I recently traveled to Gulariya, Bardiya for a filming project. Gulariya is a small town in the mid-western region of Nepal which is approximately 550 kilometers (342 miles) west from Kathmandu. It was a risk for me to travel alone due to escalating protests in the Terai region. In addition, roads were blocked in different parts of the East-West highway. As I started my journey, everything was normal, and the travel was smooth. But just like I feared, half way into my trip, I remember waking up at around 1:00 AM and finding out that the bus had stopped. Apparently, the police were gathering groups of vehicles to pass through Kapilbastu, an area which had seen increased levels of protests in recent days. After enough vehicles had gathered, our bus was escorted by police. Although travelling was a risk, I had to get there as my crew was short-handed. After reaching Gulariya, the first thing that came to my mind was working in the hot and humid conditions of Terai, and the second thing was working with new actors.
Our team preparing for the shoot.
The first day of the shoot was quite interesting. We had setup on a riverside, and although the place seemed like there weren’t people around, once filming started a crowd of 15-20 people showed up. This would continue throughout the shoots. Crowd control was a very challenging task. As people chit-chat behind the camera, their conversations got recorded, and the scene needed to be shot multiple times even when the actors played their parts perfectly. We had only one camera so we shot the same scene from different angles multiple times. We also, candidly, shot scenes of people busy with their work in the streets and shops, which looks natural on camera than having people act. It was hard work filming and travelling with all the equipment, but at the end of the day we were happy with the output.
During our shoot, most of the people were quite supportive, and knowing that a movie was being shot, they were excited about watching us film. We shot in different public places, and some of the people even agreed to act in the film. It was amazing to see the amount of talent in a small place like Gulariya. We needed about a hundred extras for a fictional event for the film. We were shooting in a school so essentially a lot of students showed up, but we also needed locals for the event which would start from the afternoon and finish in the evening. As time progressed, an estimated 300 people showed up. Yet again, it was difficult controlling the entire crowd but we got what we needed out of the shoot.
Crowd gathered for the fictional event.
As this was an independent production, we had limited resources. Travelling was either by foot, bicycle, or by hiring a small solar powered tuk-tuk (See below for a picture) to shoot at distant locations. I, along with my friend, travelled for a couple of days on a bicycle until he got his father’s old motorcycle. I would ride the cycle while he would sit on the carriage attached to the back fender. I also admired the power and usage of bikes while in Bardiya which influenced me to get a bike myself after returning home. Vintage design road bikes produced in India were the most popular ones. In Nepal, we call them “Budo Cycle,” which directly translates to “Grandpa Cycle” in English. People of all ages would form riding groups and travel in sync. It was fun to watch. Women and men would have their separate groups, and students returning from school would have theirs. Cycles would also be used to carry ladders. Two cycles would be used for this. Horizontally, one end of the ladder would be attached to one cycle and the other end in the other cycle with ropes. People use two cycles to carry bamboo, ladders, other lengthy items to different places. I was intrigued to see the innovative use of cycles in Gulariya. Gulariya also made me think about the possibilities of bicycles and solar powered vehicles in Kathmandu. Although it might be hard for older people to ride bikes, people of my age can easily commute to work on cycles. As for the older population, increasing the number of solar powered vehicles in the city can be a viable option especially during the current fuel crisis.
It was an adventurous trip. We shot outdoors in riverbeds, fishing locations, different temples, and a forest. On one occasion while we were shooting at a place called Khalla, a snake crawled up behind us. It was attacking a rat which distracted us from filming. While I did not recognize the snake at first, it turned out to be a King Cobra. We were lucky that no one had been bitten. I became more cautious while walking in grass after the incident.
The overall experience of shooting a movie far from Kathmandu was a good learning experience. The film raises different issues that we face in our society. It questions a political party’s motive of organizing a contest for the people and using a widow as a brand ambassador for gaining votes. The lead character, a girl named Prabina, goes through a journey in the film where she starts off as a young, naïve girl but ends up knowing what to do with her life. Other characters have their own stories. Prabina’s boyfriend, Deepak, her brother, her father, friend Deepa, Widow Miss, who is used by the party, and Nanka, a political activist for the party have stories of their own in the film.
I am very grateful towards the people of Gulariya. We would have never had so much public support in Kathmandu. In my three-and-a-half weeks spent in Gulariya, I not only worked on the film but also gained valuable perspective on life. I found people there humble and appreciative of small things in life. In Kathmandu, we move at a fast pace and don’t really have the time to keep up with everything happening in the lives of our friends and family. Appreciating even the smallest thing adds value to whatever we do. It motivates us to do more. I also realized the importance of working in a team. Our four crew members finished shooting the entire film in a month. Each of us worked hard and gave our best.
The film is currently in the post-production stage and is scheduled to be completed in six months.