KATHMANDU, Oct 20: After being premiered at The World Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, and screenings at The International Hamburg Film Fest in Germany and The International Film Festival of Young Directors in St Jean de Luz, France, the film “Soongava” has been selected for the 14th Mumbai Film Festival.
Written and directed by Paris-based director Subarna Thapa, Soongava is the first feature film on homosexuality from Nepal. When asked about the kind of reaction this film is bound to get, Nisha Adhikari, who portrays Kiran Sharma, one of the two leading lesbian characters in the film, says, “I don’t know what to expect, particularly because this film is the first of its kind here. All I know is the issue that this movie delves into had to be addressed and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”
“I’m not scared of the storyline that this film covers and anticipation of public reaction to it. Rather, I was only scared of not being able to justify the character in the beginning,” says Deeya Maskey who plays the character of Diya Bajracharya in the film, “I like to put myself up to challenges with complex characters like this one.”
Looking back at the audition that both these actresses went through, they recall how director Thapa had no other options for the character of Diya other than Deeya (Maskey).
“Her being a Newar and a dancer at that, she fit into the character perfectly,” puts Adhikari.
“Thapa particularly wanted a classical dancer for the film and someone who could speak both Nepali and Newar fluently,” adds Deeya.
Both Deeya and Nisha say that they have learnt a great deal of professionalism from Thapa. According to them, he’s sensitive about little things, small sequences in the film that are mostly overlooked. His acting tips on not just onscreen dialogue delivery but how an actor can act silently with body language, gestures and subtle expressions governed by what one is thinking of have helped them.
The promo of “Soongava – Dance of the Orchids” is a testimony to Thapa’s artistic endeavors juxtaposed with a simple girl-meets-girl story. The dance scenes and small plot sequences along the rhythm of traditional Nepali music with a rich blend of traditional Nepali art and culture within the screenplay makes it one of the best films to be representing Nepal internationally.
“Segregating the stereotypical notion of gays and lesbians, I’ve transposed the content in our society respecting family values and social norms. I opted to be close to facts and possibilities of the incidents that happen in the story/dramaturgies,” says director Thapa who is very keen on participating in the 14th Mumbai Film Festival on October 22.
“I wanted to make this film in such a way that families could sit together and watch it. My two protagonists have their own sentiments, desires and limits and they are fighting for their identities. It’s like they are speaking for thousands of young Nepalis and the audience can relate to it,” he says.
Although Thapa has refrained from explicit scenes, the two leading actresses have shared a few intimate scenes, as required by the plot. Deeya recalls, “We shot an intimate scene earlier. Nisha and I hardly knew each other back then, so we both felt awkward. We filmed a few other similar scenes later but by that time, we had grown to know each other so we were comfortable.”
“As actors, we have to be convincing. What I thought was the more convincing we are with our characters in this film, there are more chances of people assuming that Deeya and I are lesbians in real life,” said Adhikari on initial doubts she had while filming for ‘Soongava’ and her character.
The movie depicts the social stigma attached to homosexuality in Nepal where, despite the most progressive policies on homosexuality in Asia, society is still in the process of adjustment.
“We are so detached from things like these unless we have someone close involved. Every time an actor takes up a role, there’s a little bit of him/her in the character and a little bit of character in him/her. The issue affected me to the extent of an actor, it haunted me as it happens with every new discovery and during your process of assimilation,” echoed Deeya and Nisha.
The film is jointly produced by Ami Films in Nepal and Rapsodie Production and Cité films, both of France.
The prospective release date for ‘Soongava’ in Nepal and France has been scheduled for January 4, 2013.