There was a song that was released two years, a month and nineteen days ago on YouTube which became a runaway hit. That song was almost like an anthem for Nepali youths abroad, who crooned it over the phone to their sweethearts back home many a times. Inspired by the same track, Ram Babu Gurung (Kabaddi, Kabaddi Kabaddi fame), has penned and directed the namesake movie, which is playing in the theatres near you from today.
By all means this is a trademark Ram Babu Gurung movie. The sweet and warm rural society of Gandaki region, staying correct and brave in depicting social norms and caste systems, crude yet crowd pleasing one liners and Dayahang Rai, he has them all. Regular Nepali movie viewers know that Ram Babu Gurung movies are social dramas as backdrops while the lead actors’ fight for their love as the front. This movie is not an exception. A director doesn’t need to show everything he knows, but he needs to show that he knows, and he does that. This is the reason why we believe what he shows in his movies.
The story is about a boy, Pitambar, who falls in love with a girl, Saili Maya, who belongs to another caste. However, the caste is not much of a problem here, the money is, as Pitambar’s father owes a lot of money to the girl’s father. They end up getting married against the will of the girl’s family. As the financial situation of the family worsens, they are left with no option but to go abroad to pay up the family loan. As the story continue, our Saili is distanced from the love of her life. You would feel for her, also because she is not the Saili who gets told by her ‘Saila’ “chaalis katesi ramaunla”, but the one who doesn’t hesitate for a second to share the sorrows and trade places.
First half of the movie has everything: story establishment at the appropriate moment, effective background score throughout, trademark Kali prasad Baskota song, crowd pleasing moments every now and then, and we can sense that the director is in good command of this affair. However, the narrative gets a somewhat derailed in the second half. In a Ram Babu Gurung movie, we don’t expect characters just appearing and vanishing to nowhere. We remember him from his previous movies where his characters were given significant meat in their roles as, which had strengthened the drama in the movie. And why the lead characters never seem to grow at all even after going through so much tells you about why this is not a well-crafted piece of writing.
There are some tweaks in the movie which could have been easily avoided. The scene when Saili runs away from her house with Pitambar, it could have been shortened to make it more realistic. It’s only Maotse Gurung’s expression of perplexity at the end of the scene that saves it from being a mess. Comparably speaking, Gaurab Pahari and Menuka Pradhan need to work on their facial expressions. More so for the former, as he also needs to work on his body language and dialogue delivery, which look and sound very monotonous. At times it is as if the director was involved in controlling their performances so as to prevent it from going bad.
Background score sounds natural and never goes abroad, cinematography looks natural and all loose ends are tied at the end. Dayahang Rai takes a step back and essays the role of a supporting actor this time, yet he appears in almost every scene with the lead character. He doesn’t play the egoist this time unlike in his partnership with other Ram Babu Gurung ventures and is well supported by Kenipa Singh.
This movie starts with the potential to be such a good love story, at some point I thought it could even be a ‘Muna Madan’ of Nepali cinema with a bit of a rad touch (not at the end though). It could be a really good venture, but gets handicapped by the weak second half.
However, it is worth a watch for its first half, its realist approach towards the depiction of Gandaki region, well written dialoguesand natural performances of the character actors.
Producer: Vishal Gurung, Mohan Rana Magar
Director: Ram Babu Gurung
Cast: Gaurab Pahari, Dayahang Rai, Menuka Pradhan, Kenipa Singh, Maotse Gurung, Prakash Ghimire, Lokendra Lekhak, Pushkar Gurung et al