To make a good film, many disparate entities must come together and gel perfectly. A decent film emerges from the morass of production which involves people running around setting up lights, laying down heavy cables, scrambling to iron clothes for costume changes, and providing food for the cast and crew: all in a 12-hour day.
Additionally, the assistant director who is in charge of making things happen on time almost always loses her mind, the producers are constantly fussing about how their money is being spent, and, of course, there is the poor director to whom everyone turns when things go wrong, and who must be prepared to fix all problems from hissy actors to disgruntled crew members. It is always difficult, therefore, to eviscerate bad films once one knows how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into even the most mediocre of productions.
Loot, a gangstery heist film, set in our now very urban Kathmandu could certainly have been a better film if only it had been slightly shorter. An editor with an unsentimental eye would have sliced away all the unnecessary, repetitive dialogues and the interminable action sequences garnished with the slightly too loud flesh-meets-flesh noises.
The main problem with Nischal Basnet's film is its script, which he also wrote. Not entirely original and more than a little derivative, it starts off with a very prescribed, almost pedantic, introduction into its five main characters, all of whom are in desperate need of money. This is a film written for an ensemble cast, and no particular character comes across as the preferred hero. The actor Saugat Malla as 'Haku Kale' is theatrical and exaggerates his scripted heavy Newari accent unnecessarily, Karma as 'Nare' is good enough with the obligatory red eyes that go with his character as a nocturnal gambler, Prateek Raj Neupane plays 'Khatri' a small time drug/arms dealer with shaggy hair, Dayahang Rai is genuinely hilarious as the unemployed side-kick and loyal friend of 'Pandey' (Sushil Raj Pandey) the star-crossed and slightly too soulful lover of 'Ayesha' played by a charming Reecha Sharma.
The plot of the film is simple enough. We see Haku Kale recruiting the other four characters in order to plan and execute the robbery of a bank. The cinematography is excellent, innovative and slick. However, when the camera moves so much in a film it's usually because the director is worried the story is not strong enough. Not even the best actors can salvage a flawed script. A good script, on the other hand, can be ruined by bad actors. Good writing is the base of good film, and good casting is key.
In order to make good films in Nepal we can no longer rely on gimmicky scripts and innovative camera angles. We must concentrate on writing stories that truly matter, and develop characters with more moral and psychological complexity. Action movies are fun enough, and Loot has its moments, but for truly edifying cinema, we all need to work a little bit harder. Nepal is full of stories, one just has to find the ones worth making for the cost, and the hard-work that goes into any and every film.
DVDs reviewed in this column are available at Music and Expression, Thamel, 01-4700092