Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hamal dai!

Ranibari, a short walk from where I live, is a popular low-budget action venue for Nepali movies. They use the place to proxy for a jungle. There is a small temple, picnic-sheds [typically Nepali, these, with corrugated iron roofs], water, relatively quiet. And, it is the most accessible "jungle" inside the city limits:barely 300 meters behind Hotel Shangrila.

In this photo, Rajesh Hamal--the Last Nepali Action Hero--is wearing a ridiculous wig. Right under his palm is a dude who isn't listening to the AD's order to hide behind a tree while the shot is being taken.

Nepali movies are the most popular in a] Kathmandu, and b] the Terai belt. Kathmandu is the ethno-cultural-linguistic melting pot of the nation. Of the close-to-3.5 million citizens of the valley, perhaps around a hundred thousand watch Nepali movies in the theaters. But, the core audience is still the population of the Terai--Pahadi and Madheshi alike.

What must it feel to a child growing up somewhere like Itahari--a big source of revenue for Nepali movies--to see the exact same forest in dozens of Nepali movies each year? It isn't even a forest. It is a clearing ringed by some two dozen trees. All the actions happen towards the northern end of the clearing, as the temple and the picnic sheds occupy the southern end. The distance between the northern edge and the temple is perhaps less than 100 meters. This, and a place in Chobhar, provide the physical location and atmosphere for more than half of Nepali movies' action sequences. I wonder how it will be remembered by people just discovering cinema? There must be kids out there who run off to the cinema to watch their first movies, still. I wonder if they will dream about Ranibari's inadequate forests long after they grow up?

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