Some of you have asked me if I know anything about FBFY’s live-action adaptation. I do. I’ve been meaning to give you guys some info at the end of one of the chapters but I kept forgetting to. Thought I might as well do a proper post now with some actual research to back it up (as per my usual style). That said, a little disclaimer: There’s really only so much I can search for given my almost non-existent Chinese knowledge and using Google Translate, so my information isn’t the most accurate. But for those who are curious, here’s what I’ve found out.
I’ve been following a Vietnamese FBFY Facebook page for quite some time, shortly after I began this blog I think, which was how I found out about the republication of the Viet translation. The page also gives some news updates about Xiao Chun, as well as the live-action adaptation, but it’s not a whole lot of information.
What I do know is that it will a webdrama with 10-16 episodes (each source seems to say something different). Filming was completed in October 2016 and post-production ran through until the end of December. The expected release date was January 2017 but I haven’t heard much since. Some other sources said it’ll air December 2017. So basically some time this year is the only thing I could conclude 😛 The company behind the production is Tencent’s Penguin Pictures. Yup, it’s the same conglomerate behind QQ, Weibo and the likes.
The script was penned by Xiao Chun herself. Unfortunately, due to China’s ban on time-travelling theme in live-action films/dramas after the hype of Bu Bu Jing Xin (and related dramas around the time), this webdrama’s script will diverge from the novel substantially. Don’t ask me how the story will be the same after you remove the whole time-travelling bit. I still don’t get why Xiao Chun agreed to this either.
Anyhow, here are some official posters of the characters:
Niu Zi Fan as Luo Shen (Rajiva’s name in Chinese)
Chen Rong as Ai Qing
Yang Ting Dong as Xiao Fu (Pusysdeva)
Zhu Yan as Qi Po (Jiva)
Yao Zhuo Jun as Luo Yan (Kumarayana)
Niu Piao as Bai Chun (Kuchan King, brother to Jiva and uncle to Rajiva)
I have no idea who the next three characters are. They are either characters that appear later in the novel who got their names changed (like what happened to Da Mo Yao when it got adapted to a drama), or completely original characters.
Li Dong Lin as Kun Sha (Lu Guang maybe? though he looks rather kind for a villain)
Yu Hao Yang as A Duo Li
A Li Ya as Zhang Yi
Here are some more stills I’ve uncovered. I even went through the trouble of creating a weibo account for this OTL.
When they were young:
Pusysdeva and Rajiva
(probably the only photo that even came close to capturing the novel’s majestic feel)
Rajiva and his mother
When they’re adults:
Some more stills:
To be completely frank, I wish they didn’t try to make a live-adaptation in the first place, if this is what it comes out to be like. A harsh judgment, yes, but you all are well aware of how big of a fan I am in regards to the novel. Oh I know that live-adaptations will always be very different from the original books, but this might just be the worst job done yet. And that’s coming from someone who has lived through both Western and Asian live-adaptations of many of her favourite books.
Before news of this webdrama came about, I had almost no expectations of a live-adapation of FBFY. I already knew about the time-travelling ban, so I thought “well it’ll hardly be FBFY without that rather important bit” and thus haboured no hopes of such production. Furthermore, unless they manage to kidnap this actor and somehow teach him Tocharian, Sanskrit and Chinese, then there’s really hardly anybody else that can possibly capture Rajiva in his entirety.
(The screenshots are from a Korean documentary about the Silk Road, and this was the actor who played Kumarajiva. I do not know his name or nationality, though I know for sure he is neither Korean or Chinese. He didn’t speak a single line the documentary. Yeah, swoon with me, because he is the perfect embodiment of Rajiva. They even got his kasaya robes right, down to the T!)
Where do I even begin my criticisms? It’s already hard enough to reconcile myself with the fact that they took out the time-travelling element because that’s the heart and soul of the story. But then I look at the actors chosen to play our main characters and I just want to weep. Ai Qing looks like she’s in her mid-30s and has none of that silly/sly sparkle in her face and eyes. Rajiva I knew had to be played by a Chinese actor and thus cannot match the novel’s description (his facial features were closer to a Caucasian, and there’s also the honey brown skin and light grey eyes part…), but the costume designer gave him white kasaya robes and I just want to flip the table! White! Kasaya is a term derived from brown or saffron dye, how did it become white??? Chinese monks wear yellow robes so I’m not sure where white even comes from. Pusysdeva…I’m not even gonna go there. Jiva needs to be more aloof, and Kumarayana…oh where did our elegant scholar father go? This guy looks more like a military general rather than a scholarly monk from India! Also, he’s supposed to be much more frail…
My final verdict:
Xiao Chun may have approved this production and may have had a say in the cast, but I still consider this whole thing a disaster. My dear author, why would you do this to your child? Why would you do this to fans of the novel? Believe me, I am not the only one bemoaning this. The Viet fans are just as displeased, and the Chinese aren’t that much better either.
I might try and skim through the first episode when it airs (and provided that I can find a link for it) just out sheer curiosity, but I doubt I will watch the rest of it. Not to mention that there will be zero chance of English subs…
This MV is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a real live-adaptation of the novel. The video used clips from the Korean documentary I mentioned above, and the featured song is called “Like a dream”, which is based on the Diamond Sutra gatha quoted in ch.17 (the 7 similes Rajiva is most famous for):
(There was another video that has better clips from the documentary but it’s unfortunately deleted already. I might attempt to reupload it one day.)
What are your thoughts on the webdrama?