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Wed, 20 Feb 2019

Northeast Today

A Tete-a-Tete with Nabin Subba

A Tete-a-Tete with Nabin Subba
May 04
12:33 2018

April Edition, NET Bureau

Noted Nepali Filmmaker Nabin Subba was in Guwahati with his latest creation ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’, which was screened as the inaugural film at the 10th Guwahati Film Festival held in December 2017 at District Library Auditorium, Guwahati. A filmmaker with a difference, Subba has brought Nepali films to the international platform. His debut film ‘Numafung’ was very well received at different film festivals, including Public Choice Awards at the 9th Vesoul Film Festival and runners-up at the Dhaka International Film Festival. ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’, which has depicted the political uncertainty in Nepal, a decade ago and the sufferings of the people there, which forced them to migrate to different places, sacrificing their dreams and aspirations, is yet to get permission to release in Nepal. Subhrajit Roy interacts with him about the challenges and achievements so far.

Roy: How difficult or easy is filmmaking in Nepal?

Subba: It’s quite difficult as well as easy. Easy in a way, if you are making films in the mainstream, it’s easy, now it has become a bigger industry. Earlier our big-budget films were within the range of 30-50 lacs, which has gone up to 15 crore Nepali Rupees presently. People are there, audiences are there and such filmmakers it’s quite easy. Moreover, due to the digital revolution, everybody can make a film. But for independent filmmakers like us, who deal with serious issues like politics, lifestyle, social concerns, people’s dreams, suffering etc. there is no market as such. Thus, for us, it’s quite difficult. Another thing is we lack good technicians in Nepal; we have to bring technicians from abroad. We don’t have good studios for making a quality. For my film ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’ I have done most of the works in Mumbai and edited it in Europe.

Roy: Nepal’s political turmoil of a decade ago has been depicted in your film. Was there any political pressure or encouragement?

Subba: The film is yet to be released in Nepal. I may face some problem otherwise. Because during the shoot I didn’t get any support from the state, the establishment, the government, the army or the police. Because they thought that it would portray them in a negative way. But my intention was not like that. It’s like going back or revisiting the period of the turmoil. Fortunately, I was able to pull the resources and made it.

Roy: Perhaps you would be required to make some cuts?

Subba: Yes, we do face problems in Nepal. There is a film called ‘Gaja Baja’, which did not even get the permission to shoot just because of the word ‘Gaja’. If you are not involved previously in filmmaking or new to it, then you are not allowed to make a film easily.

Roy: Within all these constraints, with your film ‘Numafung’ it is considered that you have broken many stereotypes of independent filmmaking.

Subba: The audience in Nepal is educated by the Bollywood and Hollywood movies. The tradition and techniques of filmmaking in Nepal were solely based on these two industries. But if anybody wants to go beyond and show real facts and aesthetics challenging the aura of mainstream and commercial filmmaking, it becomes difficult. So during the making of ‘Numafung’, it was quite challenging. But I could make it possible because I had the community behind me, on which the film is based on. They supported me in funding and marketing. Likewise, for ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’ too I got the funding from the Diaspora community. They had the feeling that the film has portrayed their lives, aspirations and sufferings. One way ‘Numafung’ is very linear and simple film, another way it’s a complex film from the political angle. I prefer to do things differently, unlike the trend. Repeating the same thing becomes a formula. I am more interested in diversity which can indeed bring understanding. So, I try to show the diversity in my films.

Roy: Can both ‘Numafung’ and ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’ be considered more like documentaries?

Subba: ‘Numafung’ is the first film that broke the moral of the filmmaking in Nepal. Earlier we used to make films inspired by Bollywood. It has brought the changes in mindset thinking that film can be like this. A lot of people said that it was not a fiction film, rather a documentary. But when you stick to the fact and portray the real situations, you cannot fictionalize and put an imaginary sense as the content is very political one or anthropological one. Sometimes I like to do some fantasy kind of films too. But when the subject needs documentary stuff, I prefer to do include as per requirement.

Roy: Your films are mostly roaming around the genre of social realism, which may lack popularity.

Subba: I think when you make a good film or try to make a good film, the audience will be there. If one goes for popularity then one will start to compromise with his art as he wants to please the audience. In turn, it will block the artistic temperament of that filmmaker. I don’t think about any commercial viability or market. I just do my work as an artist and rest are up to the audience.

Roy: Does the mantra of crowdfunding work in Nepal?

Subba: Yes, it has become quite popular in Nepal. A lot of people have started crowdfunding. The Diaspora is emerging worldwide.

