Nepali filmmaker is in love with SikkimJanuary 2nd, 2010 - 11:56 am ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Jan 2 (IANS) On New Year’s Day a sudden protest called by ethnic groups paralysed Nepal but failed to deter filmmaker Shovit Basnet from reaching his office and working on his new project for yet another film on Sikkim where thousands of Nepalis and people of Nepali origin live.
The 38-year-old filmmaker, with two new releases in the pipeline, has already started working on the next two projects, one of which will be shot in Sikkim. While the Indian film industry is discovering exotic and picturesque locations in Nepal, Basnet is discovering idyllic spots in the northeast Indian state, once a Himalayan kingdom and home to the third highest peak in the world, Mount Kangchenjunga.
One of the films he made last year made news in both Nepal and India because of the Sikkim factor.
“Mission Love in Sikkim”, a love story combining crime and a moral, premiered in Denzong cinema in Sikkimese capital Gangtok and is still running in Kalimpong, West Bengal.
“I wanted to do something new,” Basnet, who is now on to his 17th film, told IANS. “I was looking for untapped locations and talent and both come together in ‘Mission Love in Sikkim’.”
Almost 90 percent of the film was shot in Sikkim, chronicling the pursuit of a robber - who robs a bank in Nepal - by a Nepali police officer, who bags her quarry in Sikkim and then brings him back to Nepal for justice.
The two main protagonists - the policewoman and the fugitive - are played by Sikkim-based actors. A host of minor characters have also been played by actors based there.
Sikkim’s Rushma Rai, who has earlier played a minor role in Nepali film “Shahid Gate”, and debutant Sikkim boy Kunal Sundas were selected after an audition in Gangtok. The experiment, Basnet says, enabled him to make the film on a shoe-string budget of about three million Nepali rupees.
The low investment has yielded rich dividends. “Mission Love in Sikkim” has been exempted from entertainment tax by the Pawan Kumar Chamling government of Sikkim for projecting the state and giving a boost to tourism.
“It means almost a 65 percent savings on taxes,” Basnet says.
Though there have been other Nepali films shot in Sikkim, “Mission Love…” clicked with the Indian authorities, Basnet feels, probably because of the retention of the name of the state in the film title.
Now he is planning to make a new film in Sikkim after he completes “Raj”, a saga involving an army commando.
Shooting in Sikkim, Basnet says, was an overwhelming experience. “Sikkim has more Nepali-ness than Nepal,” he says. “In Nepal, when we meet Indians, we tend to speak in Hindi. But in Sikkim, they speak Nepali.
“Also, in Nepal, we wear western clothes. In Sikkim, you will see more people wearing the traditional Nepali daura-suruwal (long shirt and loose trousers) and the Nepali cap.”
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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