Cinemas in Kathmandu

In the center of Kathmandu there are both: shabby cows rambling through the town and youngsters with mobile phones strolling about. There is a great contrast between scales of living in Nepal, the same way as in any developing country, though. Next to a huge black jeep, one can see a toothless old woman keeping dirty barefooted children off. 

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Football game in Kathmandu, Nepal

Here, in Katmandu, people like football (proper one, that in US called ‘Soccer’) very much. They play volleyball and lapta too but not very well. We came to Katmandu as participants of a photo workshop and succeeded in getting to the football field free of charge. My fellows showed driving licenses, I produced a shining pass to the New Zealand School of English. After that we were allowed to do everything. We could even go out on the field if we would. Pavel’s theme of the Sergey Maximishin’s masterclass we were undergoing in Kathmandu was “Resting”, and he photographed himself every other minute and in every place, say, in front of some picturesque football fan in the stands. He used to squat down in front of a fan at almost no distance of a mere foot away and looked at him through his camera. I asked him whether people felt bothered by the blind spot created by him and his camera. He said that it bothered them very much, and added: for the first ten minutes only. Our fellow Nick was bored at the time and sluggishly idled about in the area of the goal though the ball kept ignoring the goal line.

The match was kind of super final, so the stands were full and the price of tickets was up to 500 rupees. There were three kinds of entrance tickets: proletarian tickets for wooden benches outdoor, VIP tickets – for plastic chairs in the veranda, and super VIP tickets – for the row of plastic seats along the field boundary. I was a little surprised and alerted by the amount of guards at the stadium. They didn’t allow to take pictures of themselves.

The game was nothing special at all. The goalkeeper used to kick the ball out when threw it in, players kept tangling in their own feet and managed to score a goal only in the end of the game when everybody got tired. As I got it, the most part of people there supported guys in a black uniform. Perhaps, it was a national team of Nepal. But for all that, the game still hindered our efforts to take photos.  It kept drawing our attention from cameras  and not once I caught myself watching the ball. Have to say that people were not very active in showing emotions. After the only and decisive goal nobody became hysterical and no one jumped with joy. Instead of forming a hysterical wave they just raised their arms and sticked thumbs out as if saying “super”. I got lucky to find one teenager in the whole crowd, who jumped, shouted and applauded. He was surely playing up to my camera.

Our visit to the central stadium in Katmandy showed again that football had no boundaries.

How Movies Are Filmed in Nepal. Part 3

Here in Kathmandu, while the workers of the Nepalese film studio were setting up the lights, I walked through all the rooms, took pictures of what the personnel of the studio are busy with. See the photographs with commentary in the rest of the post.

Mini-reports from the set can be found in previous posts from this series: first, second.

This is what the filming pavilion looked like after several hours of the crew’s work with setting up lights and decorations. The room with awkwardly white-painted walls is supposed to create an atmosphere of an interrogation room in the basements of the Nepalese intelligence service. See these photographs in the first post.

Meanwhile, in the dark and cool basement of the studio, a worker diluted chemicals for the development of the film. As far as I can remember, digital movies are not available to everyone, so most movies are made using film.

In a small boxroom with a strong smell sits a lady who is in charge of chemicals. Her work involves marking in a big record-keeping book how many kilograms of white crystals have gone to one project or another.

Giant tubs with chemical soup will be lifted to the highest point and connected with pipes to the development apparatus.

Another worker of the development shop who is in charge of a giant machine through with film is ran for development checks in with some book.

It’s a serious apparatus: it hums, clunks, rollers spin. This person was very concentrated on what he was doing, maybe even a bit hostile.

Occasionally this light began to shine dimly. After which the keeper of the apparatus came and looked at the buttons for a long time. The shop smelled of chemicals, on the floor here and there were whitish dried puddles with salty edges.

A fingerless chemist from the laboratory had a lively interest in the model of my camera. He then took his Canon 400D out of his backpack and after a brief conversation became engulfed by the newspaper. A person with a North Face jacket and a camera that costs about one thousand American dollars slightly amazed me. The average salary in Nepal is about $170 a year. Apparently the movie industry is a profitable business here, too.

In the cutting room, a Nepalese in gloves cut the film, measuring the footage in accordance with tables with numbers on a piece of paper. Carefully, with a razor, he cleaned the edges of the film, after which he glued one of the sides and squeezed them on a special pressing machine. The glue, the consistency of which looks like the well-known super-glue, melts the film very well: it gets a death grip on it. Cleaning the edges with a razor is essential so that the thickness of the strip remains the same where the film had been glued. Otherwise the mechanism of the projector can stall.

A young guy about twenty-five years old (as with any other Asians, it’s very hard to determine the age of the Nepalese) was preparing lists for the editing procedure. They are what a special person will use to cut the film, and another to glue it into a whole reel of film.

Brochures for Nepalese movies with the smiling faces of actors with a look very similar to a European one are all over the studio.

