In 1996 six boys disappeared in the forest above the Tango monastery. The incident triggered country-wide concern and a massive rescue mission.
Twelve days later four boys were found in Punakha with two dead in the forest from fatigue and starvation.
The nightmare the boys lived through is the subject of a new film that has realistically captured the ordeal of being lost in one of the country’s thickest forests.
Shot in real locations, the film traces the travails of the six boys from Begana, Thimphu, on that fateful dry-picnic trip to Dhomendey peak, about six hours walk from Tango monastery, which went horribly wrong.
The film brings vivid images of the boys’ painful struggle to keep themselves alive without food and amid blood-sucking leeches and insects, made worse by the forest’s terrain. Frustrated, starved and beaten the boys trudge on though never really finding a way out of the forests they come to hate and dread. Throughout the journey though, the boys’ hope never subsides even when death hits them.
Written, produced and directed by Karma Tshering of the Jigdrel fame, the true story ‘6 Boys’ is also a breathe of fresh air- it’s 1:45 minutes long with one song and it has no tragic melodrama. The camera movement is fluid and the dialogues short. Careful editing and a good background music to accompany the film’s nuances could have made the film better.
The film benefits from a strong cast in that the main actors are all first timers, and they play their part well. The six actors, aged 11-18, are school-dropouts; two are small time restaurant waiters, another two are street doma sellers, one is a monk and the oldest is an unemployed youngster. The tough task though was making them remember the dialogue.
Director Karma recalled how he was rattled mid-way through a shooting one day when he heard that the boys were planning to dump the film and run away. The boys had complained that their breakfast and lunch was being cut down. The director had wanted the boys to be pale and hungry to look authentic. The director barely managed to coax the angry boys to stay.
Shooting wasn’t easy either. Two rainy months in the forest with heavy equipment was a challenge in itself.
For Director Karma, the film was a dream come true. “It’s a long awaited film for me,” Karma said. “I wanted to show to people what really happened in those 12 days.” He worked five years on the film. The interviews with the surviving four boys and the several difficult months trying to convince their parents about the movie was a test.
It is hard to gauge how the film, which opened yesterday in the Luger theatre, will do, given that it has the enormous job of weaning moviegoers away from the usual bollywood takeoffs complete with songs and tears.
By Kencho Wangdi