The Chameleon

Reviewed by: sukting

September 06, 2009

Rating: four-point-five

How long
80 episodes

It starts with 3 families which are neighbours – their sons are close friends. They choose different paths in career and love. Men can be so weak and vulnerable so the story writer compares them to the chameleon. They change because only the fittest can survive. Is this a clever decision to protect themselves or are they just moving along with the times?

Story/Introduction on characters

1. Kwong Chi Lap – Poon Chi Man
He is a buddy to Shing and Kai Chung. He is a righteous lawyer but offends an evil MP Wong (Dong Piew). This man causes him to lose his lawyer license. From then, he knows that there is a gap between ambition and reality. Although he doesn't become too unscrupulous, he also knows how to make wise decisions for survival.

He has 3 women in his life. He and Mong Hung seem to be a pair in others' eyes but he only treats her like a younger sister. He doesn't wish to upset her so he keeps quiet. This results in her loving him all her life. He meets Yin Mui and it is love at first sight. Unfortunately, she has a boyfriend who is also his friend. So he suppresses the thought.

Yin Mui only regards him as her boyfriend after his friend goes to jail. When seeing him losing his lawyer license, she stands by him. She is unlucky to meet Shing, who rapes her when drunk. This causes her to get pregnant. Shing gives her a lot of pressure when she discovers that she is pregnant. She chooses to end her life on their wedding day. His friend is hostile to him after Yin Mui's death and is killed by the police.

It is a dark period for Chi Lap to lose his career and love. Mong Hung helps him to pick himself up. However, Chi Lap is eager to regain his license. So he befriends a shipping magnate's daughter, Mei Ting. Although he still misses Yin Mui, he puts profits over self. His thirst for revenge becomes even greater upon knowing that Shing has something to do with Yin Mui's death.

Chi Lap chooses to marry Mei Ting. This disappoints Mong Hung a second time. His relationship with Mei Ting worsens when Chi Lap keeps finding fault with Shing. In the end, their marriage breaks up. The two friends become bitter foes and he forces Shing to face the law for accepting bribes. Although he is successful, his loved ones leave him and he has to face this harsh fact. He reflects on his actions and begins anew in a bid to become a righteous lawyer again.

2. Ho Shing – Lau Chi Wing
He is the only son of the family. He gets along well with his parents. He was once a salesman who sold encyclopedias but felt that there were no prospects. His father is a policeman, so Shing follows in his father's footsteps to become a detective.

Shing is a clever man who sees the dark force within the police circle. He joins them to gain profits and his superior, Lau, admires his guts. But he feels that Shing is too smart and doesn't know his actual position. So he only treats him like a chess piece. When ICAC is set up, Shing is smart to defect to Inspector Wah to gain more profits. Behind his success to become an inspector is a setback in love.

He and his wife Chan Sau Chu (Chow Wai Kuen) are on the verge of breaking up. He is down and drinks too much, resulting in raping Yin Mui by mistake. Although he regrets his act, he still forces her to marry him. This results Yin Mui in killing herself and Chi Lap to become his enemy.

His father is also hostile to him after what has happened. Shing then woos Mong Hung in order to deal with Chi Lap. The two men keep competing with each other. He accidentally kills Kai Chung. All desert him and he has to face the law. He is jailed for 12 years.

3. Cheng Kai Chung – Lau Wai Mun
He is the elder son in the family but his father regards him as useless. His father never stops scolding him. He is never careful and thinks too highly of himself. His businesses often fail as he trusted the wrong person. He has low self esteem and is then forced to rely on women for survival.

He marries Kit Wan as they love each other. But Kai Chung is really useless to make her suffer. He also cohabits with a singer, Mimi (Siu Yam Yam). What he learns later is that Mimi was also involved with Shing and has run away with his money. That is why they turn into foes.

After that, a rich man's widow, Mrs Lok, also takes liking towards him. He feels that he is finally recognized. After hurting Kit Wan numerous times, they divorce. He invests on gold and then requests his father to sign a letter of guarantee for him to borrow funds.
His father refuses so he fakes his signature.

