When I first tumbled down the rabbit hole of drama dependency, I puzzled to make sense of why I was so thoroughly enamoured by the form. I thought back to my childhood when Hong Kong dramas were the staple viewing of my grandmother and just about every auntie on the block. This was the 80s, the glory days of the Hong Kong film industry. The first drama I remember watching was the classic The Bund starring the incomparable Chow Yun Fatt. I was in primary school. The show was compulsory viewing for the entire class, fodder for avid recess time discussion. It was probably my first experience as a fangirl before I ever knew what the term meant. It was the Boys Before Flowers of its day. Except with men.
I understood not a lick of Cantonese but as we all know, language is no barrier for fangirls. I remember nothing of the general plot, just a hazy sense of the period setting and gangsters running around in fedoras. But a scene comes to mind: A woman lies comatose in bed, the hero confesses his undying love to her, the final shot– single tear runs down her face. Phwah! To an impressionable kid, it was the height of tragedy and pathos, romance writ large. I lapped it up like a thirsty puppy. These were big themes, grand, they felt adult. And Chow Yun Fatt was hella cool.
HK dramas fell off my radar after that, probably because the Malay subtitling was so poor (English subtitles were non-existent). Then came the tawdry American soaps of the 80s like Dynasty and Dallas, and later Beverly Hills 90210 and other American TV shows. But nothing matched the epic grandiosity of The Bund. Until now, with the discovery of k-dramas. I feel like I’ve re-kindled a long lost friendship, and it feels as comforting as a warm hug.
Ah, but there’s one other thing that’s unforgettable about the show: the awesome theme song by Francis Yip. I guarantee that this is still being sung in karaoke joints across the Cantonese-speaking world. I even remember a few lyrics! Watch for a young, dashing Chow Yun Fatt: