Last week, a report in this newspaper asserted, 'Nepali movies are changing (for the better) with the t'Some can even make me cry', #191) As evidence, it presented the news about the premier of Tulsi Ghimirey's tearjerker Dui Kinara, the success enjoyed by Nabin Subba's Numafung, and the documentary Bhedako Oon Jasto. True as those examples are, they add up to only a tiny fraction of the movies made in Nepal every year. The fact remains that a majority of movies are so bad that even top actors publicly admit they are ashamed of being Nepali cinema artists.
On the other hand, Nepali music videos seem to be getting better, slicker, bolder, more creative, technically sophisticated and a lot more entertaining year after year. You can't really compare a full-length feature film and a five-minute music video, but since both are forms of audiovisual expression, one can't help but ask: if the quality-starved Nepali movie industry were to learn a few tricks from Nepali music video makers, what would those be?
The people making music videos are young, educated, English-speaking urban hipsters who are flexible enough to borrow and mix ideas from a wide variety of influences from fashion, retro art, advertising, computer graphics, hip-hop, Kathmandu's underground music scenes and changing aspects of urban Nepali societies. They don't call themselves kalakar. Nor do they demand that the state and the public honour them. They form loose alliances among themselves and appear to have chosen to concentrate on their work.
In contrast, people calling the shots in the movie industry are from the older generation with fixed views about what a 'Nepali' movie should be. Most are often so busy declaring themselves National Treasures that one wonders when they ever find the time to think seriously about making good movies. So, unless some of today's most creative music video or documentary makers graduate to full-length films, the quality of talents sustaining the mainstream Nepali cinema will continue to remain low.
A piece of good work is often the result of many experiments. One reason why music videos are good is that their brevity and relative low-budget make them ideal for experiments with style, technique and substance in the hands of creative directors. In contrast, most privately financed Nepali movies are stuck in being the usual three-hour-long fare that cannot afford to take any risky experiments.
This is where a state-funded body such as Film Development Board should step in and use the money it already has to fund new and old filmmakers to make a diverse range of films in which they have the freedom to take stylistic and technical risks. Lessons thus learned can be applied to make better mainstream movies. Otherwise, in the absence of experiments and artistic playfulness, Nepali movies will remain dull and boring.
Anyone can make and act in music videos in Nepal, and music video makers have no formal association of any sort. This makes entry into and exit from their industry easier, with talented people floating to the top while others drift out. But players in the Nepali movie industry are members of various serious-sounding associations that don't seem to bargain for higher wages and better working conditions but merely attempt to keep others out. As a result, the industry remains hobbled by its own inward-looking, protection-seeking pseudo-nationalistic insecurities that are embarrassing to any thinking Nepali.
To be sure, some aspects of Nepali cinema are indeed changing. But for much to change for the better, younger Nepali music videos can teach the older movie industry about the importance of right people, experimental attitude and an openness that helps it adapt to changes.