2-8 January 2015 #739

Back to Everest in 2015

A blaze of publicity for the Himalaya in 2015 is expected to give a boost to Nepal’s trekking tourism

ALPINE SHOOT: Capt Vijay Lama (left) who acts as a rescue pilot in the forthcoming Hollywood movie Everest on location in the Italian Alps in early 2014 with a helicopter painted in Nepal Army colours.
Two Hollywood movies about tragic mountaineering expeditions 60 years apart are to be released in 2015, with a blaze of publicity for the Himalaya that is expected to give a boost to Nepal’s trekking tourism.

The first is Everest directed by Baltasar Kormákur who made The Deep and Contraband, and stars Jake GyllenhaalJason ClarkeJohn Hawkes and Josh Brolin. The film is based on the traffic jam on the summit ridge of Mt Everest in 1996 during a storm in which eight climbers died, a story told in Jon Krakauer’s best-selling Into Thin Air.

The story revolves around Beck Weathers, an American climber who miraculously survived two nights above 8,000m and was rescued with a Taiwanese climber, by Nepali Army rescue pilot, Col Madan KC from Camp II. The risky rescue was the highest-ever helicopter landing in history at the time. Col KC’s role is played by Nepali actor and airline pilot, Capt Vijay Lama.

The second movie was also confusingly called 'Everest' and depicts the story of British climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine who disappeared in 1922 trying to be the first to climb Mt Everest. Mallory’s body was found 70 years later on the North Face of the mountain. The movie is based on a novel by Jeffrey Archey called Paths of Glory which says the two reached the summit.

For Vijay Lama, who has acted in numerous Nepali films over the last three decades, 2014 was an exciting year in which he got to experience how Hollywood movies are made. He was on location in the Italian Alps in early 2014 where some of the scenes of the helicopter rescue on Mt Everest were shot. Later, he went to Pinewood Studios to shoot some of the other scenes in a flight simulator.

“I got to be treated like a star with other members of the cast, including Josh Brolin, Martin Henderson, John Hawkes,” Lama recalled, “ever since my first Nepali film I had always dreamt of acting in a Hollywood movie. I am living proof that dreams are not impossible if you believe in it and pursue it honestly.”

Being a pilot made the role easier for Lama, who insisted on speaking in Nepali with his co-pilot with English subtitles.

Lama says he was also impressed with the logistics and preparation that goes into an international film shoot. “The crew and the cast of Everest is so huge that it took many people who were assigned specific tasks to work together,” he recalls, “one little mistake would mean huge losses. It was a team game, team spirit, team effort and most of all team discipline – something we in Nepal can learn from.”

Working in the mountains of Val Senales in Italy was not easy for the crew and cast, there were blizzards, wind and unexpected delays. In comparison, it was easier shooting at Pinewood where the summit of Everest, the Hillary Step, helicopter simulators were all recreated in the studio. Says Lama: “Working with these international units have humbled me and have given me more reason to work harder in the coming days and learn to be more professional in the subjects I am involved in.”

Lama has been featured in a Channel 4 documentary on extreme airports, where he is filmed landing in Lukla and Talcha, as well as the 2011 Discovery Channel documentary on the world’s most dangerous airports. This year, he has also been busy with Nepali films, including playing the lead role in Sudarshan Thapa’s Ajhai Pani, and was acting in Punarjanam when his brother-in-law and director Alok Nembang died tragically. He is also acting with Saugat Malla and Priyanaka Karki in Sadanga.

Lama will have to leave in January for Bombay to shoot some more scenes for Everest and then for simulator training in Toulpouse for the new Airbus 320 that Nepal Airlines is acuqiring.

He says: “Looks like 2015 will be even more hectic than 2014."

Kunda Dixit

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Heroes on Everest, Kunda Dixit

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