Watching a Nepali Movie: An Experience

And the experience was horrible.

arunima lamsal with mom n dad

Actress Arunima Lamsal in a premiere show of her sixth movie Abhimanyu in a Kathmandu theater on Friday, 5 Jan. Pics by Bikas Rauniar

Two days ago, I watched a Nepali movie called Abhimanyu (name of a character in ancient epic Mahabharat who falls into a spiral and is killed by enemies). It was kind of compulsion to go to the theater and see the ‘action and comedy drama’. As a reporter you have to face such situations. People in film fraternity always lament: Why Kantipur is not covering Nepali films? As the coordinator of the arts and style section of the paper, I have to handle such complains. After I got invitation to attend the premiere show of the movie in Kathmandu, I decided to watch the film and, if possible, write something about it.

If you compare Nepali films with Hollywood and Bollywood movies, you will find the former completely avoidable. Produced with comparatively low budget, Nepali films are poor in quality and other benchmarks. An average Nepali film’s standard budget is around Rs. 4.5 million (slightly more than US $ 55 thousands). Don’t compare our films with Hollywood and Bollywood flicks, Nepali film makers constantly warn reporters and other critics. Keep in mind, they say, Nepali film industry and its market is limited. “We are a very small industry and only lower class people watch our films,” said a Nepali film director recently.

Whatever they say, you can’t stop yourself from comparing. First, the theater (Shiv Darshan in New Baneshwor) was a mess. It was a disaster. How can you enjoy a cinema in such a dirty theater? Chairs were filthy and broken. Somehow I managed to get seated in one of those. They were kept in such a congested manner that I had to remain either straight or leaning forward all the time. If I leaned back, my knees wouldn’t get enough space and push the seat in front of me. Walls are dirty and torn out.

There are only three or four good cinema halls in Kathmandu where you find relatively good environment to watch cinemas. For example, Kumari and Jai Nepal are the most sophisticated and clean theaters in Kathmandu. Rests are like this one.

As soon as the movie Abhimanyu ran on the screen people started hooting sarcastically. Credit lines were displayed in reverse. “Oh saala negative po dekhayo,” someone screamed from behind. Then the screen went blank for a few minutes.

naresh poudyal director of abhimanyu Naresh Paudyal is the director of Abhimanyu Just in front of me was a lady with, I guessed, her daughter on her left and her husband on the right. It took me no time to realize that the ‘daughter’ was the actress of the movie: Arunima Lamsal. As the film got rolled, the family started talking. I was more interested in overhearing their chats and whispers than seeing the movie. Father and mother kept asking “where is this?” almost every time the location changed on the screen. Sometime they laughed on the comedy scenes. My impression is that father wanted to encourage his daughter who was playing in her sixth movie. Father, Bikarm Sharma is an auditor, I would learn later and mother Radha Lamsal was a TV actress.

The crowd in the theater was a disaster too. Folks were talking loud and every time the hero came to rescue his girl or kicked the villain, they would scream ‘ho, ho, ho’ and ‘ha, ha, ha’ and clap. Mobile phones were constantly ringing and chaps were talking in loud voice: hall ma chhu ma, film heri ra ko chhu. [I am in the theater watching a movie.] Oh… the conversation wouldn’t end on that note. It would be extended; the caller would laugh loudly responding to the person on the other side. You can’t hear the dialogue of the film properly.

The film sounds so unnatural, at least to me. It’s a paradox that people love to relate a work of fiction with reality they live in. I could easily see the research part of the movie was super flop. Do people use full and formal sentences all the time in their daily and casual conversation? I don’t and no one in my house or office does so.

Documentaries and non fiction films are gaining popularity in urban Nepal market recently compared to feature films. But the director of Abhimanyu, Naresh Paudyal, had a different argument. “We make films for mainstream audience,” he said, “not for the pseudo-intellectuals of Kathmandu city.” So that was his answer for the rising popularity of non fiction films in Kathmandu. He said the audience of such creations was very limited.

The show was over and oh boy it was a big relief. Why did I stay in the theater for the whole show? Because I saw story for my newspaper in the family conversation! I wanted to take their photo and talk to the parent of the actress Arunima Lamsal. That’s what I did and made a story.

[Here is the story that was published in yesterday’s Kantipur daily]