Posted On Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 06:51:16 PM
|A still from Highway directed by journalist-turned-director Deepak Rauniyar
Deepak Rauniyar studied management in Nepal but later became a journalist for a Nepali publication in Biratnagar. In Kathmandu he reviewed films for a national daily.
As a critic, he belonged to a group of young reviewers who were always critical of Nepal’s commercial film industry that often plagiarises Bollywood and Korean movies.
“Sometimes the producers would send gangs to beat up critics in newspaper offices,” Rauniyar told me earlier this year from his temporary home in Queens, New York.
The home belonged to a Tibetan family and we were surrounded with images of the Dalai Lama and Buddha.
“There were many arguments and the producers would challenge us to make films ourselves.” Rauniyar moved to writing radio plays for BBC’s Nepali service, and after two short films, last year he directed his first feature Highway.
Shown in February at the Berlin International Film Festival – the first for a Nepali film, Highwayrecently opened in Nepal.
On August 1 it will play at the Osian’s-Cinefan Film Festival in Delhi. Highway is the story about a bus journey – a trip from the eastern part of Nepal, near Darjeeling to Kathmandu. But due to political turmoil in the country, the bus is held up a few times in the middle of the national highway.
Rauniyar wanted to break the stereotypical thinking about Nepal – the beautiful country with mountains ranges. He hoped that through his film he would be able to show another perspective of Nepal – a country where life is no different than any other part of the world.
Produced by actor Danny Glover, Highwayfocuses on the passengers in the bus – there are five parallel stories, and on Nepal, a nation in transition.
The story of the making of Highwayis as remarkable as the film. Rauniyar shot the film with a small crew and some money he raised. “There are enough people in Nepal who are looking for a change,” he said. But then his life took a nice little turn.
Through a set of Indian friends – one originally from New York and now temporarily based in Kathmandu, and the other running an NGO in New York, the 33-year-old director met film producer Joslyn Barnes, who is Glover’s business partner. Barnes and Glover saw Rauniyar’s rough cut and invited him to New York for post production.
They raised approximately $34,000 through Kickstater (the entire film cost $100,000). Glover made an appeal for funds in a short video. Rauniyar spent the next five months in New York supervising the film’s post-production. The first Nepali film to travel outside to the west was Himalaya. It was nominated for an Oscar in 1999.
But it was directed by a French filmmaker – Eric Valli and it had a European crew. Highway is part of small number of new Nepali films that have now started to play at international festivals. Two films - Mask of Desire and A Beautiful Flower, both have traveled to a few festivals. Next month the Venice Film Festival will screen a Nepali short film Bansulli (The Flute).
Bollywood and big budget Hollywood films continue to have a major control over Nepal’s theatrical distribution system. Rauniyar grew up with Amitabh Bachchan’s works and remembers watching the Bollywood star’s voice dubbed in Tibetan on a Nepali cable channel that caters to refugees from Tibet.
Most Nepalis are accustomed to viewing commercial films. The reactions to Highway have been mixed in Nepal. Some negative comments have been angry and rather peculiar.
On Facebook one person said that the film was anti- Nepal because some of the crew was from India and it had an American producer. And another Nepali said he had figured why the film was played in Berlin.
His guess – the bus used in the film is made in Germany and Rauniyar had made it one of the central characters in the narrative. Rauniyar is quite amused by these comments.
Earlier this week he was quoted in a news report as saying: “Seventy per cent of people are saying it’s the worst movie they ever watched.” That to him is good news, since it assures him that he is doing something right.
• Licence to kill
This is with reference to Aseem Chhabra’s last week column ‘The tragedy of Aurora’, (PM, July 22). The tragedy in Aurora should not have happened, but will a divided America agree on how to stop it from happening again?
As long as its powerful gun lobby led by the National Rifle Association, which patronises most Republicans and even some Democratic Party politicians, does not have its wings clipped there is no solution to such killings.
Further the right to keep and bear arms enshrined in the US constitution is virtually a license to kill. Until the US tightens its existing law and amends those related to right to own arms, guns will never be outlawed in that country.
But the problem is the lawmakers and the proponets of arms law never care to look at the ill-effects - if a gun can protect someone, it can also claim innocent lives. Instead the US should assure its citizens that it is well-equipped to protect them and there’s no need for them to own arms.
- Shanshank Bir
After reading Chhabra’s article, I came to know about the senseless arms law in US, which boasts of being the guardian of peace. The law is outcome of its own racists culture.
- Prakash Asrani