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Opinion

Boksiko Ghar: Is a woman’s emancipation possible in Nepal?

Nabina Adhikari

Nabina Adhikari

 |  Kathmandu

A cinema hall in South Australia last night was full of Nepali cinephiles ranging from teenagers who sounded Australian but looked Nepali to international students from Nepal, migrants who have made Australia their home to middle-aged parents who came from Nepal to visit their children. I shared a smile with everyone who came across me because in such events I feel like I belong somewhere.

The teaser and trailer of Boksiko Ghar looked quite promising. I was an admirer of Keki Adhikari’s personality although I was not a fan of her filmography. However, I knew Sulakshan Bharati’s theater background because I watched his performances in Mandala theater. Also, I listened to a podcast where the child actor, Supala Sapkota spoke of her experiences in the sets of the movie. I decided to watch the movie because it felt like a new batch of risk takers came together to take Nepali cinema a step forward.

The sound effects of the film made the spectators feel like it was a horror movie at first glance. With flashback techniques and exquisite cinematography, the audience were taken back to the hilly terrains of remote Nepal with little to no infrastructure. The playful banter of the school kids and expressive eyes of Ms. Sapkota were fresh sights to watch in recent Nepali cinemascope.  

As the story progresses, a fearless journalist’s pursuit to find a Boksi’s story (the role of the journalist played by Swechchha Raut), society’s constant nagging to stop her from pursuing a dangerous witch who brings infertility to the soil and death in the village, and the deemed witch’s narration of her life come into interplay to present heart-wrenching images of a bright girl pushed into child marriage, marital rape and loss of innocence.

The movie touched me personally in many levels because mistreating women by labeling them as witches is still prevalent in communities across Nepal. These women are often in the lowermost hierarchy in Nepali society: widows, women from marginalized communities and women from low-income families. On the other hand, my mother was forced to leave school and was married off when she was fourteen and my grandmother was merely nine years old and had no idea she was married until she reached her in-laws’ house. Although child marriage has decreased in the recent years, modern women with voices and careers are somehow casted away by the society; the movie’s unexpected climax reflects on this issue by focusing on the relentless journalist’s storyline.

Keki’s performance as the protagonist is commendable. Her shouting and murmurs mask the pain of her character. The makeup, attire, and body language that she adapted for the character speaks volumes of the hard work she put into it. Bharati shines as a new director with unique storytelling and gives each character a voice of their own. What convinced me about his expertise was the subtle mentioning of female desire and the disappointment when her husband ignores it. For a male director to focus the lens on a topic usually sidelined in a male-dominated society like ours is an extraordinary achievement. Supala understood her job well and emerged as a powerhouse performer despite her age. Raut’s portrayal of a journalist is convincing, and she looks the part as well. The whole ensemble is well-rounded, whether it is the child actor’s mother, the teacher, or the bitter mother-in-law.

The film is a juxtaposition of women’s roles in the past and the present; and it posits a question whether the emancipation of women is possible in the Nepali society. A woman is somebody’s daughter, someone’s wife and is too weak when she is a widow or too dangerous when she challenges the society. The near-perfect film, however, is monotonous at times and the dialogues could have been polished. The peepal tree has more screen presence than some other important events in the movie. Lastly, Prakash Saput and Samiksha Adhikari’s collaboration is a huge hit, and the song fits well into the theme of the movie. 

(Nabina is a movie enthusiast and is currently studying Master of Education at the University of South Australia.)

 



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