The eponymous Khando of the movie’s title is Ama, or mother, to a school-skipping, fight-picking 10-year-old who never seems to listen to her. Even though the film’s central relationship is between Khando and her son Dhondup, the family friends who are travelling with them also ebb and flow inside the story.
The elder son Lobsang of the other family wrestles with his fate of having to abandon his studies for a lack of money, and has a terse relationship with his father because of this.
Khando, a financially vulnerable single mother is also frustrated with her son as she worries for his future. The elders in the story are concerned for their children’s prospects in the difficult terrain of Mustang as the world closes in. Even though they are conflicted about the idea of the city, its bustle and pollution are a draw.
For young adults like Lobsang the idea of remaining farmers is financially and socially unattractive. Much like most of our young migrants overseas, they can only be nostalgic for a homeland they are already moving away from.
For children like Dhondup , who does not care for much beyond food, entertainment and his long lost father, these larger themes do not interfere in his small adventures, but will eventually decide his fate.
Writer-director Tshering Dhondup is from Upper Mustang, and drew from personal experiences to create this story. He plays himself in some portions of the film and so does his own mother, and his friends have roles too.
The film is made up of little moments, small talk and chance encounters. There are no spectacles here, but much like the colossal mountains that make for the background in this journey, brooding themes of love, loss and identity are quietly visible under the surface. Here at least, the mountains do stand for something. Here is a road movie where the characters are real and the emotional stakes highly resonant.