Two South Korean Movies I watched this Week

I watched two South Korean movies this week: Train to Busan (2016) and Silenced (2011). Both of them coincidentally starred Gong Yoo and Yu-mi Jung as the leads. I had heard of Train to Busan as one of the best horror movies showing zombie apocalypse, but it felt like a drama for the most part. Silenced, on the other hand is categorized as drama but it shows the horror of being under-privileged in the society. In this blog, I am presenting short reviews of both the movies.

1. Train to Busan (2016)

In this movie, Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) is taking his daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim) to her mother from Seoul to Busan during a zombie apocalypse. The zombie virus originates through a leak in a biochemical factory. The virus is spreading on the scales of a pandemic. People are getting crazy and cannibalistic. But the apocalypse is only a set-up to show the horrors of society.

Seok-Woo is a workaholic, who thinks only about himself. Soo-an, the daughter, is polite and selfless. She is the heart and soul of the movie. Her interactions with the other passengers show to her father that one should never be selfish, even in worse of times. However, the world has mean people, too. The acts of one selfish person can jeopardize the lives of other people. The movie also shows that good people can follow bad people out of fear and can make irrational decisions. Thus, this movie is an excellent commentary on the society.

The zombies in this did not scare me but thought that I might act selfishly in times of apocalypse or pandemic scared me. We saw how some selfish people created the global pandemic of COVID-19. Those memories made Train to Busan even more scarier. Is a selfish society more dangerous than a pandemic or apocalypse? Yes, I think it is.

2. Silenced (2011)

Silenced is based on real events that happened at a school for the hearing-impaired in 2005. I had watched a review (before watching the movie) on the YouTube channel Accented Cinema and had not been able to stop my tears. It took me a couple of weeks to gain courage to watch this movie.

Kang In-ho is a new art teacher at a school for disabled in Mujin. He loves art but cannot pursue his passion his wife died, his daughter is sick. To end his financial problems, he steps into the school thinking it might help his career. But the teachers, including the principal, are repeatedly sexually assaulting students. Despite all odds against him, In-ho decides to fight for justice with the help of an activist Seo Yoo-jin.

The school administration, however, has been bribing the police, education office, and “doing charities”. In-ho and Yoo-jin are helpless against the priviledged criminals. I was expecting them to succeed but the movie shows their failure. For the under-priviledged, the lack of justice is not only a tragedy, it is also a horror.

Nations were built in the past so that everyone could get security and justice. But over time, the fight for justice has been huge struggle for common people, even in prosperous nations. Silenced exposed the flaws in judiciary system of South Korea. The movie became such a strong voice that the existing laws were amended and the culprits were given harsher punishment.

This movie shows how powerful a cinema can be. A movie was able to change the laws of the nation. This is what movies or any art form should strive to do–change the society for good.

भेडा (भाग-२)

डेढ वर्षअघि भेडा शब्दलाई चुनावी सन्दर्भमा मात्रै बुझेको थिएँ । हिजो साँझ बल्ल यो शब्दको वास्तविक अर्थ बुझेँ ।

कुनै व्यक्ति वा दलले आफ्ना कुरा मान्नेलाई वा (मनाउनु पर्‍यो भने) जनताजनार्दन भन्दा रहेछन् । जब जनताजनार्दनले अरू कसैको पक्ष लिन्छ, उसलाई दुत्कार्दै भन्दा रहेछन्, “भेडो कहीँको!!

