Biopic makes world`s shortest man walk tall

Kathmandu: Khagendra Thapa Magar, the 19-year-old who is the shortest man in Nepal, and indeed in the whole world, is walking tall after having his biopic made.

Magar, from western Baglung district, now has his life, times and achievements chronicled for posterity courtesy "The shadow of Mt. Everest", an hour-long film made by maverick Nepali documentary maker Shekhar Khanal.

The teenager became famous as "Nepal`s Little Buddha" after being recognised last year by Guinness World Records as the smallest man in the world at 2ft2.41".

The biopic on him covers the long trek from remote Dhullubaskot village, where Khagendra was born into a peasant family, to the international limelight he has been basking in after the campaign to get recognised by the Guinness started nearly three years ago.

Khanal says it took him three years to make the biopic that also focusses on the dogged campaign by the Khagendra Thapa Magar Foundation to project Khagendra`s claim after politicians and celebrities made promises galore to help him but forgot all about him the moment the photo shoots with the teen ended.

"Khagendra met all the top political leaders, from Prachanda to the then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal," says Khanal, who has also made a feature film where most of the characters are Nepal`s "little people".

"Khagendra danced with (Nepali actress) Rekha Thapa and the kiss she gave him became one of the hottest showbiz images. Yet none of them actually helped Khagendra win the title, for which the Foundation gets all the credit."

The documentary tails Khagendra to Rome where he managed to get global limelight. A documentary featured him with his rival, Chinese He Ping Ping.

The Chinese died from heart failure in March 2010, leaving Khagendra and his family sad. They said there was no feeling of rivalry as Khagendra was shorter than him and would have had the title bestowed on him as soon as he turned 18 last year.

The Italy trip also has Khagendra posing with Jyoti Amge, the 17-year-old from Nagpur who has been recognised as the shortest girl in the world at 23.5 inches.

Khanal`s film ends in Pokhara city, where the Guinness team came last year to hand over the certificate to Khagendra.

As a jubilant Khagendra kisses the memento and waves goodbye to friends, supporters and paparazzi, the film ends.

Now, with the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) having declared Khagendra a goodwill ambassador for its tourism campaign this year to draw one million tourists, the biopic will be shown at NTB road shows abroad, Khanal told IANS.

He also hopes the film will help Khagendra retain his title. There have been media reports that Khagendra will be deposed soon by Junrey Balawing, a 17-year-old Filipino, who is said to be just 1 ft 10 inches. Once Balawing becomes 18, he would be the world`s smallest man, according to reports.

But Khanal and Khagendra`s family dismiss the naysayers.

"This is not the first time that there have been rumours about a smaller teen," Khanal said. "There are frequent reports from China, Cambodia and other places about men shorter than Khagendra. But none have been able to make their claim stick so far.

"Height is not the sole criterion; the challenger has to be healthy as well. Many of the contenders can`t sit up for a long stretch of time and are physically unfit. Khagendra`s reign is going to continue."

Khagendra has also ended up eclipsing the two people considered the tallest men in the Himalayan republic - late Nepali prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist chief Prachanda.

Koirala`s party men sought to make a film on his life, but failed. Nepal`s former Maoist guerrillas, who overthrew the powerful royal family, sought to make a television film series on their chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda but had to shelve the plan due to political upheavals.