How bad editing, cinematography, and sound can spoil a good filmBardiya Sundari directed by Sahara Sharma and produced/written by Abhimanyu Dixit (the Post's film critic) is a technical mess.
At the third edition of the Nepal International Film Festival, a total of 80 Nepali and international films were screened. Among them was Bardiya Sundari, directed by Sahara Sharma and written and produced by Abhimanyu Dixit, the Post’s film critic.
Based in Gulariya, Bardiya, the movie revolves around the story of Parbina Chaat (Prabina Dahit), a school-going aspiring model from an indigenous community who is determined to win a beauty contest organised by a local political party. There’s also a parallel lead, Sharada (Sharada Sherpali), a female leader from the same party who also gets involved in the beauty contest.
The premise of the movie is interesting, as it tackles a number of important issues: from patriarchy-forced restrictions, like not allowing women to wear the colour red after her husband’s death to how indigenous people get trapped in the web of the majority group’s tokenism and even the practise of giving women tickets to contest elections after their husbands’ death.
Parbina is presented as a strong-headed girl, who dreams of getting into the glamour world. Her ambitions and aspirations in life are clearly presented to the audience from the very beginning of the film.
In her introductory scene, she goes to a temple where she puts out all her fashion-shoot-like photos in front of the gods and prays for a successful future career in the modelling industry. The scene is endearing to watch, as it shows how passionate she is about her dreams, but the movie has few moments of brilliance like this.
Poor lighting, sound and cinematography spoil what could have otherwise been a good film. The movie also has pauses, where the screen suddenly freezes for a few seconds. Is this a new form of editing when your movie freezes in order to break the conventional way of story-telling? Probably not.
When it comes to the film’s cinematography, all-too-often the screen is either too dark or too bright. If that was the intention of the cinematographer (Sahara Sharma, who is also the director) to give the movie a rustic feel by having low light shots, then I believe she’s failed. At times, it was so difficult to even make out a character’s facial expressions that I wanted to point the torchlight to see them. And the number of out-of-focus shots in the film is appalling.
The filmmakers also seem to have taken the audio too lightly, as at times, the dialogue is unclear and there is a lot of background noise.
Dixit’s writing is the only admirable aspect of the movie. Though filmed in 2015, the film’s plot remains relevant. Dixit has decided to tell a unique story of how people in power (mostly men) use women for their own selfish, ulterior motives, which should be appreciated. However, the writing lacks nuance. It is difficult to invest in Parbina’s journey of winning the pageant because the writer has failed to unravel her resoluteness in achieving her aspirations.
The gaze upon Sharada, the female party leader, is dubious as well. In the movie, Sharada is given a ticket to contest the elections just so the party can cash in on sympathy votes, as she lost her husband during the insurgency. Sharada always dresses in light colours, which represents the enforcement of patriarchal values that expects widows to dress a certain way.
The problem lies in the treatment of her character. While both Sharma and Dixit’s hearts might be in the right place—as at the end of the movie, Sharada wears what she wants to rather than what society imposes on her—but until then, she has no agency of her own. She has hardly any dialogue in the film and whenever she speaks, she is either a puppet for the party or is listening to sexist men who are lecturing her. There are no shades to her personality, and her inner aspirations aren’t reflected. Sharada is little more than a widow.
While it’s interesting to see the filmmakers opting to tell a story in a realistic setting, with the actors having no prior experience, the end product is a technical mess. The use of small cameras so the actors won’t feel self-conscious while shooting seems to have backfired as the visuals don’t do the justice to the intention of the filmmakers.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you are an independent filmmaker or are backed by a studio. If you fail to provide a technically sound movie, despite a good story and exceptional performances, there will be little interest in watching the film. Both Sharma and Dixit, of Gauthali Entertainment, the production company behind the movie, should take heed.
Film: Bardiya Sundari
Starring: Prabina Dahit, Sharada Sherpali, Sahayog Raj Adhikari
Director: Sahara Sharma
Writer and Producer: Abhimanyu Dixit
Stars: 2 out of 5