Arts and Entertainment

Taking the Highway

- Manisha Neupane
Taking the Highway

May 11, 2011-

Most Nepali films are blamed for being repetitive. Film goers usually complain of having to witness similar storylines playing out on screen with clichéd dialogues thrown around, inevitably resulting in predictable endings. There seems to be either a lack of energy for innovation or a lack of courage among our filmmakers to try something different.

It is no secret that most filmmakers in the country conduct little if any research on the subjects they choose for their films. Any financially capable person with some interest in cinema can make films here; knowledge on filmmaking is not a criterion for most directors. Thus Kollywood abounds in films that take serious issues and fail to touch upon their core. This has led to the creation of a Nepali audience disenchanted with its own film industry. In recent years, however, films like Kagbeni and Dashdhunga have attempted to break away from this trend and Highway follows suit.

Deepak Rauniyar is a young director who might perhaps help change the face of Nepali cinema. “Highway has a story to tell; it definitely meets international standards,” he says, his voice oozing with confidence. Rauniyar is already well-known and largely acclaimed for his short films. He has proved his worth with the award-winning Chaukaith and Puja. With Highway, the young filmmaker has stepped onto the feature film arena. The film-essentially the story of a bus journey from Ilam to Kathmandu-stars noted actors Karma Shakya, Binay Shrestha, Reecha Sharma, Saugat Malla, Dayahang Rai and Eleum Dixit, along with reputed journalist Rabindra Mishra.

“We have attempted to show how the ‘bandh culture’ prevalent in Nepal affects the individual lives of its citizens,” says Rauniyar. The frequently occurring bandhs in the film and the numerous situations the characters find themselves in because of these bandhs are-to a certain extent-based on the director’s real life experiences. Although the film’s script has been penned by Avinash Bikram Shah, the original concept for the film was developed out of incidents that Rauniyar and his two friends Kedar Sharma and Khagendra Lamichane had encountered while travelling from Illam to Kathmandu during highway bandhs. 

Interestingly, the dialogues heard in the film were never part of an original script. The actors were not asked to mug up dialogues but were told to create their own.  “They were presented with certain conditions and had to respond accordingly with dialogues on their own,” says Rauniyar. This attempt at spontaneity is unique in the Nepali context and should lend a lot to the film’s realism. What Highway can also be noted for is the manner in which it presents relationships. Here, the bonds and connections built between people have been explored and it will be interesting to see how well these are portrayed onscreen. As the first Nepali film to present homosexual relationships, Highway seems to have stepped quite some distance out of the box. “The relationships presented onscreen reflect the real-life relationships in contemporary Nepali society,” says the director.

The film tells five different stories and is set for an October release. Rauniyar, who likes to call his film a ‘reality-based fiction’, also says that it has something innovative to offer to Nepali audiences. The team is hoping to have Highway showcased at the Toronto and Venice film festivals sometime around September. The film has been produced by Samir Mani Dixit and Lonim Prasai Dixit.

Published: 11-05-2011 08:44

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