“Bal haina Paasha, dimaag lagaa, dimaag.”(Use your brain, not your strength).
More than 90% of the Nepali movie-goers can tell which movie the above statement is derived from.
Yes, none other than the massive hit Nepali crime action movie- Loot. Youth Legend caught up with the director of the very film, Nischal Basnet, to recall his journey through childhood to being the industry’s most celebrated director.
A poor boy and a pretty daughter of a rich father falling in love with each other, a number of villains trying hooks and crooks to tear them apart and finally, the couple jumping off all the hurdles and making it to the happily ever after tale used to be the general fabric of almost all mediocre Nepali cinemas until the forby, Nischal Basnet, happened to the Nepali movie industry.
It would not be wrong to say that Nischal Basnet has broken new ground in the industry and has set a pioneer mark on its growth, fetching revolutionary reformations in the long-descended conventional Nepali movie edifice. Basnet has manifested his outstanding directorial skills in movies like Kabaddi, Talak Jung Vs Tulke, and Kabaddi Kabaddi, all of which have topped the box office and sizzled many hearts.
His anticipated sequel of Loot, Loot2 is in the pipeline of releasing this February.
During the phase when younger people were attracted only towards Bollywood and Hollywood movies, it was crucial to swerve from the mainstream film-making and orient towards stories that reflect Nepali society and its reality.
Basnet is one such pioneer who has been able to integrate the real scenarios of the society in a motion play and disseminate to the general mass, mostly catering to the wants and expectations of the younger groups. He has been able to change the film-watching trend of Nepalese youths as his movies drag more and more of them to the theaters.
Inside story of Nischal Basnet
Basnet used to be shy as a kid. He often used to be picked on his dark complexion. A mischievous frown brought his eyebrows near when he shared how he used to hate numbers and anything and everything that had to deal with numbers and maths.
However, he was very interested in sports, especially football. “I never knew what I actually wanted to be but one thought always had me which was to earn name and fame albeit, not knowing how”, reminisces Basnet.
Basnet tried his luck in various fields before entering the movie-industry or even before knowing that he would be entering it. Since school, he had always aspired to play in the national football team. Because of certain circumstances, he couldn’t pursue his dream of being a national football player.
The director who’s fond of singing had also recorded few songs and given voice in the famous Udhreko choli song of his film-Loot.
He made his way to Australia to study 3D animations but ended up studying hospitality due to certain issues. Just prior to 3 months of his course-completion, the university was shut down by the Australian government and he was left without a degree.
“I had started to believe that I was not destined to achieve anything. No matter how many varieties of sectors I tried my hands on, all I could achieve was incompletion. I was totally frustrated,” Nischal shared.
While he was telling his tale of journey through hardships and constant breakdowns, he had us believe that this man sitting right next to us is the quintessence of
‘Failure is the key to success.’
How do you describe your journey into Nepali movie industry?
Back in Australia, I used to watch Nepali movies. It was then, when I realized that Nepali movie industry is too flawed. God knows how many times I must have cussed the movie makers of the movies I watched there.
I literally couldn’t go beyond ten minutes because those were not the kind of movies I wanted to watch. I perceived even I could make movies better than those.
After the university I was studying in, got shut down, I called home and told my dad that I wanted to come back but he insisted on getting a degree first.
I clearly told him that I couldn’t, because the university had already shut down and that if I didn’t return then, then I would never come back. The next morning, the ticket to Nepal arrived.
A night before my flight, my friends in Australia had organized a farewell dinner for me.
I told them that I would make a movie within five years and we would watch it right there at the theater in Sydney that we often used to go to. Right after 3 years, Loot came up.
All those frustrations and my bottled up emotions out of failures in every endeavor, my dissatisfaction in the then running Nepali movies and the fact that I had nothing else to do after returning to Nepal as the same person that had left it about 3 years back, imposed a sheer determination on me to make a good movie.
BUT, my knowledge about film making was null and to add to that, I had no contacts in the industry. So, I had to start from scratch.
