Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Data Scientist’s Foray into a Film

I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin and work as a data scientist at a local utility company. A data scientist may not strike one as a filmmaker but I have always had an interest in films. Here I present a candid story of how I tackled an ostensibly impossible endeavor of making and marketing a film. However, I must warn the readers that I also wrote this for shameless self-promotion.

In April of 2014 when I was visiting back my homeland, Nepal, I had an opportunity to re-connect with a middle school friend of mine, Navin Awal.  While I came to the U.S. for my bachelor’s degree in engineering and then eventually pursued energy policy for my graduate school, Navin pursued filmmaking career after high school.  Navin is passionate about films, is a dreamer,  a pioneer, and one of those rare species of youth who wanted to create opportunities in Nepal rather than go abroad. He had already made hundreds of ad films, a short film, and was ready for his first feature film.

It was then when Navin approached me with a unique story to make an entertaining science film with a social message. Hundreds of films are made in Nepal every year, only about ten percent of them recoup investments, and 90 percent of them are usually formulaic films on frivolity. Based on my taste, only five percent of films are good, and good films don’t necessarily recoup investments. So, I kind of knew the risks. 

Navin had already written the first draft of the film script and he would direct the film. While Navin knew that I did not have deep pockets, he had already concluded that funding the film via a few like-minded people was his only chance to keep the purity of his vision.  Traditional producers tried to tamper with his idea and suggested to add elements that would make the film formulaic, stifling the innovative style and authenticity of the film. 

The proposed film, Bijuli Machine (Electricity Machine) would be a pioneer science film in Nepal. It had an inspirational story of two responsible citizens who would use science to solve the electricity shortage problem that was causing frustrations. Nepal is rich in water resources, with 82,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity potential but the country had scheduled power cuts that had reached 84 hours per week. This irony was not lost on the story Navin wrote. The story had a focus on human curiosity and the pursuit of excellence.  It portrayed the power of thinking outside of the box, optimism, and perseverance against unfavorable odds by showing how two young innovative minds face the society, government, and their own issues among their peers.
Bijuli Machine/Electricity Machine (2016) Poster
The idea connected well with me as the story was also related to the energy industry, the industry of my education and profession. Although the scientific premise, converting sound to electricity, wasn’t that strong, I saw it as a metaphor. So, I pledged to be one of the four investors in the film as well as the scientific consultant for the film.  Navin and I worked together to ensure that the story did not have logic gaps, and the artwork and dialogues were sensible. Now, filmmaking isn’t cheap in the west. But, in Nepal, at the time, $75,000 would be enough to complete the film. A four-way split was something I could manage. 

Most of the actors in the film were new and recruited from auditions. We put them in weeks of workshops to prepare them for their roles. The movie was shot amid natural disaster and political turmoil. In late April and early May of 2015, two massive earthquakes devastated Nepal. Within months of the natural disaster, politically-motivated blockades obstructed the importing of medicines, oil and gas, and other supplies from India. Our shooting budget got doubled due to the fuel crisis and we had a few weeks hiatus because of the earthquakes. Eventually, the production and post-production got completed; teasers and trailers looked great. The final product was well made, and I consider it to be one of the best films that have come out of Nepal. The film released in December 2016 all over Nepal. 

Our young marketing team had made the film well known to the social media audience. By the time the film had released, the film’s page had about 100 thousand likes on Facebook. However, Nepal’s audience had to be reached beyond social media. The film needed a premiere with broad participation of high profile people and mainstream media and more strategic marketing across the nation. Our marketing did not do well in Nepal’s film market.

It was hard for me to accept that such a well-made film failed commercially but much more painful was to take the fact that such a positive, innovative, and inspirational film somehow went unnoticed in the actual film market. The movie offered much more than the scientific subject it undertook. It truly lifted Nepali cinema from conventional formulae films by bringing a well acted and directed authentic story with good production value, entertainment, and satire.

My foray into the film had already become somewhat of a financial folly but the failure made me own the responsibility of marketing the film to the international audience. In the beginning, it was difficult to come out of a complacent life and dive deep into something where I had no domain expertise. I decided I had to. I had made a film that encouraged others to own the problems and overcome the challenges and if I did not do that myself I would have fallen short of my own expectations. 

I began with reaching out to reasonable film awards in Nepal that year. We won the Most Commendable Film of 2016 at the LG Cine Circle Award, a prestigious award in Nepal. Followed by being the 1st runner up for entry to 2017 Academy Awards from Nepal. 

