Password’s plot is as confusing as the actors’ performancesSunny Leone is the best thing about this film, and that’s not saying much.
When they say money can buy you anything, they’re right, but they’re also wrong. Money can get you shooting permits in foreign locations, an international calibre stunt team, a top-notch CGI team and also the most Googled celebrity in India lip-syncing to your song. But what money can’t buy is your audience’s love or attention.
Despite all the money that Password has spent, the film is confusing, frustrating and very difficult to sit through.
It starts off as a sleuth movie. A statue is stolen from the Pashupatinath temple. Elsewhere, a gold Shiva Linga is placed inside a CGI safe with a password. The police DIG (Dhiren Shakya) suspects Bikash Joshi or Bikki (Bikram Joshi) but the police discover that Bikki has murdered his father and escaped to London. Three police officers (read: comic relief), Chatur (Prabin Khatiwada), Kanhaiya (Rabindra Jha) and Balaram (Bikrant Basnet), are sent after Bikki all the way to London.
Meanwhile, on the streets of London, Bikki bumps into Sanju (Pari Rana) and conveys his affection—by following her. She, in classic Nepali heroine mode, finds this romantic. On the very first date, she takes her stalker home. There, Bikki discovers that his and Sanju’s father were friends and that both are dead now.
There’s a flashback, explaining that Sanju’s father was murdered by the baddie of the film, Jojo (Anoop Bikram Shahi). Jojo is coercing Sanju’s father for the password to the CGI safe when his phone rings, flashing ‘Sanju my daughter’. I’m not making that up, that’s the actual name of the caller, ‘Sanju my daughter’. Jojo intercepts the call, puts her on speakerphone where she conveniently says, “Daddy, what is this password you’ve sent me?” Jojo now knows what to do.
Let’s not get too deep into the plot because honestly, it’s not worth it. What starts out as a crime caper turns into a love story and then a revenge drama, and then into whatever is convenient for the writers. Sima Gurung is credited with the story as writer, while the script is penned by Mahesh Dawadi and Samrat Basnet, who is also the director. The team’s lack of effort in writing results in inconsistencies—in character design, dialogue and plot.
For example, Jojo, the big baddie, befriends Sanju and gets Bikki arrested. His reasoning is ‘Haat khutta todnu bhanda, mann todnu besh’ or ‘It’s more effective to break hearts than to break bones’. Many times, dialogue is used as emotionless exposition tools, but the filmmakers’ gravest sin is that they use dialogue to insult the audience. In one instance, comic relief cop Kanhaiya says out loud, “She is a sex worker because she wears pink lipstick.” This misogynist comment was clearly designed for laughs, but in the cinema hall, it only evoked uncomfortable sighs.
With this big of a budget, you expect the film to deliver if not in the writing then at least in its presentation. But you are left begging. On multiple occasions, the film looks like one of those overly bright pre-wedding videos. Well-dressed actors pose in picturesque locations and provide cheesy, uncomfortable performances to unmotivated camera movements and lazy direction choices.
But there’s more. The editing by Arjun GC will bewilder you. At times, you’re confused about the screen direction. Before one fight scene, Jojo and his minions walk from left to right but immediately, we are shown a mirror image where they now walk from right to left and then vice-versa.
But the most disastrous aspects of the film are the awful performances by the actors, especially the leads Bikram Joshi and Pari Rana.
In the film, Bikram is brooding and moping, lacking any charisma. He is stone-faced when his lover comes running into his arms, or after the death of a friend, or even when he finds out who framed him for his father’s murder. He reacts to every situation with a monotone expression, wearing sunglasses. The CGI safe and Bikram’s acting, combined with his glasses, might lead you to think that he is a robot. But this is not science fiction, it’s just bad acting.
Pari Rana seems to just stand there. Her character has room to feel betrayed and hurt. But any effort she’s put into portraying human emotions never comes across.
Compared to the two leads, Anoop Bikram Shahi carries a whole lot of charisma. But he’s not given much to do in the film. He smokes a cigar, kicks like a professional and delivers his dialogue angrily. There is space for this actor to actually perform, but inconsistent writing and poor character design turn him into another campy villain with over-the-top makeup.
Surprisingly, the best part of this film is Sunny Leone. The film is marketed as Leone’s first Nepali film and her name pops out in the opening credits. But she doesn’t show up until after the interval, and that too for a single song.
But credit where it’s due. It is quite refreshing to see an international celebrity lip-sync to a Nepali song. The number of crowds, the background dancers, Leone’s makeup, hair, and costume are on par with any Bollywood dance number. But there’s no originality from the filmmakers. Lens flares, background spotlights, occasional flashes, and camera shakes added in post-production turns this sequence into any other Bollywood club song from the last 10 years.
According to the filmmakers, this is one of the most expensive Nepali films ever made but I watched it with just nine others in the 200-or-so seater Kumari theatre for a 6pm show. This was the smallest audience for any film I’ve seen this past year. If the reports are correct, you can make around 15 low-budget indie films from Password’s budget alone. Or even better, you could invest in film school graduates who are dedicated to making films but are stuck with wedding videos, some of which are honestly better than this film.
You can tolerate pre-wedding videos because they’re short, you know the emotions are genuine, and you’re watching them for free. But this is a feature-length film that you have to pay to watch, and these are professional actors. Is the audience asking for too much when we demand just a little more conviction?
Stars: 1 out of 5
Director: Samrat Basnet
Actors: Bikram Joshi, Pari Rana, Anoop Bikram Shahi
Story: Sima Gurung