जतिसुकै आशावादी भए पनि नेपालको राजनीतिले आशालाग्दो बाटो कहिल्यै देखाएन । कुनै राजनीतिक पार्टी एनजीओ (NGO) शैलीमा काम गर्छन् त कुनै अधिनायकवादी सोच राखेर । पदको कुन हदसम्म लोभ छ भने पूर्वपार्टीप्रमुख र पूर्वप्रधानमन्त्री भएर देश हाँकिसकेकाहरू, जसले पार्टी बाहिर रहेर बृहत्तर हितका लागि लाग्नुपर्ने हो, पार्टीभित्र मर्यादाक्रमका लागि जोरी खोज्छन् । अनि तिनै तप्काका “व्यक्तित्वहरू” विदेशी मन्त्री/सचिवलाई हतारिँदै होटलमै ढोगभेट गर्न जान्छन् । तिनलाई चुनावमा जिताउनेले प्रश्न गर्‍यो भने जवाफ दिन्छन् (तिनीहरूभन्दा पनि उपबुज्रुक तिनका कार्यकर्ताहरू), “किन जान्ने हुन्छौ, भेडा हो ?”

जनताका झिनामसिना कुरा सुन्ने फुर्सद छैन उनीहरूलाई । ठूला सपना देख्दा आँखा यसरी टट्टिएका छन् कि नजिकको समस्या देख्दैनन् । आफू अघिको समस्या समाधान गरौँ अनि ठूला सपना साँचेको सुहाउँछ, मज्जा पनि आउँछ । तब कोही बुर्लुक्क उफ्रिन्छ, “सपना देखेको पनि देखी सहँदैनन् भेडाहरू ।”

साधारण नागरिक पलपल मरिरहेको छ । देशभित्र ऊ काम गरेर खान सक्दैन । यसका केही कारण छन्:

१. उसलाई विदेशमा पारिजातको फूल झरेझैँ पैसा झर्छ भन्ने सुनाइएको छ ।

२. नेपालमा काम गर्न उसलाई लाज लाग्छ । समाज नै त्यस्तै छ । काम गर्नेलाई खिसी गर्छ अनि काम नगरी फूर्ती देखाउँदै हिँड्नेलाई खुट्टामा ढोग्छ ।

३. कुनै उद्योगमा राजनीती घुस्यो भने धराशायी बनाएरै छोड्छ ।

४. जसरी पनि कमाउनुपर्छ भनेर लागिपरेका छन् मानिसहरू । भ्रष्टाचार नभएको ठाउँ छैन ।

५. भुइँमान्छेका बीचबाट नेता बनेकाहरू तिनको टाउको टेक्दै अघि बढेर आकाशमा पुगे । भुइँमान्छेहरू पातालमा भासिँदैछन् ।

मान्छेसँग जब विकल्प बाँकी हुँदैन, कि ऊ नयाँ कुराको खोजी गर्छ, कि भएका सर्जामलाई अलि भिन्न प्रकारले चलाउन खोज्छ । विदेशिनु नयाँ कुराको खोजी हो (किनकी नयाँ भनिएका पार्टीहरू जनतामाझ पुगेकै छैनन्) । त्यस्तै, दुईतीनवटा पार्टीलाई पालैपालो जिताउनु पुरानाप्रतिको नयाँ आशा हो । यो चलन नेपालको मात्रै होइन । अमेरिकामा प्रायः डेमोक्र्याट्स र रिपब्लिकन पार्टीहरू पालैपालो सत्तामा जान्छन् । त्यस्तै बेलायतमा लेबर र कन्जर्भेटिभले पालैपालो बर्चस्व बनाइरहन्छन् । हुन त ती पार्टीकै समर्थक बीच पनि दह्रो रस्साकस्सी चल्छ । तर जनतालाई “भेडा” भन्ने नेताको बारेमा चैँ आजसम्म सुनेको छैन ।

चेतनाको स्तर पनि एउटा मापक हुँदो हो । नेपालका सबै मानिस पढेलेखेका छैनन् । पढेलेखेका सबै विवेकी र नीतिवान छैनन् । यसर्थ पढेलेखेका चेतनशील र अनपढहरू अचेतनशील भन्ने छुट मलाई छैन । किनकी “भेडा” उपमा जन्माउने र फैलाउनेहरू शिक्षित भनाउँदा नै हुन् ।

