KATHMANDU, June 19: In the final minutes of the Sean Penn film “Into The Wild” (2007), based on the true story of late Christopher McCandless, Emile Hirsch who impersonates the former on the screen, writes in the book he’s been reading, ‘Happiness only real when shared.’
Hirsch then swells up. Tears run down his cheeks. The mise-en-scene grips one hard through the buildup in the form of powerful monologues which is complemented by fast montage, the acting and the haunting background score, and most importantly, the screenplay.
Sushan Prajapati’s “Apabad” must be applauded for what the film has been able to pull off. Drawing parallels from two other films, Tom Hanks starrer “Cast Away” (2000) and the South Korean flick “Castaway on the Moon” (2009), Rajballav Koirala, who plays the protagonist, confessed on Twitter, the film doesn’t live up to expectations.
Apabad is divided into four parts – the present, the flashback, the monologues and eventually, the wilderness that the character runs away from.
Let’s begin with the scene where Suyog, a young frustrated middle class anti-social wannabe writer just out of grad school wakes up on a riverbed all swept away.
The point-of-view (POV) shot of him regaining his senses is alarmingly sharp for someone who just went through a traumatic experience. Where did the script go wrong, which just a few frames earlier delivered a monologue so powerful and progressive to build up to this scene?
There is no method to how the script evolves as it fails to portray the chaos and the conflict in Suyog’s mind. It could’ve had a good build up if it had delved deeper into the character which would have complemented Koirala’s powerful monologue and strong narration.
Back in the riverbed, the hair stylist has no clue how a swept away hairdo looks. Suyog’s cell phone which should have long since fried gives up on him then. And why exactly is Suyog who set out to liberate himself from the material world suddenly calling out for help? The reverse POV visualising the scene doesn’t go with what is being acted out.
And to even believe for a nanosecond that the pack of cigarettes and lighter would somehow still hold strong for a smoke is abusing the willing suspension of disbelief. And these are just a few of many goof ups in the film.
Now, allow me to bypass frames in which Koirala fails to deliver Suyog’s newfound situation, which has been ripped off from Cast Away.
There is no sense of isolation and loneliness that would have otherwise enveloped the protagonist and the script fails to visualize the new world order in the life of Suyog, where he is but a beast, far away from the society he despises.
Apabad’s storyline explores the conflict and shortcomings of Nepali society. Conflict that breeds out of insecurities of a middle class Nepali life weighed against the I-me-myself syndrome in capitalistic world.
It is a home grown story for which the film must be applauded but to breathe it on the silver screen needs serious work. And Apabad fails to deliver.
In Cast Away, the protagonist, a lone survivor of a plane crash finds himself isolated in an island. In dire need of shelter, using whatever resources he can find, he makes one. And the master of character actor that Tom Hanks is, he pulls his part so well and realistically.
Apabad mimics Cast Away badly. Accepted that Suyog too needs shelter and he makes one but there’s no build up to the scene. The character, it seems, is following a director’s demand to act out quick scenes that the script has borrowed from here and there.
In Cast Away, the protagonist wants to defy his isolated state and do something about it and transforms his makeshift hut into a raft and descends upon the ocean.
In Apabad, there is a fairly okay build up before Suyog descends on the river after a McCandless inspired ‘Happiness only real when shared’ line before setting foot on the land he earlier ran away from. And that’s when the best part of Apabad’s narration begins as the slow motion run on a vast sandscape breathes life on the big screen.
And that’s exactly where the film should have ended for me. But Apabad probably outdid the script by a few minutes, inviting a burst of laughter from the audience while the characters of the film, in a newfound setting, overcome their shortcomings.
But catharsis isn’t as easy as the film would like us to believe and the little larger than life world that Apabad is able to build up, evaporates into thin air in the final minutes and ruins the entire emotional ride. But in a positive note, I would like to applaud Apabad’s script for giving importance to character acting, as tastes being catered and indulged in change as rapidly as the technology and the minds that are changing the Nepali film industry.
Shot entirely on a DSLR, the film does deliver brilliant cinematography skills with a few forgivable shots here and there. At a technical level, lighting conditions are terrific leaving the frames where Koirala and Nisha Adhikari lie down unrealistically under a starry night, with their faces bouncing off light from the street lights on the Tinkune junction.
The background score and soundtrack is fresh, although the selections could have been tighter. The initial background score could use the cross fader a little less as it undercuts the powerful monologue the film begins with.
Rabi Giri and Bijaya Giri who play father and mother of the protagonist deliver their roles well. However, Giri mimicing the scene from Into The Wild where McCandless’s father breaks down was unnecessary.
Not that Giri hasn’t pulled it off unlike Koirala or Adhikari, but I’d bet all my dibs that Giri, a matured actor, could have pulled it off equally in his own style if the director was in an innovative mood.
All said, I recommend you watch Apabad followed by Cast Away, Into The Wild and Castaway on the Moon.