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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Addicted To Korean Dramas!

Korean TV dramas were hardly ever heard of beyond Korea's borders, but beginning in the late 1990s they began to acquire a strong following in USA, especially in California, where ethnic Korean community has a predominant presence. Without a reference or recommendation from a friend on Facebook or a follower to Twitter, we started watching Korean TV dramas when my wife during one of her habitually repeated channel rolling sessions suddenly stopped on Stairway to Heaven, and we had a heavenly TV time. We remained glued to enjoy the rich experience even though we did not follow the foreign language the characters were speaking, no subtitles then. That was in the year 2004 perhaps, and since then we have watched so many Korean dramas that we cannot count them on fingers or even recollect all the titles to enlist them for our reference. Indeed, the Korean dramas are a class much above the Indian or American soaps we have been seeing, and the added attraction is that they now come with English subtitles. One most welcome feature of Korean dramas is that unlike Indian and American soaps they do not tend to drag on and on for year after year, but are limited to a length of 3-6 months at the maximum.

Korean dramas are fun to watch. However, sometimes there are cultural differences that may make it difficult for non-Koreans, not so much for Indians as for Americans, from fully understanding what is happening in the drama. By and large, it is easier for Indians to relate to the relationships and situations in the story because of the cultural similarity between the two countries. For instance, pre-marital sex is as much a taboo in Korea as in India and it is never shown in Korean dramas. Kissing in public is not as common in Korea as it is in the U.S. In many of the dramas, when a couple kisses, it
usually means the relationship is very serious and will likely lead to marriage. In most dramas the lovers are not even shown lip-kissing till the couple is eventually united permanently towards the climax portions of the drama. Engaged marriages are preferred and even when the couple is romancing, parents' permission is sought before the marriage. As highlighted in "Mothers and Sisters," sons are more desirable than daughters in a traditional Korean family. If the family has more than one son, the oldest son is expected to take care of his parents when they age. Daughters, on
the other hand, are valued less since they become part of their husband's family and are required to serve their husband's parents once they get married. One particular aspect of their culture seen in practically every drama may be difficult to digest by most Indian viewers– universal addiction to drinking. Every one, young and old, parents and children, start drinking at the slightest provocation or set back in their life and get so much drunk, especially the female folks, that they have to be given piggy-back ride to their residences. May look amusing to non-Korean viewers!

In order to give a glimpse of the Korean TV drama, I have here tried to introduce my most favorite five dramas out of the numerous dramas we have watched and enjoyed in the last 5-6 years of our love affair with the Korean drama:

Stairway to Heaven

Wow, what a spellbinding story surcharged with heartwarming emotional moments and above all class performance by the entire cast. This show was a big hit. This drama quickly became known as one that could bring on laughter and tears, pulling at viewers’ heartstrings every time they watched. The wonderful story-line kept people talking long after the final episode aired. The show incorporates the beauty and sadness of love set in beautiful filming locations with a sweet, mellow soundtrack. The story opens with two children who grew up together and become lovers. Song-ju and Jeong-seo grew up together as close friends. As the only son of a wealthy executive of Global Group, Song-ju went abroad to study management. During this time, Jeong-seo is in a serious car accident, resulting in memory loss. She remembers nothing of her childhood friend, Song-ju and is unexpectedly reunited with him. The young main characters have different ways of expressing love, making each character unique.

All In

It is a special TV drama based on the true fiction-like story of Cha Min-su, a pro gambler and a pro janggi (Korean chess) player. Mr. Cha is the model for the main character Kim In-ha, played by Lee Byung-hun, who has become a super star of Korean TV dramas after his highly acclaimed performance in All In. Mr. Cha has had a dramatic life. He went to Las Vegas with only 18 dollars and became a millionaire. 'All In' is a story about a passion for success, victory and defeat in business and at the casino, and a love, sorrowful and pure.

The Slave Hunters

An award winning period drama of slaves fervently wishing to live like a human being and slave hunters chasing them tirelessly. While doing his job as a slave hunter, Dae-gil is offered to get Song Tae-ha and is promised to be given a fair amount of money as a reward. Tae-ha was forced to become a state slave as he was wrongfully accused of stealing some provisions. Tae-ha tries to escape. Daegil, however, gets wind of his plan and the two ends up fighting a bloody fight. Having barely escaped from the fierce fight, Te-ha happens to accompany a beautiful woman named Hye-won. In the end, Tae- ha manages to run away from Dae-gil while Dae-gil feels affection for Hye-won.

Cinderella's Stepsister

With great lines, heartfelt scenes, and exceptional acting, Cinderella's Stepsister has been praised as the most beautifully compelling drama of 2010. A modern adaptation of the classic fairy-tale “Cinderella,” “Cinderella's Stepsister” is the story of the stepsister who must overcome her past to find her true colors. Love is a seemingly unattainable luxury for Eun-jo (Cinderella's stepsister) who spent an unhappy childhood with an extremely selfish mother. Hyo-seon (Cinderella), despite her loving childhood, can never seem to get enough affection after her mother passes away when she is just a child. The drama follows the life of these two very different girls on their journeys into adulthood, where they eventually find themselves vying for the love of the same man. The drama sends the message that whether you are Cinderella or Cinderella's Stepsister, the star of your own fairy-tale or a character pushed to the background, life can be equally painful and sweet.

Bread, Love and Dreams

The highly acclaimed, awarded and extremely popular drama is also known as King of Baking, Kim Tak Goo. It tells the story of how a determined young baker manages to become the best baker in all of Korea, facing many trials on his journey, spanning through the 1970's to the 1990's, beginning with his mother's past, through his childhood, and his adulthood, successes, and trials. Kim Tak-gu is the eldest son of Gu Il-joong, the chairman of Geo-sung Corporation, a legend in the baking industry. Although he is an extremely talented baker and seemed destined to succeed his father as president, Goo Il-joong's family plotted to rob him of his inheritance because he was born to Il- joong's mistress, Kim Mi-soon. Tak-gu's determination to become number one in the baking industry drives him to rebuild his career from scratch despite the many trials he faces. It is one of the best Korean dramas with incredible performance by the entire cast and very inspiring and engaging story.

Korean drama programming is publicly available in most broadcast areas in USA. Now, due to information spread via the internet, cable TV, satellite TV, and DVD rental businesses, along with k-dramas' quality English subtitling and good production quality, Korean dramas have become even more popular across a diverse American audience - i.e., not limited to families of Korean descent. I'm sure if you have a chance to watch any Korean drama, especially any one of my favorite five, you will understand what made my wife and me so much addicted to Korean dramas.


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