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Editorial: Questioning art

Editorial: Questioning art

We believe the music video of Prakash Saput’s new song ‘Pir’—as well as the debate around it—reflects growing maturity of Nepali society. The video focuses on a former Maoist couple and their little daughter who are pushed into poverty post-rebellion. While many of the rebel leaders reaped political rewards after the start of the peace process, most of the rank and file were left to fend for themselves. Troubled by her family’s penury, the wife pictured in the video decides to head abroad in search of work. There, she realizes that manpower agents have duped her. 

The desolate husband wants to get his beleaguered wife back into the country. But his repeated pleas to high-ranking government officials—including a former Maoist leader who is now a minister—fall on deaf ears. In a scene, the lonely husband is shown visiting a prostitute, only to discover that she too was a former Maoist fighter. The depiction of a former Maoist fighter as a prostitute has riled many ex-Maoists. But Baburam Bhattarai, the brain behind the rebellion, has praised the song that speaks of the urgent need to finish an ‘incomplete revolution’.

A democratic society should allow artists to push the boundaries of freedom and the bar for restricting such freedom must be high. Even before this, there have been important debates around such boundary-pushing music videos: one questioning the tradition of women fasting for the longevity of their husbands, the other lampooning ‘looting’ political leaders. They were controversial too but generated some much-needed debate for the same reason.

The ‘Pir’ music video also speaks of the need to repeatedly question history. Few other topics are as divisive in Nepal as the ‘people’s war’ that claimed 17,000 lives. Only by continuing to question its relevance and achievements will the country learn the right lessons and avoid a similar catastrophe. Artists with mass appeal are perfectly placed to raise these vital issues. And it is only right that they do so. Why should our music videos be only about cotton-candy love?