I have always been someone who loved watching movies and shows, right from when I was a kid who didn’t even completely understand what was going on. As expected, I grew up on media in two Indian languages, Hindi and Telugu, but I still have distinct memories of enjoying non-Indian movies, which were always limited to the action genre because that’s what my father loved. So on one hand, I knew Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone, James Bond and others, whereas also really enjoyed stuff by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun-fat. I also had a particular love for black and white Telugu movies with lots of sword fights. But after a childhood and early teenage years full of enjoying media with martial arts and sword fights, I completely lost touch with them and got used to the contemporary movies and shows, just like all my peers.
Come 2020 and we are all in a pandemic, and while some were strong enough to handle it with poise, I became pretty mentally disturbed and couldn’t even turn to my only good habit of reading. In search of what would make me feel more peaceful, I discovered some of my favorite authors talk about something called “The Untamed” on Twitter and decided, why not …. never expecting that this show would completely change my ideas about stories and entertainment.
Ok… so honestly… the first impression after watching some episodes is that the two heroes, and most of the cast, are very very pretty. Then you have the cool production and lovely music, and a very emotional plot which makes for great entertainment. But I watched it twice back to back and then read the webnovel translation, and have been reading the numerous fanfics on AO3 for more than year now. And the reason for it is not because the show or story is perfect, but that it was the exact thing I needed to feel better during those bad times, and it’s impact on me has been huge. Ofcourse, being able to obsess over the Xiao Zhan and Wang YiBo is a bonus 😍😍
Which made me turn to exploring more of their stuff beginning with Untamed bts, and then moving onto both of their songs and performances, especially adoring YiBo on SDC3. Whether it’s Xiao Zhan singing Wild Child or Faded, or YiBo performing Wugan, My Rules and especially the Water stage at SDC3, these two have made me appreciate something I had long forgotten – that art transcends language and can love their work even if I don’t understand all of it. I haven’t been able to watch another of XZ’s drama yet but I found YiBo to be equally cool in both Legend of Fei and Gank Your Heart.
And then came 2021 and Word of Honor. Wow was this a revelation. Not only did I binge read both Tian Ya Ke and Qi Ye after the drama started, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the drama itself. While Untamed did let me rediscover the love I had for that kind of historical stories, it was definitely Word of Honor which made me feel happy and nostalgic about my childhood favorite movies – full of sword fights and martial arts. And to learn that this was a whole genre in Chinese entertainment called WUXIA – my joy knew no bounds, coz I now had a whole lot of dramas as well as books to explore. It also helped that Zhang Zhehan and Gong Jun had great chemistry and the show itself was so full of love, that I truly enjoyed all aspects of it. I fell in love so much that I watched the two day concert of the show without subtitles after paying for it.
This led to me searching for similar dramas and really enjoying ones like Ancient Detective, The Legend of Yunxi and more recently, the very wonderful Imperial Coroner. I have also abandoned a couple because I got bored but let’s not talk about them. What I have really come to enjoy about these Chinese dramas are that firstly, they are so different from anything being made in India. Many of these are visually very vibrant and I adore the elaborate clothing and makeup and as well as the framing of the scenes, leading to some beautiful and unforgettable shots. And despite not always loving the romances, I have found some really great friendship and found family storylines in these dramas.
Which now brings me to the drama I watched and book I read last week – which has affected me so much that I don’t know if anything will live upto it anytime soon. And that is Nirvana in Fire. I’ve obviously been hearing this name since I first watched Untamed and started reading up more about cdramas. Everyone who has seen it has said it’s brilliant, so when I abandoned a couple of shows because I didn’t find them engaging, I decided to watch this one too because how can I miss something so universally loved. And turns out – everyone was absolutely completely right. NiF is too good.
Nirvana in Fire doesn’t have any of the flash I loved in Untamed or WoH – there are not too many flying in the air like gods kind of sword fights, nor are there beautiful looking idol actors with crackling chemistry. NiF is more like perfect traditional storytelling – tight knit plot with every small throwaway subplot being important somewhere down the line; every character, however small, makes an important contribution to the story, and all the actors are perfectly cast and their terrific acting makes you feel every single emotion that they want to convey; the production design is well done and the cinematography is breathtaking at many moments; and the whole melancholic vibe permeating the story lingers in your heart a long time after you are done watching.
After being affected so much by the show and absolutely loving the roles played by all of them, but particularly Hu Ge and Wang Kai, I knew I had to read the book as well. And this translation was so well done. The book is even better in terms of evoking emotion because we get to experience the characters’ innermost thoughts, and I teared up so many times, and probably spent most of the the last 10 chapters crying. The themes of long lasting friendship, loyalty, love, loss, grief, and duty are so profound in this story that there is no way anyone won’t deeply feel it. And even someone like me who searches and searches for books and shows which have happy endings, couldn’t not totally adore this tragic story.
And here ends my rant and I’m sorry if I have bored any of you with my long post here, but I just had to share my feelings about how much joy these shows are giving me. And experiencing something so brilliant and perfect like Nirvana in Fire, I don’t even know what to pick up next. But my love for these dramas and actors has compelled me to start learning some Chinese on Duolingo, which I know is very tough and I probably won’t succeed, but it would make me happy if I can understand even a few words when my favorites speak.
So, if you have any recommendations for me of webnovels and dramas which have similar great plotlines and characters (especially in the wuxia genre), please do share them with me. You can also give me tips on how to learn the language and I would highly appreciate it. And if you do wanna gush about any of the shows I have seen and loved, comment below and we can chat about them endlessly.