Prophecy for Future Politics?

February 7, 2016 , by Asmita Mali Manandhar, Leave your thoughts
Singha Durbar is the palace complex used as the house for ministries and government offices in Nepal including the Office of the Prime Minister. Therefore, Singha Durbar, the series, is only aptly named for the first ‘futuristic’ political drama aimed at Nepali audiences.

The political series of total 13 episodes mainly focuses on leadership and governance. 

How did you come about the concept of a political series? What inspired you to be a part of it?  
  The project was conceptualized back in 2006/2007. The core idea was to get across the message that all of us are leaders in our field, in our own position and so we can lead from our positions.  
  As Yubakar said- it started as a project for good governance, leadership and democracy from Search for Common Grounds.  
  I wanted to work again with Tsering and when he pitched the concept of a socio-political drama and me as a lady Prime Minister, I immediately decided to be a part of it.  
  In addition to acting as the press advisor for the Prime Minister, I was also offered to be part of direction team and working with a director such as Tsering dai is a huge deal.  
  I am not a trained actor and same as what Praveen mentioned, I only did the series because I have full faith in the director.  
  I was highly inspired by the concept and thought it could be a positive catalyst to the present political situation of Nepal and I feel very lucky and proud to be a part of the series.  
There are many situations in the series that refer to real life political struggles in Nepal. Have you carved any of the characters the same way, any specifics?
  The story is completely fictional but we did want to make it as real as possible. Having said that, we didn’t write any character out of any real life person either.  
  I did not prepare myself by referencing to just a single individual but I have always been influenced by the personalities of the like of Benazir Bhutto, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi. So, that may have instinctively inspired my performance.  
  I have worked for a daily newspaper so it wasn’t really challenging for me to get into the character of Navin Gurung, who is a journalist and a blogger in the series.  
  I am quite inspired by Gagan Thapa so I channelled my character accordingly.  
  All the actors were obviously made to do research and study on characters and mannerisms of politicians, secretaries or press advisors or bloggers but no specifics.  
The central character is shown to have high moral and ethical ground as a politician. The Nepali politicians in real life, however, are criticised for having the least of it. What are your thoughts on this?
  It does look like that, doesn’t it? But we have witnessed from time to time some excellent examples of powerful moral deed from our political and government leaders. So, we just need to take these positive examples and use them to inspire many more.  
  This series is more like an aspirational in approach than portrayal of realistic political scene of Nepal. But I am hopeful that one day we will have good leaders like Asha and Ramanda Jha.  
  As my character in the series says “Malai hamro maanche haina, ramro manche chahinchha” (We need ‘good’ people rather than ‘our’ people), hopefully it will be a mantra for your politicians too.  
  I for one, definitely think that our politicians need to up their game. They have words but no action and in retrospective, nothing to motivate the common people.  
Why was it important to depict a female leadership in the series?
  A female leader in important position is long due in Nepal and when we were making this series, many people were sceptic about this ringing true. But by the time we started broadcasting the first episode in November last year, we already had the President and the House Speaker who are both women.  
  We do need to inspire women and other traditionally marginalised groups to play a bigger role, and we do need to prepare our society to accept that, and prepare grounds for the same.  
  And since media can be a huge catalyst on social transformation, I think it was very smart of the makers to depict a female Prime Minister in the series.  
The Prime Minister in the series is shown to be mostly surrounded by young professionals as advisors. What does it hint towards the youth as well as the politicians?
  I have heard that the present Prime Minister KP Oli has also recruited a number of young advisors in his team. So, I hope the idea from the series encourage more senior and youth to find a common bridge.  
  I think youth and seniors should move ahead together and that is what the series is communicating as well.  
  We do have equally powerful characters of more senior leaders. The political party leaders and most of the ministers in the government in the story are not young. We have actually tried to have a mix of ages, sexes, ethnicity and religion.  
Singha Durbar is sensitive on portraying diversity in screen. Why do you think this was ignored in the mainstream media for this long?
  Mainstreaming diversity should happen in all sectors and not just in media. Media should not just mirror the society; it can also lead the society towards a better future.  
  Again this is something that needs to change and hope Singha Durbar can work as a stimulus here.  
How are the responses coming in? Any particular criticism that you agree with?
  It has been unexpectedly positive. I have been receiving good reviews from national as well as international audiences.  
  Although the majority of the responses have been positive, some of the audiences have complained of the series being too idealistic. They said that they lost interest due to lack of realistic balance in the characters and plotlines.  
  I will have to agree on getting overwhelmingly positive response- we’ve got very good viewership and very positive comments in social media and from people we meet. There have been some critical comments regarding some technical aspects of the film and I believe that we can always improve.  
  As Yubakar mentioned, there are some who are particularly miffed at the length of the episode, and I do feel the time constraint sometimes restrict our story from evolving on screen.  
Is there anything significant from behind the scenes that you would like to share?
  For the earthquake episode, we were shooting at Chuchepati camp and when I reached there dressed in the character with the other actors surrounding me in security personnel’s uniform, some of the people in the camps thought I was a real political leader and were coming closer to tell me about the hardships they are facing. And even when they realised I was an actor, they promised to vote for me if I ever stood for elections.  
  I prefer to stick to the character names while shooting any of my films. So while making Singha Durbar – Gauri was Prime Minister and other casts were respectively Home Minister, Finance Minister. So we would be yelling at our assistants to “Bring PM right Now – we need her here. And let Home Minister wait a bit – his turn is coming later” (laughs). So in a lighter vein we felt sort of empowered. Otherwise the filming of Singha Durbar was one long picnic and we all had a great time making it.  
  After the series aired on Nepal Television, many people have approached me asking, “Aren’t you a journalist?” To which I automatically reply, yes; owing to the fact I have worked for a daily paper. Then they go about lodging complaints and asking me to report it to the government. I guess, I was fairly convincing as a reporter/blogger. Maybe I should change my name to Navin (laughs).  
In conversation with
  Follow Asmita on Twitter @asmitamdr  
  Photos from Singhadurbar Facebook Page.  

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