Reel World: The journey of ‘Dhago’ a short Film shot in incredible Nepal

Time to get back into the writing as they say, and what better way to start than by covering my recent foray into filmmaking, that to in a country on the other side of the equator to me at the moment.

Recently, (as recently as November last year), I happened to be lucky enough to travel to Darwin, Australia for the first time ever. It was so that I could attend a screening of another script I had written for a wonderful team up there who were wanting to turn it into a movie. So it happened, the script was a movie now, and I was invited to join the rest of the cast and crew at a screening up there. Fantastic experience, being able to see how the movie turned out and how audience reacted to it.

But it seems I wasn’t done with yet, and prior to leaving, I pitched another story, this time of supernatural theme, to one wonderful lady, whom I’m great friends with now, and she loved the story enough to want to produce it. So after coming home from the 3 day trip in November, I wrote the script, ‘Under the Emu Sky’, sent it off and found that it was immensely loved.

The only thing was, it had to be shot in Nepal. Luck was with us though as the producing pair were already booked to visit family back home, and I was the only one who had to join them. So we did. We went.

What crazy 3 weeks! From the very next day of landing, we set up camp in the lounge room of a Production company there and started out planning: from finalizing script and dialogue, to giving orders for tailor made costumes, from locking down cast members, to securing equipment and crew members to help us during shoot.

This was my first time making a film in Nepal so can I just say I was both excited and terrified at the possibility of things either going really well, or incredibly wrong. Alas, we even hired a ‘shooting bus’, and yes, they have those, and these buses actually drive around with a plaque that says they are a ‘shooting bus’.

I was lucky, because we had to travel outside of the capital Kathmandu, towards a national wildlife park in Citwan. A place I had never gone to. So I was both sightseeing as well as working! 🙂

During shooting days, we would get up by 5am and drop back onto bed after midnight. We would take cold showers in the mornings and not because we wanted to wake ourselves up violently, but because the hotel was Eco-friendly, and would not serve hot water in its plumbing till the Sun rose high in the sky and it’s solar panels sunbathed.

Incredible so, I was also co-directing with a wonderful director who was a cornerstone in making ‘Dhago‘ happen. Without his joining the team, I dare say the film mightn’t have been. His knowledge of the place and the crew was an immense asset. It gave me an opportunity to learn a lot and observe a lot.

In the three weeks I was there, we only had 3 days off to do what we needed other than our film work. You’d be surprised what one can fit into 3 days when required. I was able to visit temples, families members, a get together with cousins, go shopping, movies, and even take selfies in between all this fuss. In fact, we took some great selfies!

So what was the highlight of my trip? Wait for it. You will see me in the film when it comes out! 🙂 yes, astounding enough, I gladly took the role I was recommended for, and throughout the weeks and days leading up to it, was incredibly nervous! Lol.

It was an experience of a lifetime. The thing about films, is that each one is different, and therefore working on them gives different experiences and memories. I travelled back home with a lot of fun memories, and in a lot ways ‘Dhago’ is a very special film for me.

During shoot, there was a lot of laughter, rushing, panicking, quietly screaming, pushing jeeps that wouldn’t start, working under scorching sun, hungry and thirsty on one specific day, generators that betrayed, or talent that forgot to show up, or a snake floating in the river where I had to step into, albeit not on the same day, and it was a dead snake we happened to chase so we could get an incredible shot, only to realize later that it was dead. From waking up so early in winter, to spending three nights in costumes and SFX makeup with no jacket (’cause I was tough like that), from incredible smoke effect that required 3 men to puff their cheeks out, to running after the actually ‘Dhago’ (thread) that was being carried away by the river. Or hurrying a handful of team members into a misty forest to capture eerie shots that look million-dollar on screen, or having to jump onto the back of a moving jeep in order to get the shot to work. These and many more are incredible memories, something’s I will always remember fondly.

Was it the same shooting a film in Nepal as it is here in Australia? Definitely not. But was it fun? Hell yes! Both different in there own rights, both same in their own rights. What made it different was the place and the people you get to work with. Truth be told, I’d love to do it again, but let’s see what life has in store first.

‘Dhago’ is a story about a tour guide grieving his wife’s dead, and the cultural influences that guide him. The whole movie was shot in Saurah, Nepal except one scene in Kathmandu. The film will most likely be 20minutes when finished, and is currently undergoing post-production work. I’ve seen the first cut, and can I just say, it makes me super proud of the team, the entire team who helped me take this ‘idea’ I had, and for their trust in me throughout this. It literally would have stayed an ‘idea’ and one day forgotten if it weren’t for Silpi Dhungana who became the film’s Executive Producer, for giving me a chance to tell her a story; for Nitesh Raj Pant, her partner and the film’s main lead, for listening to her and my pitch of the story; for Sakar Pant, my co-director for agreeing to come on board with us and help steer the ship in Nepal with utmost efficiency and dedication; for Ravi Sayami, who joined us as Director of Photography, for listening to the vision Sakar and I shared for the film, and willing not to compromise; for my cousin, Garima Sharma for agreeing to give me company on the trip, who eventually helped the production out; for the rest of the cast and crew who worked tirelessly for insane number of hours, and for their patience; and to Binay Kansakar, our editor, who is now spending hours joining our footage and helping us with this second-last phase of filmmaking. A massive thank you, and great virtual hugs!!!

‘Dhago’ might have been my story, but it certainly isn’t just my film! And I simply can’t wait to see how audience react to it, and the comments that may come our way when the film is ready for the screen. So join us on the film’s Facebook page where there will be updates on our progress.

http://www.facebook.com/DhagoTheMovie

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Hoppitty-hopping 2: Transit in Kuala Lumpur

So, after a cranky Eva boarding the Malaysian flight to Kuala Lumpur, it’s suffice to say my love of flying returned and I frolicked the entertainment section, keeping busy etc. I attempted to chronicle my journey in a small diary I took with me for the purpose of making a log and later blog about it, but I didn’t get beyond 1 and half pages of cranky note taking straight after the full-body-scanner incident.

The flight was as normal as you could expect, though I do have a small complaint regarding the meals we were served. NOT ENOUGH! A snack doesn’t equate a meal, Malaysian Airline! I was starving by the time we got to Kuala Lumpur, and staring down the barrel of a 6 hour transit in the middle of the night in a terminal with a handful of shops open selling only alcohol, chocolate, and more alcohol! Well, at least we pre-picked a bottle we were going to buy for Dad on our way back! Though I was so hungry, I was tempted to buy a box of Lindt in desperation. Glad I didn’t, for there wasn’t even a shop where we could buy water, and the drinking fountains were far and few in between.

About two hours before our flight boarded for Nepal, at 6:30am, a café finally opened and Mum and I rushed in, got confused staring at a wide and long menu, of which most things we asked for were ‘not available’, so at the end of it all, there were only a handful of items we could choose from anyway. Why didn’t the lady just tell us what was available from the start instead of waiting for us to order, and then tell us almost mockingly that it wasn’t an option at all?!

Any way, after 10 mins of trying to get lucky and land on an item that was ‘available’, whatever it is that I ended up ordering with trepidation actually was a beautiful meal. I delightedly finished an entire meal (a feat!), like a starved soul, which I was.

We made friends with another Nepali girl traveling alone in the same flight. Actually it was Mum who made friends, and I stole her friend away. Muhahaha. No really, those 6 hours were very difficult to get through.

I couldn’t help but play few scenes from Tom Hanks’, Terminal, in my head during those few hours, but I did. The reason being, there was actually a real life person who had accidentally missed his flight to Nepal three days prior, and had waited out for the next one at the terminal. HOW did he not go crazy ‘living’ in that terminal for two and a half days? I have no clue. I was about to rip my hair out of boredom since duty-free stores were all but closed, food was none-existent, and there was nowhere to comfortably lay down.

And through the whole thing, somehow, Mum and I had acquired a posse! Not the ‘I’m your die-hard fan’ kind of posse, but the ‘Looks like you know where you’re going, so we’ll just follow you, okay?’ ones. Or a gaggle of middle-aged Nepalese couples who found comfort in the fact that I could figure out which terminal we were meant to haunt, or which gate we were to board from.

I guess it didn’t help them much with KL Airport changing boarding gates on us about three times in that 6 hour transit alone, and rightfully so, people were nervous about accidentally standing at an incorrect gate and missing our flight: Terminal 2 perhaps, casting an older Tom Hanks!

In the end, the man boarded our flight, and got home safe I’m guessing, but still. The moral of the story here is, never ever miss a flight in KL airport, and get stranded with nothing to do for days on end.

(Image: Cloud cover over Malaysia)

Hoppitty-hopping 1: Departing Sydney

Where to start? It feels like an age since I sat down to write something for the blog, approximately a month in fact, has gone since I wrote something substantial. Since I left you all to go frolic a bit in Nepal and India, I thought, why don’t I share some of my experience. Give you a little peek into the holiday, the sights I saw, the smells I came across, the treks I walked, or the road through which we battled our way to get to a destination, crossing off sites from my Mum’s massive list of Temples she wanted to visit (and let me tell you, there was a whole heap of them, a whole heap!)

