Indian filmmaker ruffles feathers in Nepal

August 18th, 2011 - 3:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 18 (IANS) An Indian filmmaker, who followed the trail of migrant Nepali labourers from poverty-racked farwestern Nepal to India’s glamour and business capital Mumbai and their return home carrying HIV from the Indian city’s red-light areas, has ruffled feathers in Nepal for his unmitigated chronicling of the cycle of tragedy.

Mumbai-based documentary filmmaker Aditya Seth chose to screen his 65-minute film “Bahadur: The accidental brave” he shot in Nepal in 2009, first in Kathmandu to make Nepali decision-makers aware of the human tragedy stoked by protracted political instability and lack of developmental activities in the remote areas.

The 46-year-old was exposed to the exodus of the blue-collar Nepali migrant worker to India while making radio programmes for an NGO in India that sought to create awareness about safe sex and behavioural practices.

“When the young men come to India, they have money to spend and freedom,” says Seth. “They get into high-risk behaviour like gambling and getting into drinking binges, which leads to their peers taking them to the red-light areas.”

“Then before they know it they have HIV, carry it back home and infect their wives.”

Accham, the remote and underdeveloped district in farwestern Nepal, that was among the hardest-hit during the 10-year Maoist insurgency and saw most of its young men leave the country in search of jobs, is the focus of Seth’s film.

“Accham is sitting on a micro epidemic of HIV,” he says.

His film focuses on the widespread migration to India, the socio-political reasons for it and then, the lifestyle of the migrant workers in Mumbai.

“I had to make the film,” Seth says. “The NGO’s work ended, like most NGOs’ does, when the funding ended. But as I was privileged to have access to the diaspora and their way of life, I thought it was my responsibility to make this film.”

The premiere had mixed reactions in Nepal with the conservative older audience members, including the intellectuals, reacting adversely.

“Many of them did not like the title,” Seth says. “In India, where Nepali migrant workers are employed mostly as guards and domestic help, Bahadur is the name they are commonly known as. And I used ‘accidental brave’ to indicate how appalling poverty forces them to migrate and come to a different land to earn a living.”

While the ruffled viewers are accusing Seth of demeaning Nepalis, the unruffled filmmaker says the younger generation applauded the film.

“It is not a happy film but it is empathetic,” he says. “I have tried to portray the realities, whether they are palatable or not.”

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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