Karma (2006)

Film Reviews — By on April 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Isn’t it always the way. You wait for one Buddhist movie to come along and then you get four at once. Okay, maybe it’s a rare occurence but it was the strange situation that I found myself in recently. And I had to start off by considering whether or not I would be able to write fair reviews. I don’t know much about Buddhism but, surely, I do know a bit about movies and these movies should work on that basic level, emphasis on the Buddhist ways or not.

I will, however, place a proviso here. Add a point or two to my rating if you ARE interested in Buddhism and the ways of Buddhists. Detract all five points if you just want something to watch until the next Transformers movie comes along.

Karma is, in a way, a bit of a road movie. Two nuns (played by Tsering Dolkar and Ani Yeshi Lhamo) are sent to collect a debt owed to a deceased abbess. This money will cover everything that is needed to maintain the prayers and rituals that will continue until she is reborn. The two nuns are very different young girls, with one being quite lively and non-traditional while the other doesn’t like to consider things beyond the boundaries of her religious tenets, and as they journey along together they begin to develop in a number of subtle ways.

This movie is nice. It’s a little film that tries hard to just get from beginning to end and tell the story without anything going horribly wrong. It’s hard to hate but equally hard to love, like the performance from the little boy who was dressed up as a giant hamburger at the school play that your child was starring in – present and correct but never going to be memorable, except for all the wrong reasons.

What would be the wrong reasons, in this case? Well, the technical competence of this movie barely rises to average. Audio and visual quality really suffers and there are even moments when the camerawork is truly intrusive and off-putting. There’s also the sad fact that not much happens. I can enjoy a movie with nothing much happening but it has to really have more going for it in other areas than Karma does.

Writer Kesang Tseten doesn’t do too badly, though some of the subtitles being missing didn’t help my enjoyment of the film, and director Tsering Rhitar Sherpa (who also took on a number of other roles while making the movie) at least gets when he has to get onscreen, helped by the performance of Tsering Dolkar in the lead role. Dolkar isn’t a superb actor but she does have a likeability and energy that allows her to just become her character.

The film tries hard to blend standard drama, and a little comedy, with the Buddhist way of life and it deserves credit for making a half-decent job of things. It’s just a shame that everything couldn’t have been tweaked ever so slightly to raise the whole thing from decidedly average to something actually good.

DIRECTOR: TSERING RHITAR SHERPA
WRITER: KESANG TSETEN
STARS: TSERING DOLKAR, ANI YESHI LHAMO, JAMPA KALSANG, MITHILA SHARMA,
RUNTIME: 105 MINUTES APPROX
COUNTRY: NEPAL

Film Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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