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An exclusive interview with Sonam R. Kuenfel

Tenzin Lhaden

Sonam R. Kuenfel is an actor, script writer and film director. He has been working in the film industry for a decade; he spent 7 years taking minor roles in films before he got the break for a protagonist role in the film. He shares his insightful experience in the industry and its contribution as an instrumental impetus in promoting and preserving culture, and the challenges faced by the industry due to the sizable market.

Q. How did you start your journey in the film industry?
A. I was enthused about film since my childhood, but initially started working in 2013. It took 7 years for me to get a legitimate and serious role in the entertainment world. We have easy access to the films making today compared with then, at that time. People make Tik Tok and can easily grandstand their talents. In my case, after 7 years only, I got an amazing chance to join the industry. In 2017, I got a debut role in โ€œNge Tshawi Lamaโ€ where Talop Wangchuk, film director offered me an opportunity, and I am thankful to him.

Q. If it wasnโ€™t an actor, what you could possibly have become?
A. I have always wanted to be an actor. After my studies, as opposed to zeroing-in on what I love, I have to take-up another work to get by. So, I worked at Damchen Agent in Punakha as a transport agent. Even when I was working, I used to think if this is really giving me happiness. At that time, I met a guy who asked me if I am interested in films and that he was will to offer a chance. Then I left my work and came to Thimphu just to get scammed. But I feel that it actually worked in guise since, I could begin exploring as an actor in the field that I am interested in.

Q. You even received an award for best screenplay. What was that story about?
A. I have written 6 stories till date, among which, the initial one is โ€œYala Ma Ngaโ€. Secondly, โ€œWind of Karmaโ€ and I got the honor from this film. It is a tale about the sum of a personโ€™s actions in this and previous states of existence, which become a deciding fate in future existences.

Q. What are the transformations you have seen in the Bhutanese Film Industry?
A. Storytelling has improved without any doubt. The improvements and changes are gradually seen however, the improvement isnโ€™t substantial. To be colossal, we need people to watch our films. People watch movies and say Bhutanese filmmakers canโ€™t make films like Bollywood (Indian Films) and that there are no capable makers in the country. In any case, it is totally off-base. The makers here are talented. They have the capacity. Likewise, the films that we produce can possibly be on international platforms too. For now, the improvement isnโ€™t significant owing to lack of finance. To get the greater platform, finance is important. So to bring enormous change it is truly intense-financially.

Q. Is the change any indication for a bright future to our filmmakers and artists?
A. Indeed! His Highness has forever been the greatest ally of our entertainment world. Very much like that, a help from the government is additionally important. There are a lot of youths keen in movie industry. So, as far as they might be concerned, if the government could assist with developing cinemas in all the dzongkhags, it will be an extraordinary assistance for the people who depends their livelihood in this field. It will set out to open doors too.

Q. How do you think Bhutanese films reflect the countryโ€™s rich heritage and values?
A. In films we wear dresses as per the roles and follow the way of life that the society has been following. Thus, to keep the way of life alive, movies are significant as it reflects the countryโ€™s rich heritage and values.

โ€œI would like to impart my experience to all. Bhutanese intrigued by Bhutanese film making is great. However, when you get the stage, we should never forget that we are a Bhutanese.โ€

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