Kathmandu: A blurry frame is interspersed by hues of green and black before we are let a sneak peek into a couple, traveling on a honking bus, as the opening credits roll in. The frame cuts to a close-up of the woman covering her head with a red scarf, leaning on the man’s shoulders, dozing off. These two scenes set the tone for what is to come in Dinesh Dhakal’s soulful music video of love, longing, and belonging—“Kalo Keshma Reli Mai”, a song that has had Nepalis swooning over.
The music video for the song, clocking at just over five minutes, is directed by Manav Subedi and sung by the debutant Dhakal. Since its release three weeks ago, the video has been viewed over 3.5 million times on Youtube, remarkable for a Nepali music video. The video has two different narrative lines, which, as one would guess, ultimately converge in its happily-ever-after climax.
This is a story told in flashbacks. The opening scenes, it turns out, are also the closing scenes, bringing the video a full circle. It tells the story of a freak, incipient romance that blossoms amidst difficulties.
Our protagonist (played by Alka Subedi, who brings a dreamy, distracted air to her character) works at an eatery in Kathmandu. During her working hours, she observes different events transpiring around the eatery and the people passing by. Once when she seems to be zoning out, her employer splashes water on her face, bringing much distress to the viewer. One day, her eyes fell on our male protagonist (played by singer Dhakal himself who is seen strumming his guitars passionately), who happens to be sitting at the same eatery.
This is a story told in flashbacks. The opening scenes, it turns out, are also the closing scenes, bringing the video a full circle. It tells the story of a freak, incipient romance that blossoms amidst difficulties. While the plot itself might not be all that fresh, the pleasure lies in the way it is told. Director Subedi invests empathy in his characters and it shows, in the way, for instance, how he holds them in close-ups, some of which are honestly goosebump-inducing. The video has a certain rawness and warmth about it. What separates this video from other works in the Nepali music video landscape is that it avoids fancy drone shots and color gradings. It is focused on telling a story rather than showing off.
Actor Subedi has to be credited for her natural and restrained acting chops. Her intense stares held in close-ups can melt even the stoniest of hearts. It is also a video edited very well, featuring slo-mo shots at the right moments, and throwing sudden splashes of colors on the screen.
The video is accompanied by a soulful song; its melody is so captivating that once you listen to it, it will stick in your mind and lips, one you may find yourself humming without realizing it.
“Kalo Kesh Ma Reli Mai”, the song, sounds like a fusion of folk and modern music. The song, arranged by Shardool Shrestha, begins with a rhythm of the guitar which is accompanied by a wailing Sarangi and singer Dhakal’s nasal-tinged vocals. The Sarangi is an instrument used mostly to evoke sad emotions but in this song, the instrument sounds very jolly, bringing in the vibe of funky music.
The song appears to be celebrating the joys, difficulties, and absurdities of life (aajai lagau maya priti, bholi ke ke hola, goes one line of the song). It invites the viewer to share in the different sets of the emotions the characters go through. It is a beautiful piece of art, one you can’t get off from your head once you allow it to soak in you.