Three weeks into the release of movie 'Loot,' and its still whooping 80% occupancy! After a long time there's a Nepali movie creating buzz all over; most importantly its attracting those people who stay away from Nepali movies. We’ve got an exclusive interview with Nischal Basnet, director of Loot as he sits down with us and spills some secrets about the making of the movie and all the questions you’d ever wanted to ask after watching Loot. This is an interview you don’t want to miss!
How did you come up with the character of Haku Kale?
You know, I’ve written all the characters of the movie, especially the main character Haku Kale. It was originally just Kale and I wrote this character mirroring my own personality. While developing the character I thought to myself what would I do if I was in a situation like this? Saugat Malla dai brought the extra flavor and turned Kale into a Newari character plus added the name Haku.
If Haku Kale’s and Pradhan’s role were interchanged do you think the movie would revamp into something else?
(Laughs) Hmm..that’s a very unusual question because I haven’t had that thought until now! It’s very hard to say because form the beginning I gave the role of Pradhan to Karma ji as I felt it really suited him. Saugat Malla was also already there from the very beginning and he had put a lot of work and effort morphing himself into the role of Haku Kale. A lot of people may not know this but Saugat Malla isn’t a Newari, infact he’s a Thakuri Malla, and to portray a Newari character, it was a tremendous challenge for him. If he messed up on the accent even a little bit, we were finished.
With the overwhelming success of this movie, we all want to know will there be a sequel to Loot.
(Laughs) That’s a question everyone’s asking. I have already been developing some plots for the sequel but I don’t know if I’ll be doing it quite so early, as it’s too early to announce it and if I get a better script than this one; let’s just say, If i can make it better than the first one then you know, then I’ll probably go for it, otherwise it’ll just be a dream project.
Did you only direct or did you also come up with the story?
Actually the story, screenplay, and direction was all done by me. I wrote some songs as well and sang the item song Udhreko Choli.
With only two years into college, how were you approached to direct this movie?
Initially this movie was written for a short film which I intended it to be only thirty to forty minutes long. When my colleagues and I tallied up the budget for the film, it came up to five to seven lakhs for this short version. We basically knew that we weren’t getting anything back if we made a short movie so we started asking ourselves why not develop it into a feature length? After it was decided that we were going to turn it into a full featured length, I started editing the script and started heightening it more by lengthening the story and giving more meaning to the characters. Eventually I gave the script to Saughat Malla and Karma who were there from the start. I handed the script to them and with their input, the script and movie started to take shape.
What would you eliminate from the movie if you could?
I wouldn’t really eliminate anything, instead I would definitely re-shoot some songs because there were some errors while making the song. For instance for Udhreko Choli we didn’t have the full song while we were shooting and if you watch the song closely you will notice that the video and the audio don’t sync quite well in some places.
How are the senior film makers reacting to your success?
Well firstly they are congratulating me on at least keeping the market alive because as you may know people are very much concerned about the film industry, which is considered to be in a state of emergency. Most theatres in Kathmandu exhibit Bollywood and Hollywood movies, and it seems our own people have no interest in our own movies. None of the Nepali movies are doing well, every week we have movies being played that are made with the budget of fifty to sixty lakhs and have not been able to collect even five to ten lakhs. It’s like you know, what’s the point in making films if people don’t watch it?
Did you feel the censoring of swear words did injustice to the film?
Of course, and you know I wanted the censors to be put off that’s why I tried to pursue the adult certificate. I really tried my best to request and persuade the censor board to eliminate the censor on the swear words because I think its quite natural to show the effects of feeling infuriation and frustration in people through swearing. I mean if you step outside you’ll hear people swearing in the streets everywhere so I find it quite illogical to censor it in the film. Plus there were only few places in which the swear words appear in the film. I believe by adding swear words, it makes the movie more real, I’m only trying to give the feeling of reality in the movie and you need such things.
What problems did you face while directing this movie and what were some of the challenges your team faced?
