Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya) is a 2013 animated movie produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Takahata Isao. Based on one of the oldest and most popular folktale, “The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter”, the movie shows the story of a nymph who descends from the Moon to the Earth.
In his early career, Takahata was inspired by French and other European animators and the tales they told. As his career progressed, he was more engrossed in the stories of his own country. That thought gave birth to the classic “Grave of the Fireflies”, one of the saddest tales ever told in cinema. His interest in telling stories rooted to Japan reaches its height in The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
The movie is painting in motion. Beautiful water-colour hand drawn paintings made me feel like I was watching old Japanese paintings in succession. The animation looks rough (a deliberate choice), the line art gets chaotic at some points (the best use of “abstraction” as said by some of the best animators in the industry) and does what it has to do (bring the characters and story to life).
The main characters are multi-dimensional. The woodcutter seems cold at times when he uses divine powers to name Kaguya a princess and makes her stay as a noble. However, he thinks it is the best thing to happen for a child who was divine herself. Kaguya’s mother is kindlier, although she also desires to make her a princess. Kaguya herself is a fun-loving girl who dreams of escaping back to her village when she is brought to the mansion in the town. Her sense of freedom is depicted well in the scenes in which she unleashes a cat, frees a sparrow from the cage, and dances when she sees sakura in the Spring.
The movie gave me a feeling so intense it is impossible to explain in words. Takahata’s mastery of story-telling, his artistic sense and vision has produced a movie that will soon be regarded as one of the classics.
When the movie Rajja Rani was released a few months ago in theatres, it flopped. I wanted to watch it but some exams did not allow me to go to theatres. A few weeks ago, the movie was released on YouTube and became an instant hit. Looking at the comments and the way it was trending, people seemed to have liked the movie. The issues it has raised makes it nice but that could have been done better.
The best thing the movie has shown is the problems of the Terai, keeping dowry and politics at the centre. Deepak Chhetri nails his performance as the Rani’s naive father.
Najir Hussein and Keki Adhikari deserve applause for their titular roles. Najir acts better as a villanious Raja in the second half of the movie.
Except for the part where the issue of dowry is raised, the movie loses control. There is way too much comedy in Raja’s part. It has been used to establish Raja as a person with political influence and as someone who breaks his promises often but it could have been done in other ways.
Language is another problem in the movie. I don’t know but it sounds like a mixture of Nepali, Hindi, Maithili and Bhojpuri. They could have stuck with one language. The movie was also released in Maithili. Is the language better in that version? I can’t be sure because it’s not been released online yet.
Ending of the movie is so bland that it ruined the entire movie for me. I don’t understand why they had to kill off Raja. He was not the problem but just a part of it.
There were so many ways the movie could have ended. One way could have been to just show the problems and leave the audience in tears. Another way could be to show Rani’s fight against Raja and society against the practice of dowry. Tit for tat isn’t something that works in real life, especially when someone is cunning and wicked.
One last thing I want to say before I wrap up: I didn’t like the name of the movie. Rajja is not the hero. He does not care for his pregnant wife. He does not care for his friends. He is so evil that sticking his name with Rani makes no sense. Because it’s not a love story between the two, the name itself becomes unnatural for the script.
I wanted to watch this movie when it was released last year but I could not watch it then because I think I was busy in my chores. Thankfully, the movie came up on YouTube during Dashain.
After the earthquake of Baishakh 12, 2072, Pashupati Prasad Khakurel comes to Kathmandu from Sindhupalchowk in search of his Meet Baa. (Meet is best friend; Baa is father. Meet Baa is father’s best friend–almost like father.) Only his Meet Baa can help him earn money in order to clear his dead parents’ debt.
The movie revolves around this simple common theme. However, as Pashupati Prasad works around Pashupatinath area, he makes a connection with Hanumanji–a masked man dressed like Hanuman, an old woman who loves him more than her own son, an M.A. graduate who runs a food booth, and Bunu–a deaf-mute girl who he loves. He also makes a rivalry with Bhasme Don, while searching for gold in the Bagmati River. Through these characters, several aspects of society come alive.
The ending of the movie is unexpected but highly emotional. Without much dialogues, these scenes break the audiences’ heart. Though many have argued that the ending should have been different, I think that’s exactly the makers had wanted people to think of.
Nepali is believed to have been evolved from language of the Karnali region. (Sinja valley of Jumla and more popularly known as the place of origin of Nepali language.) To understand the dialogues of a movie which used Khas language of Mugu (a district in Karnali zone) we had to take help of subtitles. We have deviated a lot from our roots. This month, I feature that movie- Kalo Pothi(aka The Black Hen in international film festivals).
In 2001 A.D. (2058 B.S.), before the insurgency, the “People’s War” led by Maoists seems to have influenced Karkiwada, a village in Mugu district. Maoists, who have been working as guerillas, organize a cultural programme to spread the word of “revolution”. Some school kids are influenced. One of them is Bijuli, the sister of a major character Prakash.
