Nothing but the songs

After a ten year civil war, Nepal’s Maoist guerrillas joined the seven-party ruling alliance, signalling a formal end to their insurgency and the - previously ruthless - censorship of any reference to Maoists was relaxed. There are at least five films being made by the insurgents, one of which is being directed by a Maoist cadre himself.

However, idle censors are never happy and, in Nepal, they have now turned their attention to the Madhes movement which is seeking an autonomous state in the Terai plains in southern Nepal for people of Indian origin.

As the new stir began gathering both momentum and blood from January, with nearly 70 people being killed and the centuries-old rift between Nepals hill and plain communities deepening, two debutant filmmakers have begun the latest victims.

Sanjiv Pradhan and Dinesh Karki, the first a television serial producer and the latter a director on the small screen, teamed up to make Ahankar, a commercial film on the Pahadi-Madhesi tension in Nepal that tries to convey the ultimate message that both are brothers under the skin. The film has a slogan, says Pradhan, who has invested NRS 5 million in Ahankar, a sizeable sum by the standards of Kollywood, the struggling Nepali film industry. Madhesi, pahadi, himali Hami sabai Nepali (Be we from the plains, hills, or mountains, we are all Nepalis.) We have tried to portray how foolish communal clashes are. None of the warring parties gain anything, in fact, they are used as cats paws by third parties with vested interests.

But the film censor board has failed to appreciate the vision behind the film, asking them to delete several scenes or face the withholding of a certificate. If we are to delete whatever they say, we will be left with just the songs, says Pradhan. When we have had democracy restored, they are trying to stop us from focusing on contemporary issues.

The Nepali censors also appear to be keen to ensure that no-one says anything too uncomfortable about the Maoists.

Putting orphans out of the picture

Barood, the latest film from Nepali director Shovit Basnet is being delayed by the countrys censor board. The film stars Nepals Hrithik Roshan, action hero Nikhil Upreti, and martial artist Rajendra Khadgi, and takes on corrupt politicians, whose excesses with the help of security forces drives a mad man to challenge them - eventually winning his battle for justice.

Since the rise of the pro-democracy movement in 1990, several films have addressed the state of the countrys political system. But this time around, the censors have taken exception to two words in the dialogue - anaath and tuhuro - and want Basnet to remove them. Both the words in question translate as orphan, and here (probably) is the problem.

On April 1st, Nepals Maoist guerrillas joined the seven-party ruling alliance, signalling a formal end to their decade-old insurgency that killed over 11,000 people, including over 300 minors, and left thousands of children orphaned and displaced.

Now that the Maoists are in government, they are in a position to pressure their coalition partners to turn a blind eye to this aspect of the the countrys civil war.

Fire burns free in the winds of change

After a decade of communist insurgency in Nepal, the return to peace and the formation of a multi-party government has led to an easing of cinema censorship in the country.

Nepali film director Narayan Puri, who was the first in Nepal’s film industry to dare make a film on the Maoist movement when the guerrillas were banned as terrorists and paid for the defiance by having censors hack his film ruthlessly, has been revived by the winds of change blowing in since then.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, whose name is being suggested for the Nobel peace prize for signing a peace accord with the Maoists and ending 10 years’ of bloodshed, was also at the helm of the country in 2002 when Puri made his controversial film, Aago (Fire).

Things were different then. The Maoists, who are poised to join Koirala’s government after being returned to parliament this year, were banned as a terrorist organisation in 2002. Although Aago didnt refer to them by name, it was seen as glorifying the Maoist guerrillas.

The censor board initially demanded that nine scenes be cut from the film, and then sat on the negatives for almost a year, preventing its release. In 2005, after he Koirala government had given way to King Gyanendra’s regime, Aago was tacitly banned from Nepal’s theatres along with six other films.

Puri is now re-making Aago - which looks at the reasons that people with no political aspirations take up arms and oppose the system- restoring the scenes deleted by the censors.