Print Edition - 2017-06-17  |  On Saturday

The award conundrum

  • Producers of two critically-acclaimed films, White Sun and Kalo Pothi, have decided to pull out of mainstream Nepali film awards, begging the question, ‘Are Nepali movie awards just a sham?’
- Timothy Aryal
For Pushkar Lama, the chairperson of Nepal Film Technicians’ Awards, an award should be taken as something apart from just monetary benefits

Jun 17, 2017-In December last year, at the Nepal Film Technicians’ Awards, the film Pashupati Prasad was awarded the Best Film Award; the director of the film, Dipendra K Khanal, the only representative of the film present at the show, didn’t appear on stage to receive the award—he remained in his seat, and in his place, actor Deepak Raj Giri went on stage to receive the award on Khanal’s behalf. The award for the Best Director went to Ujjwal Ghimire, for Woda No Chha; the award for Best Screenplay went to Fanko; the award for Best Story went to Kabaddi Kabaddi. “How can a film that has not won in any other significant categories be declared the best film? The award sounds like it is distributed only to appease everyone,” Khanal later said. It’s chiefly the story, screenplay, or direction, or all of the above, that makes or breaks a film. 

What director Khanal’s statement hints at is the reality of mainstream Nepali film awards, which mirrors the film industry’s own beleaguered status.

Apart from two awards organised by the government, National Film Award and Special Film Award, there are nearly a dozen film awards that take place every year in the Capital. 

In critic Bishnu Sharma’s view, Nepali film awards aren’t held in the same prestige as award shows in other movie industries, while some even reek of prejudice. 

“Definitely, there are awards that are genuine, where the winners are decided through voting, but save a few, these awards are only for namesake,” says Sharma, who is also the secretary of Film Critics’ Society of Nepal, “Most of the awards don’t do anything that help the filmmakers. An award must either allocate a respectable amount of money as a cash prize for deserving works—that would in turn help the filmmakers finance their next project—or it should at least boast some prestige. Most of the awards being organised in our industry, sadly, do neither.” 

It’s this very reason that, earlier this week, the producers of films White Sun and Kalo Pothi decided to not participate in mainstream Nepali film awards. 

In an email conversation with the Post, director, and one of the producers of the film White Sun, Deepak Rauniyar, wrote, “I’ve been clear in my motive. For me, award means prestige and support. Two ways a film award should help a filmmaker and a film are either by giving prestige and exposure, which can translate into more audience inflow, or awards should support a filmmaker, financially, and should help make another film, which means cash prize or goods. For me, Nepali awards lack both.” 

“So, I wondered,” Rauniyar went on, “why participate in such awards, which bring nothing? I’m not the kind of person who participates and then complains. I [would] rather not participate. That was my simple reason, not to participate. I also have problem with how these awards are organised and how it is a business opportunity for the organisers rather than a platform to honour filmmaking.” 

Director Dipendra K Khanal, though, compares the award conundrum with the larger problem in the country itself. “Our whole country is beleaguered. They deferred the elections twice or thrice. What do you want me to say about awards?” Khanal said. “The whole awards industry is a mess. We have this tradition of nepotism that has inflicted the awards sector as well. Some friends have already pulled out of certain awards, and we are thinking of doing the same, and rather participate in only those that we think are worthy. However, there are technicians for who even a small recognition means a lot. For them, we do have to be receptive towards some award shows.” 

But for Pushkar Lama, the chairperson of Nepal Film Technicians’ Awards, an award should not be taken as something that comes with just monetary benefits. “A sack of potato might contain a few rotten potatoes, but those few don’t determine the quality of rest in the sack,” said Lama. “When we honour a film, we do so out of respect for a certain work of art. Honour does not and should not come with a price tag. We confer awards with the sole motive of recognising the artist. Our goal is to pay respect to their creation, not with money, but with recognition,” Lama concluded. 

Around the world, great artists seem to have an ambivalent relation with awards. Marlon Brando needed no Academy Award to prove himself; Jean-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel; and we have seen Bob Dylan’s ambivalent reaction to the Nobel. But then, not everyone is Brando or Dylan. 

Majority of artists need some external encouragement and awards provide that motivation. Awards around the world honour films with amounts that would financially help the artist to come up with better creation next time around. But for a struggling economy like Nepal, that sounds far-fetched. And, as Rauniyar puts it, if one feels the award does nothing good to you or your creation, why participate at all?  

Published: 17-06-2017 08:16

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