Kathmandu's identity as the city of temples has been there for long and this capital of Nepal still has many temples of variable artistic diligence around street corners. But over the past few decades, with exploding and poorly planned constructive activities and the resulting architectural disarray, that identity is all set to loose its former significance.
And the decade old armed conflict in the country has obscured the identity of the small South Asian country as a birth place of lord Buddha as the news of death and devastation constantly percolated to the international media over the decade ending in 2006. After the rocky journey over the past six years from a state of overt conflict to a transitional period, the legacy of the brutal conflict is being slowly diluted.
It is in this background that the capital city of Kathmandu, a highly congested (almost clogged) and one of the most polluted cities in the world has developed its own culture amid the turbulence that is shaping the future of the whole country. Even though the fields of music and movies are, as always, dominated by the giant and vibrant Bollywood in the south, that far from satisfies the appetite of the every stratum of nearly one million people residing in the city.
Beyond the fashionable and marketable movie industry dominated by Hindi films, there has developed a parallel culture in Kathmandu; that has in some aspects, even outsmarted the former.
To start with, there is a renowned theater group named Aarohan Theatre group that performs daily for most part of the year. This has hugely contributed to give rebirth to a theater culture that had once lost some of the glory with the entry of all-entertaining movies and increasing penetration of the televisions.
Secondly, many of the literature festivals that have been organized in cities of other countries were reflected in two similar events in Kathmandu this year: Nepal Literature Festival and Kathmandu Literary Jatra. Presence of most of the acclaimed littérateurs from Nepal and few of them from outside in each of the festivals was a new thing in Nepal. The acts of writing by the writers and reading by the readers were now complimented by a lively interaction between the two.
Then come the twin film festivals that have been taking place regularly for more than a decade by now. The Film Southasia event has been taking place biennially since 1997 and this year it was held from 29 Sept to 2 Oct. With documentaries with chilling to enthralling themes, the event presented an opportunity for the watchers to view the world through the camera of the filmmakers that had traveled to places and reached to persons that were otherwise impossible to access. The three documentaries about life in Afghanistan were particularly impressive given the fact that everything that comes as a news from Afghanistan in the media is little more than the details of death and destruction. The struggle of the Afghans to stay alive in the precarious situation is shown impeccably in each of the three documentaries 'I was worth 50 sheep', 'War and love in Kabul' and 'The boy Mir: Ten years in Afghanistan'.
The other twin, the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF) has been taking place since 2000 and for this year the event has started in the city today (Dec 8) with the inaugural screening of the poignant documentary 'Buried in tears' that left almost everyone in the audience with tears. With as many as 52 films to be screened over 5 days, the event is expected to add one more milestone to the increasingly vibrant culture of making and watching non-fiction films or documentaries.
Till now one event after another has made sure that Kathmandu does not remain a culturally and intellectually dry place and KIMFF has been keeping the legacy for the time being. We can justifiably hope some interesting event to follow soon and that is how Kathmandu will evolve into a better city culturally even though nothing is done to ameliorate the clog and pollution that cripples the city.