Monday, October 23, 2006

Lights, Camera, Ekshin...

Tara tells me that when the movie Little Buddha was filmed in Kathmandu, there were hundreds of local extras hired to hang out and do Buddhist things around the temple in Bodda. Once everyone was in place the Italian director said the usual "lights, cah-mera, ekshin!" But nobody moved. They tried it again. Again everyone froze. Ahh, but in the Nepalese language, ekshin means wait.

As any filmmaker knows, there's a lot of waiting, which can try the patience of the people involved. We wait for light, we wait for quiet, we wait for instruments to be tuned and retuned. We wait for the kids to stop shouting, "You want us to be quiet!?" We pay grandma to take the kids as far away from the microphones as possible. We wait while we chase off the crowds of neighbors who walk by and spit loudly during the quiet part of the song.

We wait to keep our group together. 4 Americans, 3 Nepalis, 2 Indians, 1 driver plus whichever musicians we're working with that day. It's like herding kittens, but so far so good, and more fun than I'd expected. Here's how it's gone so far...

On Friday the 13th, at 7AM we drop a few bags in storage and meet the van driver out in front of our hole-in-the-wall guesthouse. The filmmakers have arrived from New Dehli. Praveen Singh and his friend Sanjeev Monga. At first I was a little reluctant to take a second film guy, after all it's another mouth to feed. But Monga has proved to be essential; enthusiastic and nearly invisible behind the camera; very important when dropping a crew of foreigners on the old people's doorsteps. Tara, Danny, Dan, Praveen, Monga, Buddhiman, Manoj, Ganesh, myself and the driver pile in the Kia minibus and weave through the crowded streets and out of the Kathmandu smog.

The drive is gorgeous, snaking along towering Himalayan "foothills," pregnant rivers after the monsoons, clean air and small brightly painted Nepali towns. We climb the road to Gorkha, and it's a relief to see the town without the curfews and police presence I've seen there in 2002 and earlier this year. Some Maoist rebels killed about a hundred soldiers and policemen in Nepal's ancient capital a few years back, but with the Maoist ceasefire still holding and negotiations underway, it's a refreshing to see Nepal at peace.

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