A lady with polished robot-like movements marks the places where the film was cut on it.

She runs the film back and forth and marks something on a huge list of numbers on the screen of the monitor.

I’m not sure that these devices are used by anyone, but I found a whole room full of old projectors in the back part of the building.

For some reason, the hole in the door is covered with rags and tape. The feeling of a basement of a Russian research institute did not leave me.

In the sound-recording studio, audio-tracks for the video are edited on real macs. There is a quiet, soundproof room with microphones behind the glass. The actors have already recorded their lines, and I got to watch only the work of the audio editor. Typical Bollywood sounds of gunshots and ricochets could be heard in the room.

I’d like to remind you that over seventy movies a year are made in this studio. They are as low-budget as they can be, but, nonetheless, they find their audience, since for most, movies aren’t a cheap form of entertainment. Naturally, like in any developing country, a huge contrast is seen between the poor and the rich: black jeeps drive by the proletariat movie theater, and cows that run in different directions scare off pigeons.

The arrangement of the chemical laboratory. Notice the dust, dirt and spiderwebs in the corners.

Ever since childhood, the process of film development has fascinated me. So after touring the building, I once again went down to the basement to watch as the mechanisms, with humming and quiet, rhythmical rattling, pull kilometers of film through themselves. On which are faces, terrors, intrigues, investigations.

Part one

Part two

How Movies Are Filmed in Nepal. Part 2

Here in Kathmandu the filming of the movie “Dasdgunga,” of which I began to speak in the first of three planned posts about Nepalese films, continues.

I’d like to remind you: in the Nepalese film studio, a couple dozen people and one Bollywood star are filming a thriller based on the mysterious death of several high-standing persons. In 2008 I was fortunate enough to spend several days with them. One year later, after passing censorship, the movie saw light. At the end of the post is an episode that had been cut out by censorship.

And so, yet another day of filming after many hours of working in a closed pavilion that is meant to act as an interrogation room, it was decided to spend it in the home of the director’s friend’s friend. On the second day, the beaten-down Nick and I spend several hours looking for the address which we were given at the studio, we were afraid of being late, yet after arriving we spent a while watching the adjusting of equipment and the set-up of a mini-screen for the camera. The actors, wearing make-up, repeated their parts and worked on the dialogues with the director and his assistant. The operator, as before, smoked a lot and was hostile. I guess that’s just the type of person he is.

The director, in the top left corner, watches over the filming of the scene “Entering the house.” The actors ascended five times. Passersby and the owner of the house kept getting into the image.

The operator demonstrates what has been filmed to the actors playing the main characters and to the director.

Boys are playing next to the building across the street that looks like a dormitory.

The son of the owner of the house. We chatted a little. He is a student in Kathmandu, plans to be a designer. Meanwhile he’s helping his father with a small business, I don’t remember exactly what kind.

The newly-set-up crane occasionally bowed dangerously. A worker was put next to it for safety.

The camera was placed on the crane with pancake-like weights on a balancing foot. It smoothly rolled into the window as the work progressed.

Walking by, a curious worker went up to the viewfinder.

A room on the second floor of a typical Kathmandu building is decorated to look like an office of a politician of moderate importance. There are portraits on the walls, flags everywhere and other attributives. Attention! “Action!” The director speaks English. Everyone freezes in positions that have been taken ahead of time, like in a game of freeze tag. In the middle of the house, the owner offered everyone hot tea which he himself carried around on a tray.

In several days we sort of befriended the guys from the filming crew. Both we and they felt somewhat special.

“Detective” Anup Baral and his assistant are asking the suspected official ticklish questions.

Like last time, after the photographs from the places where events took place, I’m attaching a chunk of the movie, in which you can see what came out at the exit and compare. This episode didn’t pass censorship and didn’t end up making it to the theaters.

 

 

In the next post I will introduce you to the, so to speak, kitchen. This will be a photo report from the production workshops of Nepalese studios: film development, printing, editing, voicing.

Part one

Part three

How Movies Are Filmed in Nepal. Part 1

Here in Kathmandu, local cinema is called Kollywood. The cost of one movie, as I was told by a manager who decided to audition for the part of a tour guide, is 10-50 thousand American dollars. In just a few months, a crew of 7-10 people manages to make a ready product. Detective stories with a lot of killing are well-liked. In one year, the studio makes up to about 70 (!) films. I got to visit and participate in the making of the movie “Dasdgunga,” about the to this day mysterious death of Nepalese leaders.

The story is so fishy that the movie did not pass censorship right away and was approved for showing only in January of this year, one year after its making. In short, the plot is based on the death of two representatives of the top of the government of Nepal: Madan Bhandari and Jivraj Ashrit. In the 1993 incident, they died in a car accident. The driver, Amar Lama, somehow survived, but was killed ten years later. The murderer was not identified.

The main part of a detective with a difficult life is played by the star of Nepalese theater and cinema Anup Baral. The director is the round-faced Manoj Pandit with kind eyes. They say he’s also pretty famous.