To raise some funds for more marketing efforts, we began screening abroad starting from a showing at Madison, Wisconsin followed by showings in Germany and Canada. As some money got raised, we started entering the film to international and South Asian film festivals. We were an official selection at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, Seattle South Asian Film Festival (where we won the best narrative film), Singapore South Asian Film Festival and many other regional film festivals. Some of these festivals are the largest and most well-known festivals for South Asian films abroad. 
I and my family attending 2017 Seattle South Asian Film Festival
It took some time and effort, but we got overwhelmingly positive reviews that made the making and marketing the film worthwhile and fulfilling. We still didn’t recover all our financial losses, but the gains are not always measured in just dollars. More than seeing it as a loss, I see it as a transfer of a few bucks from one set of hands to others. It is immensely satisfying to support a vision that we believe in, support art, and create something others love. The film brought together many creative individuals to create something special and meaningful. 

I enjoyed seeing a full circle of a complex project from scratch to finish. I enjoyed networking with creative professionals, hearing various perspectives of people associated with the film industry, and advocating on behalf of innovative film that raises social issues. My kids especially enjoyed walking red-carpet during film festivals. Moreover, it feels cool to be called a filmmaker, especially of an award-winning film!

Starting September 2018, Bijuli Machine became one of the first few Nepali films available to be streamed via Amazon Prime (http://a.co/d/51VL1Cb) with English subtitles. If you do watch it, please do let me know how you find it.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

सन्तोष लामिछानेको "अल्टिमेट आकाश" सार्वजनिक

अमेरिका निवासी साहित्यकार सन्तोष लामिछानेको उपन्यास अल्टिमेट आकाशनोभेम्बर १७, २०१८ का दिन म्याडिसन, अमेरिकामा एक समारोहबीच सार्वजनिक गरियो । सो उपन्यास बेलायतस्थित समकालीन साहित्य प्रतिष्ठानले प्रकाशित गरेको हो ।  वरिष्ठ लोक गायक एवम् अवैतनिक नेपाली महावाणिज्य दूत प्रेमराजा महत, कवि गोवर्धन पूजा, साहित्यकार कृष्ण बजगाईंको बिशिष्ट आतिथ्यमा कार्यक्रम अगाडि बढेको थियो ।
फोटोमा बायाँबाट: कृष्ण बजगाईगोवर्धन पूजाबिन्दु तिमिल्सिनासन्तोष लामिछाने 
(अगाडि: आर्या  काव्या लामिछाने)डा. भरतप्रसाद लामिछानेप्रेमराजा महतदिनार रनादी 
उक्त कार्यक्रमका लागि बेलायतबाट आएका कार्यक्रमका विशिष्ट अतिथि साहित्यकार कृष्ण बजगाईंले कृतिको समिक्षा गर्दै नेपाली डायास्पोरिक साहित्यमा अल्टिमेट आकाशएउटा कोशे ढुंगाको रुपमा रहने धारणा व्यक्त गर्नु भयो । अमेरिकी भूमिमा युवाले गर्नु परेको संघर्ष र सफलताको कथा रहेको उक्त उपन्यासकाे विषयवस्तु, भाषा शैली रोचक रहेको बताउनु भयो । 

उपन्यासकार लामिछानेका पिता डा. भरत लामिछानेले कृतिका तितामिठा कुरा कोट्याउँदै, कृतिको सकारात्मक पक्ष र चुनौती माथि आफ्नो मनसाय अगाडि पस्किनुभएको थियो ।

अवैतनिक नेपाली महावाणिज्यदूत प्रेमराजा महतले देशबाट टाढा भए पनि देशकै तर्कनामा रहेर नेपाली भाषा र संस्कृति उकास्न र नयाँ पुस्तालाई सिकाउन लागिपरेको नेपाली समुदाय देखेर आफूलाई खुशी लागेको बताए । साहित्यकार गोवद्र्धन पूजाले सिर्जनात्मक लेखनमा निरन्तर अभ्यासको खाँचो औँल्याए ।

उपन्यासकार सन्तोष लामिछानेले अमेरिकी भूमिमा नेपाली युवाका भोगाईलाई उपन्यासको रुप दिएको बताउँदै केही हदसम्म भए पनि यसबाट नेपाली युवा लाभान्वित हुन सक्ने कुरा बताउनु भयो ।

