History of Nepal is the history of revolution. Nepal has seen many revolutions and political upheavals; whether during the period of oligarchic Rana clan or totalitarian Panchayat system or autocratic Shah clan. Nepalese people have actively participated in may socio-political revolutions; peoples’ revolution of 2007, students’ riot of 2046/47, decade long Maoist insurgency and recent peoples’ movement of 2062/63. Nepali people have contributed to their youth, blood, and sweat for change, development, prosperity, and peace. Though they always became the victim of such revolutions directly and indirectly. After the end of Maoist insurgency and great comprehensive peace court, Nepal went into a decade long transitory phase of the Nepali political system. In this period Nepalese people have seen many confinement, strikes, agitation, movements. Black fume of burning cars, buses, bikes caused by violent youths shouting political slogans was the common scene of the contemporary state of Nepal. Many people became the scapegoat of such political protests, movements. All these scenarios are presented in the movie Dhanapati (2017).
Dhakatopi on the head, typical shirt, and pant on the body and his old Phoenix cycle- this is Dhanapati- the principal character of the movie Dhanapati directed by Dipendra K Khanal, written by Khagendra Lamichhane. A typical Napali youth in the mid-30s with his wife and young daughter, living in a small two-room-apartment in Kathmandu. He belongs to a once aristocratic family but now works in a restaurant as a waiter. His name itself is irony in the movie, the meaning of the Dhanapati is someone with abundant wealth but in reality, the protagonist Dhanapati struggles to get money to send his daughter to a good boarding school. He has no high ambition in his life. He just wants to feed his family, pay the rent and send his daughter to a good school. He struggles to fulfill this little big ambition. He works hard; when working hard couldn’t fulfill his dream he joins politics but this ultimately brings tragedy in his family. The whole movie revolves around Dhanapati; How he became the scapegoat of the contemporary socio-political context of Nepal.
Dhanapati has presented the impact of Maoist insurgency. Parents of Dhanapati were landlords of their village in Terai. But when his father refused to pay funds to Maoist revolutionaries they murdered his father and grasped their land and properties. In this way, Dhanapati and his family became the victim of contemporary conflict. People were not safe during that time. They were living under the terror and horror within their country. People were threatened by both sides; Maoist and state. The state mechanism was a total failure. They couldn’t provide relief and security. Many people were abducted and murdered. Other many people, like Dhanapati, had to leave their village; their homeland. They migrated from village to city. But it was not easy to settle down in the city too. They needed to work on the lower-profile job, they hardly could feed their family bread and butter. So, the picture of victimization has been presented in Dhanapati.
When peoples’ movements of 2062/63 brought democracy in the country. Many people hoped for stability, peace, and prosperity. But the fight of political interest between big parties created more chaos. They failed to address the peoples’ need rather they indulged themselves in political games. They just wanted to have greater votes, so they used and manipulated people like Dhanapati. They used college youths in the name of students’ groups, workers in the name of the union. Students, unemployed youths, workers were running behind political parties and leaders to gain post, position, and money. Instead of peace, people had to face strikes and agitations. Earning bread and butter became harder. Peoples’ life became more troublesome. Their earnings couldn’t feed their family need. So, Dhanapati bitterly fails to fulfill his dream to send his daughter to a good school. When his daughter asks to play in the ‘pay playground’ of Fun Park he cannot afford it, he even cannot afford to buy a doll and other playthings. These images present how people are burying their desires within their chests. All because of political instability; because of this state is suffering political stagnation. People are not getting a good salary despite their hard work. They are being victim of political turmoil created by the so-called bigger political parties of Nepal.
Dhanapati has his brother-in-law Janak. He is another representative of modern Nepalese youth. He is studying in college in Kathmandu. But because of less teaching and more politics he cannot go to college. He has a hard time getting a good job because of the burning problem of unemployment. He tries to sell bags in Ratnapark and Jamal but this cannot pay him enough money. He hardly covers his investment in bags. He doesn’t want to go abroad, instead wants to do something in his nation. But he fails every time. He tries to be a painter; he dreams to be head painter so he can earn decent money. But after struggling hard he hardly manages to pay fees and rents. He is the victim of politics in educational institutes and mass unemployment. People like him have no future and no spaces for work all because of contemporary social-political instability. They are poverty-stricken and depressed. Instead of giving them proper opportunities and hopes, the state is busy manipulating them to fulfill political agendas. State sees them just as bhada ka tattu who works for their political interest. They are the active involvers of strike, agitation, and movements. Political leaders use them to upgrade their position and political interest. When he bitterly fails to do something within his country, at the end of the movie he goes to Saudi in search of a job. When he cannot afford to stay in Nepal he goes to gulf country. He doesn’t want to sell his skill, youth, blood, sweat, and vigor to other country but he is compelled to migrate due to the worst situation of Nepal. People like him have no space for betterment, no future at all. They want to do something but the state mechanism fails to support them. In all, the state is not there for them. So, Dhanapati also presents the problem of brain drain. State is being failed to create opportunities within the country. Educated people like Janak has no hope within their country. They have skill, talent, blood, sweat, and vigor to spend but the state is not there to utilize them for prosperity, for the nation’s development. That is why they are compelled to go abroad.
