Mukundo – Mask of Desire

By Kesang Tseten

A couple seek guidance from a Nepalese spiritual healer after the death of their baby boy.

Dipak, boyishly handsome, a former football player, works as a uniformed guard for a successful businessman. Saraswati is a homely woman, who adores her footballer “hero” husband. With their two daughters, they are an ordinary, humble family, contented in most respects.

If there is one thing that life – or the gods – hasn’t given them, it is a son. Not unusual for a family in their society, it is an unresolved thread in their otherwise contented lives. Dipak wants a son, Saraswati wants him to be happy – these are lurking desires, waiting as it were to be plucked by fate.

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There is much anxiety over Saraswati’s imminent pregnancy. One day while doing her standard prayers, a sadhu tells her only the goddess Tripura at the small brick shrine by the river-bank can answer her prayers. Saraswati does and it so happens a son is born. There is great joy, but a few weeks later, the infant dies, causing great sorrow, anger, and guilt.

The once-happy family begins to break down. Saraswati becomes ill, deeply depressed, and begins to exhibit signs of “craziness.” When she finally goes back to the goddess who she believes gave her a son, only to cause her greater sorrow, the Sadhu (Hindu hermit) suggests she get “treated” by a particular Mata, the vehicle (of possession) of the goddess.

Parallelly, we learn that the Mata, though reputed as a healer, has a particular history. Her husband left her at a young age, and thwarted love had lead to great emotional turmoil and even breakdowns, until she was possessed – chosen – by the goddess. The emotional upheaval of the Mata, a beautiful woman, however remains unresolved within her. She is deeply ambivalent about her shamanic role, about being “chosen,” and convinced only human love will restore her psychic/emotional balance.

It is not only fate but their inner wants that sweeps these characters together. They begin as friends. Saraswati is drawn to the Mata because she temporarily cures her and is fascinated by a spirit medium, the Mata by an ordinary human being’s warmth, but eventually more so by the boyish innocence of Dipak, which serves as a foil for her misdirected passion, and Dipak by the allure of something greater than he can ever understand.

The story has a violent ending, in the background of a frenzied jatra (religious festival), where people dance in collective intoxication…

Karma: Journey to Consciousness

By Kesang Tseten

A small film could not have a bigger philosophical question: what is more important, inner development or outward social action?

In a nunnery in the high desert mountains of Mustang, a revered abbess dies, leaving signs that she will be reborn in the precious human form. Prayers and ritual must be done to help her consciousness into its next rebirth, but the nunnery coffers are empty.

The senior nuns decide that the only way out is get back money loaned out by the nunnery. A mysterious loan was made out to an equally mysterious Mr. Tashi who visited the senior nun in her last days. Given the shady rumours about Mr. Tashi, the nuns are convinced he took advantage of her in her dying state.

The two nuns assigned the mission to retrieve the money are Karma, a free-spirited nun, and her opposite, a textbook-sort of nun called Sonam. Mr. Tashi proves elusive. His shadowy trail leads them from the cloistered world of the high mountains, to the sin cities, and a host of small cruelties en route as well as Mr. Tashi’s growing infamy.

Karma is left to continue the mission on her own when her companion is temporarily disabled. Karma learns of Mr. Tashi’s ties to brothels and sets out to catch him red-handedly, but he turns out to be a rogue-turned-Samaritan, and Karma opts to return the money to him. A cool reception and admonishment greet her back at the nunnery.

Karma is absolved and redeemed when the mystery linking Mr. Tashi and the abbess is finally uncovered.