Khagendra Lamichhane’s 94-year-old grandmother is still waiting for her son (or Lamichhane’s uncle), who disappeared when he was 16.
As time passed, Lamichhane realised there were hundreds of such cases during the decade-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal (1996-2006). He realised that there are many other mothers like his grandmother, waiting for their children, although uncertain whether they are dead or alive. Those mothers still have a strong hope to see their children once again.
The hope within those mothers inspired Khagendra Lamichhane to write and direct Paniphoto, a film being released on July 29. With this project, the well-versed actor will be making his debut in the Nepali cinema industry as a director.
In 2010, Paniphoto was staged as a play at Gurukul Theatre. Since the theatre has a limited audience and there is a time limit, Lamichhane thought of bringing it to the big screen. And with the release of its trailer, it has been one of the most awaited Nepali films.
Khagendra Lamichhane and Paniphoto
“The literal meaning of Paniphoto is the negative of the photo. But, in the movie, it has been used differently,” says Khagendra Lamichhane. The director does not want to reveal it, but he believes people will get its meaning after watching the film.
According to him, Paniphoto narrates the story of parents who are on a journey to find their son. Their son has been missing since the civil war.
It stars Menuka Pradhan, Anup Baral, Malika Mahat and Lamichhane himself in the lead roles.
Talking with the Onlinekhabar, Khagendra Lamichhane claims that he has presented the story of the war in cinema by standing in a neutral position. According to him, both the parties in the war have good and bad sides, and the filmmakers should try to present all of them without being biased.
It has already been 16 years since Nepal has gone through the peace process. However, even after all these years, Lamichhane decided to come up with the story of war. When asked about the reason, he says, “It was our war and we suffered a lot. It is something that helps us realise our originality. It tells who we are and where we come from. Furthermore, we Nepalis have a habit of forgetting everything and getting excited. Due to such a mentality, we have remained poor and unprogressive. But, the context of war should not be forgotten.”
Khagendra Lamichhane adds, “Our country went through a decade-long brutal war. That war killed and vanished thousands of people and created a number of stories. It has also ruined the economic status of the nation. It made people feel unsafe in their own land. These are the real stories of our country, no one else will tell those stories to us; we ourselves are responsible.”
Hopes and fears
But, Khagendra Lamichhane has already faced criticism for the issue his film is raising. Yet, he believes anything can be a story, but the important part is the objective and intention of those stories.
“We do not know anything about ourselves but enjoy others’ happenings. This is very unwelcome. We accept that we are sad, but we don’t know why. The story of war and agony gives answers to such questions,” says Lamichhane.
When people know the cause of the sadness, they will start searching for the avenue to happiness, he adds. Lamichhane says, “Watching this movie is as important as looking in the mirror. The mirror reflects our originality and identity. Unless we realise and feel our identity and originality we can not have a good life ahead.”
Hence, Khagendra Lamichhane hopes this film will mount pressure on the government to serve transitional justice. Lamichhane believes it will make the audience realise the negative impact of the war on the people and society.
He says, ”The movie’s plot should not always be full of fun and comedy. Sometimes, it also needs to make the audience aware of the wrong practices and how it feels to those who suffered from them. “