PASANG LAMA: NEPAL’S NEW RISING FILMMAKER
Pasang Lama has worn many hats. He has run a restaurant, helped introduce bubble tea to the nation, directed a movie and started Golden Yak Entertainment. After staying in Miami, USA for twelve years Pasang Lama returned to Nepal to change the face of the movie industry for good, something that got a kick start with his debut movie, Zhingrana. Along with his partners Santosh Shahi and Nitesh Pradhan aka Neev the company released its first commercial movie Zhigrana on March 6th 2015 which created quite a buzz around town. Curious to know what he has his eyes set on next, we hang out with Pasang Lama the Director of the movie and one of the co-producer of the movie.
WHAT IS GOLDEN YAK ENTERTAINMENT?
Golden Yak Entertainment is a film production company which was established in July 2013. They just released their first commercial movie Zhigrana on March 6th 2015. Golden Yak Entertainment is all about building a platform to promote upcoming Nepali movies, musicians, dancers or any form of art. The main objective of the company is to introduce Nepali movies to the international market and to create opportunities for the creative minds.
WHAT WERE YOU INVOLVED WITH BEFORE YOU STARTED GOLDEN YAK ENTERTAINMENT?
Before I came to Nepal, I was in Miami running my own restaurant there. But my heart was set on making a movie someday, so the restaurant was a stepping stone for me. Mean while my sister wanted to start up a business of her own and I had taken the initiation to help her out with the establishment. Since we (our family) loved bubble tea and lived on it every time we travelled to Hong Kong, I advised my sister to introduce it in Nepal.
Soon, we were here in Nepal to help my sister with her business; and as the time passed the business took off. Within a blink of an eye we had opened up three different branches. My sister couldn’t do it all alone, so I stayed back to support and simultaneously to lend a helping hand to the family business.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO MOVIE MAKING?
As a kid I had always loved scribbling short stories, as I grew older, I involved myself in writing full length movie scripts. Since I was so into it I even went to college at Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale which was located at Florida, USA. After graduating from there, I opened my own restaurant. But I was always writing scripts throughout that time, in fact I managed to finish four of them. It took me more than a decade to have my story on the big screen, but it was worth the wait.
SINCE YOU DIDN’T KNOW MANY PEOPLE AROUND IN KATHMANDU, HOW DID YOU AND THE REST OF THE HEADS OF GOLDEN YAK MEET?
Well, it’s true I didn’t know many people when I got here and that hasn’t changed too considerably. Nevertheless, it’s true what they say: Great minds do think alike. I came to know them through a few common friends. While we were chilling with our friends we ended up having a great conversation as we shared the same ideals and perceptions. After that, everything fell into place. We decided to register our company on July 2013 and since then we have been running on all engines.
APART FROM ZHIGRANA, WHAT OTHER PROJECTS IS GOLDEN YAK ENTERTAINMENT INVOLVED WITH?
Initially, after registering the company, we came up with a music video “Happy” of Pharrell Williams as one of my colleagues had put forward this idea. Since it was one of the most popular songs at that time and everyone around the world seemed to be coming out with their own version of the Happy song we thought we’d give it a shot too. So we worked on it for quite some time; my lack of PR didn’t help reel in the big names from the celebrity world to collaborate on the video. After some effort, we convinced Ani Choying Drolma to come on board. Once she was in, other people also agreed to take part in the video.
Sadly, while we were editing the video another company released the Happy Video before us. We were slightly disheartened, but after all the effort we had put in it, there was no question about not releasing it. Thankfully, it was liked by many.
After that we did a few music videos and then our first major project Zhigrana which was our company’s first commercial movie was under way.
IT TOOK ME MORE THAN A DECADE TO HAVE MY STORY ON THE BIG SCREEN, BUT IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS SCRIPT AND WHY THE PLACE ZHIGRANA WAS CHOSEN?
I had a lot of scripts with me, some were complete and some were not. I and my partners had a debate regarding the genre of the movie. After a healthy, but heated, conversation we settled on a thriller, which was the script of Zhigrana.
Initially the movie’s name was Khaptad because the tourism board was looking to promote the area and it also fit in perfectly with the script. After deciding the movie’s name and location we went forward and took the permission of the tourism board. With their approval, we went to visit the location. Getting there wasn’t easy, we had to hike two days from Doti to get there. Enthusiastic and determined, we packed our bags and started the trip up to Khaptad.
We stayed a night at an area called Zhigrana which, was in between Doti and Khaptad. That’s how we discovered the place but we hadn’t decided anything yet then.Once we reached Khaptad we looked over the location for the shoot.
Feasibility seemed like a major issue if we were to shoot at Khaptad. The budget was overshot threefold so we had to approach the tourism board for a possible sponsorship. Sadly, we didn’t get much support. We decided to carry on with the project by changing the location to Zhigrana as it was situated in a very remote area. Consequently, the name of the movie was also changed to Zhingrana.
WERE THERE ANY CHANGES IN THE SCRIPT FROM THE ONE WHICH YOU HAD INITIALLY WRITTEN AND THE ONE WHICH HAD BEEN SCREENED?
Yes, if I have to compare the two scripts many things have changed. When I had started writing the script I had based the plots of the movie in US. That definitely had to be chucked out. The next step was to mellow out the thriller scenes because in the initial stages of the script the death scene of Maya was really gruesome. We had Maya in flames, then we had her head chopped off and then finally we had it toned down further. Similarly many other scenes were deleted such as scenes involving restrooms had to be replaced with dense forest scenes as there were no toilets in the village.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE, WILL YOU SHARE WITH US FEW OF THE INSTANCES?
I had a great time with the crew members, and I’m sure it was a fun experience for them as well. We had no expectations from the village, but the place and the people proved us wrong.
In the first night, the crew was sleeping in huts with low roofs and less ventilation. It was cold, so everyone had decided to sleep together to keep each other warm. That night one of the actors had an asthma attack and he had not carried his pump with him. Unexpectedly, and moreover thankfully, an elder citizen of the village helped us out by making him drink hot sancho water.
Getting used to the natural restroom facilities was a demanding experience for me.
WHAT WERE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FROM THE MOVIE?
I had no expectations from it, nor did my partners. I know it is weird to say that after all that effort but seriously I had no expectations from it because this was our first movie and my family and friends were not convinced with my work. Regardless, this project was a dream come true for me. But once the movie was released, I was really relieved as the result was beyond my expectations. Foremost I gained confidence from the reviews I received from my family and friends. The marketing team worked hard, they really put the movie out front and due to their effort the movie was brought under the lime light.
SO WHAT’S NEXT FOR GOLDEN YAK ENTERTAINMENTS?
Right now we have a few projects on hand. We have one documentary project of UN and also one of Kasara Resort, Chitwan. We are also working on a few music videos which will be out in the market soon. The biggest project which we are busy with is taking Zhigrana onto an international platform. We are in between talks to take the uncensored version of the movie to Thailand’s film festival. Further editing is still going on for that. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the future, and hopefully we get more success and recognition.