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For the uninitiated, the petite cutie “Jija” Yanin Vismistananda could easily pass off as one of those pop idols that either relies on their good looks or musical talents to get ahead in the movie industry. But once you seen the latest Thai action flick, Chocolate, helmed by Prachya Pinkaew (the same guy behind a string of hits like Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong), you will be aware it’s her ability to present a spectacular showcase of Muay Thai fighting on screen that her calling card.

It wasn’t an easy path for her to finally landing the lead role. First she had to content with hundreds of other young ladies who can fight. Then she had a hard time to convince the filmmakers that she can fight because she is so small and skinny. After all that, this diminutive gal had to spend another four years training in martial arts style to get into the groove of starring in this role. Even the filming wasn’t without any hiccup as one of the most painful injuries happens when she was kicked right on her face during a fight in a constricted area. That kick left her bleeding from her left forehead and viewers could witness that fight in the end credits

However it was all worth it as Chocolate was a great hit and soon she was labeled as the female version of Tony Jaa. But never ask her who will win a fight between Tony Jaa and her as she sees him as a teacher and is full of respect for him.

Beside all the high flying kicks and painful looking elbow punches, Jija’s role in Chocolate wasn’t entirely about fighting. To add a little bit of twist and difference to this Thai flick that heavily utilize Muay Thai form of fighting, the film maker made her role autistic by nature with a flair of remembering martial arts movement from television programs. To add believability in the role she played, Jija actually spent time in schools for autistic children and learn their behavior and movement. She also went through Oscar winning / nominated films like Forrest Gump and Rain Man to get a better picture of how to get the right behavior. She even pointed out that her character “addiction” for chocolate was a homage to Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump. As she idolizes Jet Li, she hope that her performance in Chocolate could be as good as Jet’s performance in Unleashed.

For her newly converted fans that are looking forward to her next flick, Jija is looking forward to try other genre such as drama but her next flick would be an action flick with a slight dabbles with romance. A point that she strongly emphasize with us as she want to make it clear that it isn’t going to be a romance flick with some action in it. It almost felt like romance would be a bigger obstacle for Jija than fighting with four men at the same time.

Just in case if you are smitten by Jija, she is currently single and does not require her potential boyfriend to be well verse in martial arts. All you need is to be kind and pleasant looking without the need to be too handsome. Sound like some of us might have a glimmer of hope in wishful thinking.

“Chocolate” opens on 15 May and is reviewed here.

Report & Photos: Richard Lim Jr
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