Changing winds in KollywoodAnagat promises to bring a shift in Nepali cinema, and to break the box of what people think of when they hear the word
In the northern outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley, director Samten Bhutia and his crew are hard at work filming their latest film: Anagat (The Unrevealed). Last week, I took a trip to their set to get a firsthand look at the progress of their film. It didn’t take long to see that the cast and crew of this film are out not just to create a new picture, but to break the box of what people think of when they hear the word “Kollywood”.
“For years, Nepali film directors have tried to mimic the styles of Bollywood and Hollywood, but they have failed,” explains the film’s producer, Chandra K Jha. “The truth is that Nepalis aren’t represented by films coming out of the US and India. We need films with stories that can touch the hearts of the Nepalis.”
According to Jha and Bhutia, a shift of Nepali cinema—from flashy Bollywood appeal to deeper storylines that Nepalis can relate to—will help attract larger audiences to Nepali films, both within the country and abroad.
Anagat is about a thanka painter who begins to believe that his wife is trying to kill him. His suspicions drive him to the brink of insanity as he begins to question if it is not his wife that has gone mad, but himself. The husband will be played by Arpan Thapa, 36, and the wife by Priyanka Karki, 28. “People are used to ‘masala mix’ films that are half singing and dancing,” says Karki. “We want them to grow out of this.”
“Psychological stories are rare in Nepali cinema,” says Thapa. “[Anagat] is a very new and visual style—less theatre drama and more realistic approaches towards the characters.”
The film has a very subdued tone and much of the character development is accomplished through silence and subtle body language. Top-notch acting skills are required to accomplish this development, and so far it looks like this is a requirement that Karki and Thapa will have no problem being able to deliver.
According to Jha, this new revolution in bringing a focus to Nepali stories is not only important to Nepali films, but also in maintaining a national identity and pride in the country. “It is not good for Nepalis when over 90 percent of the films that they watch are in Hindi or are about the joys and struggles of people living in other countries,” says Jha.
“There are plenty of issues in Nepal that just aren’t being covered,” Jha continues. “Almost every day we have bodies of physical labourers who went to work in the Gulf States arriving in metal coffins in our airport; we had a civil war that lasted a decade—we need films that can touch the hearts of Nepalis affected by these struggles.”
“If we don’t stop making films that copy Bollywood and Hollywood, slowly the Nepal industry will fall and there won’t be an audience,” warns Bhutia. And yet, these are the films that sell.
It is unknown how films that break from traditional styles will be received by the Nepali people, but Jha remains confident that they will succeed in bringing a new life to Nepali cinema. “Soon, viewers won’t be asking ‘where is the Bollywood’ in Nepali cinema and using this as a basis of judgment—they will begin to ask ‘where is the Nepal’ inside the Nepali cinema, and this is what we’re out to accomplish.”
Anagat is planned to hit Nepal theatres at the end of 2016.
David tweets at Twitter @Caprarad