NISCHAL BASNET: HOPING TO RECREATE NEPALI MOVIE MAGIC WITH THE SOON TO BE RELEASED TALAKJUNG VS. TULKE
Nischal Basnet is as easy going as they come. Cool, down to earth and unintimidating. So much so, that at one point I gathered the courage to ask him something from my “I dare not ask him this” pile of questions.
“Yea, I get that a lot. I look like a newar” he replied with a smile when I asked him why despite being Basnet, he looked so much like a newar. “None of my parents are Newar though, and I think my grandparents were Thakali.”
Of course I intended no offence and I was confident that he wouldn’t take any, because that is the vibe he exudes.
Remember how you laughed until your stomach hurt while watching Loot? I was laughing the same way while interviewing the man behind that blockbuster. After the overwhelming success of his directorial debut LOOT, he is back with his second movie to be released soon.
Director, producer, actor, script writer and even a singer, you’ll find few other people in the industry that is as multi-talented as Nischal. And he is indeed a story teller! I got hooked onto him as he narrated his side of story to me.
How did it all start? What got you into film making?
Things don’t always happen as you expect them to. I went to Australia to study 3D Animation but I ended up studying hospitality and became a cook! When I was there, I did everything, from washing dishes to cleaning floors. But nothing really productive was happening. There was absolutely no progress so I decided to come back.
I didn’t have the slightest clue that I would be getting into movie making, I had not given it a thought. The thought did, however, come to me in 2009 when I sat through a marathon of mind numbingly boring Nepali movies. It was so terrible. That’s when I told myself that I would make a film within the next 5 years at any cost.
The vision was there, but I struggled a lot in the process of learning about film making. I read books, spent countless hours on the internet, however I always felt that there was so much to learn but so less time.
I made a short movie of 20 minutes titled “innocent” but didn’t bring it out because I wasn’t satisfied with it. For me it is very important that the audiences connect with my movie. During that time I watched a lot of action, thriller and robbery movies which in turn played an influential role in shaping Loot. For once, things went according to plan and in 2012 I made LOOT and I am very happy about that. It is all about hard work, dedication and never giving up!
How did your parents take to your desire of becoming a filmmaker?
My father wasn’t very positive about the fact that I wanted to be a filmmaker. Despite supporting me and investing his money on LOOT, he was very skeptical about it. I told my father that if I keep working under someone else, it will take me 10 years to make a mark in the industry, but if I make my own movie, I can do it in 3 years. And today I can happily say that he is proud of my work and my decisions.
Describe your state of mind just before the release of LOOT.
I missed all that nervousness and excitement because I had so much work to do the day before Loot’s release. Thursday night I was working late, I slept for few hours and woke up early to finish other work. Half the time I had even forgotten the movie was on.
During interval my friends and some people from the movie fraternity started calling me. Told me that the movie was hilarious and it was great. But somehow I had a feeling that since they were my friends it was obvious for them to say so.
But later I started getting calls from so many people, FM stations, Newspapers and other media that my battery literally died! That was the moment I knew the movie was going great indeed!
With the overwhelming success of LOOT, we all want to know if there will be a sequel to it.
I haven’t really thought of one right now. The script has to be real good. I do not want to disappoint the audience and lose the impression they have of the movie Loot. If I am satisfied with the script then surely I will make a sequel to it or a movie similar to Loot.
In your opinion, what was wrong with the movie industry and how has that changed?
The industry took a nose dive only a decade ago, before that things weren’t that bad. I think the problem arose when the industry couldn’t adapt to the changing scenario and expectations of the audience members. Today, the majority of the audiences are young adults. If you’re making the movies on the same line as you did ten years ago, you’re targeting the wrong demographic.
And there seems to be something off about the perception of filmmakers when it comes to the audiences’ reactions. Just because your audience is laughing, it doesn’t mean that they’re enjoying the movie. If they’re laughing during an emotional scene, something’s wrong.
But it is good to see things changing. The young audiences are being focused on and the industry as a whole is not afraid to experiment.
To you, what is the most challenging thing about making a film?
It is absolutely impossible to execute all the things inside a director’s head and portray everything in the
film. We make a lot of mistakes that is why we are not getting a complete cinema. As a director, when I look at Kabaddi, I feel ashamed of myself. I could have done a lot better!
Who are your biggest film influences?
I watch a lot of movies. Even if I do not understand the language I still watch it! And if I enjoy that, then it is indeed a good movie. In Nepal, I have always been influenced and inspired by Hari Bansha Acharya and Madan Krishna Shrestha.
In Nepal, there is not much business in the movie sector. How can one overcome this challenge here? How do you do that?
There is maximum risk for producers in the industry. Filmmakers are not recovering money at all and producers earn very little. Only 5 percent of the Nepali movies are getting their return in investment. The other 95 percent face great risk and loss. So, when I made LOOT, I was ready for that loss. But the movie turned out to be much greater than what I had expected and I am happy about it. The only way to overcome this challenge is to make a strong movie that the audiences can connect with.
What needs to be done to uplift the Nepali Movie industry?
It is very sad that sometimes it seems our own people have no interest in our movies as most theaters exhibit and prefer Bollywood and Hollywood movies over Nepali cinema. But I do not blame everything on the audiences. There aren’t many commercially strong Nepali movies. That is the reason why no one is willing to buy Nepali movies.
If the Industry can provide the Nepali audiences with good movies back to back then things will definitely improve on all sides; theaters, distributors, filmmakers and the audiences!
Tell us about your next project? You must have your hands full now.
A little bit. I’m occupied with the editing aspect of things, the trailer is going to be out soon. Talakjung VS Tulke is a tragic comedy movie. It is the journey of Tulke who loses his identity and tries to get it back. There is little bit of a love story, a bit of politics and a lot of comedy. I am hopeful Nepali citizen can relate very much to the life of Tulke. The movie is releasing on October 31st.
After creating many people’s favorite movie, what would you say are your top five favorite Nepali movies?
Dui Thopa Aasu, Ta Ta Sarai Bigris ni Badri, Darpan Chaya, Chino and Kagbeni. Infact Kagbeni was that one Nepali movie that inspired me to make a film of my own.
Director or an actor?
A Director, any day! I find myself ina much better position behind thecamera than in front of it.
Which actor is most probably going to make it big in Nepal?
Saugaat Malla, definitely!
Your three favorite Nepali actresses?
Reecha Sharma, Namrata Shrestha and Menuka Pradhan. But I believe that Nepali Cinema lacks strong
women oriented movies where actresses can prove themselves.
How conscious are you about keeping up with trends in fashion?
I wear what I feel comfortable in. I am not at all brand conscious. My sister criticizes what I wear but I tell her that people aren’t going to like me for my clothes. They are going to love me for my movies. But I have a fetish for shades.
Do you keep yourself updated with the latest technology?
I do not own an iphone! So that answers it all I guess. I used to be a gadget freak while I was in Australia but not so much these days.
Your Dream holiday destination?
I don’t have any dream holiday destination as such but I really want to visit Goa!!! I would surely love the beaches there. In Nepal, I like Pokhara because I find it very peaceful.
How much are you into fitness?
I joined the gym for the first time a month back. I went for 4 days and that was the end of it.
What catches your fancy when it comes to women?
I like girls who I can easily talk to. I am a shy person and I need someone with whom conversations will
be easy. “ani ofcourse ramri ta huna pari halyo ni!”
When is Nischal Basnet getting married?
Soon. Everyone needs a friend, they say!
Photos: Bibhas Maharjan Suwal
Words: Jenija Manandhar
Wardrobe: Atelier & Pozak