नेपाली अमेरिकन मैत्री संघ (नाफा)को आयोजना गरेको १०९औं महाकवि लक्ष्मीप्रसाद देवकोटाको जन्म जयन्ती एवम् नाफा साहित्यिक साँझ २०७५बिचमा उक्त बिमोचन कार्यक्रम भव्यरुपमा सम्पन्न भएको थियो । प्रतियोगी तथा अप्रतियोगी गरी जम्माजम्मी ३५ वटा कविता वाचन गरिएको यो कार्यक्रममा नाफा अध्यक्ष सन्तोष लामिछानेको सभापतित्वमा सम्पन्न भएको थियो 

उक्त उपन्यास ‘आमाजोनबाट अनलाईनमा बिक्री भई रहेको कुरा कार्यक्रममा बताइएको थियो । 

#nepalisahitya #nepalinovel #nepaliliterature #ultimateaakash #premrajamahat #sanoshlamichhane

Friday, December 1, 2017

नेपालमा पनि सम्वृद्धि पक्कै आउँछ ।

सधैँ आकाशमा बादल कहाँ छाउँछ ?
नेपालमा पनि सम्वृद्धि पक्कै आउँछ ।

बिकल्प बनेर जब जाग्नेछौँ मोतिका मनहरू
हट्नेछन् तब काला धुवाँ, बाधा र बन्धनहरू
अनि देशमा बिकासको मुहान रसाउँछ
नेपालमा पनि सम्वृद्धि पक्कै आउँछ ।

भनेर मात्र होइन, बनेर कर्मठ आजै र अहिले
देखाउँछौँ जब हामी सबै आ-आफूनै पहिले
अनि सन्तानले आमाको मुहार हसाउँछ
नेपालमा पनि सम्वृद्धि पक्कै आउँछ ।

सधैँ आकाशमा बादल कहाँ छाउँछ ?
नेपालमा पनि सम्वृद्धि पक्कै आउँछ ।

Monday, October 23, 2017


हजुर म भर्याङ्ग
ह्वांग नै ह्वांग भएको
अरुलाई उकाल्ने
दह्रो भर्याङ्ग

हो मेरो उत्पति हुँदा
मलाई कसैले काठको बनाएथे
माटोको बनाएथे, ढुंगाको बनाएथे

तर आफूलाई उकाल्न अनि उकास्न
कतिले मलाई मान्छेका टाउकाको बनाए
मान्छेका गरिबी अनि मजबुरीको बनाए
निर्दोषी र सरलताको बनाए

माथि उक्लन खोज्नेहरूले
मलाई थरी थरीको बनाए
किसिम किसिमको बनाए
अनि मेरा पुर्जा पुर्जामा टेकेर आफ्नो गन्तब्य पुगे
मेरा अङ्ग अङ्ग  कुल्चेर आफ्ना अभिष्ट पुरा गरे

कैयौंले मलाई माथि उक्लने  बित्तिकै चटक्क बिर्सिदिए
माथि पुग्ने बित्तिकै मलाई चसक्क दुख्नेगरी लडाइ पनि दिए
म कयौं पल्ट भाँचिए पनि

तैपनि मैले धेरैलाई उकालें
धेरैलाई उकासें
तर आफू कहिल्यै उक्लिन
बरु चापले फुक्लिदै गएँ
तर उक्लने मन गरिन

भर्याङ्ग न परे
केवल उकाल्ने अनि उकास्ने मेरो धर्म

हजुर म त भर्याङ्ग
ह्वांग नै ह्वांग भएको
थरी थरीको
किसिम किसिमको स्वरूप भएको
प्राय ठिङ्ग उभिइ मात्र रहने
दुब्लो पातलो अनि कुरुप देखिने
केवल अरुलाई उकास्ने अनि उकाल्ने
सधैं अरुले कुल्चीइमात्र रहने
निरिह भर्यांङ्ग
निरिह भर्यांङ्ग

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

कहिल्यै नढलेको म, आज ढलेछु

कसैको आधार थिएँ, आफूनै लडेछु
कहिल्यै नढलेको म, आज ढलेछु

मलाई नबुझ्नेले मलाई चट्टानझैँ काडा भन्ठान्छन्
तर मभित्र पनि फुलको झैँ कोमल पत्रहरू छन्
ओइलिएर अन्तस्करणमा, अब त धेरै गलेछु
कहिल्यै नढलेको म, आज ढलेछु