So where do I begin? Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport? Yeah, that’s a good place to begin this crazy recollection of events; the Departure. Mum and I said goodbye to Dad, my two sisters, two brother-in-laws, and a cutie niece by the departure gate with trepidation. My mum’s a nervous traveller I guess. So we waved goodbye, and wheeled out hand-carry behind and stepped through the gates. Nothing would go wrong, right? WRONG?!

How very wrong! I’m usually quite an easy traveller. I don’t normally tend to stress unless it’s like do or die situation, of which I’ve never had to go through (Thank GOD). But here we were, approaching the luggage scanner and metal detector gates. People walking in throngs ahead and behind us, and my mum starting to get a little flustered, because let’s face it, she is always in a hurry to get things out of the way as quick as she can. So she hurries me along, telling me to put this and that through the scanners. I listen. Shouldn’t have to be honest, but I did, and meant I misunderstood certain things as people behind me were rude and hurried and cutting in, and cutting me off from baskets etc. So I dump my hand-carry and my handbag on the conveyor belt and walk to the metal detector, and wait for my turn. Mum’s already riled up, for no good reason mind you, and suddenly starts telling me to take my watch off as well. So I oblige, if only to give her a piece of mind.

By this time, I don’t doubt I had started to look rather odd and fidgety to the customs people (WHY?) They ask me to step through, and I do… and suddenly the machine goes off. GREAT! Just great. Mum’s looking more and more panicky, asking me in Nepali ‘What’s going on?’ I look down and realise I forgot about my belt between mum’s panicky instructions, the conveyor belt operator, and the pushy people. So I do what normal people would do, take the belt off and pass it through, then line up to walk through the gate again.

To my utter surprise, I get asked to go through a full body x-ray scanner, one of those new additions to airport security, to see if I’m hiding any ‘suspicious’ packages on or in my body. I’m not dumb. I knew what was going on. Obviously, my mum constantly panicking, and having to battle through pushy people to put this and that through the scanner, I obviously looked very ‘flustered’ to airport staff, and I don’t quite blame them for making me step into the full body scanner. I had nothing to hide! But that didn’t mean I wasn’t annoyed. I was very annoyed! Because of other people, I was appearing as if my head wasn’t screwed on. If only I could have screamed at them, but I suspect I might have received worse scrutiny at that point.

To make things worse, I was further pulled aside, for ‘random’ drug test. Random my a**! (Excuse the language, but you can understand my sentiment). Obviously they found nothing, and I was allowed to go about my business. However, by this point, the whole thing was off to a bad start and I was pretty ticked off!

Why do people suddenly turn into anxiety ridden nerve-fest as soon as it comes to customs clearance and such? And where are they trying to go in such a hurry that they can’t even give the person ahead of them in a line one measly minute to sort their stuff out before shoving and pushing? The plane isn’t going anywhere before its scheduled time! Besides, everyone gets there with plenty of time to spare, so why this mad stampede of sorts to get to the gate? What are they trying to achieve? I’m simply dumbfounded.

Seriously, all I can say is that if I’m ever rushed like that and get pulled aside again, I won’t be so kind to the person behind me rushing me. I’ll point fingers, dammit!

Suffice to say, I’m still cranky about that incident almost a month on.

(Image: Kathmandu Valley, taken from the window seat – obviously! 🙂 )

Hopping Across the World: from Mt Everest, to Mt Cook and the Uluru. (Part 2)

Well, where was I? Oh, yes, our first night in NZ and we were totally screwed. Two adults and three girls who had no where to go in a strange land. You guessed right if you think we were all panicking. I mean, our Uncle was there but he lived so far away and didn’t have a place big enough for us, and it was starting to get dark. By the way, did I mention it was the first time in our lives we had seen the Sun still up past 7pm? This place was odd to say the least!

But back to the point, seeing my parents worry, the hotel owner came up with a suggestion. He offered to stay my family in his small bar for the night as a room was going to be available in the morning with another Nepali family were leaving.

The bar was a dingy and dark alcove almost, with few sunken booths. Mum was rightfully worried that we had to stay there and we were all girls except Dad. I remember really not liking that place but we kind of had no choice. Then, almost by accident Mum remembered she knew someone else who lived in NZ, old family friends, and immediately asked if we could use the phone.

I don’t really know what was said so I’m guessing they were able to ask for a favor, ’cause in less than half hour, we were being hurried out of the motel/hotel and into a cab or the friend’s car, I’m not sure.