I started googling about film-making and stuff related to it. I joined Oscar International College to study film-making and during that course, I assisted in some films like Goodbye Kathmandu and Jai Hos and short film like Innocent.
I was so thirsty of learning that I was even ready to pay to become a spot-boy so that I could learn something from the team. One of my friend’s acquaintances was a producer in a project whom I reached through my friend and explained all my eagerness and thirst of learning.
He gave me a task in production. Those are the times when I learnt the major do’s and donts of movie-making. Those learnings shaped the base and paved my way towards the making of Loot. I was almost 30 then.
At the age when people establish themselves into something, I was still trying out things after failures that popped up one after another. But, the happiness and the relief that the success of Loot brought is just unexplainable.
Not only the success of the movie enchanted me but the fact that finally something that I worked on, actually got not only accomplished, but became a huge success rejuvenated me.
It then gave me hope that this is it. This is where I should be. Now that I look back, I feel all the struggles and the frustrations were worth it.
How does it feel to be called the change maker of Nepali movies?
It’s surprising and I often question myself if I am really the one who started this wave because I had no intentions to change or be the change maker.
All I wanted to do was to prove that I am also a film-maker and that I can make a bit different and fine movies. All that happened afterwards seems like a part of history.
At times, I enjoy it and sometimes, I still can’t believe. (A soft giggle followed).
Initially, I didn’t give much thought upon it but gradually, later releases began getting compared with Loot and there were talks in the air about how the changes in Nepali movies started from there.
I suppose, though it’s not an entire change in the fraternity, I have definitely inspired some filmmakers who had long been holding themselves with the fear of experimental movies not working well. So, I guess I have broken the boundaries somehow.
The way Deepak dai replied to me that he was following the footsteps set by us in movie-making after I had wished him and the Chhakka Panja team for their success, hit me with the realization that there’s still so much to do to take Nepali movies further ahead.
Statement like that from someone who was ruling the television world since way before I entered the industry was not only joy-enticing but inspiring enough to move me to do more.
There’s a lot more that we can learn from our seniors in the industry and vice versa to evolve a promising and an eminent film fraternity.
Now that you have earned the title “Change maker” of Nepali movie industry, does it in any way build up a sense of pressure upon your shoulders to live up to it?
No, not at all. Instead, it challenges me to do better. With every movie I make, I think of ways of doing better and something new so it can mold with the changing taste of viewers.
It keeps me alert not to repeat the same work in my upcoming features and motivates me to make movies which satisfy not just me but the mass.
For example, Loot 2 is releasing very soon. During the making of this movie, I made sure not to repeat things that I have done in Loot because if I did, it’s just pointless to make a whole new movie unless, for money, which is definitely not my first priority.
What was your feeling like right after the release of your debut movie- Loot?
It was actually weird. (Haha!) A night before its release, I was working till 2 am, making copies of the movie. The next morning at 5 am I had to go to cinema halls to provide movie prints and I was running hither and thither for work.
My friends, families started to call and congratulated me for the success of the movie. It was only after I got calls from media that I actually believed that the movie was doing good.
Later, in the afternoon, I visited cinema halls to see people’s reaction. It was a happy feeling altogether to get myself happy viewers.
Where does Nepali movie industry stand at present and what do you suggest to the aspiring newcomers in the industry?
Not just Nepali movie industry, in western society as well, there’s a way of thinking that after 2-3 films do well, the industry prospers and few failures mean we are at loss, which I believe is not true. Ours is in a transitional period.
Film-makers are trying to make good movies according to the varying taste of the generation. Some succeed and some still need to strive harder. Film-making culture is going good but film-watching is something we need to work on too.
There was a period when people, specially, young people would lift their brows and hesitate to go for a Nepali movie but now a days, we can see a lot of young troops are hitting the cinemas to watch Nepali movies, which is an amazing transformation. So, I think it’s going good.
Film-making is not an easy task. The struggle you need to do in this field is double the other and the success rate is comparatively less.
