Off the track: Into unexplored territory

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Off the track: Into unexplored territory

Oct 21, 2013-

Manoj Pandit has won audiences and critics over time and again with his documentary Greater Nepal and films like Lakshya, Dasdhunga, and Badhshala, among others—productions that have sought to probe into difficult, sometimes even controversial, areas of the sort mainstream cinema generally shies away from. Also a freelance writer and film critic, the director is currently working on his next project, an action thriller, as well as the sequel to Greater Nepal. Rajita Dhungana caught up with the filmmaker to discuss his work and his

interests outside of it. Excerpts:

Who would you deem a ‘source of inspiration’ in your work?

I’ve always admired the work of filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard—they’re such brilliant filmmakers. I also like Quentin Tarantino’s style of storytelling because he crafts such engaging narratives. They’ve all inspired me in one way or another, and taught me to challenge myself.

Is there a particular actor/actress you’d like to work with if you could?

Manisha Koirala, hands down. If an opportunity to work with her came up, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And then there’s Rajesh Hamal. The man is so well-loved and talented to boot...I think it would be amazing to get to direct him in a film.

Your filmmaking probably takes you to a lot of places. Do you enjoy the travelling?

I have travelled a lot within the country for my work, from the east to the west. While working on the documentary Greater Nepal, for instance, I was in the border areas, looking into land encroachment there. Although it isn’t always easy, I do enjoy travelling, and besides, I think it’s essential in my line of work, because it’s the best way to really learn about different people and issues. It’s always a very educational experience to be in a new place, and to see lives being lived out—conflicts, problems and all—with your own eyes. The hilly region I thought was particularly beautiful, especially this village called Maikot in Rukum. It was one of those places that are breathtaking to look at, but where the people dwell in abject poverty.

Would you ever call yourself an ‘adventurous’ person?

I might not be ‘adventurous’ in the physical sense, but I’ve always believed in standing up for what I think is right. Like after Greater Nepal was just released, I’d gone to the Indian Embassy with a few audience members to express our dissatisfaction with the issue of land encroachment in the borders. The embassy actually closed down for a day. I’ve also shown the documentary at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. It’s things like these that get my adrenaline pumping.

Do your read? What kind of books do you generally prefer?

I mostly read nonfiction. I’m very fond of Buddhi Narayan Shrestha’s writing; I was reading his Seema Sangram a couple of weeks ago and thought it was really interesting. I also recently finished reading Sudheer Sharma’s Prayogshala. Next on my list is Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice. But books aren’t all I read. I’m a pretty religious newspaper reader because that’s the only way one can keep abreast of whatever’s happening around the world at present.

You’ve probably had a lot of memorable experiences in your life, but is there any one in particular that stands out?

About two months ago, I’d written an article intended to be read by my unborn son, in which I’d explained to him the state of the country and all that he would see when he came out. Coincidentally, the day the article was published in Koseli was the same day my son was born. It was pretty amazing.

What’s different now that you’ve become a father?

I think I’ve become a lot more compassionate than I was, and more importantly, I’ve gained a new perspective on many things. I mean, I used to feel like I was at the centre of everything, and that was the kind of attitude that guided my behaviour. But now, I’ve come to realise that I’m only as good as the sort of relationships I have with others. That change of mindset has extended to my work as well—where I once considered myself a creator, now I think of myself as more of a facilitator.

Is there anything you’d change about yourself if you could?

I think, as much as I try to pretend otherwise, I do have a lot of biases. I would like to break away from these preconceived notions, because it would not just make me a better filmmaker but a better person as well. And I’d like to be more practical in the way I function.

If not a director, where do you think you’d have ended up?

I’m not sure... a philosopher, maybe? When in school, we were made to read Socrates’ biography, and that was really eye-opening for me. Society owes such a debt to philosophers and I’d have loved to think there were people holding debates on my thoughts and perspectives the way we do with those of Socrates today. I think filmmaking has been a way for me to explore that ‘philosophical’ side of myself without expressly indulging in it.

 

Published: 22-10-2013 08:58

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