Meanwhile, we look under the cut at a series of 35 photographs with commentary.

Make-up took over an hour. Mustaches got combed, faces got powdered and after three hours of waiting for lights to be ready, filming began. I included the best picture from this period in the “The Culture of Modern Nepal” series.

An extra playing a guard watches as the workers set the lights.

Meanwhile, a scene was being filmed in the hallway. A driver is being led to be interrogated. The blinding light of a projector hits the characters in their backs.

Most of the first day was spent on setting the lights.

The workers of the studio spent over four hours covering, setting and adjusting do-it-yourself reflectors made from rags, white panels and mirrors.

Speaking of the necessity of a professional set, lighting equipment and super-expensive lenses and cameras. Any available resource is used in Kollywood. The room was whitened in one day, rags, mirrors and ropes were brought from storage. The intensity of the projectors’ light is set using black discs with a hole in the center.

A static stage, the set is ready. We are witnessing an interrogation in the basement of a Nepalese security service.

Before starting to film, the director and the actors discuss the details.

The director accentuates the attention on something of moderate importance.

The equipment, as you can see, isn’t cheap. The camera, no matter what, is rented, and there’s a special person designated to watch it. One films, another controls, the third watches over so that the camera doesn’t get dropped.

The operator seemed like a nervous person, smokes one after another.  There is something in his position that opposes the power of the director.

The detective wearing a hat strictly gazes into the eyes of the suspect. They sit close to each other, so their eyes are a bit crossed. On the chair with an umbrella during the filming sits the suspected Amar Lama and sweats.

The director and operator occasionally check how the light falls on the faces of the actors. Sometimes they asked me to show them what the photographs looked like: sometimes the shadows were too rough, sometimes there was too much light.

The terrifyingly quiet partner of the main character. At some point, judging by the circumstances, they attempted to play bad cop/good cop. It didn’t really work, the suspect laughed a couple of times.

I don’t know why they gave the main character of Asian decent, who doesn’t have very abundant facial hair, a stupid mustache. But a special person adjusted it almost every other set.

The director’s assistant. Anup Baral’s companion at the teaching workshop. A sweet person with pretty decent English.

Outside of the scene, of course, you have to sit quietly and wait for it to end.

The view of the set.

In my search of an interesting angle I climbed to the top level using a rocky ladder. The director is explaining something to Anup.

The director, Manoj Pandit.

The actor playing the main part, Anup Baral.

Dayahang Rai, the actor playing a secondary character, the driver Amar Lama at the interrogation.

It’s normal to smoke in the police station basement, there’s nothing to explain here.

The detective’s assistant repeats the text. He did not have many words. Mainly he goggled his eyes.

The person who controls the operator’s work. As you can tell, he wears the headwear of a brahman and not all work can be done by him.

Working on the key moments with the director.

Since you scrolled through to the end, you will probably be interested in finding out a bit more.

You will recognize some scenes right away. Some of the phrases were repeated so many times during filming that even today, a year and a half later, they seem familiar to me.

The guys and I spent several days with the crew. Pasha (r0ver) ended up with a short but good combined report. In my remaining posts from this series you will see the second day of the filming process and the dungeons of the film studio where development, printing, editing, voicing and everything else without which a movie can’t happen take place.

Part two

Part three

An Acting Studio in Kathmandu, 2008

Here in Kathmandu, Nick (who was suffering either from a hangover or from sleep deprivation) and I walked all over the street Maharajgunj, all the while checking in with a scrap of paper. A day earlier, on the set of a Nepalese film studio, the assistant director invited us for a visit to the acting studio of Kollywood star Anup Baral. Finding a place using incomprehensible, unspeakable doodles didn’t turn out to be so easy.

Nonetheless, after several hours of wandering next to an electrified fence of a new American embassy and looking into the windows of the police academy across the street, we made our way through alleys to a building painted white.

The door wasn’t opened right away, the foreign guests were quite late. As is appropriate in many Asian countries, we took off our shoes and went down to a dark basement where we were introduced to the company. The lessons take place in traditional semi-darkness and are occasionally interrupted for meditation. The windows, of course, had to be opened, photo cameras require light.

The studio is called “No acting, please.” Remember how they act out in Indian movies? Oh! Radja lied to Father. Father frowns, Father is clearly unhappy. The twin brother suspects something. Joey Tribbiani acted like this in “Friends.”

A person with a traditional headdress teaches traditional practices.

Anup received his education in India, in New Delhi, so the lesson was given in English in the presence of foreigners.

The class lasts from three to six months and costs up to 10,000 Nepal rupees. This is definitely not for the poor, that’s more than $130 USD. Anup undertakes teaching the lads starting from scratch. The complete, half-year program offers a full-fledged theatrical production as a final project. As usual, students like stuff like this. Of course, they don’t risk taking up “Waiting for Godot,” but the Theatre of the Absurd is popular among sophisticated Nepalese youth.