Notes to “Love, Kinship and Loyalty: Cheng Kau-Mui and Lau Sing in No Regrets”

The original post can be read here.

I first watched Rosy Business (巾帼枭雄) in 2011 and I simply became hooked. I spent hours poring over forums, keen to know more, and quickly found out about No Regrets, the indirect sequel featuring the majority of the Rosy Business cast and once again has Sheren Tang and Wayne Lai as the main leads. Both series showcase grand, gripping scenes of conflict between the characters and contains similar themes in platonic love, loyalty and moral courage. The two series are also remembered for its ending; the story comes full circle, completed, yet the closure is tinged with the sadness of separation and death.

“I hope the story reminds people of family,” Tang said in her 2010 award speech as Best Actress, “that it gives people the urge to go home and spend time with their loved ones.”

At thirteen years old, I sat down with my family every single day after dinner and we devoured all thirty-two episodes together in one week. Yes, my parents and me. One week.

It’s quite hilarious to think how we were shaking and gasping in fear when poor Pai Gwat had the whole of Tung Tai wanting to end him, how we cheered when Cheng and Lau gunned down soldiers and avenged the oppressed, how we stared at the screen in disbelief each time the words “Ten Years Later” showed up in the final episode.

Prior the premiere in 2010, producer Lee Tim-Sing promised that “If [the series] is received negatively, I’ll go back to cleaning cow dung in my village!” He laughed, much to the support of the cast who likewise believed in its potential.

The entire crew poured their hearts into production. Although the limited budget has contributed to lacklustre special effects (the rubbery tattoo of one soldier at the concentration camp makes me laugh to this day), the plot itself and the effort of the people behind it shines through: there is an almost cinematic quality to the soundtrack and the way scenes are shot, framed and delivered. The end result – the story – is nothing short of great and brilliant.

Lau, alone in the prison cell, awaiting his uncertain fate of tomorrow.
Cheng at the Chinese guerrilla’s underground medical facility after saving Lau.

As I work on other posts, I find the need to frequently re-read key dialogues as I write. For No Regrets, it’s a testament to the number of times I watched the series that I know the events taking place in every episode by heart. Since 2011, well … you can go ahead and guess how many times I re-watched it. (Answer provided below – ha!)

I believe one reason for these repeated viewings is because part of me hopes that upon the next re-watch, the ending wasn’t a cruel parting of thirty years. Although Tang admires her character’s determination in waiting for Lau, she shares similar feelings of regret, emptiness and loss: “Thirty years of waiting and that was it?”

Reality and war separated two great souls. As comrades, close friends and family – it’s impossible to pigeonhole the pair’s relationship as a romantic couple – Lau and Cheng’s four short years together was almost a travesty. If one of them died at some point before the country re-opened, those fourteen years of irreplaceable friendship through the hardships of war would have ended there and then. It would only be a memory the pair remembered, never to be carried on in their lifetime.

From this perspective, the actual ending of No Regrets can be viewed with a sense of joy and relief. In the series, Lau and Cheng may have aged greatly after thirty years and only had limited sunsets left ahead of them, they were still of flesh and blood, very much alive, and they miraculously found each other again. For the loved ones we lost, in this lifetime we’re living, we cannot see their physical form again, but Lau and Cheng’s wish of reuniting with the other was fulfilled; it was a hope which reality has often denied but granted these two people.

In 2020, a decade since the broadcast of No Regrets, it is heartwarming to see Tang and Lai remain fondly remembered by audiences for these defining characters. The love is mutual; as artistes, they adore the story and the reciprocating human connection it elicits from the public. Once again interviewed as a pair in recent years, both actors continue to express the hope to partner again in future drama series, however they also admit that it was difficult. To re-create something like Rosy Business and No Regrets required matching schedules, a well-written script, experienced directors and producers. It was a combination one could only hope for given the current state of the industry; competition for viewership ratings, the paradigm shift from traditional television to the booming state of new media, many broadcasters end up churning out “new” drama series in an effort to retain consumers, only to have the majority containing repetitive content and mediocre storylines.

Another ten years more, Tang and Lai are likely to have retired from the spotlight. Even if they have not, beloved television actors tend to move towards portraying parental figures and side characters. The presence of these artistes continues to delight audiences who have watched them grow and evolve since their youth, but they no longer play the main leads. Several exceptions are observed in Western and Asian cinema – well-known actors such as Meryl Streep, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan continue to be cast as main characters today – yet these cases appear limited to international blockbusters. Small-screen productions carry on operating in the aforementioned cycle.

If there is no more to come, I do believe Rosy Business and No Regrets are already wonderful, indulgent gifts from the storytellers and performers who gave their all to present them consecutively in 2009 and 2010. “Love, Kinship and Loyalty” is my piece on Lau and Cheng, an ode to nostalgia as well as a contribution to all the lovers of this amazing, remarkable story.

Answer: At least 10 times.

Notes

Comedic re-enactment of No Regrets in I Love Hong Kong 2010, https://www.bilibili.com/video/av1886232/.

Comedic re-enactment of No Regrets in Come On, Cousin!, https://www.bilibili.com/video/av60771290/.

 “felt that everything was actually real (我觉得整件事是真的)”: Wayne Lai, Big Big Channel Live Chat, September 10, 2017.

“absent of passionate declarations (很平凡,没什么语调,淡淡的)”: Sheren Tang, interview by Luisa Maria, Telling Maria Sr 4, Ep 1, September 10, 2017.

“I’ll remember him for life (我这一生都会记住的)”: Wayne Lai, TVB Anniversary Awards, December 5, 2010.

“I hope the series not only entertains (我希望这剧除了带给大家娱乐)”: Sheren Tang, TVB Anniversary Awards, December 5, 2010.

“If it’s received negatively”: Lee Tim-Sing, No Regrets promotional event 鼓舞豪情展“戲”勢, October 15, 2010.

“What I admire is her belief and persistence (我尊敬的是她那份感情的坚持)”: Sheren Tang, interview by Owen Ng, TVB Entertainment News, 2010.

“hope to partner again”: Wayne Lai and Sheren Tang Praisage interview transcript, https://www.weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309404227054718565584&mod=zwenzhang (accessed 23 April, 2020).

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