'Jhola': A Masterpiece of Social Commentary in Nepali Cinema

'Jhola': A Masterpiece of Social Commentary in Nepali Cinema
Credit goes to Kathmandu Post

In the realm of Nepali cinema, few films have managed to leave as profound an impact as 'Jhola'. Released in 2013, this film has been universally acclaimed for its nuanced portrayal of a complex social issue. It was even nominated as Nepal’s Oscar submission in 2014. As we revisit 'Jhola' nearly a decade after its release, its relevance and power remain undiminished. This article delves into the depths of 'Jhola', exploring its themes, characters, and the social commentary it offers.

A Tale of Tradition and Tragedy

'Jhola', based on Krishna Dharabasi’s short story of the same name, is set in the rural hilly region of Nepal in the 1940s. It tells the story of a small family: Kanchhi, a young woman, her husband who is thrice her age, and their young son. The family's peaceful existence is shattered when the husband falls ill and dies, and Kanchhi is expected to follow the 'sati' tradition, which mandates that a woman burn along with her dead husband.

The Characters: More Than Just Victims and Perpetrators

One of the strengths of 'Jhola' is its character development. The characters are not merely victims or perpetrators of the 'sati' tradition. They are complex individuals with their own motivations and struggles. Kanchhi, played by Garima Panta, is portrayed as a strong, resilient woman who carries the weight of her family on her shoulders. Her son, Ghanashyam, played by Sujal Nepal, is a compassionate and loyal character who fights against the tradition that threatens to take his mother away from him.

The Power of Nuance: Questioning the Status Quo

What sets 'Jhola' apart from other films on social issues is its nuanced approach to its subject matter. Instead of presenting a black-and-white portrayal of the 'sati' tradition, the film delves into the complexities of this practice. It shows how deeply entrenched cultural norms can perpetuate harmful practices, even when individuals within the society recognize their harm. This nuanced portrayal encourages viewers to question their own assumptions and challenge the status quo.

The Legacy of 'Jhola': A Lasting Impact

Nearly a decade after its release, 'Jhola' continues to resonate with audiences. Its portrayal of the 'sati' tradition and its impact on women remains as relevant today as it was when the film was first released. Despite some minor flaws, such as the occasional reliance on telling rather than showing, the film's overall impact is undiminished.

The film's ending, in particular, leaves a lasting impression. It pays homage to Chandra Shumsher, who allegedly abolished the 'sati' tradition but led an oppressive regime plagued by other forms of exploitation. This juxtaposition forces viewers to confront the deep-seated injustices embedded in our social systems.

'Jhola' as a Beacon of Social Commentary

In conclusion, 'Jhola' stands as a beacon of social commentary in Nepali cinema. Its nuanced portrayal of a complex social issue, its compelling characters, and its lasting impact make it a film worth revisiting. As we look back on 'Jhola', we are reminded of the power of cinema to challenge societal norms, spark dialogue, and inspire change.