Only few out of hundreds succeed and the rest need to keep trying. If you don’t have it in you, then no matter how strong push you get, you aren’t heading anywhere. Nobody comes a star here and we don’t decide who shines the brightest or dies out.
There are a thousand of viewers out there to decide that. So, while working in the industry, you shouldn’t just think of giving it a shot but work
either giving all that you got or change your path. There will be hardships and struggles but if you keep up with your work, it will pay you back beautifully.
What would you be doing, if you weren’t making movies?
Well, looking at the graph of failures in my life, I would probably be working in a farm at my hometown, Jhapa. I had even told this to my dad that if I failed in the movie-industry too, I would marry the girl of his choice and would work in a farm growing crops.
I had no other options left. I have had enough of trying everything and getting nothing but failures.
Your first crush and first major heart break?
I was about 5 years old and there was this girl named Geeta who used to live in our neighborhood. Our families used to tease us with each other’s names. We haven’t seen each other for almost three decades now. That was my first crush.
My first major heartbreak was pretty major (Haha!).
It happened after high school and took me 7-8 years to get over her. I had become a Devdas then, binge-drinking, wandering here and there, reckless about everything, stalking her and stuff like that. Later, I realized it was somehow my mistake but by that time, her wedding invite had already come on my hand. What then, I happily attended her wedding and wished her well.
Anything you want to say to youths out there on how to deal with heartbreaks?
Heartbreak is common. It happens to most of the people in their lifetime and its ok not getting consoled by anything. Even I didn’t.
If you keep yourself busy with something to work upon and shift your attention towards it, the pain will gradually go away.
But, if you keep thinking about it, doing nothing but talking about it all the time, drugging yourself, you’ll never come out of it. First thing first, never ever take anyone for granted. And, don’t hesitate to take the first step of asking what was wrong.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I think I would still be the same Nischal Basnet but yes, I would definitely have made more good movies and gathered more knowledge about movie making by then.
Apart from that, I would be living a happy married life with my wife, Swastima and hopefully we would have our kids as well. (A bashful laughter filled the room).
Despite all the failures you faced in life, what was it that kept you going and motivated you to keep trying on new ventures?
You see, Loot was the outcome of my frustrations. Our brain works wonderfully. It gets busy in the path you propel it to. If you are able to find out anything that can consume your brain and keep it busy, frustration and difficulties become secondary.
Certainly, there will be setbacks and frustrations during the process of our work, but trust me, they won’t be as depressing as sitting idle, cursing your fate and doing nothing.
I had insecure moments when I would step back and think what if this one fails too, but with the belief and support from my family,
I could collect myself after every failure, to begin a new venture again.
And now, I am proud of the strength that all my failures provided me, enabled me to multi-task and made me more competent.
What message would you like to give to young people of Nepal?
We live in a country where we are not entirely free to do what we want. The norms and restrictions set by our societies and hence by our families, because of the fear of society mark the first and foremost boundary of our lives.
However, I would like to suggest the youths of our country to do what they want but also make sure what they do is liked by people sitting next to them. The sense of right and wrong should be in you. Everyone who tries to climb up falls. You should get up by yourself. Stop seeking for support all the time. Don’t build your walls too high that no one can reach you when you need them. Life goes on. You should flow with it too.
One-liner with Nischal Basnet
Unforgettable comment/compliment ever received:
Manoj Pandit saying- “you have made an entertaining movie. It was engaging and people are gonna love it.”
Life: Live it everyday
Happiness: Be happy (After a long pause followed by laughter)
Leadership: A quality of a leader that enables him/her to walk together with others for a change Politics: A dirty game that should be cleaned up by us.
Hobbies: Sports, watching movies
Nischal Basnet is not only the trailblazer of unconventional Nepali movie industry but an embodiment for all those people who have tried hard to achieve their dreams and kept marching despite numerous impediments in the way. Youth Legend wishes him best for his future endeavors in giving us remarkable movies, inspiring aspiring filmmakers as a filmmaker himself and youths as an exemplar of success.