Tenzin (Tsering Tashi Gyalthang), a frustrated modern Nepali music student is plagued by waking dreams of his dead sister and on the advice of his credulous friend Jachung (Tulku Kungzang) seeks the advice of an itinerant monk (Ngawang Tenzin). The monk — an odd character in traditional garb but wearing mirrored sunglasses and sporting bright read headphones — tells Tenzin that he has seven days to live, and that he must seek out a Dakini. A dakini is a sort of female spirit, often appearing as a beautiful woman, though sometimes with fangs. And a moustache. And maybe a third eye. Tenzin must take something from the dakini to save his life.
Tenzin at first refuses to believe this advice, but as his visions get stronger and more disruptive he begins the search for a dakini, seeking the advice of a man called Master of the Left Hand Lineage (Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche). Under the older man’s tutelage, Tenzin learns tricks to discover a dakini and gain her help.
The dakini is variously described as a beautiful woman, a goddess, a wind, the flow of elements, and something demonic and capricious. Tenzin starts to consider every woman he sees as a potential dakini. His visions begin to paint these women in strange, inhuman beauty.
Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache takes place in Kathmandu, a city of dilapidated beauty and a chaotic cultural mix. Tenzin is a modern man, seeking to open a coffee shop with investors specifically aiming for the trade of tourists. The types the Master of the Left Hand Lineage scoffs at, calling them “yellow-haired people.” In many ways, Tenzin embodies the city: striving for modernity while still standing ankle deep in ancient tradition. Living with science and eschewing superstition, but still moved by old stories of curses and demons. This tension is often plaid for laughs at one moment, but played completely straight the next, when Tenzin is alone, plagued by worry and visions. Science doesn’t explain his visions when he seeks a specialist. But this monk and the Master offer answers, even if they seem ridiculous.
It is also a story of a solitary man seeking love, with a layer of spiritual metaphor. Perhaps a bit Jacob’s Ladder tinted with the muse-obsession of Xanadu. Are these visions real, metaphoric or a symptom of some illness? Are these oddball spiritual advisors really offering honest help or are they charlatans playing a long-con for his money?
The advice for finding a dakini is mostly benign: be bold. Sing in public. Talk to strange women. It could be advice for anyone seeking companionship. Perhaps the real dakini is the friends we made along the way.
7 out of 10 Left Shoes