By Tashi Wangchuk
“Kyema – The Agony of Wrong Path” is an interesting Tibetan film about tuberculosis infection, protection, treatment and substance abuses among younger generation Tibetans in exile. The film is produced by Dharamsala based Tibetan Exile Govt.’s Department of Health in association with Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. It is directed by debutant filmmaker Samten Dhondup, a respectable arts instructor at TIPA. Tenzin Woebum who already appeared in some of the more recently Tibetan films and Tenzin Donsel, one of the many talented artistes of the institute appear in the film as the leading pair.
Tsering, (the protagonist played by Tenzin Woebum) is a college student studying in Delhi. He falls in love with Tendol (performed by Tenzin Donsel), who is a Tuberculosis infected student. Out of the fear of losing her newly found boyfriend, she wouldn’t disclose her health status to Tsering although she continues taking pills surreptitiously. Gradually Tsering is down with severe infection. Blood oozes out of his mouth, a clear indication of TB infection. His friendship with drug lover youths in the area further pushes him down into the never ending saga of drug addiction and negativism. He would gradually become a shameless pick-pocketer, a beggar, a rag picker, and a good for nothing youth who wanders aimlessly on the streets, railway platforms, and everywhere. He even go as far as snatching his mother’s precious gold chain and girlfriend’s money simply to buy himself a pinch of drugs to satisfy his sheer craving. Finally, the film’s protagonist desperately wants to get out of the addiction, but he is too late now. No matter how caring his mother be, how wrathful his father is, and how compassionate his Uncle be; they couldn’t save him from the spiraling suffering and the ultimate end.
The debutant filmmaker masterfully exploited filmmaking as a story telling tool to highlight impending issues of our community in a meaningful and more importantly in an engaging way. The characters are well developed so as the story pace. Tezin Woebum’s performance as a lead character is simply real than fictional. Keeping in mind some of his past works, one could easily see him as a growing actor. The film also feature some of the common faces of the Tibetan cinema including Sonam Phuntsok and Tsultrim Dolma both of whom had acted in films like Dreaming Lhasa, We’re No Monks and Richard Gere is My Hero. Again both of them did a wonderful job. Tenzin Donsel’s performance as the lead female was a good one too. However, I couldn’t figure out the exact character shade and its development. Is it a positive or a negative role? This is the only part that baffles my mundane mind, may be subjective, after all filmmaking itself is a subjective arts. Isn’t it? I also felt that the cinematography could have been better. Again, as I said, this is a subjective area, and nothing is impossible here. May be the filmmaker might have wanted the looks purposely. I love the Bollywood inspired song and dance sequences that appears in the earlier part of the film. Our younger generation Tibetans who are born and brought up in the Bollywood culture surely will love the sequence with admiration and applause. I can also see that a huge amount of time, energy, and resources have been invested to shoot the sequences by the entire cast and crewmembers.
To cut the long story short, given that the film is made by a first time filmmaker, I would give four stars out of five without any hesitation. Hats off to the entire cast and crew team and also thank you Dharamsala based Tibetan Health Department for producing socially viable film as this. Since narrative and fictional films has the immense potential to reach far and wide, I hope more and more such like films be made in the years to come. I wish filmmaker Samten Dhondup good luck in his initiative as a filmmaker. Good job. Keep it up.
The author is a San Francisco based filmmaker and co-director of the feature film – Richard Gere is My Hero. www.tibetanfilms.com