With Nepal being the spotlight for many international movies of all genres and audience, let us look back at some movies that have portrayed Nepal in the eyes of the international audience
With Nepal being a small country far away from any Western interests and squabbles, it may seem like people around the world only know Nepal from Mount Everest or vague notions in the global cultural zeitgeist. But with more and more international movies doing shoots in multiple countries, Nepal has debuted and has been portrayed in many movies, Nepal has been in the spotlight in many movies, being portrayed in the entertainment medium for the better or the worse. Let us look back at a couple of them
First on the list, is one of the most popular and renowned films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Doctor Strange is one of the most popular Hollywood Movies that has portrayed Nepal. With the story being about a sorcerer dabbling in the mystic arts, it is quite clear why they picked Nepal as the place to depict the Kamar-Taj, the place of mysticism and magic. The photography for the inspiration of Kamar-Taj began in November 2015. Benedict Cumberbatch has said that shooting in Nepal was "absolutely vital to the film, I think not least because it's so based in something that's so exotic." Many of the shots were filmed in the streets of Kathmandu including the Pashupatinath and Swayambhunath Temples, Thamel, New Road and Patan Durbar Square. In addition, they made sets of the Kamar-Taj and roads in Nepal using good pigeons and Nepalese extra to sell the authenticity of the stage. This has undoubtedly one of the most recent and one of the most popular films to be staged and filmed in Nepal. And with Doctor Strange's The Multiverse of Madness just released it will undoubtedly have spread the name of Nepal far and wide.
With Nepal being the location of the Himalayas, home to the tallest mountain, Mount Everest, there have been many films, domestic and international, about the daring climbing and achievements of people climbing the tallest mountain peaks in the world. The 2015 Everest film, is an attempt to depict the horrors of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster and the challenges and the danger that mountaineers face in their journey. A 44-member-crew arrived in Nepal on 12th January 2014 with a shooting starting the following day. They got permission to film between 9th to 23rd January 2014. They started to film the shots of the Tribhuvan International Airport, then the streets of Kathmandu. They further proceeded to film at Everest Base Camp. When the shooting team was wrapping up their recording in Base Camp II, there was an avalanche near the shooting team which killed 36 Sherpas bringing supplies to Base Camp II. The shooting team reported no casualties. Just a reminder of how dangerous that mountain is and how uncertain and sudden catastrophe can strike on the peaks of Nepal.
The Arabian Nights
If you think that Nepal has only been in the cultural spotlight in movies and other entertainment mediums recently, you're mistaken. While the amount, the type and the quality of content about Nepal have certainly improved, one of the earliest depictions of Nepal in an international film, The Arabian Nights was one of the first films to shine light upon the Nepalese culture to an international audience. Adapting the short stories from the One Thousand and One Nights, two of the sixteen scenes contain Nepal. They mostly filmed Nepal with important plot points taking place in Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar Square with famous places like Jaisi Deval Temple, The Golden Gate in Bhaktapur, Sundari Chowk, Saraswati Hiti, Bhulekh Square, Kumari Bahal, Ashok Binayak Temple or Pujari Mart and so much more. Therefore, this tries to portray the mysticism and the mysteriousness of Nepali culture and history to the outside world.
Now on to one of the biggest and ambitious international films of the time but is little talked about in the cultural gossip today is Little Buddha. Featuring Keanu Reeves, Little Buddha is a take on the path of enlightenment from an international perspective. The film crew boasted 13 Oscars, many of whom worked on The Last Emperor after which tourism to China increased by 25%. This was such a huge opportunity that even Nepal's then new prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala realised the potential of the film and allowed permission to film and met with the director of the film. The movie that was filmed in Nepal was mostly set in Bhaktapur Durbar Square with the film set being built there. They even sought the advice of locals and rewrote scripts to make it appropriate for the film. They went everywhere from UNESCO heritage sites, then to Lumbini and the Tarai, piling into wooden riverboats and going into muddy roads into the forest to reach remote Tharu villages. It was truly a great collaboration between all forms of Nepali culture and Hollywood culture that has been forgotten in today's gossip and zeitgeist.
Hare Ram Hare Krishna
Now to end off, it is a very old yet still very classic and famous Hindi movie, Hare Ram Hare Krishna. While this is an old movie from the 1970s, it still is mesmerising in the minds of people to this day with the movie being a cult classic. Actually, it is believed that Dev Anand, who came up with the idea for this film, had that epiphany while staying in Kathmandu when he encountered hippies living there. And he did return to do the shoots, mostly in Kathmandu Valley especially in Kathmandu Durbar Square, Basantapur, Kasthamandap and Swayambhu. This is one of the few films in Asia during the time to take an anti-drug message while also criticising Westernization such as divorce.