White Sun (2016)

A sharp commentry on social rituals and taboos which succeeds in shedding light on important social issues of political corruption and caste bias in contemporary Nepalese society.

7/15/20234 min read

Nepali, 89 minutes, 2016

Director: Deepak Rauniyar

Cast: Dayahang Rai, Ganesh Neupane, Asha Magrati, Rabindra Singh Baniya

Awards: Won the special mention and Audience Award at Fribourg International Film Festival; New vision Grand jury prize at Palm Springs (California, US) International Film Festival; Won the ‘Interfilm Award’ at Venice Film Festival; Best Film at Singapore international Film festival ; Nominations at numerous film festivals like International Film festival, Rotterdam, etc.

‘White Sun’ is a poignant and thought-provoking Nepali film that delves deep into the psyche of Nepali society torn between tradition and progress, between the old and the new on the backdrop of framing of constitution during 2015.

Story starts with a dead body, body of former village chief, stuck on the upper floor of a village house with stairway so small that a dead body cannot be carted down. So the dead body is precariously moved from the upper floor through a small window to the ground floor using a ladder. His son Chandra (Dayahang Rai), also known as Agni in rebel Maoists circle, and his brother Suraj (Rabindra Singh Baniya) achieve the task.

Then comes the next hurdle of carting the body down the mountain by sons only. The two have different political beliefs. Chandra’s father was a king loyalist whereas Chandra had left village to join rebel forces against King and that creates tension between the two brothers. While on their way down to the river banks, the two brothers argue over political belief and have a fight. This results in Suraj quitting midway and Chandra facing the task of finding someone else to help him carry the body down.

He approaches police and a local Maoist leader only to be turned away. Durga (Asha Magrati) to whom Chandra was married long time ago and who had called Chandra after his father’s demise now seeks the help of local Maoists fighters to help them take body down. Meanwhile Chandra returns wanting to apologize to his brother Suraj. Meanwhile three days have passed and the body is in danger of rotting. As they are preparing to move the body, police strikes and guns start blazing from both sides. Even though nobody dies, people get hurt. Next morning as elders and Chandra decide to move body downhill they discover that the body is missing. That creates suspense and commotion. Soon, it is discovered that Body has been taken down by children in absence of elders’ ability to do so and children are preparing funeral pyre for the cremation of the body.

The screenplay written by Deepak Rauniyar and David Barker is a masterclass in screenplay writing – no exaageration! It combines the human struggle of village life with the clash of tradition vs. the progressive thought on the backdrop of political turmoil caused by framing of constition during the tumultuous years around 2015. The story along with the characters glides so effortlessly that you can see that various elements fit perfectly to take the movie forward.

The cinematography by Mark O’ Fearghail effectively conveys both the tranquility of the mountains and the underlying tension in the characters' relationships. The natural lighting, both indoors and outdoors, combined with expressive close ups mostly to capture raw emotions further enhances the film's aesthetic appeal.

The performances in "White Sun" are exceptional, with Dayahang Rai delivering a standout portrayal of Chandra. He flawlessly captures the internal struggle of a man torn between his past as a rebel and his desire for a peaceful future. Rabindra Singh Baniya is equally impressive as Suraj. Asha Magrati as Durga has performed very well as a strong headed independent woman. Also, lot of non-actors are there but each one just performs brilliantly, be it the small boy working as porter at bus station, or the young girl, daughter of Durga or the village elders, discussing how they will be treated when they are dead in between procession.

With its powerful storytelling, the film is a sharp comment on social rituals and taboos valued over human life which succeeds in shedding light on important social issues of political corruption and caste bias in contemporary Nepalese society.

About the Director, Deepak Rauniyar

Born in August, 1978 at Saptari Nepal, Deepak is not a formally trained filmmaker. Prior to getting into films Deepak used to work as a writer and producer for the BBC media action in Nepal, producing radio dramas and short films. He also used to write film reviews for a national daily, published from Kathmandu. He decided to jump into filmmaking himself after an incidence when people wanted to ‘teach him a lesson’ for writing bad review for a certain film. Earlier also filmmakers had complained or disagreed with his reviews but this was extreme reaction and he decided to learn filmmaking.

In one of the interviews given to local Nepal Newspaper, he revealed that he wanted to make films but due to lack of any film institute in Nepal and with no means to afford film education overseas, he decided to approach Tsering Rhitar Sherpa, a respected Nepali filmmaker for letting him assist. He was hired by the director as his assistant and so began Deepak’s journey in filmmaking.

On one of his road trips with his friends from east Nepal to Kathmandu, Deepak encountered three roadblocks caused by ‘Bandhs’ or strikes in three different parts of the country. The ensuing discussion between the friends was responsible for the birth of his first feature film titled ‘Highway’. Highway was the first Nepalese language film which was premiered at Berlin international Film Festival, 2012. The film narrates the story of people, their frustrations, despairs and predicaments onboard a bus getting stuck in ‘Bandh’ or strike organized by certain groups. Though the film was critically acclaimed, it didn’t do well at the Nepal box office.

‘White Sun’ is Deepak’s second feature which has been screened at more than 50 international film festivals and has won lot of awards and nominations as listed above. The ‘New York Times’ named Deepak among ‘9 new directors you need to watch’. In 2010, Deepak and his actor wife, Asha Magrati formed a production house, 'Aadi Productions', with the aim of producing original and socially conscious films in Nepal.