year of college, when all sources drained, I went from door to door of our college dorm, inquiring if anyone has got anything that I haven’t watched already. One of them with a big, wide smile said; “You’ve got to watch this – It is a Korean drama.” My level of hope to spend that plain empty weekend with a good old story immediately went down. “Are you crazy? Why would you watch Korean?” Somehow the idea did not sit right with me. Even though I had watched some Chinese and Japanese officials speaking their tongues in global news, that too hardly a handful of times; I had never even heard ‘hello’ in Korean until that day. But she vouched for it like her life depended on it, so I decided to give it a try. “What the heck, I have plenty of time to kill anyway.”
It was a high school romantic drama called ‘Boys Over Flowers’, and I’d started watching it; half a decade after it originally aired in Korea. At first I thought; “this is way too cheesy for my taste – and I am an Indian! – the land known for its Bollywood cheese and corny dialogues.” But, I am definitely a sucker for stories – I can’t ever put down a book or stop watching a movie without knowing the ending. So I started with the 2nd episode – and that is the last I remember from that day. It was the next Monday morning when I finally came to my senses; I couldn’t recall if I had any food for the last 2 days!
It was that very morning when I started falling for Korea, even though the drama left me in a little bit of turmoil. I remember sitting up in my bed, thinking; “I smell a very unshake-able addiction in my future”; and that was it.
A bunch of us were in it together after that. Whoever has a PC with them while we’re in the Wi-Fi zone, no matter what we’re working on, there’d be some drama getting downloaded in the background. As soon as 4.30 strikes in the evening, we’d jump out of class; boys would go to cafes and football grounds, girls would go to their rooms to watch from where they had left off that morning at 4 ‘o clock. That was the epic phenomenon of an effect Korean dramas had on us. No matter the commotions, riots or campus strikes happening outside; we would still be in our beds, together or by ourselves, cozied up, watching nether-worldly handsome and beautiful actors delivering some questionable and cringe-worthy dialogues to each other. Months after, I started showing symptoms of becoming a junkie – I began scheduling my class work and projects around watching them; if I have an untouched stock – it would haunt me wherever I go until I reach for it like a glazed donut sitting in the refrigerator; my cynic friends started to sulk and frown upon the idea of me watching Korean all the time, non-stop, out of concern…..But I didn’t care; I was just keen on catching up.
I loved their attention to detail at first – their language that sends off an elite sound, the way they talk with the soulful way they frame their lines that seemed precise – no more, no less; that would be lying; I noticed that their actors were sort of chiseled definition of cute at first (LOL!). Mixed with my naive, teenage hormones; it didn’t take me a second to fall hard for their faces. Staring-deep-into-the-soul kind of scripts coming to life with their unbelievably scenic looks somehow made sense to me, who used to hate silly rom-coms in the past. The cover does matter folks!
And then there were the colors – each color for each prop in each shot which were meticulously planned, despite the scale, to convey something minuscule but of importance. They don’t leave a hair out of place, not a ray of light to the hands of fate. No wonder for quite a few past years, trends have been coming down from there. Frankly, I happened to discover some unusual colors and clothing choices for the first time from their shows. They’ve got an incredible sense of style, unmatched by anything under the sun.
The whole idea of most of the dramas we watched revolved around romance and love. The fact that it seemed undeniably nonexistent, made it more likable. The kind of love, commitment, virtue and sincerity the characters showed toward each other made us wonder where would this kind of love even exist?! Are they even human for finding new and newer realms of romance? Seriously, in how many different ways one can express love?! Or Is it that we lack imagination and creativity in our respective industries? Maybe that helped with my happening upon on Korean entertainment monumentally being refreshing.
The OSTs of all dramas packs at the least 2 or 3 trending songs, which sometimes trend more than a boy-band album and would leave you high and dry in the emotion land. I have once seen a meme about the Fast and Furious series where they show an ordinary car with a normal gear stick which has 5 gears; while for a car with Vin Diesel sitting inside, they show the thin white lines in the stick running off to infinity. I feel the Korean music is distinguished in the same way – for me, when any other music displays around a handful of emotions; Korean drama OSTs own an unending, versatile palette of emotions that makes you realize you can be a big fat softie too.
And then there is the way they prove their trade on screen. The tears rolling down their cheeks and their heart-felt sobs would actually make something inside of you stir up too. To my surprise, the protagonists weeping and saying something romantic in probably every episode wouldn’t make you close your ears shut; on the contrary they made us say ‘Awww!’ And trust me, I rarely even say that. Even the child actors display a level of worth and wisdom in their acting which is rare to come by, in other industries including Hollywood.
The food they show off, the way they have it, and the way they treat food is nothing short of adorable. Table full, colorful – like the summer-spread-of-some-fashion-catalog – food went into a hardworking character who is in dire need of bombs of energy to live out a difficult day. I heard there is even a famous phrase referring to their struggling youth which goes like the ‘Korean perseverance’ – them running from school to one part time job to another, till dawn; giving their all to make everything work and the ends meet.
The common courtesy they show may be a bit over the bounds for our custom – bowing down to half our height in common greeting. Such cultural tweaks they practice show how they treat each other with respect, greet elders with gratitude and their women with responsibility. All of this unfamiliar, tremendously civil mannerisms were fascinating and admirable to watch, even though on a screen.
The locations, even the cityscapes were made out to seem like canvases with which some humongous artist is painting his masterpieces. Every plot screamed life, even the cars seemed as if they are alive! The therapeutic visuals made us complain why weren’t we born there?! The first snow, the cherry blossoms, the snowflakes, even the good old classic rain there, seduced us with an unseen, charismatic pull.
Years after becoming a loyal recipient of their golden content, including dreamy series’ exponentially better than the last one; I think that they make it a point to advertise themselves as a dreamland with an idealistic culture – without the reservations of the East or the indifference of the West – quite rightfully and successfully so, I’d say.
May it be the same Cinderella story in different outsets, love stories marching against all the odds with different dressing all over, political thrillers with a thin romantic wrapping or fantasies that we wish were real; we couldn’t care less. (As a matter of fact, I have a friend who told me she’d call in sick to work, every time she sits down with a drama and couldn’t finish it by the next day morning!)
Still to this day, I can safely and soundly say we are, unapologetic-ally and unabashedly in love with the land of love – quite proudly the fans of everything Korean, who will always keep wanting more.