Monday, October 4, 2010

History of Nepali Cinema: Part I - Aama & Maitighar !


shivashankar-thumbNepal does not have a very long film history, but the industry has its own place in the cultural heritage of Nepal. Most Nepali films use Bollywood-style songs and narrative, and are shot on 16-millimeter film. In film industry parlance, Kathmandu, the capital and center of the Nepali-language film industry, is called Kollywood (or Kaliwood as an alternate spelling) within Nepal (not to be confused with India’s Tamil-language film industry, Kollywood, based in Chennai).
The making of Nepali films is said to have begun with D. B. Pariyar’s Satya Harishchandra, which was the first Nepali language film to be shot. It was produced from Kolkata, India, and was released on September 14, 1951. Aama (meaning mother) was the first film produced in Nepal, and was released on October 7, 1964. It was produced by the Information Department of His Majesty’s Government Of Nepal (now Government of Nepal). It was directed by Hira Singh Khatri and the lead actors were Shiva Shankar Manandhar and Bhuwan Thapa, who are regarded as the first actors in the history of the Nepali film industry.
shivshankarandbhuwanchandinaama-thumbBollywood filmmaker Hira Singh Khatri had come to Nepal on late King Mahendra’s request to direct the film which was without doubt bias and has also been deemed as Panchayat propaganda. Aama however took the nation by storm and it was a great success.
The story revolves around a typical household of a Nepalese village where a desperate young boy flees home to earn money and to alleviate agony of his poor widow mother. He served in a foreign army for a couple a years, returns home as a grown-up, energetic young man but only to find that his mother has died. The elders of the village persuade him to stay behind in the village and serve the community, reiterating the saying that
Service to the motherland is equally virtuous as service to a mother
Since there was no precedence of movie making in Nepal, there were no professional movie actors to be recruited for the leading roles. The leading actor, Shiva Shankar was a music composer/singer and actress Bhuvan Chand was a theater performer. According to Shiva Shankar, most of the shots were approved at the first single take.
The first film to be produced under a private banner wasMaitighar (meaning the birth home of a girl), which was released at the end of 1966 by Sumonanjali Films Pvt. Ltd. Although it was a Nepali movie, it had many Indians contributing toward the making of the film. Mala Sinha had the lead role, along with C P Lohani, whom she later married. It had special appearances of Sunil Dutt and comedianRajendra Nath. Directed by B S Thapa and music scored byJaidev, a veteran music maestro, it had Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Usha Mangeshkar, and Manna Dey, all of them established Indian singers, doing the playback-singing along with the household names of Nepali music, like Narayan Gopal, Prem Dhoj Pradhan, C P Lohani, and Aruna Lama.
Then the government established the Royal Nepal Film Corporation in 1971. Mann Ko Bandh was the first film produced by the Corporation. Prakesh Thapa was the director of the film. Nati Kaji and Shiva Shankar were the music composers of the songs. Amber Gurung scored the background music. The film premiered in 1973 in Kathmandu.Mann Ko Bandh was followed by Kumari (the first Eastman color Nepali film) in 1977, Sindoor in 1980, and Jeevan Rekha in series. The success of these films opened up avenue for private parties to enter into film making as industrial endeavor.
It took about 16 years for the private sector to come up with another film — Juni after Maitighar. Unfortunately this proved a failure. Filmmaking was still a risky business and the government regulated it quite strictly.
To Be Continued…

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