Leading the new wave

Nischal Basnet, Mr Versatility himself, is known in the Nepali film industry known as a script writer, producer and actor. His directorial debut,

Anup Ojha

Leading the new wave

Nischal Basnet, Mr Versatility himself, is known in the Nepali film industry known as a script writer, producer and actor. His directorial debut, ‘Loot’, in 2012, gathered positive reviews from critics and was a box-office success. Similarly, as an actor, his role in ‘Kabbadi’ (2014) was well-acclaimed.  His recent venture, ‘Talakjung Vs Tulke,’ also was applauded by audiences across the country for its portrayal of western Nepal during the civil war.  Anup Ojha of the Post spoke to Basnet about his experiences in Nepali cinema. Excerpts:

As the new year rolls around, how do you evaluate your work in 2014?
Overall, professionally and personally, the year was fruitful for me. This year ‘Talakjung vs Tulke’ was selected for screening at the Delhi International Film Festival. As an actor I got the opportunity to work in “Kabaddi”, which was well-received by the audiences.  In this regard, I saw personal growth as an actor.  In 2014, I also got to look back on my work and brainstorm new ideas and concepts to move forward professionally in the film industry. With the year gone by, I feel I now have a clarity about my ideas and am more mature.
What are your plans for the coming year?
For the coming year, I have already signed on for three projects. These are my pending projects, which I couldn’t complete earlier due to time constraints. I am going to try my luck as an actor, producer and director.  Besides that, I am also working with my core friends on exclusively promoting our company Black Horse Pictures, together with giving frontline exposure to my working mates.
You are considered one of the most versatile individuals in the Nepali film industry. Who would you like to portray yourself as—actor, producer or director? What role do you enjoy the most?  
I feel I am more comfortable with direction because I am confident as a director. As a director, I know my future prospects. It’s probably because with the hands-on way I work as a director, I can predict the outcome of work.
As a producer, it is all about finances, calculation and proper planning, which are not my forte. Acting is the most difficult among all these because my director has to be satisfied with my performance.
After being associated with the Nepali film industry, how do you evaluate the previous years? What exactly is lacking in the industry?
I entered the industry in 2009 in with “Goodbye Kathmandu”, directed by Navin Subba. Looking back, working for “Loot”, I feel I was too immature. Since that time, things have changed a lot in the film industry. The past few years have been fruitful for the industry, with young and fresh directors successfully depicting our culture and identity. But our films still lack an original identity, and we are not in a position to answer what our films are about. To show our distinctness, we must be able to show ourselves, culture, and way of life.  
Currently, it is clear that one needs to possess talent to make a mark in the film industry. The incompetent just fade away. Similarly, someone not ready to risk, experiment and take on the challenges should exit the industry. That will pave way for the new and talented people to come in as replacements. Moreover, the multiplex audiences are educated and are critical of the cinematic art, so any prospective film maker should keep this in mind. The social media also play a vital role, as any criticism on Facebook or Twitter is likely to have a ripple effect on our audiences.
Some of the good Nepali films released in the recent years went unnoticed. What is your take on this?
This is the bitter truth of the industry, as we haven’t been able to develop a film culture here. Some good films are even withdrawn from theatres. “Saguaro” was a good film; it didn’t make it big, largely because it undermined by the audiences. Similarly, “Jhola”, which had a great cast, too went unnoticed. Although “Uma” was melodramatic, it was worth watching. Even “Jholey” and “Talakjung vs Tulke” failed to connect to the level they should have with the audience.
As a director or an actor, if you were to name a person you’d like to work with in the future, who would it be? What scripts would appeal you?
As a director, I would love to work with Kameshwor Chaurasiya. I see the “star appeal” in him. I am sure he can do justice to a good script. He has proved to be remarkable even with tiny roles in movies like “Loot”, “Chhadke”, “Uma” and “Highway”.
As an actor, I want to work with Nigam Shrestha. He is an excellent storyteller. I feel working with him would also help me groom an actor.  
As for scripts, they have to be original and maintain their flow all the way. It would be even better if the characters experience twists and turns as the story progresses.
Our theatre artists seem to be making a foray into the film industry recently. How do you bridge theatre and cinema?
I feel the theatre has brought positive energy to the Nepali film industry. These artists have been trained in acoustics and one-takes. This perfection exhibited by the theatre fraternity can be channelled to good use.
As a director, how do you define films and their objectives?
To define films is a difficult task, as they evolve and their definition changes. Personally, I feel film is all about entrancing audiences for two hours. A film with a strong screenplay can change the viewpoints of the audience.
I believe the main purpose of films is to entertain, and a good film maker is one who is able to get into people’s psyches and to bring about a change in consciousness.
Where do you see Nepali film industry next ten years from now?
I am hopeful that in ten years Nepali people will adore local films. At the moment, the majority of Nepali audiences perceive films to be merely Bollywood’s ‘PK’ or ‘Happy New Year’. I am hopeful that this trend will change soon.  
Your message to the people who aspire to get into the Nepali film industry.
Prepare yourself before you come into this industry. Knowledge regarding film making is very important, which you can acquire via the Internet and from seniors in the field. Although we work in a glamour business, we still are struggling. Be determined about your goals and bide your time if  you have to.

The polity

Faking democracy

The past year has simply been a continuation of political party posturing, individual political ambitions and manoeuvrings, (un)diplomatic interventions, and flawed solutions proffered by the all-important foreign aid sector

- SEIRA TAMANG

Diplomacy

Beyond the borders

Nepal successfully hosted international political leaders and a regional summit this year. But if the country is to exploit the rise of India and China, it needs to set straight its foreign policy priorities

- Anil Giri

The law

Code equality

In 2015, the new civil and criminal codes have a chance to create history by ending laws discriminatory to women and gender minorities. Sadly, the bills seem like poor amendments of the Muluki Ain that they seek to replace

- Weena Pun

Disaster

Reassessing a year of disasters

The year 2014 was plagued by disasters that resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives

- Prateebha Tuladhar

Entrepreneurship

Startup nation

A whole host of entrepreneurs are finding market niches to explore

- Shibani Pandey

Infrastructure

A liveable metropolis

Pre-Saarc, the Capital received a makeover. But will these changes be preserved and will infrastructure development continue at the same, rapid pace?

- Samik Kharel

Headliners

NEWSMAKERS 2014

They were in the limelight, for reasons right or wrong

Med schools

An industry run amok

The medical education sector was plagued by politicking and scandals in 2014.

- MANISH GAUTAM

Interview

A portrait of the artist

Sushma Joshi is a writer and filmmaker. Her book of short stories, ‘The End of the World’, was longlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award in 2009. Her second book, ‘The Prediction’, was published in 2014. A novel is forthcoming. She has a BA in International Relations from Brown University, and an MA in Cultural Anthropology from the New School for Social Research. She runs Sansar Media, a publishing and film production company. The Post spoke to Joshi about her career as a writer and Nepali writings in English.

- Sushma Joshi