हालसालै पत्रकार रवि लामिछाने जेल पर्दा उनको समर्थनमा जनसागर उर्लियो । ती जनतालाई फेरि पनि भनियो, “भेडा”; भन्नेहरू थिए जसले उनको कार्याक्रम हेरेका थिएनन्, कार्यक्रम मनपराउँदैनथे वा चिढिएका थिए । कार्यक्रम नहेरी मूल्यांकन गर्ने अन्तर्यामीहरूलाई त के भनूँ ? उनको शैलीमाथि बहस हुनुपर्छ भन्ने कुरामा म पनि विश्वास राख्छु र उनलाई देउता मानेर पुज्नु हुन्न भन्ने कुरामा म अडिग छु । तर उनलाई देउता मान्नेहरूप्रति दुराग्रह छैन । कुन परिस्थितिमा उनी कसका लागि उनी देउतातुल्य भए, म बुझ्छु । अनि उनले त्यत्रो वर्ष कार्याक्रम चलाउँदा चुइँक्क नगर्नेहरू उनी तल पर्दा कुर्लिएको देख्दा लाग्यो, “ओरालो लागेको मृगलाई बाच्छाले पनि खेद्छ ।”

आफूलाई अनुकूल हुँदा जनतालाई “भगवान” भन्ने अनि आफूलाई प्रतिकूल हुँदा “भेडा” भन्ने मानिसहरू विवेकका दुश्मन हुन् । जनताको शक्तिको आडमा सर्वोच्च सत्तामा पुगेकाहरूले जनतालाई यो हदसम्म गिराउन कसरी सक्छन् ? ताजुब लाग्छ !

A Wedding (Part 1/4): The Proposal

(A Wedding is a single essay that I chose to break down into 4 parts because of its length. This is the 1st part of the essay.)

***

“Difficult times have come,” Mom expresses her worry after getting an invitation of the wedding of my neighbour. “Brahmin priests have stopped getting Brahmin girls for their sons. I heard … is bringing a Chhetrini!”

“The line between Brahmins and Chhetris is dissolving,” I say.

“Are you planning to bring a lower caste (non-Upadhyaya Brahmin) girl? Do it if you want. Then don’t see my face again!”

The calmness with which she says this baffles me. Dad says, “You shouldn’t be obstinate. Don’t you need your son.”

“I don’t need anybody who don’t respect my thoughts and rituals. A lower caste girl can’t participate in Pooja and can’t get involved in Shraaddha. I don’t want to be hungry after my death.”

“What will you do if you are hungry while you are still alive?”

I had that question too. Mom does not give a straight answer. She has a notion that she does not agree to quit. And no one can change her.

While my Mom warns me not to be in relationship with a girl of “lower caste” or a foreigner, she actually wants me to fall in love with an “upper” Brahmin girl. “How do we choose who we fall in love with?” I ask, the answer to which my parents do not know.

***

Much later, just as I am writing this essay, I have a revelation, “I can choose someone of a particular caste, religion or nationality to be my girlfriend. I don’t have to randomly fall in love with anyone.”

“How?” You might be asking.

Well, in societies like the one I am in living, there are said and unsaid rules that guide me. I am told repeatedly, even before I understand the dynamics of love, that being in love with a girl out of my caste is bad. Her beauty and character won’t have any effect upon me. I might say she is beautiful but I’ll never have a desire to be with her.

But a beautiful girl of my caste might attract me in no time and without even knowing her enough, I might “fall” in love with her.

A socio-psychological wiring can make me choose the one I have to be in love with.

However, even without such sociological barriers, you can choose who you want to be in a relationship with. You see thousands of beautiful girls everyday but you don’t have to fall for everyone. Neither of the girls may attract you. You have your preferences which determine who is the most suitable for you.

I have not been able to choose to be in a relationship. It’s hard for an introverted guy who questions everything. Even when I am in love with someone, I’ll question myself, “Is this love? Or is it just an infatuation?” millions of times before I accept that I’m in love with her. Then a gazillion times, I’ll ask myself, “Should I tell her? Will she accept me?”

