Nepal government cans film on king’s forefather

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : Since the fall of King Gyanendra’s government in Nepal and the restoration of democracy, the Maoists are busy making films on their decade-old “People’s War”.

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Even Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s party men have announced a movie on the octogenarian politician.

However, the multi-party government has canned a film that was to have been made on the king’s forefather, the founder of the kingdom of Nepal.

The makers of “Prithvi Narayan Shah”, the eponymous film on Prithvi Narayan who ventured out of his ancestral kingdom of Gorkha in west Nepal and overran the neighbouring principalities between 1744-1755, bemoan the repeated derailment of their venture.

“We had done the basic script in 1990 and wanted to shoot it as a tele-serial first,” Ambar Simha, CEO of Himalaya Films that attempted the ill-fated venture, told IANS.

“But there was a pro-democracy movement that year and nobody wanted to touch it after that.”

So the idea lay dormant till King Gyanendra ascended the throne and began controlling the government.

“”We were inspired by the surge of historical and mythological serials in India,” Simha says. “There was the ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’ and then, ‘The Sword of Tipu Sultan’.

“Tipu especially encouraged us since his and Prithvi Narayn Shah’s times overlapped. While he was in the north, Tipu ruled in the south,” he said.

It probably helped that Simha was the son of General Bharat Keshar Simha, a former aide de camp of King Gyanendra and a supporter of the royal coup in 2005.

The state-run Nepal Television channel agreed to air the serial and a deal was struck for a 52-episode serial that could be stretched to 60.

Later, Simha and his partner Ambar Rana planned to turn it into a film.

By 2005, they had invested about Nepalese Rs.4 million (about $63000) on the sets and initial shooting.

The then Mr Biratnagar, a tall model with flowing locks, was chosen to play the king whose birth was preceded by his mother dreaming that she had swallowed the sun.

The story began with Shah’s father Ran Bhupal Bahadur who tried to conquer Kathmandu twice but failed.

“We examined the geo-politics of 18th century,” said Simha. “What was the state of Gorkha then. Why did Shah take such a drastic step?”

With the Maoists opposing King Gyanendra’s reign fiercely and violence breaking out in the districts, the shooting had to be restricted to the city.

The two men planned to do outdoor shooting in Makwanur outside the valley and Gorkha while the battle scenes were to have been shot in the Nagarjun forest on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley.

But in 2006, a public uprising against King Gyanendra unseated him and the new government began to strip the monarch of all his powers and privileges.

Then the Maoists joined the government and were given the information and communications ministry.

In late 2006, Himalaya Films was told the deal was off. Simha laments the colossal waste.

“We spent so much money on the sets and weapons and then a flood destroyed most of it. The hero and heroine have grown older and if we intend to make the serial on our own, we’ll have to look for fresh faces and shoot from scratch,” he said.

Though monarchy has fallen out of favour and the April election will put the crown to vote, Simha predicts that a film on Prithvi Narayan Shah will be made some day.

“Maybe in 10 years, maybe in 20 because it is our identity, part of our history,” he said.