Pretty soon we were in the house of people we girls didn’t know, but they were nice and offered us dinner and stuff. They had three kids two, two girls and a boy. They awkwardly asked us if we wanted to go for a walk and curiously we obliged. I don’t know where we walked, but I remember we came across a zebra crossing at one point. Out of habit we stopped and waited for he incoming car to go before crossing. I mean that’s how Zohar crossings worked in Nepal – people gave way, not the card. Odd we knew, but that’s how it was. When the trio urged us to keep walking, my sister nervously put a foot upon a white strip and immediately the car halted. It was a bizarre scene for us to behold – the power of a common pedestrian!

We crossed the street and bought ice creams from the diary shop and walked back home. Me holding a whole heap of little coins in my hands all the way back and counting them and grinning like a fool. You want to know why? Because I thought I was rich holding hundred dollars or so in my tiny fist. Excited, I was to tell both my parents that I had s much money in change. Lol! Dada sat there and counted it for me again and told me, ‘No honey, you have $1.20 cents, not $120.’ Suffice to say I was mighty disappointed when I went to bed and refused to wake up before midday the next (nah, kind of had no choice over the jet lag matter, but still.)

Fair to say, our first day abroad was all manner of crazy, fun, exploration and disappointment. Was this the judge of things to come? Who knew. I was still just surprised by the terra cotta roofs!

Hopping Across the World: from Mt Everest, to Mt Cook and the Uluru. (Part 1)

Let’s see if I can tell you a little about me.

Hi there. My name is Eva Acharya. That’s ‘Eva’ with an ‘E’ as me and my friends used to say in Uni, and that’s not really to sound interesting or suave, but rather because there was another ‘Eva’ with an ‘I’, which was really odd, since it always went as I-va in my head. So ever since then, I clarify my name as Eva with an E.

Everybody calls me Eva, ’cause let’s face it, can’t really shorten a short name. Though here in Aus, they seem to have a knack for shortening names rather bizzare. There used to be a guy named David in my biology lab class. He used to sit opposite me and couple of friends. As the semester went by, David became Dav-O. Yep, Dav-O! There was also a Gary, who became Gazza. The oddest way to shorten a name, replacing an ‘O’ with the last syllable of their name. Another odd one was Mez, who became Mezza! Went the long way I guess.

I’ve been a nomad relatively speaking. I was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, and no, I don’t mean the hiking equipment store Kathmandu. As far as I know, the city of Kathmandu has quite a number of centuries on the store – so there! :p

After less than a decade, my family decided we would like to try New Zealand for a change. My sisters and I were glad our parents knew where New Zealand was, ’cause we three sure had no clue! All we knew was, we had to fly there. Yay! I had a fascination with flying at that point having only flown once before. Suffice to say I had a ball even if I understood not a word that was spoken since we left Nepal.

We almost didn’t make it to NZ since our transit was in Hong Kong, where not one airport staff understood English sufficiently when we were trying to find out our gate number. We were told we had no connecting flight! Mum almost had a heart attack and Dad got angry! Of course, I didn’t understand what he was telling them, but turns out the flight centre had accidentally misspelled our last name and that was why we weren’t turning up in the system. Alas, all was sorted and we boarded our flight. I got a goodie bag because I was small, and I guess they wanted me to behave in the 9 hour flight. My middle sister was 12, and she almost missed out on the goodie bag because the cut off age was 11 or something, but the air-hostess was nice and gave her one anyway and told her to say she was 11 if asked. :p what she didn’t mention was that we were tiny (as most Nepali kids are compared to others). Although I don’t think I used the items in the bag much except the coloring page. I wasn’t a toy person.

I loved the whole experience, from tiny toothbrush to music from my armrest, to the TV I could barely see. Ever since then, my love for flying has compounded. I’m weeks away from a trip and the thing I’m most excited about is the flying!

My first thought upon seeing New Zealand from the window of the plane as it descended was ‘Holy moly, we’ve come to a village!’ (Creative license used for I did not know the phrase holy moly). Only villages had terra cotta roofs in my country. Cities crawled with multi-storied houses with terrace roofs and balconies. But all we could see outside the window were terra cotta roofs! Village!

I remember that first day very vividly. Dad’s younger brother, who had been in NZ for few months came to pick us up at the airport, which was much bigger than the airport in Nepal. From there we went to our hotel, and my first thought on the road was ‘Wow, it’s so clean!’ and ‘Where’s the rest of the traffic?’ I think I might have stared out the window the whole time.

When we got to the hotel, we were to discover that the hotel had accidentally booked us in from the day after our arrival and had no more rooms left. So technically we had just left our home, travelled over half the world, almost got stranded in Hong Kong because of a blunder, only to discover we had no where to go the first night we arrived…