Maoist ‘people’s war’ sweeps Nepal’s showbiz awards

Kathmandu, July 1 (IANS) The tale of the Maoist uprising that killed over 13,000 people and forced Nepal’s king Gyanendra to surrender his crown has acquired a new dimension with the restoration of peace, winning a maverick guerrilla filmmaker the nation’s top showbiz awards.

Bimal Poudel, 37, once an underground member of the formerly banned party’s cultural wing who made documentary films to propagate the message of the 10-year “people’s war”, Monday saw his debut feature film “Janayuddha” sweeping five awards at the state-sponsored National Film Awards ceremony.

The film, whose title translates to ‘The People’s War’, currently showing in major theatres in the capital, beat 28 other short-listed ones, mostly from mainstream commercial cinema, to fetch the awards for the best film, actor, actress, lyrics and editing.

It is the first film directly made by the Maoist party under the banner of its newly- established film company, Jana Cinema (People’s Cinema). Shot mostly in Chitwan district in south Nepal, it is also the first film in which members of the Maoists’ dreaded People’s Liberation Army play themselves.

The story of how a small village in Nepal revolted against state and army brutality also encapsulates ‘Prachandapath’, the war philosophy propounded by Maoist supremo Prachanda. On Monday, the Maoist chief, who is now poised to be the new prime minister of Nepal, had the gratification of awarding the honours.

Poudel attributes the success of his film to its subject. “It’s a very powerful subject,” he says. “And I saw the movement from close.” The success of “Janayuddha” has given fillip to his next venture “Kisan” (The Peasant) that would highlight the need for an agrarian revolution.

“Nepal is an agrarian society,” Poudel says. “Now that we have a republic and are trying to create a new Nepal, the status of the peasant has to be uplifted for the development of the nation.”

Politics has a way of pervading all sectors in Nepal.

The last national film awards ceremony was held in 2005 during the absolute rule of King Gyanendra who seized power with the support of the army.

Royalists were at the forefront of the ceremony and the decision to honour evergreen actor and film director Dev Anand from neighbouring India’s Hindi film industry created a controversy.

Dev Anand, who received the award from the hands of the king himself, was said to have been marked for the honour not because of any real contribution to Nepali cinema but because of his proximity to the royal family.

This year’s ceremony has also created a controversy.

The information and communications minister, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, belongs to the Maoist party while one of the members on the board of selectors is a supporter of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist.

However, irrespective of whether politics influenced the distribution of the awards, the fact remains that the People’s War is now going to be the new influence on Nepal’s cinema, art and literature.

At least six other films have been made on the Maoist movement from different perspectives while the experiences of victims who were arrested by security forces and tortured in custody are now flooding Nepal’s bookstores.

— By Sudeshna Sarkar


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