Numafung (2001). Photo courtesy: IMDB
Numafung (2001). Photo courtesy: IMDB

The Sweet Perfume of Numafung

A feature film from Nepal remains ethnographically sensitive and provides a window to the specificities of the patriarchy that controls rural life in one corner of the country.


Feature film

108 minutes, Nepali, 2001

Directed by Nabin Subba

For a Nepali feature film, Numafung is remarkable in many ways. There is of course the fact that it is set within Limbu culture and community (one of the non-Indo Aryan groups of Nepal), and while the predominant language used in the film is Nepali, Limbu bhasa is interspersed throughout via various characters. There is also the immense relief that that there are no song-and-dance sequences; or a valiant hero rescuing damsels in distress; or melodramatic emotional scenes exemplary of the bad versions of Bollywood which run rampant in 'Kollywood'. But most importantly, the fundamental extraordinariness of this film lies in its amazingly sensitive treatment of women and the lives they live structured by patriarchal norms of society. The film addresses the entire range of issues, from the treatment of daughters, marriage, marital obligations, widowhood and in-law relations, to the struggles, the moral dilemmas, and frustrations of being female. Yet the women in the film are far from mere victims, and are portrayed as strong, determined, full of agency and will, even as patriarchal forces and social structures seek to reign in their independence, ambitions and freedom. Acts of verbal and physical resistance to the societal norms values that attempt to structure their lives are manifest in many of their everyday actions and form an intrinsic part of their day-to-day negotiations.

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Himal Southasian