Satya Harishchandra Led The Way
Nepalese films have come a long way since the first-ever Nepali film Satya Harischandra was released in 1950. It was shot, produced and released in India by Nepalese living there, only 54 years after the celluloid magic had begun. D. B. Pariyar was the director, script and story writer of the film.
However, there are some people who like to argue that the first Nepali film was Harischandra and not Satya Harischandra. They say it was directed by a group of directors, including D. B. Pariyar. They have posters and stickers to support their argument. Anyway Harischandra that was released on Bhadra 8, 2008 B. S. was the first film made in the Nepali language.
Almost 14 years after the release of (Satya) Harischandra, Aama was released on Ashwin 15, 2002 B. S. in Kathmandu. In fact, Aama was the first ever film produced in Nepal. It was produced by the Department of Publicity Film Division under the Information Ministry with the aim of strengthening and popularising the newly introduced partlyless polity in the country.
Hira Singh Khatri, who had come to Nepal from Mumbai at the request of late King Mahendra, had directed this first Nepali film to hit the screen in quite a big way. All the artists of Aama were Nepali nationals. Senior musician Shiva Shanker was the main actor and Bhuvan Thapa the actress in the film. Director Hira Singh Khatri, Hari Prasad Rimal, Bashundhara Bhusal now popularly nicknamed as ‘Nakkali’, Uttam Nepali, Indra Lal Shrestha and many others made up the cast.
Maitighar, the first Nepali commercial film made in the private sector, set the tone for the real development of the film industry in the country. Nanda Kishore Timilsina’s role was crucial in the making of Maitighar. Dr. Yogendra Jha and General Nara Shumshere were its producers whereas B. S. Thapa was the director.
Appearance of popular Indian actress Mala Sinha as the heroine was a special feature that lent adequate support to the film. C.P. Lohani was the hero of the film that was released on December 15, 1966. However, Maitighar did not prove to be the source that could bring about vigorous private sector participation in making Nepali films. 18 years passed before Juni, the second Nepali film, turned up.
On Falgun 2, 2024 B. S. Department of Publicity Film Division under the Information Ministry screened its second film—Hijo Aaja Bholi. This was also directed by Hira Singh Khatri. Bhuwan Thapa was its principal female character whereas Mitra Lal Sharma, totally a new face, was the hero of the film. Among other artistes were Bashundhara Bhusal, Hari Prasad Rimal, Indra Lal Shrestha, Pradip Rimal and Sridhar Khanal.
After Hijo Aaja Bholi, the Publicity Department made its third and last film—Paribartan in 2027 B. S. and released it in 2028 B. S. Paribartan based on Chetana, a drama by Janardan Sama, was basically made to publicise and popularise the ‘Back to Village Campaign.’
It was rather a slow pace that the film industry moved forward. Two decades and only five Nepali films! Among them three were produced by the government owned agency. Then all equipment and technicians had to be brought from India. However, the four films produced within the country helped bring to light some new directors, actors, actresses as well as technicians like Baikundaman Maskey and Shyam Mohan Shrestha.
That sums up the efforts that marked the first 20 years in the Nepalese film industry’s history. The scattered works did, indeed, lay the foundation stone for the spurt of films produced in recent times.
By Bishnu Gautam