Nabin Subba

Roy: What is the payback mechanism?

Subba: The very interesting thing with me is that the Diaspora community will screen the film and will get back the money. First, we will do some charity screenings then we will go to the masses and if it is appealing to the masses then we expect to get profit also.

Roy: For all these initiatives you are termed as the person who brought Nepalese film to the international platform.

Subba: Fortunately or unfortunately, what to say? But yes I was the first person whose film went to the international film festivals. It is a way to create an identity in the global forum depicting a lot of issues needs to be dealt. We are enriched with the diversity of 125 ethnic groups and 123 languages. We need to create more filmmakers so that more new stories can come out from this small part of the world. But one person alone cannot reach this goal; we want to inspire more filmmakers to go to the international levels to show our rich diversity.

Roy: In your film ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’ there is a sequence of Hollywood movie screening. Is Nepali audience well equipped with Hollywood?

Subba: Nowadays, the youngsters and the urban crowd are mostly inclined towards Hollywood films. The rural masses mostly favour the Nepali formula films and the people who have migrated to cities are into Bollywood movies. Boarding school culture is another reason for the craze of Hollywood movies.

Roy: As you have mentioned that digital revolution has already been achieved in Nepal at certain pockets, so do you think that piracy happens for having access to these movies?

Subba: Yes, piracy is quite a big problem in Nepal. Last year there was a film which was not released in Nepal but it went on to the internet. The filmmakers have bought these culprits to the police.

Roy: Do the applications and portals like Netflix, YouTube (both free and paid access), Amazon Prime etc. affect the film festivals?

Subba: Yes, it has both positive and negative sides. I think we are not as good as the western countries in terms of marketing films. We don’t have any Video on demand (VOD) platform. We are thinking to start a VOD for our independent films. But the other way it’s very positive because the filmmakers are getting some money out of such viewership or subscription.

Roy: If Govt. of Nepal restricts the public screening of your film ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’, then will you go to the YouTube platform?

Subba: Let’s hope for the best. We are fighting for the censorship since the beginning. We don’t want censorship in our freedom of expression as I have already claimed my film to be an apolitical one. We are trying to convince the Government. Till then we will go for festivals and private screenings.

Roy: Migration got a very important dimension in ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’, as all three lead protagonists migrated at some point.

Subba: There are two sides of it. Every society faces migration. When you migrate and interact with many people you become more competitive and you understand the life more. When you stay back at one place, your development is quite limited. Residing in your own community you don’t lose the culture, knowledge about the particular geography. It also gives you the livelihood. But when you migrate you need to give a lot of time to struggle and survive. In a way, they become wiser and understand their lives more. In the film, the protagonists were forced to migrate due to the sufferings caused by political uncertainty.

Roy: Can we say ‘Goodbye Kathmandu’ is a saga of failure of dreams and failure of love?

Subba: Yes, because the source of the failure is uncertainty. If there would have been certainty then their life could have been a different one. That’s the problem we are facing till now i.e. political uncertainty.

Roy: As you have shown agitations in your film very precisely. In India also we witness many agitations at times; one among them is the agitation seeking Gorkhaland. Do you believe, is it going to affect the greater Nepali community?

Subba: I don’t think so. Because, when we interact with the poets and artists of that region, they feel happy to identify themselves more as Indians, in spite of having their Nepali identity. We witness the same kind of hypocrisy in Nepal too among the communities of Hills and Plains. I am not the authority to say who is right or who is wrong. As a filmmaker, I should say that we have to highlight the aspirations of the people but that should be in the greater humanity value. The basic problem is that we always stick to our own beliefs. By respecting the diversity we can understand each other.

Roy: For world cinema, we are mostly dependent on festivals. But festivals are not available to everybody’s access. Similarly, for awards and recognition, we are lacking behind the western countries. Do you think that world cinema, especially the cinemas of South East Asia need to revive more towards the world audience forum?

Subba: Yes, there is a big complexity. In Busan Film Festival we had a discussion over such representation of films. The population of South Asia is big as China. But representations of our films are so less compared to Chinese and Japanese films in different festivals. I have also asked the IFFI (International Film Festival of India), Goa people that why they don’t create more opportunities for the films made in South East Asia. Hollywood also has its own marketing mechanism. Even the festivals of Middle East also promote more films of originated at that demography. We need platforms which can support South Asian Films and accordingly our films will be visible to the world audiences more. We have to be more competitive to get visibility. We are lacking the strategy to market our films.


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