Monday, 13 February 2017

Honeygiver Among the Dogs: A Bhutanese Movie in Berlinale

Titled “Munmo Tashi Khyidon- Honeygiver Among the Dogs” is the debut feature film by Dechen Roder staring Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk (Kinley) and Sonam Tashi Choden (Choden) with special appearance of Chencho Dorji, Rapay Khandu and Aum Gyelmo. 

Kinley, a police officer was assigned with the task of investigating the mystery behind the disappearance of the Abbess in a nunnery in Bumthang, and simultaneous disappearance of immigrant Choden, a young and stunning lady often described as flirtatious demoness by the village folks. Villagers suspect Choden as the assassin who killed the Abbess, there is no prove that Abbess is killed. The quest begins with constant command and reminder from Kinley’s Chief, whom he talks over telephone.  Girls have the power to bewitch gentlemen; that’s what worries the unseen Police Chief. Kinley tactfully masters the approach to investigate Choden, leaving aside his police uniform and wearing a civilian costume, but then he sees Choden coming to him seeking his companionship to flee the chase of the police, not in vehicles but walking the trails through the forests, taking longer duration to reach Thimphu. While Kinley tries to know what her problems were and her reasons for her travel to Thimphu, Choden diverts Kinleys questions whereby she narrates the legends of Dakinis fighting social oppression, obscuring Kinleys quest. Whether the stories that she narrate have parallel connection to Choden herself is something to probe into.
Kinley in Action
Reaching Thimphu, Kinley discover the possible reasons behind the disappearance of the Abbess and Chodens reasons being in Thimphu. Kinley on the other hand was considered a failed Cop by his Chief and takes the case by himself. Kinley however does not stop chasing Choden, with the promise to help resolve her troubles. Between illusionary nightmares and Chodens earlier narrations, Kinleys independent probe discovers more twist in the case. He found that the Land at which the Nunnery was located have rocks of timeless values, as discovered by a researcher with whom Choden is suspected to have an affair. Ultimately Kinley discovers the greed, disloyalty, corruption, and conspiracy that surrounds hims and discovers the real Dakini in front of him in Choden. Kinley returns to Bumthang where his search began, in search of the Abbess, only to find she passed away peacefully and transformed every remains of hers into mystical rainbows. 
Stills of Choden
This is the synopsis of the film, which I had the opportunity to watch during Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival (9th to 19th February 2017) on February 11th in Berlin, thanks to Mr. Reinhard Wolf, President of German Bhutan Himalaya Society. The film was shot mostly into wilderness showcasing the beautiful natural scenery of Bhutan as lead artists walk through the beautiful forest trails. In the second half, it also showcase the capital city of Thimphu, the gullies, the culturally intricate prayer wheels, the way we go to office and do the daily chores, with a unique dress code called Gho and Kira. And as mentioned in the synopsis, the film also features the prevalent follies in the way our bureaucracy functions with some degree of disloyalty and corrupt practices, and of course revealing the presence of hardworking and sincere Cop like Kinley. While everybody is behind the materialistic pursuit, there are ladies like Choden who embodies the spirit of Dakini but only regarded as Demonss by the society, a true complexity of the way we live. These were some of the points that seemed to have caught the eye of the audience at Berlinale based on the questions audiences raised, leaving aside how they felt the taste of the film as a subject.

“How successful do you think the movie will run in Bhutan?” one of the viewers asked Actor Jamyang Jamtsho who represented the film on behalf of Director Dechen Roder. Well, the movie, though presents slights of love and romance, it lacks sex and sleaze but a noir of crime and detection, it also have some sense of humour in the way the Chief commands Kinley, which caused some laughter among the crowd. However unlike our regular movies where the subject is mostly romance, comedy or the biographies with numerous scenes of love making and dance sequels, Honeygiver among the Dogs takes a thrilling journey through the woods with occasional musical preludes but without a single song, except during the credit crawl when the movie ends. This is the change brought in by the Debut director in a film with debut lead female actor, a new height set by feminine workers. Actor Jamyang has record of playing the Young Dalai Lama in the movie, Seven Years in Tibet, and later worked on his directorial debut and screen play Gyalsey-the legacy of Prince, which is also premiered internationally. While the movie is rich with artistic values and moral messages, people would have different taste because of the genre. Viewers with whom we have talked expressed their satisfaction in the movie and specially the scenic Bhutan. The movie saw a big crowd in CineStar 3, and its second screening is scheduled on 16th February.

For me it was a wonderful holiday treat, even a better outing meeting with Actor himself and the German friends of Bhutan. It was also a moment of pride being Bhutanese when the viewers have better expression and curiosity to know more about the country. While film industry in Bhutan is evolving rapidly, our creative ideas with adequate support from government, Bhutanese movies have an opportunity to grab international attention in such mega international film festivals.

 image courtesy: facebook page, Honeygiver among the Dogs.

1 comment:

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