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First onscreen kiss leaves Nepal unruffled

Traditional Nepal received its first onscreen kiss serenely, providing quite a contrast to southern neighbour India where kisses - on screen and off it - have ignited public frenzy and lawsuits.

entertainment Updated: Jan 22, 2008 18:32 IST

Traditional Nepal received its first onscreen kiss serenely, providing quite a contrast to southern neighbour India where kisses - on screen and off it - have ignited public frenzy and lawsuits.

Kagbeni, a Nepali adaptation of WW Jacob's 20th century supernatural classic The Monkey's Paw, that released in Kathmandu, Biratnagar and Pokhara city this month, has been receiving rave reviews with foreigners and the Nepali elite flocking to theatres.

Shot in Kagbeni village in mountainous Mustang district in north Nepal, the story revolves around a young apple cider maker and his wife who ask for gifts of an ancient monkey's paw with dark powers and get a travesty of what they had desired.

Theatre actor Saugat Malla and Kathak dancer Deeya Maskey play the couple Ramesh and Tara who celebrate the arrival of a machine from the city that would boost their business by making love.

There is a brief but passionate scene where the two debutant actors lock lips and the kiss is used for the film's promos as well.

Bhushan Dahal, CEO of Nepal's biggest private TV station Kantipur, who also makes his directorial debut with "Kagbeni", says he was surprised by the public reaction to the kiss and love-making.

"A lot of people talked about it when the promos were shown," the 42-year-old told IANS. "But after the film was released, people hardly mentioned it."

Dahal, who also hosts a chat show and is being courted as a celebrity model, feels the kiss was accepted because there was nothing "illegal" about it.

"Nepal is conservative but not to the extent of going to court," he said.

"In the cities, people watch a lot of Hindi and English films. In the villages, a lot of Nepalis go abroad for work. They are all aware of that particular intimate moment and know it happens between a man and his wife," Dahal said.

Maskey, who comes from a very conservative family, said she hadn't known she would have to actually kiss someone when she auditioned for her role.

"The director convinced us about the scene," she said. "It's also a matter of trust, the credibility of the banner you are working under."

When Malla kissed her, she said she retained her sense that it was simply acting, like her other gestures.

"I was a little nervous," she said. "But there were people in front of us, behind us. That helped."

The 26-year-old, who faced a lot of opposition from her family when she decided to dance in music videos, had kept her fingers crossed about their reaction.

"I was tense when the promos were aired," she said. "But when the film was released, the scene merged with the plot and there was nothing over the top about it.

"My elder brother was the first to congratulate me. Thanks to Kagbeni, my family has now accepted my new career," Maskey said.

In India, actress Shilpa Shetty was taken to court just because she was kissed by Hollywood star Richard Gere at a public programme to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

Perhaps it speaks volumes of Nepal's serenity that after the hullabaloo, Gere chose to slip into Nepal for some peace and no one raised an eyebrow.