Sunday, February 5, 2023

Hometown Cha Cha Cha Review : Vitamin Sea And A Whole Lot of Love And Hope

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It was warm and comforting like a frayed sweater or a soft worn down duvet.. the scenic sea side town of Gongjin and its small community of people brought back memories of my own childish paintings of fantastical towns with heartwarming people who always had each other’s back despite the storms, the heartbreaks.

Yes, I am taking about the recently concluded K Drama Home Town Cha Cha Cha which may have ended on a high note but no sooner had the final credits rolled, its sweetness turned sour as its lead actor Kim Seon Ho’s personal life became food for tabloid fodder.

So does it take away the endearing Du Sik or the brilliance of Seon Ho’s acting chops, of course not.

Home Town Cha Cha which is the drama adaptation of the 2014 Korean Film “MR Handy MR Hong” ticked many boxes for me, lets start with the first: the scenic picture postcard perfect landscape of Gongjin. We need to give it to Korean Drama’s and their tourism promotional skills, I literally wanted to teleport myself to Gongjin, it’s skies which magically turned from sky blue to pink, to golden and midnight blue, its silver sands and the one lighthouse which seemed to be a guardian overlooking its many inhabitants.

Gonjin is actually the prime character here which has a magnetic appeal to draw people to it.

Now comes the plot which on the surface is simple but it’s many subplots and characters are so relatable that you actually end up thinking you are either one of them or they resemble someone you know or have known.

So we are introduced to the smart, ambitious Yoon Hye jin (Shin Min-ah)who loves her high end brands as much as she loves drilling or fitting implants into people’s teeth , yes she is a Dentist who quits the clinic where she works since she does not want to compromise on her ethics and lands up at Gongjin a place which holds a special place in her heart. Our impulsive heroine does the unexpected she decides to move bag and baggage to Gongjin which she does she refer to as the “boondocks”. but feels it could be the best place to establish her clinic with the hope of returning back to the bright lights and big city someday.

A story of happiness, self containment and love

Here we meet Hong Du Sik (Kim Seon Ho) popularly called Chief Hong, who is the town’s chief handyman, there is nothing that Du Sik can’t do, all for a wage. He is the first person Hye jin runs into little realising that in life nothing is a coincidence. So, do sparks fly ?Well not really since Hye Jin’s prickly sophisticated personality is the bang opposite to Du Sik’s easy going laid back attitude, who remarks “ money and success aren’t the lonely valuable things in life. Happiness, self contentment and love are”.

As, he encourages Hye jin to not take life too seriously to stop and smell the ocean, soak under the pouring rain, to give up pretences and embrace people for what they are .

Now talking about its many inhabitants, the widowed father who keeps recounting his days as a singer, runs a cafe which does not sell the best coffee and dotes after his teenage daughter who is obsessed with a boy band. We then have a divorced mother who runs a restaurant and her many skirmishes with her former husband who also lives in the same town keep erupting the moment they set eyes on each other, the only bond that binds them is their son.

A couple who run a supermarket and are expecting their second child together have their own issues to the town’s chief gossip who also runs a restaurant and then we have the shy cop who Hye Jin’s friend falls for. My favourite being the granny Kim Gam Ri (Kim Young Ok) fiercely independent and self sufficient and her friends who make up for the rest of Gongjin’s motley crew who know everything about each other and anyones business becomes everyone’s as well.

So as we see Hye Jin dropping her prickly exterior which Du Sik describes that of a Hedgehog whom she has involuntarily taken in, we see an attraction growing between our two leads whose dimples and personalities are kind of infectious and even despite their quirks they grow on you.Whether it is Du Sik’s obvious jealousy when faced with another wheel in his love story with the arrival of Seyong Hun( Lee Sang yi) or Hye Jin’s own frustrations with Du Sik who is unwillingly to let her into his past which haunts him.

Shin Min ah and Kim Seon Ho are two strong actors who play their part convincingly.There are moments when I would get irritated with Hye jin and then think “oh my lord don’t I behave like this too”. Du Sik who plays the perfect boyfriend obliging to fulfil her “dating bucket list” or Hye jin who literally burns water in the kitchen making an effort to cook for him, does make your heart go “awwww”.

But as we have seen in several K dramas , every character in the narrative is important with their own back stories as on one hand there is a love story playing out on the other there are basic human issues of self acceptance, loss, abandonment , regret , guilt and heartbreak unfolding around which are dealt with sensitively .

Yes, the popular KDrama trope of a “childhood connection” makes an appearance but this Drama has a universeal appeal.As I told a friend it’s like Korean version of a “Rajshri Film” with it’s strong sense of community, family ties, love, tears, drama and lots of hope. Hope is what we need in times like this and basic belief in humanity and compassion.

And last but not the least the soundtrack, as I write this I have “ Romantic Sunday “ playing on loop, so I suggest watch it if you haven’t and rewatch if you have after all who doesn’t need Vitamin Sea, Love and some fun. HomeTown Cha Cha cha is a warm hug we all need and crave for.

Puja Talwar
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