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From Rags to Riches: The Billionaire Is Decent but Clich?
  By Sorradithep Supachanya / 21 October 2011
 

 

 

The Billionaire, Songyos Sumakanants biopic about Thailands youngest self-made millionaire, both succeeds and fails depending on which angle you look at.

Aptly released locally at the time when the economy slows down and thousands of households have lost everything in the countrys worst flooding disaster in recorded history, the film is a truly inspiring tale about getting back up after falling down again and again. The protagonist, Top (Patchara Chirathivat) defies the prejudice about his young age, his familys mounting debt, and his repeated failures to finally create a multi-million dollar snack empire within only a few years.

But as a film, The Billionaire struggles to offer a refreshing take of or an insightful exploration into the main character. While the young protagonist has the ambition, the resilience, the fearlessness, and the eye for business opportunities to make it big, so did other self-made billionaires, local or abroad. Replace Top with Japans Yoshikazu Tanaka or Singapores Adam Khoo and wed get essentially the same story.

 

 

The film recounts Tops business endeavor starting in 2001 when he, then a high school student, made his first million baht from selling virtual items in an online game. Disinterested in textbooks, he dropped out of college and used his gaming money to grow his chestnut stall franchise until he sold it off to focus on producing packaged seasoned seaweed, now a two-billion-baht ($67 million) industry. He is 26.

But along the way he struggled, lost heart, and almost gave up. He was down to his last pack of raw seaweed before perfecting his recipe. He was rejected from distributing in 7-Eleven before revamping his product. He was denied bank loan on basis of technicality at the time he needed it the most. Yet every time he got back up and learned from his mistakes, each time with emotional support by his friend and mentor (octogenarian Piak Poster, a legendary director in his acting debut).

Clearly, to succeed in business, one must persevere. One must be driven, like how his desire to rescue his parents out of debt became Tops main driving force. One must take risk, like how Top bootstrapped everything to fund his factory. And one must spot a trend before it happens, like how he noticed the potential of seasoned seaweed from his girlfriends weekend trip souvenir.

But the film fails to explore the protagonist at a deeper level. We do not know what sets Top apart from other young entrepreneurs. We do not see his fears, his shortcomings, and his vulnerability the way we see Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network or fictional Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane.

Lacking depth, film runs too much like a self-promoting autobiography although this is unintentional. Regardless, Tops life story and accomplishment still serve as a motivational tale that anyone can make it big despite any obstacles. If there are two types of people in the worlddoers and those who watch the doers dothen The Billionaire shows what separates the two.

   

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