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The Flavors of Nepali Film Industry

Before my trip to Nepal, I did not know what to expect. I had knowledge of only two things about this country located between India and China: 1) Mt. Everest was partially located there 2) Part of Dr. Strange had been shot there. Very American of me, I know. As a film lover, and as a producer going out to research the Nepali landscape, little did I know that I would return with a renewed sense of passion for making movies and because of the unbridled hospitality, an even greater love and affection for people.

My travels to Nepal started about a month prior to my leaving the country. Having tapped my network dry to put together a movie about Bhutanese-Nepali refugees in New York, as a last minute hail mary, I typed “Nepal” into the LinkedIn search engine. Little did I know a month later, I’d be meeting with filmmakers, producers, directors, Nepali celebrities, and financiers. Most amazing to me was that I would make friends and memories that own an Everest size piece of my heart.

When I embarked down the LinkedIn rabbit hole, I figured I might meet a person or two that would stir up an interesting conversation. I was not prepared for how incredible each person I met was and how naturally willing they were to help out a complete and total stranger to accomplish a goal that would more than likely not have much impact or implication to their lives. What would take me years to do in the US — to get a meeting with some of the most influential people in American society —  took me days to do in Nepal. Not because of some incredible offer or some sense of perception they had about me, but merely because people wanted to help. Imagine that, people wanting to help simply because they believe it the right thing to do, with perhaps a slight dose of intrigue sprinkled in, to see if this American was going to walk the talk.

In my six days in Nepal, I had just under 40 meetings. No, I did not have even half of those set up before. This was the magic of Nepal. Every meeting I had led to someone saying, “Let me introduce you to this person. Or you should meet this person because I think they would be of help.” I even found myself on Nepali national television doing an hour long interview with people calling in to the show offering their welcomes and good wishes! So unquestionably willing to open their network and their hearts. It is undeniable that time in Nepal can make us all better people. I’d recommend you do it over momos (Nepali dumplings and my personal kryptonite) and/or a bottle of Gorkha.

Great meeting Sandeep Shrestha, Founder of Scholar Nepal

Perhaps most unexpected, was the passion and love for filmmaking that this country exhibited. It’s a country brimming with such a love for cinema, but is still a ways away from making a dent on the international scene. Not for a lack of trying, rather they have not identified their voice yet. In a country that is a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism, Communist and Capitalist, not too far removed from a monarchy, it can be hard to figure your place in the world, let alone this country that is home. Looking back, I think that’s what connected most of us. The search for identity, and how we shared that journey through storytelling. With each momo that went down, a new story arose, more closely identifying who we believed ourselves to be — who we were as people, our perceptions of the world around us, and the lives that we have led and want to lead.

Janaki Gurung, Swastima Khadka, Tony Estrada, Biwash Rai, Nitin Regmi

In sitting in a Nepali theatre, watching one of the most recent releases, packaged alongside the newest Universal and Bollywood releases, I found myself admiring the profound sense of desire of the Nepali people to have their voice heard amidst the fray and onslaught of content from two of the world’s biggest exporters of culture. That beautiful Nepali voice, rooted so deeply in integrity, honor, and hospitality, lost in its own country. Not out of a rebuke of the movies that are being made by Nepalis, rather, that the Nepali voice has yet to be identified and has not yet to find its power. Each person I talked to in the film industry, whether it be rising and established stars like, Swastima Khadka, Keki Adhikari, Namrata Shrestha, and Deepak Raj Giri, or filmmakers and actors rising through the ranks, there was this longing to have their voice heard. Not just in Nepal, but across the world. To make themselves a point of recognition. It is a hotbed of opportunity, and it will be only a matter of time before that voice is heard throughout the world, where it rightfully belongs.

One of the things I loved most about my travels to Nepal was that it begged the question, ‘Do we have the courage to define what our story will be and how we want to tell it?”
GK Dahal, Tony Estrada, Kiran Bhakta Joshi

The spirit of Nepal is infectious. When I left, I couldn’t help but feel a new sense of love in my heart that wanted to open up to more people. To give more of myself to the world, as so many people had done for me. To be a source of Śānti (peace) for people and lead a life that was more welcoming to all. Nepal gave me a renewed sense of love for my passions because of the desire with which everyone spoke about storytelling. The stories helped me to define what my story was and how I will continue to write it. And like the Nepalis, I will always seek to encourage others to find their voices and amplify it anyway that I can, should the intention be pure and their mission true. Perhaps, what I love most about Nepal is that it begs the question “Do we have the courage to define what our story will be and how we want to tell it?” It asks “Do we have the audaciousness to give ourselves relentlessly to those who need help in telling their stories and developing their voice?” That’s a gift unlike any other.

Where do we find these gifts and these desires? A stomach full of momos and a few Gorkha’s down, is a great place to start.

Tony Estrada in Jhankar Live Show

Scholar Nepal is a Digital Journal to encourage reading, researching and writing culture in Nepal.