There is another character named Rabi. He is a member of the New Nepal Party. A senior leader of the New Nepal Party has promised him to make a senator by referral system if he brings Dhanapati to his party as a whole-time member. So, he tries every way to convince Dhanapati to involve in politics. He uses Dhanapati’s desire of sending his daughter to boarding school. When Dhanapati cannot earn that enough money, Rabi promises to offer him a job as his assistant and scholarship of an embassy for her daughter so that he can have decent money and her daughter can go to boarding school. Rabi identifies the internal wound of Dhanapati, and in the name of solace, he drags Dhanapati into politics. Dhanapati’s involvement in the party brings the whole transformation in his lifestyle. He sells his old bicycle to his brother-in-law and rides a motorbike. Now, he can afford to pay to the playgrounds, playthings and enough money to his daughter and wife. Now he wears a coat and pants. He goes to the village and gives fake promises to accumulate votes from them. He even involves in strike and agitation. He burns a taxi. He smashes an ambulance. This presents how people like Dhanapati are being dragged into politics. Characters like Rabi are playing a vital role to manipulate people’s obligation. How they use the obligation of people to fulfill their political interest. They see them as a means of political fulfillment.
When Dhanapati was busy to strike on the road- to give pressure to the government to fulfill his party’s demand- his daughter suffers from sudden choking. She cannot breathe. Dhanapati’s wife and neighbor try to call him but he is so busy that he fails to respond. They call for an ambulance. When the ambulance is on the way, Dhanapati and his co-strikers stop it on the road and they don’t allow it to go rather they crush it. But with the help of polices’ escort that very ambulance somehow manages to bring Dhanapati’s daughter to the hospital; but it is too late. Later that evening when his strike finishes, he goes to the room and finds that this daughter is in the hospital. He quickly goes there. But, unfortunately, his daughter is already dead. Dhanapati cries a lot but what happened, happened. It cannot be undone. He becomes the victim of a socio-political context. His involvement in political parties ultimately brings tragedy to his family. He becomes the scapegoat of the contemporary condition of the country. His desire of sending his daughter to a good school ultimately brought the death of his daughter. This presents, how characters like Dhanapati are compelled to participate in politics and how his involvement brings disaster in his own life.
Dhanapati is an innocent character, he has no interest in politics. He has suffered from his father’s early demise because of some politically charged raged people. So, he never wanted to be one. But the problem of unemployment, social chaos, failure of state mechanism pushed him into active involvement in politics without his interest. Characters like Rabi played the role of antagonists to push Dhanapati into politics for his interest. Rabi manipulated Dhanapati so that he can be senator one day. Because of these self-centered, corrupted, self-seeking political leaders who aim to use people’s misery and use them to fuel their political interest brought tragedy in the life of common people. Because of them, people are not happy, people are not living the life of peace and prosperity. Many Dhanapatis have to lost their beloved children. At the end of the film, we see the speechless and inertness condition of Dhanapati’s wife. The mother of that innocent daughter is a symbolic state of mother Nepal. Like her, mother Nepal has lost its many children because of a political game. She was innocent, she has no fault of her own but she suffered all because of the corrupted interest of the so-called leader of Nepal. Same as her mother, Nepal is also suffering because of all these anarchical elements. They are becoming a reason for stagnation, suffering, violence, chaos. Mother Nepal has suffered a lot because of them. Dhanapati’s wife, Dhanapati presents the condition of Nepal.
Dhanapati excavates many social problems that lie in Nepali society. Dhanapati is a social commentary— about our lifestyle, our culture, and our society at large. Dhanapati tells the story of an average Nepali husband residing in the Capital and how he cannot escape from the specters of politics, even though he is unwilling to get into it. Dhanapati tells the tragedy of modern common Nepali people who have been suffering from the specters of politics. Characters like Dhanapati, his father, his wife, his daughter, his brother-in-law are suffering because of contemporary political/social conditions. Characters like Party Leader, Rabi, Sharma Ji are manipulating and using their obligation to fulfill their self-interest. Like Dhanapati‘s background song Sukha Dukha, it tells the bitter reality of common people:
Ask me about happiness and sorrow;
What thirst and intent mean here!
No one cares about that here.
My honest love to her, my dream to be her shadow
No one understands my feelings here
You just turned out to be tears on my eyes friend.
All the hopes hidden in my eyes
Darker is the pains in my heart
No one cares about that here
It’s worthless to tell someone here!
“Dhanapati Released to Mixed Reviews.” The Kathmandu Post. 09 July 2017. Web. 18 March 2019.
“Dhanapati.” Wikipedia. Web. 18 March 2019. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhanapati>
“Dhanapati (2017).” International Movie Database IMDb. Web. 18 March 2019. <https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6580708/>