Building on 2016's breakthroughs

10 min read
Published:
30 Dec 2016
Duration:
10 min read
Words:
1981 words
VMAG’s Alok Thapa, long a mainstay of the Nepali entertainment sphere, has a long list of developments he hopes to see happen in his fraternity

VMAG’S ALOK THAPA, LONG A MAINSTAY OF THE NEPALI ENTERTAINMENT SPHERE,  HAS A LONG LIST OF DEVELOPMENTS HE HOPES TO SEE HAPPEN IN HIS FRATERNITY

Movies


It’s been a busy year for the Nepali box office, which saw quite a few homegrown movies finding success. From films that did well in the multiplex to single-screen halls, from commercial blockbusters to indie movies shot with gadgets you probably have in your pocket, there was much on offer in 2016.

Nepali cinema hit the jackpot on both the international and domestic fronts— movies like Kalo Pothi and White Sun made history by premiering in and winning awards at some of the most prestigious international film festivals, while Chakka Panja broke all box office records in the country.

Encouraging to the filmmakers was the fact that parallel-cinema works like Kalo Pothi and White Sun garnered buzz in the international circuits as well as domestically. The films’ success proved that if you produced well-crafted movies that the local audience would appreciate, the movies would do well internationally too. There were quite a few instances when filmmakers got that formula right—that is, in creating films that retained and reflected a sense of Nepaliness. Such films were able to both make money and wow the critics.

The year 2016 has proved, beyond a doubt, that we have no dearth of stories, actors and filmmakers, and if nurtured properly, the film sector can become a thriving industry that is capable of employing many and also capable of creating wonderful works of art. There is thus much hope for Nepali cinema in 2017.
 Worthy mentions: Pashupati Prasad, Bijuli Machine, Jatra
 Movies to look forward to in 2017:
Loot 2
 

Television

One of the biggest threats to TV, due to the gathering momentum of the digital revolution, has been coming from the cord-cutting trend, where people are looking beyond cable networks. In addition to that, in Nepal, the lack of locally made entertaining shows geared towards an audience that has grown accustomed to watching foreign channels has made it even more difficult for most Nepali TV channels to retain viewership.


However, it seems like many viewers are more than curious to try out shows that tap into local sentiments. If the overwhelming interest shown by the youth towards the show Singha Durbar is any clue, homegrown shows that resonate with Nepali locals will do well, even if it’s a sanitised socio-political television series. Whether it’s in the form of sitcoms, reality shows or revamped chat shows, I believe it is possible to make audiences gravitate towards local channels, provided you capture their moods.

It’s time for television stations to start developing the highest quality shows, demonstrate patience while nurturing talent and begin protecting their brands if they want to maintain a loyal cadre of viewers from a mass of splintering local audiences. The urgency is palpable. And if it’s true that audiences in the long run are more likely to gravitate towards quality, then the best programmes and brands will survive, and even thrive, in this cluttered environment.
Wish List: Travel shows; food shows


Theatre


To those of you who proclaim that theatre is dead, either you haven’t seen enough plays or were seeing the wrong ones in 2016. About the latter, many complained that 2016 was more about quantity than quality. But whichever side of the fence you were on, one thing was evident—the resurgence of the theater-going culture.

It was a good year for those who were hankering for good Nepali drama that would do justice to most, if not every, element of a play, including casting, script, costumes, sets and props. Come forth and take a bow, Anup Baral and the team of Thangla: the play rendered me speechless, and that doesn’t happen very often.

Shedding light on the polyandry that is practised in the trans-Himalayan region, the work, based on Sarubhakta’s play Chiso Marubhumi Ko Katha Thangla, was brought to life at Shilpee Theatre, Battisputali. Baral’s attention to details of the events and characters, and his use of local vernaculars gave the audience an authentic taste of the highlands.

But if we want to witness more such productions, we’ve got to start thinking about firming up the infrastructure. We don’t yet have a proper auditorium with the proper visual aids. Most theatres have a very small stage, which is not suitable for holding major productions. And this is what we have come to even though, for example, Gurukul, once upon a time, was not just a sprawling institute that helped nurture actors, but also a playground for actors to showcase their talent. And the closing of Theatre Village was a low blow to the local theatre aficionados. What Kathmanduites need is a place where they can go and immerse themselves in a make-believe world, through which they can either achieve catharsis or whose every act compels them to bring about transformation in the real world.

