|Ousted Nepal king makes silver screen debut|
10 Nov 2008
While media reports depict Nepal's deposed king Gyanendra as poised to release his own autobiography soon, on Sunday, the 61-year-old made his debut on the silver screen, courtesy Nepali filmmaker K P Pathak.
"Maina", Pathak's poignant film based on a true story from the violent 10-year-old People's War that saw over 14,000 people die by the hands of the security forces and the Maoist guerrillas, also casts the deposed monarch dextrously.
The eponymous film is about a 15-year-old schoolgirl, who was tortured to death in 2004 by the then Royal Nepalese Army headed by King Gyanendra because her mother had witnessed the rape and execution of two other young women.
Though the army denied having any hand in Maina's disappearance, her mother Devi Sunuwar, aided by Nepal's human rights organisations, began a gritty campaign for justice that moved the Supreme Court into ordering an investigation and then, asking police to arrest the four army personnel who were identified as responsible for her murder.
While most of the characters are played by theatre actors, Gyanendra plays himself as Pathak craftily weaves in two scenes taped from actual appearances by the former king.
In February 2005, a year after Maina's disappearance, King Gyanendra gave a televised address to the nation to declare that he was taking over the government and imposing a state of emergency. As soon as the address ended, the army, who backed the coup, disconnected the entire telephone service in the kingdom and shut down Nepal's only airport.
In the film, the human rights activist who plays a key role in tracking down Maina's killers in the army, is shown as struck by the announcement made by the king as she watches TV in her office, fearing that the battle for justice would now become even more difficult with a dictatorial government giving greater powers to the army.
The royal announcement is rejected by the political parties and soon, there are protests nationwide that eventually force the royal regime to disband itself. Fourteen months after the royal coup, Indira, the activist in the film, once again switches on her television set to see the king announcing he is stepping down from power.
As "Maina" premiered Sunday, there was no immediate reaction from the former royals on the interpolation. But the army, once loyal only to the royal family, is bound to feel immediate pinpricks. The film mercilessly rakes up the brutal rape and murder of Maina's cousin, 17-year-old Rina Rasaili, as well as the schoolgirl's torture inside the barracks, burying the body and offering to pay money to her family to hush up the incident.
Pathak says he had several disquieting moments while making the film. "My entire family and all my friends were against the idea," he says. "Then I began receiving anonymous calls from 'wellwishers' who advised me not to pick a fight with the army. But I have no fight with the army, it's only against a dictatorial state and a dictatorial security force."
Ousted Nepal king makes silver screen debut
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