Before I begin my thoughts, I would like to admit that I am neither a movie critic nor anyone associated with the Nepali movie industry, but someone with a soft corner for homemade Nepali movies.
All the views expressed in this article are solely for the purpose of introducing and promoting the Nepali movie industry to dear prospective readers. If the views expressed resemble any individual’s thoughts, it is not a coincidence, it is a win-win situation.
Finally, I would like to take full credit if anyone intends or watches Nepali movies after going through this article, Jai Nepal!!!
The Nepali movie industry does not have a long history compared to Hollywood or Bollywood, but has been able to produce many blockbusters and entertain millions of Nepalis over the years. Like any other industry in Nepal, the Nepali movie industry has come a long way and has faced various ups and downs. Nevertheless, the industry has evolved over the years and is facing a revival: creating its own niche and gaining market amidst the dominant presence of bigger players.
The beginning: The first Nepali movie Satya Harishchandra was released in 1951 BS and was produced from India. The first Nepali movie produced in Nepal was Aama, which was released in 1964 BS. Some of the building block movies that were released in the early years were: Maitighar, Mann ko Bandh, Kumari, Sindoor, Paral Ko Ago and Jeevan Rekha. Back then, most of the movies were produced by the government under the Royal Nepal Film Corporation.
The golden days: Nepali movies grew rapidly during the 80s and 90s; the number of movie productions increased drastically, which were also able to gain good market. Blockbusters such as Samjhana, Kusume Rumal, Lahure, Basudev, Saino, Koseli were released while movie stars such as Bhuwan Kc, Rajesh Hamal, Shiva Shrestha, Gauri Malla, Karishma Manandhar and directors such as Nir Shah, Tulsi Ghimire, Laxmi Nath Sharma were born.
The downfall: The insurgency period, which began in the mid-90s proved to be a curse for the Nepali movie industry. The production of Nepali movies went down sharply and almost came to a standstill while the industry lost its loyal audience and market. Amidst a dwindling market, Nepali movies lost their authenticity and many mega stars left the country in search for better careers.
The perception: Many of us do not even consider watching Nepali movies, despite some movies being entertaining, due to our perception of Nepali movies. Looking at the movies made during the early 2000s, you may get the idea that our movies are a waste of time, with poor direction, cinematography and acting. However, today, a new genre of Nepali movies—catering to a different set of Nepali audience—have emerged.
Having grown up watching Bollywood and Hollywood movies, it is natural that we compare Nepali movies with the biggies. We do not want to change our habits and try new things; we end up watching international movies even though they turn out to be super flops but don’t dare watch a Nepali movie which has received good accolades. Perceptions of the target audience cannot be changed overnight. It is a gradual process, which requires continuous effort of all stakeholders including artists, theatres, audience members, distributors and the government.
Stiff competitive environment: Nepali movies have a very thin margin to standoff against international movies, especially Bollywood movies. Unless the movie is able to garner some good publicity, there is no way the movie can succeed in the box office. Unlike Bollywood and Hollywood movies, our artists are yet to create a stardom appeal that pulls audiences to theatres. Albeit, in recent years there have been a few Nepali stars who have been able to pull audiences to theatres, such as Dayahang Rai, Saugat Malla and Anmol KC.
In 2073 BS, for instance, 85 Nepali movies were released. However, only 5% of them were able to make a profit. On average, it takes around NPR 6 to 8 million to make a movie, while it takes around NPR 10 to 15 million to make a movie with good artists and crew. Even if we take an average of NPR 6 million to construct a movie, NPR 510 million was invested in Nepali movies that year .
New life: With a huge window of opportunity, there has been an entry of a new generation of versatile actors, creative directors and other supporting technical crew required for producing quality movies, which has created a new discourse. The usage of latest technology along with entry of producers with risk-taking capacity has helped the industry immensely. Moreover, adaptation of promotional strategies, especially use of social media, higher penetration of internet, entry of multiplex across urban areas, higher disposable income and an increasing diaspora have also helped revive the Nepali film industry.
Growing audience: Released in 2012, the movie Loot is perceived as a trendsetter. The movie was able to regain lost fame of Nepali movies, and was able to collect NPR 25.5 million. Likewise, another movie Kohinoor released in 2014 was able to collect NPR 120 million.
Chakka Panja, a comedy movie released in 2016 collected over NPR 160 million gross in Nepal and over 200 million gross worldwide, highest by any Nepali movie against a budget of NPR 8 million . The success of Chhakka Panja clearly indicates that Nepali movies have great scope if the right type of movie is presented to the target audience. After being posted on YouTube, the movie has been viewed by over 10 million viewers. Similarly, a song from movie Wada Number. 6—surke thaili khai—is the most viewed Nepali movie song on YouTube; as of July, 2017 the song had been viewed almost 21 million times, the song was uploaded on 6th August, 2015.
Going global: With an increasing diaspora across the globe, Nepali movies have also found a new market beyond our national boundaries. These days, Nepali movies are premiered in global cities and good movies have been receiving overwhelming support and love. The love shown by our diaspora in foreign lands indicates both appreciation and patriotism. Likewise, a trend of hosting award ceremonies and promotion campaigns have started to happen in international cities.
Likewise, with the improvement in our story telling and originality, Nepali movies have started participating in various international film festivals and have been able to attain some success. Recently, Nepali movies Jhola and Saghuro won special awards in South Asian Film Festival, while Nepali feature film White Sun was able to bag Best Film Award at the 27th Singapore International Film Festival.
Moral: Entertainment entertainment and entertainment: We cannot expect people to visit theatres just because a movie is Nepali. Given a choice, people will always want full entertainment from a movie. Our movie industry needs to take competition as a challenge and turn it into an opportunity. Just like the South Korean movies, which previously faced huge competition from Hollywood but turned around this challenge to use it as an opportunity to create very creative and entertaining movies. Today, moviegoers around the world love South Korean movies even if it means reading subtitles.
It is understandable that our movies do not have the same level of cinematography, direction and quality on par with foreign movies that have huge investments and resources. However, if we keep on loving and supporting our homegrown movies, we will get to watch better movies that match international standards in the days to come. The future of Nepali movie rests on us, the audience. Let us give Nepali movies a chance, let us hit the theatres!
Some popular Nepali movies you can enjoy on YouTube: Pashupati Prasad, Chhakka Panja, Kabbadi, Kabbadi Kabbadi, Talakjung Vs Tulke, Loot, Prem Geet, Jatra, Wada no. 5, Jhola, Kalo Pothi, Badhshala, Sano Sansar, Kohinoor, White Sun (Seto Surya).