His deed is discovered and is sent to jail. He loses all hope in life after his release to become a drug addict and gets money through extortion. Shing kills him by mistake with his gun.

4. Cheng Mong Hung – Mah Mun Yee
She is Kai Chung's younger sister. As she is kind and easy-going, many like her and call her ‘Ah Mui' – younger sister affectionately. Her father is hostile to Kai Chung as his business is bad after he is born. Thus, he gave her this name before she was born. He had hoped that she would be another son to succeed him. Unfortunately she turned out to be a daughter.

Although she is a woman, she is very sensible and smart. After her graduation, she replaces her father and brother to take care of the family's brick business. She turns out to be successful and because she is very sociable, 3 rich men woo her. She rejects them as she only loves Chi Lap. She has thought Chi Lap loves her too but he ends up liking Yin Mui and marries Mei Ting.

Chi Lap seems to like her but doesn't. This kills all her hopes and she decides to pretend to love Shing. This is to seek revenge on him. Although her ploy doesn't work and she breaks off her engagement with Shing, she can't forgive Chi Lap and decides to leave Hong Kong as it gives her sad memories.

5. Lam Yin Mui – Ngai Chau Wah
Yin Mui is a nurse and her father is an author. Her mother passes away and her family is average. She got to know Chi Lap when he came to visit his friend. Both of them get along well. She finds herself liking Chi Lap more than her boyfriend. However, she thinks that she should be faithful to her boyfriend since she knew him first and thus keeps her feelings to herself.

Later, her boyfriend goes to jail and her father dies. Her passion in her job reduces as her boyfriend's debtors keep harassing her. Chi Lap introduces her to Shing. Shing's eldest mother is sick and needs a private nurse. Yin Mui agrees since he is Chi Lap's friend. Thanks to Shing's eldest mother's encouragement, she plucks up courage to reveal her feelings to Chi Lap.

Her nightmare starts after her rape by Shing. She is an introvert and can't tolerate Shing's repeated harassment. Her ex-boyfriend also keeps giving her trouble. Unwilling to burden Chi Lap with her issues, she ends her life by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.

6. Kwong Kit Wan – Choi King Fai
She is Chi Lap's younger sister. She stays with her brother and father so she is a traditional woman. Many feels that she is weak by crying too easily. She is very faithful to Kai Chung but she made the wrong decision to marry him hastily. She knows his character well but she is willing to work hard with him. However, Kai Chung chooses to be with women old enough to be his mother.

Although he doesn't command her like a maid, she can't accept his odd ideas and his frequent betrayals. Even though she doesn't wish her marriage to fail, she has to end it painfully. Kit Wan later becomes an actress. She finds a new love and starts a new life.

7. Tong Mei Ting – Yu On On
She is the only daughter of a shipping magnate. Being pampered from young, she is very wilful. However, she is positive towards life and attracts many men. As Chi Lap loses Yin Mui and his license, she gets close to him as she likes him. Both later get married. She doesn't know that Chi Lap only loves Yin Mui. She often uses her wilful behaviour to treat his family.

Chi Lap feels that she is immature and both drift apart when he spends too much time dealing with Shing. He neglects her and she gets to know another man. She doesn't feel remorseful towards Chi Lap. Later, she learns the truth of love and divorces him in order not to commit the same mistake again.

8. Kwong Dai Kuen (Ng Wui) and Kwong Lee Sau Ying (Tang Pek Wan)
Uncle Kuen is a comical person who always makes others laugh as he often makes mistakes. He works at the construction site and his favourite pastime is reading novels. He gets annoyed when his wife often interrupts him. Many call her Auntie Kuen affectionately as she is strict with them. She is worried over her children's future. But she is also very capable and flexible. She will not succumb to failure easily.