By the time I decide to ask her, she’ll be gone off as someone else’s bride. Even if she does not, I will never have the courage to say, “I love you”–the simplest three letters that carry the biggest weight of a relationship.

Whenever I’ll be in a relationship with a girl of my caste, Mom will be the happiest. No, I’m not saying this. She says it herself. She will not have to worry about match-making which is the most difficult task these days before a wedding.

***

If you’re not in a relationship, your parents will start looking up girls for you. They make contacts with the families of girls who are the “most suitable” for their sons. Often a third person (Lhami/Lami– match-maker) who knows both sides is involved. After a lot of rejections, in many cases, and sometimes after immediate acceptance, wedding ceremony between a girl and a boy is fixed.

This “type” of wedding known as the “Maagi Bihe (arranged marriage)” is still the most prevalent. The most worrisome of all the weddings is “Bhaagi Bihe (running marriage)” because a couple in love runs away from their families to get married. The family does not accept most of the times. There have been many tragedies because of Bhaagi Bihe.

Another type of wedding is getting popular though. It’s the “love cum arranged marriage”. A couple fall in love, parents accept and then the couple gets married. There may be conditions like the ones set by my Mom but some of intercaste weddings have been accepted by parents.

***

By now, you have known that my Mom has some rules that I must follow to choose a suitable girl. She is not alone in this matter. She is a typical Brahmin woman who wants to secure her “life” after death. I don’t blame her for her thoughts. I don’t know if I should blame our culture but I think I must accept that most of the Hindus are worried about the “life after death” and another life than the one they are living.

Hindus believe in the existence of Atman that is unfaltering and indestructible. Atman is the source of consciousness or life. It resides on bodies that are alive. Once someone is dead, the Atman leaves him and goes to the Paramatma, the highest consciousness or Bhagawan.

There is a twist though. Atman is not incorruptible. It also carries desire. The Atman that carries desire to remain in the material world (Earth, Heaven, etc.) falls in an endless cycle of births and deaths. However, the Atman that chooses to be with Paramatma does not have to go to the endless cycle. However, it has to come to the material world whenever Paramatma wants.

Confused? It’s indeed confusing. No lecture on Veds and Geeta can clear up the confusion. No dead has come back to life and said what life after death actually is. Is it absolute darkness? Is it brighter than our world? Do we go to Heaven or Hell after our death? Will someone reward us for the good we have done and punish us for our evils? Nobody knows.

But these have been etched in our minds through scriptures and Gurus and priests. We choose not to deny our scriptures and we don’t question our Gurus. That’s why, “life after death” has become more important than the life we are now living.

And I can’t change my Mom’s mind. She has heard stories of Heaven and Hell. She desires to be in Heaven. One wrong move from her son might be consequential in God denying her the paradise she dreams of. Her daughter-in-law must prepare Pinda, the food of the dead, in an annual ceremony known as Shraaddha after her death. If her daughter-in-law cannot be involved in Shraaddha, she believes she will be hungry in Heaven.

When a Brahman gets married to someone of a lower caste or a foreigner, he/she “falls” from her caste. A Upadhyaya Brahman might turn into Jaisi Brahman, Chhetri or Shudra.

I propose a solution, “If I bring a “lower caste” girl as my bride why not elevate her caste instead? If she takes my Gotra (clan based on Rishis) and my surname, why not my caste? Elevate her, get her involved in rituals, propagate culture. You don’t need to worry about your afterlife.”
My parents look at me with a shock. We all know the society does not work that way. But I just hope it worked like that. Nobody would have to worry about anything then.

***

Meanwhile, my neighbour’s home has just begun buzzing with activity. His brothers, sisters and relatives have come up to help them. His wedding is going to be the one that will be remembered for years to come. Even if we forget, the groom and his bride will not!