Thailand’s world of action cinema has lost one of its pioneers. Panna Rittikrai, the mentor of action stars like Tony Jaa, Jeeja Yanin, and Dan Chupong, has passed away at the age of 53 after a long illness.
Born Krittiya Lardphanna on February 17, 1961, Panna started out in the movie business in 1979 as a physical trainer for actors. It was here he was learning about filmmaking and was influenced by Jackie Chan’s films and others, notably the James Bond films. He moved back to his hometown of Khon Kaen and formed his own stunt team, the PPN Stunt Team (later renamed to Muay Thai Stunt), and they began to make films beginning with GERD MA LUI (BORN TO FIGHT) in 1986.
In 2003, Panna helped launched the career of one of his top students, Tony Jaa, along with director Prachya Pinkaew with ONG-BAK. In 2004, Panna launched another protege, Dan Chupong, in the lead in a reboot of Panna’s original BORN TO FIGHT. In 2008, Panna launched taekwondo star Jeeja Yanin with her film CHOCOLATE. Panna has had a successful run and had made on screen appearances as villains in DYNAMITE WARRIOR (2006) and BANGKOK KNOCKOUT (2010). His last film as martial arts choreographer was TOM YUM GOONG/THE PROTECTOR 2 (2011), which unleashed the fighting skills of Marrese Crump.
KUNG FU CINEMA sends its sincerest condolences to the family of Master Panna Rittikrai. We thank you, Master Panna, for your contributions to martial arts cinema. May you Rest in Peace.
While some of Rittikrai’s back catalogue are available on DVD, other titles can be bought in VCD form at EThaiCD.com, despite no English subtitles for a reasonable price. They are worth checking out Rittikrai and his team in hard-hitting action and stunts with no wires or CGI.
obituary • Panna Rittikrai