9. Cheng Yau Choi (Cheung Yin) and Auntie Kiu (Lee Yuet Ching)
He is the boss of a building construction material company. He is very sharp in his remarks. He thinks he knows a lot but he knows little. He is the most unreasonable father that many might dislike. He dotes on Mong Hung and neglects Kai Chung. Auntie Kiu isn't his wife but his maid. She is slightly deaf and hardly knows what he is talking about. He wanted to dismiss her but changes his mind as she has helped to bring his children up and she has worked for him for a long time.

10. Ho Gau (Ping Fan) and his three wives - Dai Ma (Tong Yuk Ching) Yee Ma (Lai Siu Fong) and Sam Ma (Ho Kar Fung)
In most dramas, we see rivalry between the men and his wives. Is this family the same? Not really. They can live amicably and are close-knit. It is definitely rare to see this kind of family. Gau is a righteous man and is bitter over Shing's change. His first wife is wheelchair bound after a stroke. The second wife gives birth to Shing. The first two artistes are from China and they speak the Bei Fang language well. I really love their voices!

The song has the same title as the drama. It is very well-written and well sung. It is sung by Kwan Ching Kit. The lyrics depict the harsh reality of life. The beginning of the theme song fitted the era well – all should not miss it as it told of the old history then. It complements the drama well. It is also one of my favourites. Kwan showed why he shot to stardom because of it as he really sang it well.

Interesting facts
During that time, a TV station was shut down and most of its ex-employees joined ATV. Almost all became famous overnight by playing the roles. They were so unforgettable that they are still fondly remembered by fans till this day – 30 years from then! When it was shown in Singapore, there was hardly anyone on the streets as many stayed at home to watch it. Many from the drama came to Singapore to promote it in 1980. They were all received as all could remember their names well.

It was Mah Mun Yee's third drama after ‘Sam Shing Yee' and “Reincarnated'. Many regarded it as her screen masterpiece. It was a wonderful year for her to act in such a good drama. She became ATV's lead actress after this. She also acted in 97 Chameleon but I don't think this version was as good as the old one. Yu On On joined the team after Ngai Chau Wah left. Her joining boosted ATV's morale and she agreed to stay on to become another leading actress in ATV.

Ngai Chau Wah was arranged to die in this drama so that she could take part in another drama. Many thought it was a good ending for her and a good start for the other drama as it was a meatier role. Choi King Fai had been in ATV for some time but she was often given weak roles. Many seemed never to get sick of her playing the same roles as she really looked feeble to them.

I was weary after two long and tedious Korean drama journeys. Yet when my neighbour asked me if I would wish to watch "The chameleon" vcds, I became alert. Wish? I could not wait to watch the drama as I had not watched it before! I was not the only one who wanted – my whole family also wanted it! In the end, both our families followed the drama faithfully every night after work. I really enjoyed every moment of it.


It was ATV's best drama of the century with a good cast, rating, viewership and story. ATV is usually lousy in giving a nice story but it is outstanding for this one to make it to become a classic. No wonder it threatened TVB's viewership in the past. No doubt it was an old drama but it was no different from a modern drama as the human nature is depicted so realistically.

The development of events can be unexpected at times. There is a balanced mixture of joy and tears. And yes, the veteran cast has made a deep impression into me. Their acting has so much depth. They are perfect – so are the young. They are given adequate exposure and their feelings are well injected. Every character is unique and unlike Korean dramas which drag for the sake of dragging, this drama shows why it deserves such length.

It was longer than ‘Gone with the wind'. But the powerful acting and attractive story will not let you down. It may seem outdated to you but I hardly noticed it. It is guaranteed to be one of the best dramas in the drama history which is worth your time. Many artistes have either retired or departed from this world so this drama is pretty memorable.

Sukting's ratings :

On acting : ***** (Scale of 5) (definitely the best – you must find out for yourself.)

On story : ****1/2 (Scale of 5) (must cut down a little as too many tragedies happened. Some characters are either stabbed, shot or died due to sickness.)

On song : ***** (Scale of 5) ( One of the most touching songs that struck a chord with me.)

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