पग्लेर आफ्नै आँशुले आफैलाई धोएछु
कहिल्यै नरोएको म, आज रोएछु
बाहिर आँशुले भिझे पनि, भित्र जलेछु
कहिल्यै नढलेको म, आज ढलेछु

कसैको आधार थिएँ, आफैँ लडेछु
कहिल्यै नढलेको म, आज ढलेछु

सानो ठाउँमा हाँसीखुसी बाँच्न मलाई आउँछ |

संसाररुपी समुन्द्रमा मेरो सानो ठाउँ छ |
सानो ठाउँमा हाँसीखुसी बाँच्न मलाई आउँछ |

छुनु छैन चन्द्रमा टेक्नु छैन मङ्गल |
सानै मेरो संसार पनि मलाई ठूलो जङ्गल |
वरिपरी खुसी भए टाढा को धाउँछ ?
सानो ठाउँमा हाँसीखुसी बाँच्न मलाई आउँछ |

पानी पाए सोच्दिन म  खोलो हो कि कुलो |
किन ठूलो सोच्नु पर्यो ? म त ब्रम्हाण्डको धूलो |
जसरी एक पात्र लीलामा निस्फिक्री गाउँछ,
सानो ठाउँमा हाँसीखुसी बाँच्न मलाई आउँछ |

संसाररुपी समुन्द्रमा मेरो सानो ठाउँ छ |
सानो ठाउँमा हाँसीखुसी बाँच्न मलाई आउँछ |

Sunday, November 6, 2016

पात्रहरू र पाठशाला

ब्रम्हले बिछ्याएका प्रारब्धका बिस्कुनबाट
फुत्त फुत्त ब्यूँझन्छन् पात्रहरू
अनि छरिन्छन्
संसारी पाठशालामा बहुसंख्य छात्रा छात्रहरू

बन्न बनाउन, आफू चिनाउन
तल्लीन छन् ती अस्तिवका भोकाहरू
बेग्लोपन दर्शाउन, आफूतिर अरूको ध्यानाकर्षण गराउन
ब्यग्र छन् ती खोल्नलाई अवसरका हर ढोकाहरू

जसरी बस्तुका अनेक छन् आकार
त्यसरी नै पात्रहरूका पनि अनेक छन् प्रकार

कोही छन् रापिला घाम, कोही छन् तेज आँधी
कोही छन् साधु, कोही अपराधी

कोही छन् रट्दै बार्हखरी, कोही थाप्दै छन् बिद्यावारदी
कोही छन् सबका मनका खुशी, कोही बनाउछन् सबलाई दुखी

को के बन्छन्, कस्ले के भन्छन्
छैन कसैको लेखाजोखा

कोही आफूलाई बन्धकी राखेर आँफैलाई खोजी हिंड्छन्
कोही अरूलाई थाती राखेर सिर्फ आफूलाई रोज्छन्

खेल्छन् पात्रहरू अाआफ्नो भूमिका

यी खेलमा कोही जित्छन् कोही हार्छन्

जित्नेहरू यही चोलामा मोक्ष हात पार्छन्
भवसागर आफू पनि तर्छन् अरूलाई पनि तार्छन्

हार्नेहरू जित्नु के हो थाहै नपाई जीवन टार्छन
कर्मलाई एउटाबाट अर्को जूनीमा सार्छन्

कोही भने आफू पनि मर्छन अरूलाई पनि मार्छन्

आखिर हरेकले एकदिन
रस सुकेको पात झैं
कि त जल्नु पर्छ, कि त गल्नु पर्छ
अनि बिलाउनु पर्छ शून्यमा

जबसम्म पुरै ठोकिन्नन् कर्मका किलाहरू
तबसम्म सृष्टिको नाँचमा
प्रादुर्भाव भईरहन्छन् पात्रहरू
अनि प्रदर्शनी चलिराख्छ लीलाहरूको
र त
प्रारब्धको इन्धन पिठ्यूँमा बोकेर
संसारी पाठशालामा पसिरहन्छन् पात्रहरू
जबसम्म आफू मात्र एक पात्र भएको पत्तो पाउँदैनन्
पाठशालामै बसिरहन्छन् पात्रहरू
पाठशालामै फसिरहन्छन् पात्रहरू

जबसम्म आफू मात्र एक पात्र भएको पत्तो पाउँदैनन्
पाठशालामै बसिरहन्छन् पात्रहरू
पाठशालामै फसिरहन्छन् पात्रहरू