Ma Comrade: A cinematic reflection on unfulfilled promises and the disillusionment of former guerrillas

Ma Comrade
A still from Ma Comrade.

Each year hundreds and thousands of youth are leaving their homeland, leaving their families and friends. Even while writing this piece around hundreds of youths are in the airport who are about to leave the country with a hope of better employment and earning opportunities. But do all of their dreams come true?

No is the answer. Unfortunately, some of them have to return inside a wooden box as their family members wait with heavy hearts outside the airport. Reportedly, 1,509 migrant workers died in the fiscal year 2021/22, and 1,208 migrant workers in the fiscal year 2022/23.

In the first five months of the current fiscal year, nearly 300,000 individuals have left for foreign employment.  For the past few years, the number of people leaving the country has been increasing notably.  

Nepal endured a decade-long insurgency period during which over 17,000 lives were lost, with many still missing. These people made the ultimate sacrifice in wartime, fueled by the hope for a brighter future for their country.

The leaders of the anti-government faction painted an ambitious vision for the armed guerrillas, motivating them to engage in the conflict. They promised that the success of the insurgency would usher in an era of peace and prosperity. The pledge included equal access to education, healthcare, and employment for all, propelling the nation to the next level of development.

Although the demands of the insurgency period were addressed, none of the promises made by the leaders of the insurgency came true. While the leaders who promised lofty dreams are living a lavish life with bungalows, cars and top-level security, the warriors and people whose family members died during the war are still struggling for their basic needs.

Among the thousands of youth seeking better opportunities abroad, there are also former guerrillas from the 10-year-long war. The short film Ma Comrade, written and directed by Nirmal, narrates the tale of one such guerrilla who ventured to foreign lands in pursuit of a brighter future, only to tragically return home in a box.

Lifeless box

It is dark, a group of individuals are holding firelight and are preparing to cross the river through a boat. They have a coffin with them, which means that they are carrying someone’s dead body to hand over to the family member. They reach the family members and hand over the body. There is silence everywhere. The silence in the scene signifies the pain, there is no word to define such a catastrophe.  

This is how the short movie Ma Comrade begins.  

The husband of the protagonist of the movie, played by Surabina Karki, is inside the coffin. Both of them were guerrilla from the anti-government side during the insurgency period.  In the entire movie, she does not have a single dialogue. However, her expression vividly tells about the pain and tragedy that she has been going through.

Despite the low light, the cinematographer of the movie Nisal Poudel vividly filmed her expressions. The scene where Kakri recalls their wedding (Janabadi Bihe) which was held amid the insurgency says that their sacrifices did not mean it

Message delivered

Ma Comrade
Still from Ma Comrade.

Despite the 13-minute movie not having many dialogues, it has a lot to say. 

The movie can resonate with the experiences of many guerrillas who participated in the war, trusting in the lofty promises made by their leaders. In the current context, it becomes apparent that those leaders have shown indifference to the commitments they once made, leaving the aspirations of the guerrillas unfulfilled.

Symbolically the movie script holds a powerful message too. At the end of the movie when the dead body is taken for a final ritual, only a bare tree and smoke rising from a cremation is seen on the screen. 

The bare tree and smoke signify the contribution and sacrifice of warriors that have gone futile due to the failure of leaders.  Their sacrifice has remained as empty as the bare tree that does not have a single leaf.  

Ma Comrade is highly recommended to watch for all those leaders who failed to deliver the lofty commitments made during the insurgency so that they could know how bad they have done to warriors, the public and the whole nation. 

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Prasun Sangroula is an Onlinekhabar correspondent, mainly covering arts, society and sports.

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