(Laughing) Wow let’s see, where should I start? Initially we planned to shoot the movie in eighteen days and from the start we faced so many challenges that forced us to go off schedule. For one, it was the monsoon season when we started shooting and the rain had just poured down, so due to that we were already running late after just three or four days into the filming. Also another challenge we faced was shooting in fourteen to fifteen story high buildings. You know, that’s considered really high for Nepal, I mean we literally had to stand on ledges without any safety equipments while handling the camera! We were so nervous while shooting and at the same time we were trying hard not to look down!
Load shedding was also a major problem during post production. The inverter only gave us two to three hours of back up power which wasn’t enough to edit and render the movie. We work with such heavy computer systems that we couldn’t just pack it up and take it to another place which had electricity running, so yeah load shedding was a major problem. You know just to make the trailer for the movie, we had to run around six to seven places!
Did you feel any kind of pressure from people after the trailer was released?
People started having very high expectations of Loot after watching the trailer and you know I had to keep telling them not to have such high expectations by just watching the trailer as I feel it is very bad for the movie's success. But I still had folks saying “your trailer is so khatra and your telling us not to have such high expectations?!” So yeah the pressure was there!
Why did you choose to direct a movie that is not your typical mainstream Nepali genre?
You know we have various thoughts about what is considered mainstream and non mainstream films out here and I believe this is also a mainstream film. It’s a commercial film according to me and I wanted to make a film like this so as people watch it, they would start considering it a commercial film as well. To this day we still have the typical old concepts that’s been running around since ages which they call ‘mainstream’, but if we start thinking outside of the box and start getting fresh ideas into new films and start settling in with the film fraternities around the world, then I believe the Nepali audience will catch on.
Who is your favorite director/movie?
Out here in Nepal we have many directors but I’ve only seen few of their movies. Unfortunately I don’t know much about them but I liked Kagbeni a lot as it was done beautifully and I firmly believe this was a movie that started a new generation of movie makers.
Were you surprised by the overwhelming success of the movie?
(Smiles) Yeah definitely! I wasn’t expecting it to be this successful. The basic thing I wanted to do with this movie was to grab those extra audiences which every other film makers were avoiding. In my opinion for those type of filmmakers, their movies were only made for only a certain flock of people; you know, those people who go and watch Nepali films regularly, who breeze through the cinema halls looking at the posters and book their tickets. Our filmmakers think that those are the only audience out there who want to watch Nepali films. They don’t know anyone beyond that crowd, either they don’t have a clue or they just don't want to cater to the other crowd. People don’t want to be entertained by movie concepts that have been seen over and over and over!
What future projects are you working on right now?
I need a break desperately! I’ve been running around for the overseas rights and I’m still busy with the movie!
What made you go into directing?
Well there were a lot of phases in my life and they have been incomplete failures (laughs). First I wanted to become a footballer and I even joined the club as well but nothing went right so I just left it. Then, I wanted to pursue a singing career. Singing was the only thing that I constantly carried from my childhood. So I started recording songs but soon the recording studio where I was working closed down and I lost all my songs. That was also the end of my musical career. You know my mom always wanted me to become a doctor or an army officer so I almost applied for the military as well, but I don't know something went wrong again (laughs). Through many bumps in my journey, I realized my mind was always creative and that I should persuade a career in filmmaking.
What advice would you like to give to people who are aspiring to step into this industry?
You know studying is one part and trying to do what we study, thats the main thing. if you go out in the field you’ll know studying was very easy. You definitely have to do hard work and listen to the superiors. It’s all about hard work and dedication and never giving up!
Will you ever act in your films?
(Laughs) I thought about acting but I think I’d want to first take some acting classes. I think I could do small roles, like I did in Loot; I did a short cameo towards the end of the movie. I was the guy holding the newspaper! Anyway, I think I’m better off being behind the camera than in front of it as I get very nervous when I’m being filmed!