14 Jan 2017
10 min read
1703 words
Everyone has a story to tell, and for Prachanda Man Shrestha, films have been a platform through which he tells a variety of incredible stories about ordinary people

What fascinated you as a child?
I was a very curious kid. I had questions surging through my mind regarding everything. Luckily, I had a father who made sure none of my queries went unanswered. I vividly remember watching Benazir Bhutto on television and my father telling me she was the prime minister of Pakistan; this was at an age when most of my friends didn’t even know about our neighbouring countries, let alone about a female leading a country. I always used to get fascinated by the 15-minute time difference while watching soaps on Indian TV channels, and my father taught me about timezones and things of that nature way before we learned them in school. See, while much of my personal curiosity in the world may be an innate quality, it was born of a combination of being exposed to the world, and of course, of being shown how to observe the world.

And we thank him for fanning the flame of your imagination and giving us Prachanda the storyteller. But what did you want to become as a kid?
When I was really young I had two ambitions—I wanted to be a politician and a filmmaker—and let’s just say I’m living both the roles in the film fraternity. My fascination with films definitely started at an early age when I lapped up all the Nepali and Bollywood films shown on TV and at this little video parlour near where I lived. Of course, I didn’t have the money to watch movies at the parlour, so I would peep from a hole and watch films, standing for hours. I used to go back to school and create my own stories and replay the roles to my friends and choreograph situations and fight scenes.

Were your parents fine with your ambitions?
I grew up in a small suburban settlement in Trishuli. My middle-class upbringing is most prominently characterised by a loving family who provided me the needed guidance. Of course, as with all parents, mine also wanted me to pursue a solid career path that would provide me a comfortable and secure life. Also, my academic record was pretty impressive, if I might say so, so everyone sort of expected me to get into medicine or engineering. After completing my SLC, I remember telling my dad that I wanted to attend film college in Pune, but I failed to convince him; I don’t blame him, though, because back then filmmaking didn’t exactly promise a so-called ‘normal’ career path. So I also went through the same phase lived by most teenagers—joining a science college, trying to find my purpose and learning from all the setbacks.

Were you not always sure about getting into films?
I’m not going to lie and say that I always had a clear idea of what I wanted to be—that I wanted to be a director, and that I had already charted my life path. As I said, I have always been curious, and one day, when I was surfing the internet, I stumbled across the site, and everything changed. I think after that, I spent all my afternoons and evenings for almost three months reading about filmmaking, and the realisation that maybe I should start writing my own material took root. I also learned from internet sites the importance of building your personal network: it’s not just what you know, but also whom you can share your ideas with that can make all the difference.

Did you have good mentors?
I’m lucky that I was able to connect with the right people, many of whom have been integral in my development as a filmmaker. Most notable among them was Surya Narayan Shrestha, who introduced me to the Nepali film world. After that, I started working for television sitcoms, and along the way, built my network. Another person who had a significant impact on my budding knowledge was Pravesh Gurung, who currently works at Dharma Production. He suggested that I polish my language skills and assist as many filmmakers as I could, and I’m especially thankful to him for introducing me to Gurukul. I think the enriching theatre experience I had at Gurukul reignited my passion to make films that I had envisioned growing up.

Was your foray into the film industry made easier by your people skills?
My entry into the film fraternity happened fairly quickly, which was a blessing, but sometimes I do feel that having it easy can stunt your growth. I got involved in a lot of projects, met a lot of people and got hands-on knowledge about the workings of this industry. Also, I’ve always tried to maintain a good relationship with the people around me; I think that attitude stems from my school days, during which, because I was a small kid, I always knew that it was more advantageous for me to have an alliance with the strong kid and be a team player, or at least be a part of teams. Right now, I'm not in competition with anybody but myself. My goal is to beat myself at what I think I’m good at—filmmaking.

Surely, doubt in oneself doesn’t bode well in an industry that’s all about projecting a glorious image. 
I’m confident about my capabilities, but you need that push to go on to your next challenge. The reason I have been successful so far is that I was at the right place doing the right thing with the right people. I once knew nothing about the film industry, but now that I know the ins and outs of this industry, my learning curve is plateauing—I now feel that I need a bigger challenge.

Coming to your domain, does writing the script as well as directing the film give you more of a sense of ownership?
When you write your own script and also direct the movie, you do have a lot more control over each shot, every single frame and how the story evolves on celluloid. But then again, you need to be able to draw a line between those two responsibilities, or else you’ll be in danger of completely losing perspective. You might call it having multiple-personality disorder, but that’s the norm in our field—you start thinking in parallel and don different roles as you go about tackling the same project. I try as much as I can to see the script from completely different points of view, just to find out what it would sound and feel like to an outsider.

How did Popcorn Pictures come about?
When the new crop of filmmakers was trying to bring freshness to an industry that was known for producing the same kind of work, there were a lot of challenges they needed to overcome—starting with the distribution of the films. That’s the final stage of filmmaking that follows the pre-production, production and then post-production stages of the movie. All of us were unsatisfied with the lack of transparency in this area—from bargaining for shows with theatres to box office collection issues. So 11 of us like-minded people—producers and directors—decided to start our own distribution company. I can confidently say that after we started Popcorn Pictures, we have seen positive changes in the way movies are being lobbied in the theatres. You don’t have to look far: in 2012, Nepali films struggled to get even seven shows; today, there have been instances where locally produced films have gotten up to 19 screenings.

So how would you describe the current Nepali film scenario?
We are at a critical point where the Nepali film industry can either rise or suffer a nose-dive crash. Whatever good has happened at the box office regarding local films, till date, is because the audiences have been giving Nepali films a chance, and we cannot take this trust we’ve earned for granted. It would be a huge risk for us to not get off the bandwagon mentality; we need to learn to think outside the box; in fact, it’s about time we started thinking as if there were no box. We need to aim high and dream big.

What can we expect from Love Sasha?
I’d say just go with an open mind and enjoy the movie. I want to assure all my audiences that the film will leave you spellbound from the first frame. A lot of my work comes from my life experiences, and just like Visa Girl, Love Sasha also represents a slice of my life.