It’s a sensitive age that we seem to be living in. I was following the flare up between various representatives of the Nepali film industry and the aspiring comedian Pranesh Gautam, resulting from the latter’s less than flattering review of the film Bir Bikram 2. With online content reaching mass audiences via social media and thousands of people keen to get in on the act with memes, videos, mimes and all sorts of assorted content, there is a lot of pressure to stand out and deliver unique takes on everyday events. And sometimes pushing the envelope too far invariably ends up rubbing some people the wrong way.
As a writer, comic, filmmaker or any person who puts their work out for public consumption, it can be difficult to gauge what will and will not offend certain sections of people. What might constitute as humor or even come across as seemingly innocuous to most people may end up riling certain ethnic groups, professional bodies, and demographics. In some cases, this sensitivity is wholly justified. A case in point is stand-up comedy – just watching some of the stuff that passes for comedy in Nepal is enough to make you cringe.
Having said that, people these days seem to get offended by just about anything, as the filmmakers of Bir Bikram 2 demonstrated through their filing of a police complaint against the comedian. The fact that the review – much like the film it sought to analyze – was neither entertaining nor informative is not the issue but rather the over reaction to it that has people scratching their heads. Apart from a few swear words that, in all honesty, probably figures in colloquial Nepali for a sizeable chunk of the population, there was nothing exceptionally provocative about the video. At least not to warrant a police case and certainly not enough for some office bearers and self appointed saviors of the film industry to close ranks and indulge in a very public show of strength.
Apparently, people like Gautam are destroying the film industry with their less than critical and funny insights. I’m really sorry but our film industry does not need a YouTube comedian to do that – they are quite capable of doing that themselves what with all the tripe that is being produced, directed, and thrown at us. I don’t know who made these people the ‘messiahs’ of the entire film industry but if they really wanted to save the film industry, they could start by making better films.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t watch a lot of Nepali films – only the ones that get good word of mouth publicity (the last one was White Sun). But ask anyone who goes to the movies and they will tell you that it’s an ordeal to actually just sit through most Nepali film trailers. The only people who get excited about Nepali film releases are usually teenage lovers who get to book the last row of seats in often empty theatres and do just about everything except watch the film.
If any work is in the public domain, it’s open to interpretation, analysis, criticism, parody and just about any other form of examination – especially so in the social media age. Just filing a case and creating a climate of fear to teach “these people” a lesson is not going to make these online content sites go away or change their modus operandi. A lot of these sites may not be geographically bound so these so called saviors will find it hard to go after every single person who, critically and mockingly, targets their work.
For instance, what if Meme Nepal was being run from Canada for example? What would these film folks do then? Trying to muzzle opinion and disagreeing voices is part of the wider anti media trend that the government seems to have started and the film industry jumping on the bandwagon is really to their detriment. In many cases, it is the word of mouth of these very people that help promote and make successes of their films by creating a buzz around it.
If the film industry folks are so entitled that they expect only praise for their films, then they might be better suited to social work. Just like the filmmakers are free to impose their atrocious films – replete with dreadful over acting and regressive plotlines – on the public, so are the critics and wannabe comedians with their equally awful content. The choice to see it or skip it is ultimately the consumers and not down to the opinion of a few self-appointed guardians.
At the end of the day, these criticisms are opinions and people are entitled to theirs, no matter how vehemently you disagree with it. Our filmmakers would do well to develop thicker skins or, even better still, deliver better films and content for the Nepali audience. Ditto for these online content creators.
The writer loves traveling, writing, and good food when he is afforded an escape from the rat race. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org