Though I have been hearing about the Kumari tradition of Nepal (all these cute girls who are considered living goddesses and are almost always clad in dark gajal and red outfits) I hadn’t seen them directly until recently. A few days ago a Chinese reporter freelancing to an American publication for stories about Nepal hired me as his translator and fixer. Thus a few visits to Kumari Ghars (houses of Kumaris) of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The Kathmandu Kumari, virgin girl who is considered the living goddess by believers, was inaccessible to the general public except that tourists and curios onlookers get to see her at a certain time of the day from the ground floor when she appears on a window of the Ghar). Continue reading
With the slogan DARE TO DOCUMENTary, the South Asian extravaganza of non fiction films kicked off in Kathmandu today. Four dozen South Asian documentaries “for the people of South Asia, by the people of South Asia, to the people of South Asia” will be screened in four days.
A still from Living Goddess, a film about the Kumari girl of Bhaktapur and the culture that is slowly dying in a society that is increasingly demanding a republic Nepal.
Every alternate year, around this time, non fiction films from all over South Asia come to Kathmandu, many of them accompanied by their producers and directors, to be screened in front of an enthusiast and interactive crowd. The event is called South Asian Film Festival, celebration of best documentaries from the region, where filmmakers not only interact with themselves but also take part in direct Q and A with the audiences. Almost all of the documentaries in the festival also take part in a competition that sees the best, judged by a panel of eminent film makers and critics, crowned the Ram Bahadur Trophy at the end of the event.
The sixth edition of the festival that began in 1997 kicked off yesterday in Kathmandu’s posh Kumari Cinema Hall saw a well attended crowd even as the traffic was disrupted in some parts of the city because of the Maoist-organized rallies. Over the past ten years, the festival has not only created a forum for the filmmakers of the region to showcase their talents and express themselves but also created a documentary craze, so to speak, among the people of Kathmandu. Such was the love towards documentaries in Kathmanduits that the first show of the festival, after the inaugural one, experienced some audiences sitting on the floor an aisles of the theater to see a documentary film about two rebellious Bangladeshi sisters born and raised in London but are forced to go back to their parents’ motherland for arranged marriage. I was among those who felt lucky to find space to sit on the aisle and was thrilled to see audience (including myself) erupting in laughter as the film progressed.
Much more such laughter is expected in the next three days because the four-day long festival will screen 48 films. According to the chair of the festival committee Kanak Mani Dixit, a prominent Nepali journalist and activist, this year’s collection of films is the best the festival has showcased so far because, he said, the quality of the filmmaking has increased incredibly over the past decade thanks largely to the improvement in technology involved in making films. Continue reading