Nirmal Purja
  • Release Date: 29/11/21
  • Platform : Netflix
  • Cast: Nirmal Purja, Suchi Purja, Galjen Sherpa, Mingma Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi, Gesman Tamang
  • Director: Torquil Jones

“An emotional and thrilling ballad for the indomitable spirit of man”

— Ambar Chatterjee

There are only 14 mountain peaks in the world that are higher than 8000 meters above seas level. Mount Everest is the highest at 8849 meters. Reinhold Messner was the first man to summit all 14 peaks and it took him 16 years to do so. According to Jimmy Chin, a fabled climber, and photographer, it takes about 2 months for a human being to prepare, trek and summit any one of these 8000-meter peaks. For every 3 individuals who summit Mount Annapurna, there is one individual who dies trying. Since Mount Annapurna is one of these 14 peaks, to summit all 14 would mean compounding the foreseeable and unforeseeable difficulties 14 times over and adding to that innumerable other issues ranging from health to logistics that could stand in one’s way of successfully completing such a mission. The biggest of all these challenges would invariably be nature itself that is as unforgiving as it is fierce. 

In 2019, a practically unknown climber from Nepal, Nirmal Purja burst into the limelight when he declared that he would undertake a mission to summit all the 8000-meter peaks in the same year. While the mountaineering world shrugged and laughed at the audacity and insanity of the idea, a rambunctious Nirmal had set his sight on the impossible and he wasn’t afraid to arrogantly name his mission, “Project Possible”. As he began his preparations, he showed off a bulging tummy and then in the very same instance confidently claimed that it would be gone soon. Such was the resolve and confidence of the man.

When asked why he was undertaking such an arduous mission, he answered in his trademark style that he was doing it to draw the attention of the world to the unsung and yet almost superhuman Nepali climbers. He wanted to show the world that they were the best and the toughest in the world and that they were so by a long way. He was also doing it to finally win for Nepal the much deserved and still denied global reverence and respect in the sphere of high altitude climbing. More than anything else, he was doing it to show what a spirited and inspired human being was capable of and so that his exploits could forever be a reminder and beacon for the people of the world to never consider anything daunting or impossible. 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible is Nirmal Purja’s story and it is one that is worthy of celebration and remembrance.

I am in awe of 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible and my reverence for the film is for the different aspects of it that organically synthesized into making the film a cinematic experience of the highest order. The first and most important aspect of the film is its real characters and how they go about living their lives. These characters, even the minor ones are so refreshingly different, flawed, and yet brimming with such energy and life that their infectious charisma and humanity instantaneously rubbed on to me. I wanted to see how their story went. I wanted to be sure that none of them suffered any losses as they put their lives in peril time and again. I wanted to see them come out trumps.    

Nirmal Purja who is the protagonist of the film is the best hero that a film of this nature could ask for. He is the kind of a man that every free-spirited man dreams of being but is seldom capable of. He was trained as a Gurkha warrior in the Nepal Army and then went on to join the British Special Forces. While in the British Special forces he was taken out by an enemy sniper and yet lived to tell the story. He was married at a young age to an exquisitely beautiful and vivacious girl, Suchi who, in the course of their life together made his dreams her own and stood as a pillar of strength by his side. His mother adored him and didn’t leave his side until her son accomplished what he set out to. Even his elder brothers looked up to him.

All these traits of the man are conveyed in the film through brief encounters, interviews, subtle emotional moments, and trackbacks that not only add a lot to the emotional depth of the film but also help us understand and connect with Nirmal at an emotional and humane level. With all this knowledge about the character, when we see Nirmal step out into the snow, the atmosphere becomes unbearably tense even though we know that he will make it out of it alive and victorious.

The summits to the 14 mountain peaks are sensationally captured using footage that the Nirmal and his team must have shot, accounts of people involved in the expedition, and also the experiences of those who have been in similar situations and have a clear idea about how dangerous and crazy each of those summits was. None of the summits feel the same. The challenges in each of the climbs were different and the makers vividly document it all and present it in a manner that gives even the most casual of viewers the exact amount of information and drama that is needed to make the proceedings thrilling and at the same time visually spellbinding. The visual appeal of the film is understandable owing to the kind of material that it deals with but to present it in a manner that feels fresh in every frame was a challenge. The makers excelled in that challenged and made a film that is as beautiful as it is engaging.

Torquil Jones directed this film and I cannot praise enough the amount of effort that he and his team must have had to put in to sieve out and stitch together a cohesive story from the mammoth amount of footage and material that they must have had at their disposal. I was in awe of how cinematic the film felt and how successfully Jones is able to infuse cinematic traits like heroism, drama, action, thrills, comedy, and inspiration through the real actions of the men and women involved in the story. Heroic the actions of these men and women are anyways but they required a specific treatment and depiction to make the necessary impact. I have to admire the eye of the director to have identified the specific moments in this mammoth journey of Nirmal and to have successfully picked them out to tell an emotionally charged and thrilling story.

Nirmal Purja is the closest that a human will ever come to being a superhero and 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible is his origin story. This film shows the genesis of a superhero, his struggle, his challenges, and his ultimate victory over insurmountable odds. But I choose to call this his origin story because the film ends with Nirmal telling us that this is just the beginning and that he will soon be back with a bigger bang than what he has just made and that he will surprise us with his future exploits. Going by how Suchi sees her man, it seems to be the only rationally irrational thing that Nirmal Purja can be expected to do as he doesn’t know how to stop. He doesn’t know how to not challenge himself and he doesn’t know how to turn back. Long live Nirmal! Long live the indomitable spirit of man!

Rating: 5 out of 5.


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