Career crazy Lala gets a fourth life

Source:Global Times Published: 2010-5-10 10:50:10

By Huang Xi

Wang Luodan (left) as Du Lala and Li Guangjie as Lala's lover in the television series A Story of Lala's Promotion.
Photo: Courtesy of SMG
Film and Drama Center

Just as actress-turn-director Xu Jinglei celebrated her film Go Lala Go! taking more than 100 million yuan ($14.65 million) at the box office nationwide, which is rare for romantic feature films on the Chinese mainland, the television series adapted from the same book Du Lala's Promotion slid onto the screens of local television channels in neighboring Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shandong provinces.

China's most famous and most successful story of office politics and an out-of-town girl's struggle to get ahead in the city is a major turnaround for television programs, movies and books that have been concentrating on stories about war, relationships between in-laws or science fiction.

"I believe it is one of the first times a best-selling novel has been adapted for so many other forms in China - like the stage version where the character was played by Yao Chen, the film version where she was played by Xu Jinglei and the television series where she is played by Wang Luodan," Xu Xiao'ou, the producer of the TV series A Story of Lala's Promotion, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

Xu, who was the producer of the popular and controversial television series Dwelling Narrowness, bought the rights for television series when the book had only just arrived in bookshops and was not proving that popular. "We (Shanghai Media Group Film and Drama Center) were the first to get the rights before the theater version and the film," she said.

Growing pains

First screened in April, the television series attracted a large number of younger viewers and many of their middle-aged parents.

Following the plot of the novel, Lala's story for white-collar women workers, especially those aged between 25 and 30, is more encouraging and inspiring in the television series than as it was portrayed in the film.

"But the novel itself was not enough for a screenplay. We have enriched the story by adding some of Lala's problems with life such as her sick parents, female friends and trivial day-to-day matters," said Xu.

"It is more like the whole picture of a white-collar worker's career and life. Lala could be you, me or anybody else."

The first television series about white-collar workers' working and living conditions in China, Xu believes the series will be a model for the whole industry.

"We can develop this kind of subject matter rather than constantly focusing on family relationships."

Following international trends, the television series, like the film, introduces Fortune 500 brand names to "match Lala's working and living stratum."


The best Lala?

Yao Chen, a television star who has been growing in popularity in recent years, played Lala in the stage version which toured China and became a big hit. "Yao made Lala a funny character, but the ending of the play fell into a rut," said viewer Cui Manli in her blog.

Xu Jinglei, the most mature and famous of the three Lalas said: "I focused on the inner growth of a woman and the love affair set in a work environment which gives the story a human touch."

As the director and heroine, Xu is another legend and definitely helped the film break box office records. For this at least she leads the way as Lala.

Wang Luodan, 26, who plays Lala in the television series, is the youngest of the three. She appeared in youth-oriented television series such as Struggle and My Youthfulness and she had an image as an immature, inexpe-rienced and capricious girl.

"She wanted to change her image for this and we think she has something in common with Du Lala," said producer Xu.

"Her personality matched the role," Xu added.

Some Lala fans who watched the series have varying opinions. "Lala's promotions are too smooth and come without difficulties in the television series and this is rare in real-life careers," Minerva Hu, a bank clerk in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times.

"And it is quite different from the novel, adding too many extra scenes and details."

Hu, a huge fan of Du Lala's Promotion, has read the novel and watched the play, the film and now the television series.

She told the Global Times that she prefers the Lala played by Yao Chen and the play.

"Her performance was more flexible and the play followed the novel most closely," said Hu.

Hu said "Wang Luodan was too young to handle the position as administrative manager but I can appreciate her endeavors."

She thinks that the film talked too much about office love affairs, which had little appeal "to me and my colleagues since this happens everyday in the office."

The television series will screen on Shanghai Dragon TV and Beijing BTV from July 22.

"We expect to beat the ratings of other youth-oriented television shows though I don't think it will surpass Dwelling Narrowness," Xu concluded.

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