Chitralada Disayanon Kaljaruek On Producing The Goods Years On End
A household name in the Thai entertainment industry, Kantana Group was established by Pradit and Somsook Kaljaruek in 1951. What began with niche homemade radio dramas has become the country’s leading integrated entertainment conglomerate producing films, TV dramas, variety programmes and much more besides. Every clan member has a role to play in sustaining the family empire. Among them is Chitralada Disayanon Kaljaruek, the youngest of Pradit’s five children and vice chairman of Kantana Group’s executive committee.
Groomed from a young age to join the family business, Chitralada recalls hiding under a table at home while above her radio dramas were being recorded. “Whenever they needed a kid’s voice, they would make me do it,” she laughs. “They always took me on location. I have pretty much been surrounded by the entertainment business all along,” the experienced 55-year-old executive laughs. A career in anything else was never in question and after earning a law degree from Thammasat University, followed swiftly by a master’s degree in communication arts at Chulalongkorn, she immediately returned to the family fold. “Of course there was pressure to do well,” she says. “But when I was younger I was driven to make my parents proud. In fact, I had no time to be nervous because I was thrown in at the deep-end and given responsibility for the production of a TV soap opera.”
Today Chitralada helps to oversee pretty much every aspect of Kantana Group but a current focus is the management of Kantana Movie Town. Spanning approximately 800 rai and including the Kantana Academy, which trains TV production staff, it is an ambitious outdoor studio located in Phutthamonthon. “From castings and film equipment logistics to securing broadcast channels and maintaining production schedules—believe me, I’m kept busy,” she laughs. “But then I’m very fortunate to love what I do.”
One of the biggest challenges for the business going forward, Chitralada explains, is keeping pace with ever-changing trends in the way entertainment is consumed. “There is no doubt that digital TV, for example, has influenced viewer behaviour and demand. And look at how in recent times people have turned even more to social media channels to stay connected, to maintain lifestyle mores and, importantly, to share forms of entertainment. We know we have to tap into that zeitgeist.”
When she isn’t busy with work, Chitralada is a self-confessed shopaholic who admits to having caught the online shopping bug. Her downtime is spent with her extended family and a beloved Pomeranian that rarely leaves her side. As with her own experience as a young adult, the mother of 27-year-old Dislada and 25-year-old Ditsakorn expects them—and indeed the clutch of nephews and nieces that make up the third generation of the family—to pull their weight. “I would never force them to do something they didn’t want to do—they’re not obliged to join the business. But there’s no reason why they cannot contribute to the family’s industrious legacy by pursuing their interests with passion and determination. To put in a noble effort but fail at something is no disgrace. Not trying at all…that is inexcusable to me.”
Having returned to Thailand from Los Angeles in mid-March, Chitralada was required to self-quarantine for 14 days. “So I took myself off to our house in Hua Hin. It may sound cushy but for someone like me who is used to being on the go all the time, I found it really disconcerting and a little frustrating,” she laughs. “Then again, once I did get back to Bangkok I found I really missed the beach!”
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