A time-traveling romantic soap opera surrounding the events of Bang Rachan, based on a novel written by a right-wing author, colours the imagined past through rosy, blood-tinted glasses.
“Atitha” (“The Ancient Past”) is currently airing on Channel 7, at 20:30 on Fridays to Sundays. This time-travelling period romance featuring Ayutthayans and Burmese fighting in the Bang Rachan siege has been made into soap operas (lakorn) twice, the first in 2001. The original two-novel series was first serialized in 1992 by Thommayanti, the pen name of Wimon Chiamcharoen (1937–).
The Bang Rachan myth, of a village single-handedly holding off Burmese forces during the Burmese Siamese War (1765-1767) before being overwhelmed, has often been remade as part of popular modern Thai mythology: a 1966 version was made, while the 2000 version directed by Thanit Jitnukul is the best known. The Bang Rachan myth popularizes nationalism, sacrifice, and Thai-Burmese enmity as both natural and necessary, disregarding historical inaccuracies such as the non-existence of “Thailand/Siam” or “Burma” at the time. Instead, the wars were between the kingdoms of “Ayutthaya” and the “Konbaung.”
However, Atitha takes it a step further than these historical movies, by adding romantic and time-traveling events to literally connect present-day Thailand with Ayutthaya and conjure up a continuous, imagined past.
The plot is as follows: Sirot (Pattaradet Sa-nguankwamdee), a “foreign educated” event organizer returns from studying abroad, and sets to work organizing a flashy, modern, “youth-attracting” event for the Ayutthaya Lights and Music Festival, often butting heads with some “old-fashioned” colleagues. Then somehow, a warrior named Mueangjai (Akkaphan Namart) from Bang Rachan accidentally travels from the 18th century to the present day while looking for cannons to reinforce his village against attacks. Sirot ends up travelling back in time to aid Mueangjai in the Bang Rachan siege, and both men fall in love with the women they meet in the eras they travel to.
Of course, Sirot knows that the Bang Rachan siege will ultimately fail, but he still continues to help his friends and fight patriotically, albeit for a nation that doesn’t exist yet. By fighting in an iconic battle, falling in love with a maiden from the past, and experiencing nostalgia for “simple” village romance and pure ideals, by the end Sirot has completely reformed from his former “modernizing” self.