Earlier, the Mukhiya(chief) of the village had ordered the villagers to bring up all fowls to him but Bijuli had managed to hide one white coloured hen. This she had given to her little brother Prakash. They live with their father as the Mukhiya’s servants. The boy asks what name he should give to the hen. When she tells him to give whatever name he wanted, he names it Karishma, after the name of Nepali movies. Her movie- Saathi (Saathi means Friend) alongside Rajesh Hamal is about to be shown in the village and the little children seem to have been influenced by that.
The same night, Bijuli flees with her “comrades” to be a Maoist. The hen she had given to her brother Prakash has yielded an egg which he shows first to his friend Kiran, the Mukhiya’s grandson. The hen, however is sold by Prakash’s father to a Tenjing, an old Bhote for 600 rupees. The boys decide to get the hen back the hen by paying Tenjing but they do not have money.
After sometime, when they have half the money Tenjing had paid, they go his home and ask for the hen. Tenjing does not agree. The boys steal it and colour it black. The white hen becomes the black hen. Their act is caught and the hen is taken by Tenjing again.
Meanwhile, Ujeli(the Mukhiya’s granddaughter) is about to be married to Captain Surbir. The Captain, however is abducted by the Maoists. Prakash sees his sister as she and her friends drag the Captain away. Prakash still longs for the hen Tenjing had taken away. Prakash and Kiran go to him again and he tells them that the hen had been sent to his daughter in Serog village.
Serog is far but riding a horse, the boys reach a long way. They reach a forest, where firing breaks out between the Army and the Maoists. Several people are killed. The boys save themselves by smearing blood of the deceased. Later, they wash themselves in a lake and head to Serog. They find the hen but seeing the hen and with her chicks, Prakash, whose mother had died prior to the setting of the movie, says, “I don’t want to separate children from their mother.”
1. Friendship and Innonence
Prakash is a servant at Kiran’s house and a Dalit(so called untouchable) as well. But they are best friends. Kiran goes through everything to help Prakash get back the hen Tenjing has taken away. Prakash covers up his acts. Their friendship is strong despite the difference in caste and social status. Also, their act of colouring a white hen to black is sweetly innocent.
Despite being a child of poor servant at Mukiya’s home, Prakash goes to school. Prakash and his family have been provided a place to live. They are also given warm clothes during winter.
But the humanity is waning towards the end. The Mukhiya warns Kiran not to befriend Prakash (he goes away to Serog, however). Policemen threaten to beat them up if Bijuli does not return the village. The Maoists are abducting soldiers who are not on duty, and the firing in the forest kills several people.
3. Transition from Peace to War
The movie shows the changes that occur when a society undergoes the transition between peace and war. The thoughts of people change. They come up to believe that the state of peace was due to their ignorance about the real affairs. They are inclined to change the society by whatever means they have. Some better-off people migrate to a relatively safer place. Those who can not afford, have to undergo whatever happens to them in their homeland.
4. Philosophy of “Letting Go”
After a long journey to Serog, Prakash leaves the hen and says, “Let it be, I don’t want the children separated from their mother.” Every journey of life ends that way. We let go something to embark a new one.
What’s there for the viewers?
1. The movie features a simple storyline. Almost everything in the plot is related with the hen. (Can I say hen is the protagonist?)
2. Khadga Raj Nepali and Shukra Raj Rokaya have done an exceptional job considering their ages and their experience in movies. (They had never acted in movies before.)
3. The movie gives a lot of knowledge about the Khas language and culture.
Some disappointing factors
1. The story is simple but does not seem to be in a flow. The movie does not always stick to the storyline. The transitions between scenes are sometimes unclear and audience do not understand what and why the characters are doing the things shown in the screen.
2. There are two dream sequences that are highly symbolic. The first dream is set at Pashupatinath area, where Prakash sees Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims one after the other. While the dream might represent a case of religious tolerance, it is highly unlikely that a poor boy in Mugu can dream of such a thing. Moreover, it does not connect to the plot thereafter. (Ten minutes time in the theatre, 25 lakh rupees need not be spend.)
In the another dream sequence, Prakash relives the funeral of his mother a year ago but the people have changed. For example, Bijuli carries a gun, Ujeli is a bride and Prakash’s father carries a hen. This dream connects to the end of the movie, when Prakash lets go of the hen.
3. Scenes in the movie are shot from quite a distance with still frames. For minutes, when the characters are conversing audience sees a house or a room or a hillock. While that could have been the director’s scheme, close-up shots could have it more remarkable.
4. Finally, (something everyone has been telling) a scene that was completely awkward and unnecessary- a kiss scene between Ujeli and the Captain. The movie might have wanted to represent love between them but because that is not the main focus of the movie, the scene was absolutely unnecessary.
Khadga Raj Nepali as Prakash
Shukra Raj Rokaya as Kiran
Jit Bahadur Malla asPrakash’s father
Hansa Khadka as Bijuli
Benisha Hamal as Ujeli
Director: Min Bahadur Bham
IMDb Rating: 7.6/10
Personal Rating: 7.5/10
Movie reviews on several newspapers and magazines.