2014 is shaping up to be a solid year for Nepali Cinema—in relative terms, of course. After the much-appreciated Jhola, here comes another movie, Red Monsoon, arresting the spirit of Nepali foibles and fluttering the panache of local cinema. Eelum Dixit’s Red Monsoon, already screened internationally in film festivals and in the latest edition of KIMFF in 2013, comes as a riveting original motion picture carrying a typical story at its heart told in a one-off style for Nepali Cinema—contrasting to any other kind from the prodigious élan of New Wave Cinema hailing in Nepal. The movie certainly stands out amongst various other Nepali movies released in 2014, and is a movie true to the quirks of Nepali Culture, especially coming from the vision of Nepali filmmaker who uses the stage of cinema for the first time after gaining reputation as a dramatist.
As a story, written by Karuna Sharma, Red Monsoon is a simple drama about people. I say people because that is precisely what you’d feel watching this saga unfold—anecdotes about everyday people written and filmed in a visceral manner. Featuring multiple characters, tangled in their own mini universe, Red Monsoon is reminiscent to the scenario of the 80s and 90s exhibiting the social capital of the era in the modern age of Nepal that is today. These real people in the movie carry along their own backstories, all of them ridden in Maya, if you will; challenging the cores of their sociological existence from the predicaments, they find themselves a healthy part of. Working as a no-nonsense, gritty drama, Red Monsoon engages people brought together by the distant proximity of Patan—an oxymoron presented exquisitely in the movie.
We have Karuna (Shristi Ghimire), a woman eloping norms and boundaries to be with her chosen person, Krishna Bahadur (Sandip Chhetri). On one disturbing night, Krishna stumbles upon a woman in peril, Chetana (Himali Dixit) with whom he forms a mutual bond. Simple stories, right? It just happens to be that simple… Going to back to Karuna, her abrupt decision to elope haunts her parents. Karuna’s younger brother, Babu, called as in the movie (played by Sudam CK), takes the Lion’s share of the floating assault exerted to him for all the mishaps occurring to Karuna’s family by their father. Thus, shaping this drama about trifles in a cross-hooked and interconnected complexion—each step relying on the previous for reaction and on the next for retribution…
These tangled webs of nobility define much beyond normal, flimsy conflicts. The story stems from a ruptured backbone taking each persona in the movie from the start to a breaking point, all with an unnerving discomfort and an enchanting immersion into the lives of the complicated ordinary beings. Almost like an anecdotal rendering of various people related to one another in peculiar light, Red Monsoon is ever too close to peering into these very lives—perhaps the reason for the extreme close-up shots giving the viewers a feel of unwarranted proximity and a sighing sense of awkwardness.
The story of Red Monsoon is nothing but a simple, pluralistic take on the lives of these dense characters. The manner in which Dixit has presented the story—offering a cold, disenchanting look makes it a powerful interpretation of an otherwise beautiful, yet very common series of events. Not without transmitting the essence of social realities confined to our society—even today, as stark as it may appear in the movie. This hypnotizing delivery would provoke any film enthusiast, buff, or critic to applaud the unique presentation that Eelum Dixit manages to instill into this artsy cinema.
What aids the movie in its expression, the most, is the atmospheric circle revolving around the characters; hence, the story—showing faraway ethers that are made utterly complicated by the photography (Bryan Emery) and the scenic contrast between the internal affairs of the characters and the external projection of the place they find themselves fighting against for acceptance. The timely usage of found-footage-esque cinematography along with the hand-held kinetic movement of the camera and, not to ignore, the proximity of the shots to the screen builds an aura of depleted emotions ailing the viewer deeper into the story and the ambience of the arena. That said; the extreme close-up shots become unbearable at times and downright annoying—almost to the point of repulsion. Despite those bothersome instances, the atmospheric charm might be the best accomplishment of the movie. It provides the stage for a still, calm motion that is almost haunting. The serene, striking visual representation creates an urgency and an experience that cannot be undiluted easily for it is catchy and mysterious, whilst the constant evolution of the characters keep the dynamics changing—almost like a flux.
For me, the winner in all of this, obviously, is how the story manages to engross the spectator into the whole drama, feeling for some, sympathizing with others, and loathing the guts of some. As they say, a perfect story is always the one that makes the receptor empathize with the characters, and involves them in the story in a shared mental assembly. That is what the persona of Karuna managed. Her predicament evokes feelings of sympathy taking us to a stage of mutual understanding—feeling for her sighs. Amongst the array of characters, Karuna accomplished in bringing that karuna out of me, seeing and sensing her plight. At the same time, her brother, Babu, has the depths and a nerve-wracking arc—travelling from youthful awe to silent contempt, his expression dictating his transition slow, yet steady. These two characters add a powerful punch to the movie. What the viewers’ interpret from these complex personas only strengthen the movie’s claim to genuineness—culminating into a provoking climax that feels just right.
Red Monsoon can be uncomfortable to watch at times, mainly due to the energetic camerawork, which ranges from infuriating at moments to absorbing at other times, but mostly it’s absorbing. The performances are apt, especially the piercing quandary of Karuna essayed by Shristi Ghimire. Most of the actors are impressive, yet when it comes to Himali Dixit, she is fine as long as she had her dialogs to a minimum. During the times she had to speak, it was a bit hilarious, to put it nicely. Minor flaws aside, Red Monsoon is refreshing to watch and a proud moment for Nepali film enthusiasts in watching a movie that tells a potent story of the fluidity of life and the undercurrent influence society has in dictating and shaping our lives. As cinema, it’s inspiring and wonderfully presented; as an experience, it’s a touching tale and a movie worth spending your time engrossed in appreciating this cinematic journey.
Make sure you watch Red Monsoon. It’s unlike your Nepali movie, with a firm telling of a world around you in an artistic and purposeful light akin to classic musical notes clutching your imagination. Speaking of which, excellent composition by Lochan Rijal—adding soul to this movie rich in artistry and beautiful in demonstration. Red Monsoon is just that.