Nepali feature film Dhanapati, written by Khagendra Lamichhane and directed by Dipendra K Khanal, is releasing to heavy expectations this Friday. This is the duo known for the 2016’s hit Pashupati Prasad, which many critics contend is one of the defining films of Nepali modern day cinema. A story of an everyday villager who comes to Kathmandu with dreams of paying his parents’ debts, Pashupati Prasad veered away from the traditional structures of Nepali film making in a few ways. First, it crossed out the notion that a film needs to have a larger-than-life hero to attract Nepali audience to the theater; in so doing, the film, with its ‘working class hero’ who neither had a size able physique nor over-the-top power, pioneered a new sense of realism in the industry, that a simple story of a commoner, if told deftly, can capture the audiences’ imagination.
This is the vein, it seems, the eminent duo is working on. Their new release, Dhanapati, shares a few elements with the preceding film. The film, according to director Khanal, tells the story of an average Nepali husband residing in the Capital and how he cannot escape from the specters of politics, even though he is clearly unwilling to get into it. Actor Lamichhane says, “Although there are subtle differences between characters in each of my film, they are all about the working class. And indeed, about 80 percent of us Nepalis belong to this class. It seems to me, the fates of this class and their personal stories need to be explored via cinema.” The case of Pashupati Prasad also pioneered a discourse in Nepali film circle. Should a film be taken only as a form of entertainment or should it aspire for something more? Director Khanal, speaking to the Post, said, “While a film is primarily a source of entertainment, it also should make a social commentary— about our lifestyle, our culture, and our society at large. And that is the goal we worked towards in Pashupati Prasad. Dhanapati too aspires to do that. And indeed, it was why we felt it’s a story that needs to be told.”
With Dhanapati’s release date only a day away, director Khanal says, “To the audience who come to see Dhanapati buoyed by Pashupati Prasad’s charm, Dhanapati won’t disappoint.” “Our competition is only with our previous film,” Khanal added. A few months ago, during the censor screening of Dhanapati, Khanal dodged a question to the censor officials, “Do you like Pashupati Prasad or Dhanapati better?” Khanal shared the officials in response said, “Pashupati Prasad was an excellent film in its own right. It was a story that needed to be told. Dhanapati too is a story that was bound to be told, for it makes an important commentary about the modern-day Nepali society.” Dhanapati features actors Khagendra Lamichhane, Surakshya Pant and Aashant Sharma in the lead roles and will hit theaters across Nepal on Friday, July 7.