Wide An­gle View

The Nepalese film in­dus­try has a long way to go be­fore it can free it­self from the In­dian in­flu­ence and make its own mark.

Southasia - - Contents - By Fa­tima Si­raj Fa­tima Si­raj is cur­rently pur­su­ing a BBA de­gree at the In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion. She writes on mar­ket­ing and so­cial is­sues.

The Nepalese film in­dus­try strug­gles to make a place for it­self.

Far re­moved from the pop­u­lar Hol­ly­wood films and the col­or­ful In­dian films that take the lead when it comes to ap­peal­ing to the global masses, ‘Kol­ly­wood’ tends to take a back seat. The term ‘Kol­ly­wood’ it­self is un­heard of for many South Asians. It is a very un­fa­mil­iar term that finds its roots in the cap­i­tal city of Nepal, Kath­mandu and refers to the Nepalese film in­dus­try. It is in­ter­est­ing though that in di­rect im­i­ta­tion of the term ‘Hol­ly­wood’, film in­dus­tries in the sub­con­ti­nent are re­ferred to as some ‘wood’, such as Bol­ly­wood (Bom­bay), Lol­ly­wood (La­hore) and now Kol­ly­wood (Kath­mandu).

Kol­ly­wood, very much like the land locked coun­try it is as­so­ci­ated with, re­mains largely iso­lated and con­fined. Very few peo­ple out­side Nepal are aware of Kol­ly­wood’s ex­is­tence and yet it has been thriv­ing since the first film in the Nepalese lan­guage, Satya

Har­ishchan­dra, was re­leased in 1951. The film was shot in Nepalese but was pro­duced and re­leased in Cal­cutta. The first of­fi­cial film to be pro­duced in Nepal it­self was Aaama in 1964. Two years later, Maithi Ghar was re­leased, pro­vid­ing the ul­ti­mate kick-start for film pro­duc­tion in the coun­try. Maithi Ghar, not sur­pris­ingly, starred an In­dian ac­tress to foster the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the In­dian and Nepalese in­dus­try.

How­ever, de­spite need­ing to bor­row re­sources from In­dia and be­ing un­der-de­vel­oped, the Nepalese film in­dus­try has man­aged to pro­duce sev­eral films over the last few decades. Some of th­ese of­fer deep in­sights into Nepal’s cul­tural her­itage while they also pro­vide a thought-pro­vok­ing glimpse into the many up­heavals that have de­fined the coun­try’s his­tory.

Ever since its in­cep­tion, Kol­ly­wood has en­dured sev­eral set­backs, with more movies be­ing pro­duced in some years than in oth­ers. To­wards the end of the 1990s, the in­dus­try took a hard hit from fierce com­pe­ti­tion from In­dian movies. The strength of this com­pe­ti­tion has al­ways posed trou­ble for Nepal’s weak in­dus­try that lacks in ex­per­tise, tech­ni­cal equip­ment, quan­tity and qual­ity. Fur­ther­more, the vi­o­lence that en­sued dur­ing the Maoist re­bel­lion in 1998 caused the econ­omy to crum­ble and the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion to de­te­ri­o­rate. Many cinemas out­side the cities had to be shut down as a re- sult. Dur­ing this pe­riod, very few films were made, the au­di­ence num­bers de­clined sharply and many ac­tors left the coun­try to look for work abroad. Film pro­duc­tion nearly came to a stand­still only to be re­vived once the sit­u­a­tion had calmed down and democ­racy had been re­stored in 2006.

De­spite pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, the In­dian film cul­ture has strongly per­me­ated the

Nepalese film in­dus­try be­cause the au­di­ence de­mands Bol­ly­wood style movies. In the 1950s, the govern­ment had en­cour­aged film­mak­ers to go to Bom­bay and learn the art of cin­e­matog­ra­phy. How­ever, in­cor­po­rat­ing a dis­tinct, Nepalese iden­tity in films has proven to be com­mer­cially non-vi­able as In­dian movies con­tinue to dom­i­nate lo­cal cin­ema. It is there­fore not sur­pris­ing that Nepalese films have failed to gain pop­u­lar­ity in the South Asian re­gion. Fur­ther­more, for those who fear cul­tural dom­i­nance and a loss of Nepalese iden­tity, Bol­ly­wood has been per­ceived as a sig­nif­i­cant threat to Nepal’s own cul­tural her­itage. This threat has been so pro­nounced that the Maoists in­cluded it in their re­cent man­i­festo: ‘The in­va­sion of colo­nial and im­pe­rial cul­ture should be banned. Vul­gar Hindi films, videos and mag­a­zines should be im­me­di­ately out­lawed.’ The ban only led to the emer­gence of a black mar­ket de­mand for Hindi films and af­ter democ­racy ar­rived, the ban was lifted lead­ing to In­dian films gain­ing fur­ther ac­cess in Nepal. With the in­creas­ing spread of ca­ble tele­vi­sion, In­dian con­tent con­tin­ues to ap­peal to the masses, curb­ing the voice of in­dige­nous themes that Nepalese di­rec­tors are try­ing to ex­per­i­ment with.

This is not to say that the di­rec­tors have given up. The works of Chir­ing Ri­tar, Navin Subba and Ravi Baral are a tes­ta­ment to orig­i­nal­ity and in­no­va­tion and re­flect the new era of Nepalese films. This is char­ac­ter­ized by a re­fresh­ing ap­proach that fo­cuses more on unique pre­sen­ta­tions and sto­ries as op­posed to In­dian-in­spired themes. Such ef­forts are in ac­cor­dance with the de­sire to build Nepal’s im­age as an in­dus­try with its own unique voice.

Those as­so­ci­ated with the in­dus­try har­bor a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and re­al­ize the im­por­tance of pro­duc­ing films that can gain in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cal ac­claim. Ef­forts are be­ing made to learn from the mis­takes of the past, ex­per­i­ment with unique ap­proaches and pro­duce qual­ity films that lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences find wor­thy and re­fresh­ing. In or­der for this to hap­pen suc­cess­fully, a con­scious ef­fort is re­quired to move away from In­dian-in­spired themes, dances and char­ac­ters and in­stead fo­cus on au­then­tic Nepalese char­ac­ter­is­tics. It is in­evitable that In­dian-as­so­ci­ated ex­perts will help build the Nepalese film in­dus­try but this should be done only on a pro­fes- sional and tech­ni­cal ba­sis. Di­rec­tors should be care­ful to main­tain their dis­tinc­tive­ness on the cre­ativ­ity, script writ­ing, per­for­mances and char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment fronts. Such a mea­sure would en­sure that new Nepalese films are pro­duced with­out be­ing in­flu­enced by the dom­i­nant In­dian cul­ture that has in­ex­pli­ca­bly seeped into the Nepalese film in­dus­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.