‘First Love’ Premiere in Kathmandu

Last night The Ajnabee attended the premiere of Nepali movie First Love at Jai Nepal Cinema. The movie features Vinay Shrestha, Aryan Sigdel, Karma, Nisha Adhikary and newcomer Reecha Sharma. As the title suggests, First Love is a teen romance about the pains and pleasures of falling in love for the first time. I was expecting a couple of hours of unadulterated fluff with lots of dance sequences near Lake Fewa and cheesy dialogues. This is pretty much what I got up until the intermission, after which things took a more ambiguous, and frankly rather disturbing turn.

More on that later. First of all, about the reception.This was my first ever film premier and it was time to get down to some serious Kollywood star-spotting:

Aryan Sigdel

Sano Sansar star, Karma

I had been invited by my friend Prachanda Shrestha, who had written the script. Prachanda had sent strict instructions to us girls that we were to dress up to the max, which we duly did. However, when we arrived at the pre-party, the dress code seemed to be more dress-down Friday than red carpet. Basically there was no red carpet full stop, which meant that there was no opportunity to strike poses or pull duck-faces while walking into the movie theatre. We felt a bit overdressed for the occasion, but only until the heroines showed up looking every bit as glam as you’d expect.

The Ajnabee and friends

The first half of the film was, as promised, fluffy but enjoyable, marred by some decidedly dodgy camera work, which did no favours at all for the leading ladies and contained a suspect number of lingering bum-shots.

For all of the production flaws in the movie, I have to say that what stood out as First Love’s biggest strength was the screen presence and charisma of the actors. The cast are genuinely engaging, endearing and have this sincerity to them which you don’t see very often in Bollywood films because they are usually too polished or too obtuse, or both.

The film starts out as your average rom-com about young love. Notes passed in the library, lingering glances over the exchange of a ballpoint pen, the two heroines cruising the streets of Kathmandu on their scooters and plenty of romantic crossed wires.

Oh, and of course, a fantasy sequence or two with Annapurna Himalayas in the background.

Things start to darken when the group of friends embark on a hook-up filled holiday to Pokhara when their college is closed for a bandh.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for those of you who plan to see the movie, but let’s just say that there is a plot development in the second half that left us girls cold. Reecha Sharma’s character is raped by her boyfriend. Ok, well it’s not made 100% explicit that she’s raped, but it’s implied about as heavily as it could be. I won’t divulge all of this subplot here, but let’s just say that at the end of the movie, she gets back together with him. Why does she do this? Because, as the message of the movie goes, he was her first love. And nothing captures the heart like a first love. Was there begging, pleading, regret or indeed any form of emotional atyachar on the part of the boyfriend because of his actions? Absolutely none whatsoever.  Worse, it seemed like the only person who was really suffering or battling with guilt was the girl.  What are we to infer from this? That rape is just one of those things? A bad habit that some men have that can just be overlooked, like, say, forgetting to call or burping loudly in public?

So as you can imagine, Prach had a lot of angry women on his hands when we all piled out of the theatre into the drizzly evening. The rape wasn’t his idea and he wasn’t exactly happy about it.

Rape is commonplace in Southasian cinema, so much so that audiences today will scarcely bat an eyelid. See this India Times article here for a hagiography of Bollywood’s Most Brutal Rape Scenes and you’ll get the picture. Yes, for rape to be treated casually in a movie in this part of the world is nothing that shocking in itself. That doesn’t make it ok though.

I’m going to write a blog post or a more academic article on this topic later either for Ajnabee or elsewhere, so keep your eyes open for that. I’m not done yet.

I might also add (this could go into a potential ‘How Embarrassing!’ section on the blog) that I started off on a rather loud rant about aspects of the film’s male characters with a female Nepali friend in a bar after the premiere, and turned round to see…. Karma, standing right behind me. Cringetastic. However, Karma was very gracious and when we explained our objections more, ehem, calmly, he was clearly listening carefully.

I had an interesting conversation with Reecha Sharma afterwards (check me with the name-dropping), but more of that in the next article, as she has interesting things to say that I want to unpack more. Reecha seems like a really great girl and clearly has a very bright future ahead of her.

I have to say that I didn’t expect to spend the evening of the First Love premier debating tolerance for sexual misconduct in Southasian cinema. But I do love a good debate, so on that level I went away entirely satisfied.


8 Responses to “‘First Love’ Premiere in Kathmandu”

  1. I just checked your blog and i like all the posts, very humorous and you’v got a style to it. Loved reading about First Love, definitely sounds interesting. Hopefully Il see it soon in England.
    Please do browse through my site too sometime

    • thanks for your comments, Lex. Glad you’re enjoying my blog. Actually I already read yours!

      Film premiere was a lot of fun and ‘First Love’ is definitely worth checking out.

  2. It is I..Raghu Says:

    Two things;

    1. The lingering glances were clearly over the exchange of a fountain pen. Attention to detail ajnabee mohtarma!! :p

    2. I had a taste of that cringetastic feeling you talkin about. Last night at a pizzeria with me mates I was name dropping as well before i got into critically analysing the acting etc. I think i was getting a little boisterous with my analysis as well when we got up to leave and I saw the same actor as u did. Drat!

    3. I know i said two things but this is southasia ja! you oughta tell your readers that there is major ‘kahani mai twist’ in the offing!

    btw, prach tells me tht first love opened to record breaking box-office collection.

    • I stand corrected on the type of kalam that they were using.

      That’s toooo funny that you were also ranting within earshot of the hero. This clearly means that both us are very cool and important and hang out in all the right places, hai na?

      Well, at least it got people talking.. and go Prach with the box office succes!

  3. i’m so pleasantly surprised to see i’m not the only one who was left stumped. from where i was sitting it seemed the 200? 300? around me just went along with the shit-i-raped-my-crush followed by the no-worries-turns-out-she-wants-me-too … but, seeing as you did have a conversation with the character who was the victim, did you ask her what she had to say about it? like i said in my blog, no normal/sane girl would forgive a guy (even a crush) for raping her … i imagine character playing would also entail some serious thought … so, anything??

  4. Err, Im basically trolling here, since Ive already put this on the other blog, but my point remains the same:was it really really a rape?

    Umm, I dunno…

    I have not watched the movie, so I am not at all qualified to make an informed comment…


    Was the sex completely non-consensual on the part of the girl and did it inflict emotional, physical, moral pain upon her? Was it completely against her will?

    If it WAS(against her will), did she change her views the next morning or any point in time that could be taken in the same frame in which the ‘rape’ took place? Because you cannot call every dissatisfying sexual experience a ‘rape’…

    If it indeed WAS a rape, and not just an ambivalent choice on the part of the girl, then the movie is an interesting display of the Copenhagen Syndrome, huh? The dude rapes the girl, and she is so emotionally hurt that she actually falls in luurve with him… Hee, interesting concept, maybe I SHOULD watch the film, after all…

    • yeah on reflection i think it’s pretty obvious that she was raped… you mean Stockholm syndrome, right? I’m not sure if it’s an interesting concept or just a really silly plot development. Check out the film and let me know what you think!

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