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Fagu- The Colours of Life

Starring: Shilpa Pokhrel, Subash Parajuli, Gauri Malla, Tika Pahadi, Rajesh Hamal, and others.
Director: Samjhana Upreti Rauniar

Open border in Nepal has always given rise to various socio-political issues in Nepal which obviously have an impact on the citizens of the Terai belt. That is exactly the storyline of the newly released film Fagu. Its plot revolves around how such matters have affected a family with actress Shilpa Pokhrel playing the title role. WOW caught up with Shilpa and two other women who play their respective significant role for the movie: Director Samjhana Upreti Rauniar and one of the producers Karishma Manandhar. Read on to find what they have to say.

PHAGU , The Colours of Life

How did the idea for Fagu come up?

Samjhana: I’ve been an ardent follower of Nepali movies, I watch them quite regularly. And what I realised was that most of the films are either based on urban areas or had stories revolving around hilly region but very few or almost none of them touched stories of Terai. Getting married into a Madhesi family myself with constant visits to Birgunj, I got the real feel of the region. The place, its culture and its people inspired me to come up with this project. I also feel like we’ve chosen the right locations for the film.

Karishma: I hail from a hilly region, I’m entirely based in Kathmandu. But if you give it a moment, you’ll realise how magnificently beautiful Terai really is! It has its own spectacular beauty; All the bushy trees, the tranquil rivers, endless wide open fields. And then there’s this colour almost every woman there put on-it’s called Basanti colour. They are indeed very culturally rich.

Samjhana: The characters are speaking in Bhojpuri language 22-25% of the time in the film. We’ve also incorporated two festivals Chhath and of course, Holi.

What kind of research did you have to do for your role?

Shilpa: When I got the script, I was busy promoting another film. So honestly, I didn’t get to do much research. It helped that the character, although of a Madhesi girl, was educated in Kathmandu, so not much research was needed. Thanks to my director who came to my rescue by giving me a good insight into the whole scenario since she is also from a Madhesi family now. The knowledge I got from her was almost as good as any research.

How was it working with the cast?

Shilpa: During the filming, veteran actors Rajesh Hamal and Gauri Malla would explain to me how things were in the past and how the scenario has changed. They were so candid and helpful by giving me suggestions and their honest opinions. Not only did I learn so much from them, I found them a lot better in comparison to the new generation of actors.
On the other hand, in spite of being a debutant, Subhas never felt like one to me. He’s a natural when it comes to acting but I have a suggestion for him. He should improve his dancing skills! (laughs)

Samjhana: Shilpa has already given two hit movies (Lajja and Hawaldar Suntali) whereas this is just my second project after Megha. She understands her role well, and is easy to work with. Believe it or not, she did all her action stunts in the film. No stunt double needed! I plan to work with her again. In fact, I’ve asked for a script especially for her.

Karishma: I had no doubt about Samjhana’s choices. Shilpa is a hard working girl. She simply throws herself into the character which is a swell quality every new actor should possess. She’s going to go a long way because of that. And…Subash is a good looking a guy! (laughs)

Samjhana: He’s the winner of the Model of the year 2014 and I think he looks better off the screen. He does have room for improvement and he’s done a pretty good job for a fulltime tax officer.

Shilpa plays the title role. Then, we have senior actor Gauri Malla in it and also a female producer. In a way, I see a bit of female dominance here. So was it the same behind the scene as well? In a way, I see a bit of female dominance here. And here I am sitting with two other significant crew members. So was it the same behind the scene as well?

PHAGU - The Colour of LifeShilpa: Besides the lights men, everyone working in the filming was female. I felt more comfortable working for this project than I did in my previous ones. So it was a new experience and was a lot easier for me.

Karishma: Almost unknowingly or unintentionally, behind the scene was all about female dominance. The female crew outnumbered the males. During one of our fight scenes, we were interfered and interrogated by a group of men who were supposedly of a local committee and wanted to monitor what was going on. Let’s just say, it was handled by our women very well, in a good way that is. (laughs)

Samjhana: In technical crew, Karishma is the producer and I’m the director. Even art department was handled by a woman, not to forget, the women-led costume, hair and makeup team.

How did feel producing a movie after 12 years? Did you find any changes in the film making process in Nepal today?

Karishma: Technology is more advanced. It has made our work a lot easier and even reduced the risk that we used to face during the ‘negative’ days. We needed to keep track of all the numbers and calculations. However, production cost is high due to inflation. Story making wise, artists are more capable and professional and are easier to hire. In the early days, we had to take in raw people and train them.

What are your expectations from the film? What message does it try to deliver?

Shilpa: Some of the messages have probably been delivered by the trailer, that is, women empowerment. Besides that, after watching the film, I feel like situations will be a little better than before. Hopefully, it will open the eyes not only of the audience but of our government’s side as well.

Karishma: Even though it’s a commercial movie, it does have a message to give out. I believe what the audience will get it out of it is that women are capable of achieving their goals. It’s all about women empowerment.

The film had to be done when the country was facing one of its biggest challenges; aftermath of the massive earthquake and then, the blockade. How did it affect the filming?

Samjhana: It did affect. The film was initially planned to release in Bhadau but after the earthquake, we had entirely halt our work for two months. About the political scenario, the plot has actually somehow coincided with the ongoing crisis.