Let’s Fact-Check First
Recent weeks have seen a flurry of news items and interviews about the state of the Nepalese movie industry in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. There are dire predictions. One news item mentions that only about 10-15 Nepali movies will get made in 2020, compared to 100 in 2018 and about 55 in 2019 if news reports are to be believed.
According to Akash Adhikari, director and President of Nepal Film Producers Association, the release of 15 movies have been cancelled whereas around 45 movies projects are dealing with pre-production, production and post-production delays. “Millions have been invested in these movies and due to the lockdown, producers are already suffering great loss,” said Adhikari.
The industry was already hurting before the pandemic due to a huge drop in the number of movies getting made. The pandemic has pushed it to the brink.
In his budget speech on Thursday, Finance Minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada pledged to encourage the production of native Nepali films. The films which promote and preserve nationality, national unity, language and culture will benefit from the new budget. Electricity charges have also been reduced by 50 per cent in the cinema halls and the finance minister had announced a waiver on license and equipment renewal fees to address the impact on the film sector.
Arguments Raised By Members The Industry
Producer, actor, and comedian Dipak Raj Giri raised question on the plan of promoting native films in budget. He further stressed that Nepali film industry is dominated by foreign films because of the plan of only promoting native films. And because of that “we are forced to accept the dominance of Hollywood and Bollywood films in Nepal”, said Giri. He stressed that government should not only promote the native films but also popular native productions. He also urged the government to stop favoritism in the film industry to encourage overall Nepali film development.
Likewise, actor and director Ashok Sharma also wrote on his social media account that the movie theatres were in trouble due to COVID-19 and the budget failed to address the problem. Sharma was not only dissatisfied with budget but also angry with the Nepali film industrialists for promoting foreign films and giving more importance to foreign movies. However, the budget has also offered some facilities for cinema halls. The movie house affected by the coronavirus has been given the exemption on value added tax details and tax filing period is made quarterly.
How To Take Smart Decisions During Pandemic?
The lockdown has also helped increase film literacy among Nepali audience. There are only so many Nepali movies one can watch in YouTube. So, people have resorted to watching movies and shows on online platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video and others. This may also change our taste and expectation for better content, it will help grow the online platforms that cater to Nepalese people.
Nepali OTT platforms can use the current pandemic as an opportunity to take initiative and expand their menu with original content. The future belongs to that OTT which has a head start in this direction.
Unpredictable Future of Nepalese Movie Industry
Acting in Nepal has always been regarded as an unstable vocation with financial risks with many actors depending on other side projects—such as modelling and advertising—to assist their financial needs. And with the Covid-19 pandemic putting the Nepali film industry, already not a profitable and stable industry, at a standstill, many actors are now anxious about their uncertain future in showbiz.
Shilpa Maskey, who has worked as a lead actor in three Nepali films, says that due to the volatile nature of the profession, most actors may not have enough money in savings to survive the pandemic in the long haul.
Shilpa Maskey too was supposed to start working in a web series but the project has now been postponed. The post-production of her movie ‘Devi’ too has been halted for now. “Our entertainment industry is small with a limited budget. With projects being cancelled and postponed, most actors have nothing to fall back on now that the industry is at a standstill,” said Maskey. Times are particularly difficult for newcomers in the industry.
The current pandemic has brought local movie making to a standstill. Second, it is called a movie business and an industry for a reason. The business/industry employs thousands of people, who suddenly find themselves without jobs and pay. This hurts hundreds of households that depend on these individuals for survival.
The film industry has lagged behind by two years due to COVID-19 pandemic, and if the government does not help, people dependent on the film industry will become jobless,” said Akash Adhikari to The Rising Nepal. He has already sent an appeal to the government seeking financial aid. “Millions of people depend on this industry for their livelihood,” he said. “So, we have requested the government to provide us with a security fund. As an industry that pays tax to the government, we have also requested the government to provide subsidies of 20 percent for the production of every movie.”
Because of the lockdown, films that were ready for release have now been halted, others in production have been stalled. And working from home isn’t applicable for this industry when the crew cannot gather for shoots.
The presence of online streaming sites, which is getting popular among the audiences especially during the lockdown, say that Nepali productions have yet to wade into the digital realm.
As of now, there’s little actors can do except wait. To make wise use of this time, many of them have sought the internet to keep audiences, and themselves, entertained and occupied.
Everyone is unsure of their future and for many actors, producers and contributors of the movie industry, thinking about the future in this confusing time only makes them anxious. Instead some choose to work on themselves to better their craft.
What will your next steps be to help the Nepalese movie industry?
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