Film on Buddhist nun to help Mussoorie school kids

By Sudeshna Sarkar, Indo-Asian News Service, June 8, 2006

Kathmandu, Nepal -- A film on the journey of a young Buddhist nun from her sheltered nunnery among remote mountains to the plains with their 'sin cities' and vices, portrayed by an avant garde Nepali filmmaker, is going West to raise funds for underprivileged children studying in an Indian town.

Nepali director Tsering Rhitar Sherpa would release the film 'Karma' at a series of charity screenings in Canada and the US to raise money for orphans, destitutes and children of Tibetan refugees studying in schools in Mussoorie in India's Uttaranchal state.

'I studied in a boarding school in Mussoorie myself,' says the 37-year-old Sherpa, who has today made a name for himself as a documentary maker based in Kathmandu. 'So I know the plight of schoolchildren first hand.'

Sherpa's first feature film 'Mukundo: The Mask of Desire' was Nepal's entry for the Oscar in 2000.

In Mussoorie, where the winters are severe, schools close down during the long winter vacation and the luckier children return to families in other cities of India, Bhutan and Nepal. However, for those who have no families or are unable to afford the trip, the vacation becomes a period of loneliness and deprivation.



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Sherpa, whose mother is Tibetan and father from the Sherpa community of Tibetan origin, and Tenzing Wangdu, a friend, who too studied in Mussoorie, decided to take 'Karma' to over 14 cities in Canada and the US, where a sizeable population of Nepalis and Tibetans lives.

With the money raised from the screenings, they plan to sponsor a winter vacation for 20 children studying in Mussoorie schools like the Central School and Tibetan Homes School. It is part of the drive started by the Ex-Mussoorie Association, the alumni of Mussoorie schools, who last year sponsored the winter vacation of 10 school children.

'The children were escorted to Kathmandu, where they were taken to the homes of members of Ex-Mussoorie and had outings and all the treats children the world over desire - ice-cream, trips to the zoo, movies,' Wangdu told 'We hope to continue this mission.'

'Karma' is an apt selection as it is also about journeys. A novitiate from a nunnery in Mustang, a remote mountainous district in northern Nepal that was once part of the ancient Tibetan kingdom, goes to the capital and also travels from unworldliness to knowledge.

Sherpa was inspired to make the film after a Buddhist monk friend told him a real-life incident about how a monastery lent money to a businessman and had difficulty in trying to recover it. In his version, as the senior-most nun lies on her death bed, the nunnery wants to perform a grand prayer ritual to help her reincarnation. So Karma, a nun, is sent to Kathmandu to track down the businessman with links to brothels and other shady deals.

'Karma' is yet to be released in Nepal, where the film industry, known as Kollywood, prefers to make films patterned on Bollywood, India's Hindi film industry, with its song and dance formula.

The film would have a charity screening in the capital Thursday, after which Sherpa is keeping his fingers crossed for an October release.