“Pālai pālo moj garnu parchha!”
After spending nearly two hours trying to parse the mysteries of human suffering as portrayed in director Dipak Shrestha’s Wrong Way, the illumination came at the very climax: two men roll around on a bed, mounting and dismounting, grunting and pushing and punching, while a dolled-up woman watches. Wrong Way isn’t a rape-revenge-flick as much as it is a projection of the homoerotic fantasies of the men behind the camera – the producers, the screenplay writer, the director, the actors – and they needed a woman, her encouraging sister, and a poster of the goddess Kali to ejaculate their fantasies into cinemas like the strongly urine-scented Bishwojyoti Cinema in Jamal.
If a movie is composed entirely of cliché, what is the point of discussing the plot? So, let us congratulate Subhash Singh Basnyat for his screenplay and dialogues and move on. In a movie where the rapists keep taking off their shirts before commencing to ‘bat’, but the gang-raped woman’s shirt keeps its integrity through an ‘innings’ of a ‘test-match’, let us forgive the director’s absence from the filmmaking process, and move on.
Let us forgive Jiya KC’s character Meenu, the wronged-woman protagonist, for boldly declaring that she will extract revenge in her own way, and then going to a beauty salon for highlights and curls, a facial and a manicure with which to kill the men who drugged and raped her. Let us forgive the gang of five man-boys who talk obsessively of getting laid – but use cricketing terms, thus flinging their brand of filth at a national psyche still euphoric from the heroics of men better than these filmi heroes – and move on, please!
Let us, then, search for the jot of something – anything – cinematic in Wrong Way that will forgive me, the reviewer, for wasting the reader’s time. In my search for an idea or an instance that is unattainable anywhere else but in cinema, I found one image: that of Meenu’s first peck on Rohit’s cheek. Jiya KC’s open mouth seemed rapaciously hungry, nearly cannibalistic, eager to swallow whole the man before it. Apart from the desire of a certain kind of a male viewer to encounter a woman docile enough to be raped repeatedly and still willingly return to seduce him with tantalizing sado-masochistic flair, I think Jiya KC’s open mouth also pointed to the idea of the primal seductress, the lusty woman who openly invites male attention, and thereby – strictly in the patriarchal mold – engages with the equally primal male urge to rape and ravage. In this formulation, it is erroneous to call Meenu’s character a woman – she is strictly female, just as the numerous bottles of beer that the men in the film suck on are strictly male, strictly phallic.
I had wanted to bring analysis and ambition to the act of writing about Nepali cinema, but Wrong Way has proved too formidable a challenge to my limited capabilities as a reviewer. In subsequent columns on this page, I will attempt to find more engaging movies to reflect on. I hope you – the reader – will forgive this indulgence on my part and come along on this journey of discovery.
This review was first published in Fr!day