KATHMANDU, Aug 4: “It’s a huge achievement for us,” gushed Anup Poudel, referring to the selection of “Bansulli,” a short Nepali film, at the 69th Venice Film Festival.
The film is based in Jumla and narrates the story of a 12-year-old girl named Bijuli whose life changes during the elections to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly.
The Venice Festival, considered among most prestigious film fests in the world, will commence from August 29 and closes on September 8. The 15-minute film “Bansulli” will be screened at the competitive Orizzonti section.
This Nepali film has been chosen to compete among 18 long and 15 short films out of 1,752 short films submitted from all over the world.
In this edition of Chitchat, we caught up with the young and energetic team of Bansulli, namely, Suraj Paudel, chief assistant director; Nimesh Shrestha, editor; Anup Poudel, assistant director; executive producer Devaki Rai; producer Nischal Basnet; Min Bahadur Bham, scriptwriter and director, and Hira Bijuli Nepali, casting director and actor. They shared with us their experiences while making the film and their future plans.
From left: Suraj Paudel, Nimesh Shrestha, Anup Poudel, Devaki Rai, Nischal Basnet, Min Bahadur Bham, Hira Bijuli Nepali
What was the initial idea?
Min: I had traveled to Karnali some three years back to stage a play. At the place I stayed, I heard something that struck me. There was a belief that girls shouldn’t play the flute or else they will a grow moustache and consequently never get married. Even long after I had returned to Kathmandu, that notion about the flute I had heard kept haunting me. Then one night when I was pondering over the same topic, I thought I would write a poem about it. That poem took me all night and by morning I had a script ready.
So then, how did everything come together?
Suraj: When we heard of the story, we knew immediately that we wanted to work on it. It was an original story that would be made with a realistic approach. Also the location shooting was going to be in Karnali, at a time when it seemed people were only interested in telling stories of the capital.
This is your second venture after “Loot.” Why did you decide on becoming a producer?
Nischal: Our country is in political turmoil for quite some time now. There have been major and minor changes too, and people are hopeful that things will soon become better. But this isn’t the story of the entire Nepal. For those people who live in remote villages, the poor people, nothing has really changed. Their lives are in as bad a condition as it always was. “Baansuli” tells the story of these people and that too in a very genuine manner, and that was very interesting for me. Also, another factor was that I, as director, would never be able to make a film like this, as my forte is commercial cinema, although I love art and realistic cinema. Through Baansuli, I had a chance to get involved in something I liked but could’ve never pulled off myself.
How was the shooting part?
Hira: The shoot was a wonderful experience. As the casting director, I had to reach there before everyone else to finalize the actors. I conducted an audition at Kanika School in Jumla and selected five girls for the lead role. Later, one from the five girls was finalized. But the next day, when we were supposed to shoot, she didn’t show up. She and her parents had changed their mind, for no apparent reason. Thankfully, the second girl was dedicated enough and we managed to pull it through.
Anup: It was an amazing experience as we were at a place we had never gone before. I was amazed everyday with the lifestyle and the people. Everything was beautiful which made the shoot even more memorable.
Min: Among the shooting crew, I was the only one who was familiar with the dialect of the people there and that was a worrying reason for me. Upon reaching there, however, my fears vanished as my entire crew seemed comfortable with the environment and the villagers too welcomed us with open arms.
What’s next for Baansuli?
Anup: As of now, we have our hands crossed because the film has been selected in the competitive category. Let’s hope for the best, because there are chances that the film might just win.
Min: The next immediate step for the film will obviously be the screening in Venice. And when I mention Venice, I must mention that I really don’t have any big expectations. I’m just really happy that the film has made it to an international film festival. Apart from that, we’ll have a screening of the film in Nepal sometime late September.
What do you have to say about the current scenario of Nepali films?
Nischal: The best part about the present situation of our industry is that people have started to believe in young filmmakers. While even a few years back, there wouldn’t be a single producer interested in investing in a new subject and a new maker. Today, they are on the lookout for such films. This in turn has proven extremely advantageous for young makers because we’re granted opportunities to flex our creative muscles.
Anup: There are a lot of films being made, which is a good thing. We’re seeing films that are out and out for entertainment, and then there are art films, intellectual cinema giving the audience options, unlike in the past when films would have nothing novice to say. I however also believe that we need to keep making films and through these films need to fill the gap between commercial and art cinema.
Nimesh: We’re making a lot of films and the more films we make the more we’ll learn. I would like to emphasize on the fact that in the new wave of the Nepali films, there are a lot of upcoming and aspiring filmmakers and producers but hardly anyone who wants to join the technical line. I think editors and other technicians are as important as the other members and we need young minds and fresh ideas in this field too.