Worthy mentions: Bokshi Ko Ghar, written and directed by Sulakshyan Bharati, with a solo performance by Sarita Giri. The play was also performed at the Metta Festival in Mumbai, India. Ra Mailo, a Nepali contextualisation of French playwright Jean Anouilh’s 1967 play Episode in the Life of an Author, starring Dayahang Rai


YouTube


YouTube has come a long way since its first ever upload in 2005 of Me at the Zoo. Today, the video-streaming site has become a zoo of content, and the ‘me’, a mere speck in a sea of options. In a span of a decade, the online video behemoth has not only threatened to unravel television’s conventional business model, but has also given power to the viewers.


Today, sharing videos with a global audience is no longer an afterthought, but rather something that is integral to a show’s success, as evident from the many American late-night programmes that have made use of the streaming site to provide parallel content.

If technology has democratised filmmaking, then YouTube has given a platform for people to screen their visions. Initially, online streaming sites felt like a platform where one could showcase products that couldn’t get a place in television. If TV was constrained by diktats about framing, lighting or background, what YouTube did was show that you could provide intimate performances in a whole new way. And garner even more eyeballs than the idiot box.

Because of YouTube, today, whether you’re a musician, moviemaker or vlogger, it’s not enough to just think big anymore—you need to think different. Also, if you’re just focused on getting as many views as possible, you’re missing the point. It’s about deeper metrics: what are the viewers doing after they watch the video? Look at how the successful health vloggers and fashionistas stay engaged with their audience almost 24/7.

The rise of the YouTuber has forced the rest of the media industry to view YouTubers as legitimate content creators and entertainers, recognising their popularity and even acknowledging them in mainstream entertainment products. Closer to home, the B-boying dance group Cartoonz Crew has shown us how you can utilise YouTube to your advantage. Although the gang has been able to procure financial opportunities through various gigs and performances, it’s YouTube that remains their go-to platform.



 And it’s not just about singing like Narayan Gopal anymore, though of course, he’s still the benchmark. This is a time when the general public is becoming increasingly interested in other, relatable people, as seen by the huge response to Bhim Niraula’s ‘Sunday Morning Love You’. The average person is now turning away from traditional celebrities and turning more towards ‘normal’ celebrities—the Bhim Niraulas of the world.


Radio


Cookie-cutter radio programmes, stale shows and loud presentations throughout the day don’t cut it anymore. Today, FM stations don’t just have to stand out in the local scene, but also in the global, streaming environment.

During the recent M&S VMAG Agenda Sessions, RJ Kala Subba reminisced about how the FM culture was huge in the 90s when it had just started. “But nearly two decades later, we still have only a handful of radio brands that are fulfilling the promise by adjusting to the changing patterns of listeners,” said Subba.


We’re long past those revolutionary days now—but we’ve got to keep evolving. Having hosted a breakfast show for more than a decade, I can vouch that the listeners will always come back seeking familiarly, as evident from the listeners (scattered across the globe) that the morning show continues to attract. As one listener pointed out once, when you feel detached from your hometown, it’s heartening to hear people you are familiar with— it’s all about local flavour.
The drive-time shows provide most people’s daily dose of music, and having stations looping the same list of whatever few songs are in vogue can kill the moment. Sure, playing popular music guarantees listeners, but it shouldn’t feel like someone walked into a studio, programmed a limited playlist, put it on repeat and just vanished.

It’s imperative to come up with bespoke shows and make your own playlists, because online-radio still has that one thing missing—the human connection. Even if you’re hooked to à la carte streaming music services like Apple Music, or Slacker Radio, which have a handful of human DJs, nothing can replace the personal connection one has with a local DJ, and that’s where FM radio still has the upper hand.

This is why so many FM stations are using the internet as a tool, rather than seeing it as a nemesis. “It’s not about fighting but embracing the digital era,” says Subba, who feels the online trend will continue to grow, allowing listeners to take their favourite stations and personalities wherever they go, whether traditional radio remains or not.

Radio has been declared dead before, when MTV aired its first ever music video in 1981—‘Video Killed the Radio Star’—by The Buggles. But 35 years down the line, radio not only lives in the gallis and narrow alleys of Kathmandu, but is fighting a brave battle to coexist among its internet competitors.

Wish List: Less talk, more music; shows featuring local indie artists; radio dramas that can be downloaded as podcasts.