Hostel ReturnsBesides the poor direction and noticeably flaky acting, the movie constantly produces a series of indigestible scenes.
Besides the poor direction and noticeably flaky acting, the movie constantly produces a series of indigestible scenes. Hostel Returns, a movie largely inspired by 3 Idiots, has scenes that evoke fresh memories of The 3 Idiots’ popular scenes. These scenes have been given naive spins and shuffles to avoid any kind of parallelism but, to the movie’s bad luck, it fails and triggers floodgates of comparison. For example: the meet-up of two roommates before a notice board, the suicide rush scene, the drunk scene where the main characters loiter aimlessly seem to be cases where the characters (and the settings) have only been swapped. The movie has many flaws and weaknesses which could have been overcome with some real-life calibration, patience and scene-polishing retakes.
However, more importantly, there is something fundamentally misrepresented in the movie. It displays an overly idealistic image of racial discrimination faced by Madhesi students in Nepal. The movie revolves around how a Madhesi faces discrimination in a hostel, and this is not very accurate.
Recently, one of my Madhesi friends in Kathmandu remarked how anti-Madhesis sentiments are common not only among his friends’ circle, but also among his teachers.
It takes a lot of patience on his part to avoid being a victim of a rage. He mentioned an anecdote during the onset of the Madhesi Movement 3, where he overheard a teacher telling his colleagues how all Madhesis should be “thrown-out” of Kathmandu. He was appalled and disgusted to have heard such remarks from a teacher. When asked why he did not revolt, he said that it was an irrational thing to do. “I am only one among the few Madhesis in the college which has students and professors alike who harbor deep anti-Madhesi sentiments”
Another appalling incident had occurred during my high school years. In one of the reputed schools in Kathmandu, some students had scribbled Marsiya, Dhoti and other slang words in our Madhesi house master’s door. The house master was emotionally broken, yet solemn. The very next day he told the students that he would excuse the wrongdoers if they came forward and realized their mistake. No one came forward.
Rameshwor Yadav, the de-facto lead character in the movie Hostel Returns, faces little discrimination. While the two above-mentioned cases may not be proof that this portrayal of the movie is overly ideal, we cannot deny the fact that such discriminations are widely rampant during the orientation days of institutions. This is when everyone is fairly new and can be easily boxed into oceans of slurs. If you are attentive to social remarks, you can easily find or hear discrimination stories at educational places. In Hostel Returns, nobody takes a bite at his accent, his skin colour or his hybrid Nepali language. Rameshwor Yadav, the lead character of the movie, hails from a village called Dharampur in Janakpurdham. He comes from a very humble background; his parents have an overarching dream to see their only son become an Engineer. The naïve Rameshwor, to fulfill his dream, enters this multi-ethnic institution which, in my opinion, turns out to be surprisingly accepting.
In the very first day college, Rameshwor Yadav meets the rowdy gangs of upperclassmen, who have an oozing desire to mock lowerclassmen. They mock his innocence and his religious bent but surprisingly and unconventionally, do not mock his accent or the color of his skin. His friends call him many names but the word “madhise” is never uttered. This is where the movie fundamentally dives into a dishonest depiction of reality and glosses over the very entrenched, materially omnipresent discrimination. The movie has sidelined the very important and common issue about ethnic inequality. It does not acknowledge that racial discrimination exists. In one of the scenes, Rameshwor has been shown escaping after poking at his rich, pahade roommate in his broken Nepali. In the movie, Rameshwor’s circle has been shown as too accepting, which in real life is a far cry, especially during the initial days of friendship.
Personally, I believe that movies that are made along ethnic fault lines should be color-brave. They should not try to make a utopian leap to an ideal, all-accepting story. I would be happier to see the movie honestly depicting the intolerable racism that is present in our society. This is more rampant in places such as the institutions’ hostels where depression takes a heavy toll on those who are openly discriminated.
However, despite all its flaws, the movie ends with a hopeful and heartwarming scene. After Rameshwor and Pratap talk to each other in order to resolve their patchy friendship, Pratap, who is from Kathmandu, says a heart-warming line before hugging Rameshwor.
“We never tried to understand each other.”
Gupta is an undergrad in Soka University of America