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From inside the torture chamber

KATHMANDU, APR 24 -

The latest Nepali release Badhshala has been in the news—for one reason or another—ever since it was first announced. Whether it be the army’s proposed ban on the film, or the eyebrows raised over the real beating the actors were subjected to during filming to evoke a sense of realism in the movie, Badhshala has been one of the awaited films of the year.

The movie is set in Nepal’s Civil War era, during which many on both the state and revolutionary sides—as well as those who had no direct affiliations to the struggle—lost their lives or went missing. The film, however, does not go into details of the war. It is this avoidance that works well for the movie, stopping it from becoming too vague and losing its soul. Here, the soul lies in the torture cells of the then Royal Nepal Army, an establishment that was ruthlessly cruel to its captives, regardless of whether they were ‘real’ or ‘alleged’ Maoists. The prisoners are shown being beaten mercilessly. While some are tortured to the extent that they admit to being Maoists even when they’re not, others are murdered in the darkness of forests and jungles.   

Directed by Manoj Pandit, whose films Dashdhunga and The Greater Nepal were also very controversial, Badhshala is a fine movie in most aspects. It has brilliant cast and actors Anup Baral, Saugat Malla, Arpan Thapa, Khagendra Lamichhane, Ashant Sharma, Sarita Giri and Samuna KC, who portray pivotal roles, are all as marvellous as ever.  

The torture sequences and dialogues start getting pretty repetitive by the time the film reaches its interval. The second half gets better though. Some intense scenes and hard hitting dialogues (as delivered by Saugat Malla and Khagendra Lamichhane who portray two prisoners) manage to really get to you. The climax of the film though seems a bit hurried. The film ends precisely when the audience starts seeing the real drama of the bloodthirsty war—a war which looks very different from inside army camps.

Although I do feel like a bit of an emotional nuance—reflections of what prisoners put at gunpoint might have felt—would have made the film even more beautiful, Badhshala is an interesting watch nonetheless. One of the most interesting scenes in the film shows two sets of army officers and alleged Maoist prisoners conversing. The first of these conversations takes place between characters portrayed by Lamichhane and Dayahang Rai, two men who find a connection in the smell of tobacco and actually develop an emotional relationship overtime. The second of these take place between a Major (Anup Baral) and another prisoner (Malla). The exchange of their ideological differences proves consoling to both, and the sequence itself is a very moving one.   

Badhshala’s Storyline has received great support from the cinematography (as executed by Shailendra D Karki). The film’s set looks creepy and dirty, exactly as they are supposed to. Everything looks natural and convincing in the movie. Perhaps a crisper, shorter first half would have worked better for the film, for it is in the second half that Badhshala really reaches its high point.

A film as free as clichés and full of noteworthy performances as Badhshala is certainly worth a watch although those who are more into commercial cinema and don’t like on screen violence might want to avoid it.

Badhshala is being screened in theatres near you

Posted on: 2013-04-25 08:40


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