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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 12:33 GMT
Thailand's Suriyothai beats Titanic
The execution scene from the film Suriyothai
The execution scene from the film Suriyothai
Historical epic Suriyothai, Thailand's most expensive movie, is now its most successful at the box office, beating previous smash hit Titanic.

Two-and-a-half years in the making, it was always hoped that the film would revive interest in the flagging Thai film industry and renew the country's interest in its history.

Costing 400 million baht ($9 million) to make, figures indicate that the film has already exceeded expectations by grossing 500 million baht ($ 11million) since its release.

The film tells the story of the legendary 16th Century Queen, Suriyothai, and the struggles and self sacrifices she made to rule the Kingdom.

Promotion of Thai film
Suriyothai has been heavily promoted in Thailand
It has appealed more to Thai audiences than Titanic, which made 213 million baht ($4.7 million) when it was released in 1997.

For a nation who is commonly fed a diet of subtitled Hollywood films, Suriyothai marks a significant turning point in Thailand's cinematic history.

Suriyothai was commissioned by Thailand's Queen Sirikit. She asked Thai director, Chatrichalerm Yukol, himself a minor prince, to make the lavish production.

With no expenses spared, the three-hour film was originally cut down from an eight-hour master and includes a vast cast adorned in rich costumes.

Unusually it has a central cast of 50 characters in addition to 2000 extras, 70 horses and 100 elephants.

'Visual feast'

Queen Sirikit helped with casting the main characters.

Her wardorbe attendant, Piyapas Bhirombhakdi, landed the lead role despite no previous acting experience.

Intended to be a historical romp along the lines of Braveheart, critics have described the resulting film as a visual feast, more akin to a historical documentary.

Heavily promoted in Thailand, the film's release was eagerly awaited and on the day of its première in August, there were national celebrations.

Director, Chatrichalerm Yukol is currently negotiating foreign distribution rights and has said that he plans to make the film shorter, adding an English narration to simplify the story.

See also:

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