Rewriting the music score

10 min read
06 Jun 2017
10 min read
1079 words
From the Archive (Jun, 2016): Prabin Shrestha is an award-winning video editor and director who has had to overcome much to get to where he is today

You were a musician, so what happened?
My initial love was music. In order to do something about that passion, I decided to learn the guitar during my SLC break, and my friends and  I formed an underground rock band called Tantra. When we were in the process of recording an album, I sustained a spinal cord injury. I was bedridden for two years before I decided to give music another try.

How difficult was it getting back in the field? 
My spirit wasn’t dented. I even tried to perform in a few concerts, but getting around for practice and getting to the venues proved to be very difficult. Then I tried my hand at music arrangement, but the lack of handicap-friendly infrastructure made that difficult as well. I lived in a three-storey house, and it wasn’t wheelchair-friendly at the time. Every time I had to go record, I had to be carried down three floors, get on a taxi and again be carried to whichever floor the recording studio was on. I had to take along a few friends to assist me every time I ventured outside. All of the money I was making from music, I was spending on transport and similar things. It was getting harder and harder to make ends meet. I felt like I was fighting a losing battle.

Is that why you got into editing? If so, how did that happen?  
One day, I was having a conversation with Suraj (Shrestha) Dai, who used to work at Image Channel, about life in general. Since my music career wasn’t going very well, he suggested that I take up video editing alongside music, to make a living. The idea was that I could get all the material I needed to work on sent to my home, and I could work from my own room. I joined an animation class for a few months, learned editing as well and started editing professionally from 2003.

Was it difficult for you to start working again?
The initial years after my recovery were challenging. I was reluctant to go outdoors—especially because people stared and asked questions. I was depressed too because I felt so helpless. My room used to be my world. I started editing just so I didn’t have to leave it. Wake up, get out of bed, edit on my computer and get back to bed for the night—that was my daily routine. But at one point, I felt that the lifestyle would only make me more depressed, so I forced myself to get out there. With the support of my friends and family, I was able to emerge stronger.  

How difficult was is to start a new profession?
Getting work was difficult, and getting a job to edit a music video was a distant dream. But I used my time to hone my craft. Since we couldn’t download videos then, I used to buy stacks of Nepali, Hindi and English music video VCDs, and I’d use a software called VCD Cutter to layer one song over another. That was how I learned the art of mixing and composition. The very first gigs I got were editing wedding videos. Then I moved on from there.

Why did you turn film director?
I’m a big cinephile, but I never had the intent to direct a film myself. As I said earlier, the reason I wanted to become an editor was so that I could make a decent living without having to go outdoors. But one day, my nephew took me to the Nepal Disabled Association, in Jorpati. He thought I’d be able to inspire the individuals there who had recently suffered spinal cord injuries. Instead, I was the one who got inspired. There were individuals with more recent injuries than mine, but they were moving around, working and even swimming, whereas I needed an assistant everywhere I travelled. Everyone there was capable of working to make a living, and all they lacked was opportunity, because of the lack of handicap-friendly infrastructure at home and outside—be it ramps, entries or special restrooms. Since I was working in the media, they asked me to help raise awareness about the condition of and the rights of differently abled individuals.

Tell us a little about Mokshya.
I initially documented my own daily activities—moving around the house, going for shootings, visiting restrooms. The point was to show that if someone is given the right opportunities, they are capable of anything. Two years later, after having discussed the project with friends, we decided a feature film would be more effective than the documentary. There might have been more inspiring stories out there than mine for the film, but I believed I could tell my own story the best. That’s how Mokshya was conceived. I wanted the movie to show that until people start to empathise with individuals with disability, until they understand that they or their loved ones may also go through the same situation and until they feel the need to build handicap-friendly infrastructure, changes in the affected people’s lives will be hard to come by.