Will COVID-19 push Nepali cinema to the verge of collapse? « Khabarhub
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Will COVID-19 push Nepali cinema to the verge of collapse?



KATHMANDU: “It’s very important that every movie I do makes money because I want the people that had the faith in me to get their money back.”

Quentin Jerome Tarantino, one of the successful American filmmakers and actor told about his obligations towards the producers. His view reflects both the filmmakers and producers in general.

However, Nepali cinema often pushed in crisis by various factors ranging from politics, content and ‘invasion’ to load-shedding has reached again at a point where people wonder whether it can really overcome the crisis on its own or not.

Extending its deadly grip, the COVID-19 has also entered the film industry of Nepal and has started frightening the one’s involved with deadly dragon pounce on it. With the government directives to cancel all formal gatherings and mass programs, those in the industry are anxious about its impact on the already staggering industry.

However, this is not the first time the industry has felt the dread of sinking down.

Struggle for existence 

The film industry formally emerged since 1964 used to have less than a handful of the film in a couple of years quite long. For nearly 50 years, the industry snail-paced. A large circle of the prospective audience was still unaware of what to expect except the Nepali characters in the screens.

The next crisis the film industry came across was the ‘cultural’ attack of the civil unrest caused by the decade long Maoist rebellion. With Indian movies as a target in the beginning, gradually, the movement started seeking the rebellion’s issue in the film.

Thanks to the devotion and the passion of the actors the industry kept surviving.

Coincidentally, the freedom of expression ensured by a democratic constitution and the changed political scenario made room for more cinemas. Rajesh Hamal’s arrival with ‘Yug dekhi Yug samma’ acted catalyst to the industry.

The days with Bhuwan KC, Shiva Shrestha and Rajesh Hamal, Gauri Malla, Mithila Sharma, Nir Shah as a lead artist turned golden days for the industry.

“After I joined the industry, I sometimes wondered whether there would be another film again or not,” Rajesh Hamal recalled the uncertainty hovering around the industry then.

Film critic cum writer Samipya Raj Timalsena thinks it lucky that the increasing number of films drew more audience to the theater.

“Keeping up with the number of films and the cinema halls, the more audience were drawn towards it,” Timalsena said.

The next crisis the film industry came across was the ‘cultural’ attack of the civil unrest caused by the decade long Maoist rebellion. With Indian movies as a target in the beginning, gradually, the movement started seeking the rebellion’s issue in the film.

The producers who used to feel compensated from the ‘overseas rights’ feel disappointed that the customers there are also hesitant to buy owing to the coronavirus spread.

Not only this, the shutting down of the cinema halls in the outskirts and the forced ‘donation’ crushed the industry that was crawling with conservative themes and technology. The audience seemed so disinterested in the movies that critics started demanding the declaration of ‘state of emergency in the cinema industry’

Timalsena hails Nischal Basnet’s ‘Loot’ for the new dynamics it introduced in the Nepali cinema. In other words, ‘Loot’ (2012) came as a straw the ‘sinking’ industry could catch to come out from the crisis.

Many innovative artists and filmmakers followed explored the new trend to help the industry stand on its own.

Comic presentation of graver issues seems to get popular lately. Leaving some films like ‘Ama’, most of the films these days seem filled with the satirical and humorous presentation.

With few films like ‘Dal Bhat Tarkari’, ‘Jatrei Jatra,’ ‘Kabaddi 3′, C’hha Maya Chhapakkei’ as exceptions, most of the films are still counting the hours in the halls without any audience to applaud them for their efforts, be it in the content or in the overall impressions they can make.

When manage to get the viewers the producers or filmmakers dive into making more films, but often the same producer which was excited by success in the past gets disappointed with the empty theaters. They lose their passion, money and trust in the audience, yet, they fail to review and learn from past errors.

Most of them, unless they are movie-making addicts, give up the idea of movie making at all. Fortunately, there are still some producers helping the industry survive.

Corona impacts

The news of the crisis the producers of Nepali cinema industry are facing comes quite frequently. COVID-19 has aggravated the situation.

The epidemic spread of the coronavirus, like many other sectors, has badly smashed the cinema industry. A few days back, the release of the much-awaited film ‘No Time to Die’ was postponed for 6 months.

In Nepal, ‘Ma Yasto Geet Gaunchhu 2’ scheduled for the release on Mar. 13 has been postponed. The cinema team has tried to justify the postponement citing public health as its concern.

The release date of Fulman Bal’s ‘Neerphul’ is also likely to be postponed as well.

Producer and Director, Sudarshan Thapa confesses the adjourning means more budget but says he is helpless as he cannot undermine the public health. Besides, the government itself has asked the public not to go to the cinemas or public gatherings.

“We have already made a considerable expense on the promotion of Ma Yasto Geet Gaaunchhu-2,’ Thapa says, “The postponement of the release date is sure to increase the expenses, but we’ve to take care of the health of the public.”

Yet, he does not want to admit he has been at a loss.

“Had we been able to release this 20 million project on time, we could have got better response and support,” he says, “However, we cannot say we are at loss. We have to wait for the right response of the public once this issue settles down.”

He consoles himself regarding the present crisis as a global one. “When the epidemic is on, we have to value the health of public more than our concern about the return of investment,” he says.

Anxious at the declining number of cinema-goers, the cinema managers have also changed their strategy. Lately, they have come with some plans for minimizing the corona chances.

“To address the health concern of the audience, we have started risk-mitigating measures,” Rajesh Shrestha, the cinema manager of Q’s cinemas says, “We have initiated the provision of regularly sanitized seats, clean and sanitized food court, disinfected hall room and there are hand sanitizers available for use at the ticket and food counter and washrooms.”

Some of the cinema halls have even installed thermo scanners and sanitizers.

The producers who used to feel compensated from the ‘overseas rights’ feel disappointed that the customers there are also hesitant to buy owing to the coronavirus spread.

Distributor Karan Shrestha thinks the market abroad has come to nil at the moment. “Cinema halls have not been closed here in Nepal, outside its worse,” he said, “The cinemas and theaters are shut down as precautionary move against corona spread.”

He said that there the preparation for ‘Ama’ show abroad had to be canceled at the eleventh hour. It’s canceled due to the corona spread.

Optimism prevails

Cine-makers fear that the industry may crash again prior to entertaining the status of ‘industry’ it recently got.

Despite it all, the cinema professionals, like most of the Nepalis facing all adverse situations with a smile and hope of note, believe the hard days will be over soon.

Hence, they say the priority should be given for health.

“We should value the health of the public first, only when the people are healthy, they think of entertainment,” Deepa Shree Niraula, the director cum actor says, “We pray the health of the people to be restored first. When things come to normalcy, we can revive again.”

Publish Date : 11 March 2020 10:54 AM

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