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Is the concept of happiness merely an illusion? Are those who naively chase the idea for life of luxury and fame inevitably bound to dip into the perilous character of the human spirit, namely greed, envy, and even enticement to murder?

Is pursuing the abstract notion of instant comfort and wealth bound to destroy reality? These are the themes that Shirish Gurung’s latest film Lato Kosero addresses.

The film is directed, produced and edited by Gurung, who remains loyal to the definition of ‘indie’ despite it having become a buzzword of late.

Either by choice or circumstance Gurung film’s mode of production of Lato Kosero is low budget, autonomous, small-scale, and it is a personal and creative film. Shot in 2014, the production stage began three years later in 2017 and is presented in black and white format relating a story that might have taken place in pre-urban Bhaktapur.

The protagonist, Bishnu Shrestha, comes across as a feeble character that puts up with everyone without resistance, a nagging wife that cannot bear to see him unemployed, a friend that speaks but never listens, a customer who pushes his way through negotiation during the transaction for his bike, and a Shaman who commands his lifestyle with a promise for a future of ‘happiness’.

The perpetual state of unemployment, overdue rent, complaining wife, envious mindset and economic hardship leads Bishnu to seek refuge with a shaman.

A shaman can either be a source of strength or a source that exploits the disenfranchised and the disenchanted. In Bishnu’s case, the shaman encourages him to face his fear before he can achieve happiness.

For Bishnu, happiness is epitomised by his childhood friend, Gokul, who made his wealth abroad, and now owns a house, a car and is married to a submissive wife, whereas Bishnu lives in a flat with overdue rent, rides a bicycle after having to sell his prized motorcycle, and lives with a wife who often threatens to leave him to go back to her parents.

Nepal was at war during the period of the film, and it could reflect the frustrations that forced many young men like Bishnu to take up arms against the state. The economic and social issues that the underclass faced have not changed much, and have even been exacerbated by the economic crisis because of the lockdown.

Even so, Bishnu is perhaps too passive to have become a guerrilla. He has decided that he has no control over his circumstance or fate, and decides to leave it to the shaman.

Is he a personification of the estranged youth of peripheral Nepal at the time? Is this the form of fatalism affecting Nepalis that Dor Bahadur Bista wrote about three decades ago?

The film is a journey that Bishnu takes, under the instruction of the shaman, to face his fear so that he can ultimately reach the state of happiness. But will he?

Lato Kosero is now available on Amazon Prime.

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