Nepali Film Industry has lately produced some promising actors, Saugat Malla and Reecha Sharma are two of such. They are two of the most natural actors we have on celluloid. Their names guarantee quality, quality and quality…but again there are the occasional hiccups.
Buy One Get Three Free
Saugat Malla is a revolutionary actor. Anybody who has seen him act will join his ‘Fan Club’ for life.
This is a shout-out to Rishi Lamichhane, Chabi Ojha, Ramesh Budathoki and other commercial filmmakers- Sign up Saugat Malla! He will act in your project. The only ‘bone of contention’ is that the script has to be ‘interesting’- as in ‘interesting to Saugat’s taste’ not to yours and the director should have a clear concept-‘the director should know his job.’ That is how he puts it- loud and clear and ‘to the point’. Make the man happy, and he is yours.
It is however an arduous process to know what makes Saugat Malla happy. Strange for an actor but he detests being looked at. His favorite hobby is to observe people, document their mannerisms in his mind’s slate for future application, but the observer is not to be observed.
“So that doesn’t pose a problem when you are on stage?” I ask.
“There I am a character. I am not Saugat Malla.” Strike!!
Soon there will arise a new start line- ‘Once upon a time, Gurukul used to be at Baneshwor’ because after a month, Gurukul will have a new postal address. “We all have to leave from there. The tussle has come to an end.” There had been much newspaper reporting on the issue and eventually Gurukul had to throw in the towel. “So you had been staying there all this time even when you started working in films?” I ask. “I don’t take salary, I work for free. It is easy at Gurukul and they also wanted me there. It is not very distracting staying there.” Saugat is someone who abhors distraction. He cannot concentrate on too many things at one time. Ask him to go get you tomatoes, he will get you the best tomatoes that are available in the market, but ask him to also get some bananas, onions, spinach and meat, man you messed up with your shopping list.
That brings us to the money issue. “I received 40,000 for my first major cinema- Kagbeni. There is never a fixed rate. One difficulty I face is that only the new comers come to me and they are not in the position to offer you six figure amounts. Most of the interesting and challenging scripts I get are by new directors. Subarna Thapa is like a brother, Deepak Rauniyar is a very good friend, Nischal Basnet is again a brother and there are those who come up with brilliant concepts. And I feel that these movies need to be made and so the most important thought is the making of the movie and money becomes secondary. I received the highest amount for my role in Ke Yo Maya Ho. I haven’t yet received full payment for ‘Dasdhunga’. But let’s not treat it as a solitary case. There are many cases where the actor receives zilch for his/her hard work and time. And most often, we get paid in installments.”
It is not a justification but he says that he did Ke Yo Maya Ho since he didn’t have any other project at hand, and that he was idle at the moment. “When I signed that movie, I knew that my theatre audience wouldn’t like it but I did it to win over new audiences. My agenda was that even if viewers go to the halls to see Aryan Sigdel, they would also see me. The audience needs to see you regularly. Any actor in Nepal cannot afford to be lost from the audiences’ sight for a long time. I had to be seen. And I was doing this kind of movie and character for the first time. And it was my first pure commercial movie. I was convinced that the movie would do great.”
The trailer of Loot has garnered many accolades. It sure will pull cinema goers. “When Nischal approached me, he had this concept for a short movie and the idea got expanded and ultimately a movie was made. We completed Loot in 35 days. It was shot in Bhaktapur and around. The character’s name is Haku Kale. The movie has the potential of being commercially lucrative and also will be appreciated by those in the art scene thing as well. The character’s name was earlier Kale and later I changed it to Haku Kale. I also changed it to a Newari character. I thought that a Newari character would do justice to the character portrayal and also my director gave his ‘nod of approval’.”
So far, he hasn’t regretted signing any project. Ke Yo Maya Ho could have been one but it helped him survive for some time till he signed another movie and it gave him the freedom to say NO to one or two projects in-between.
Soon he will be working for Kaalbela by Deepak Rauniyar. Then there is another movie which will start in 2-3 months- no name has been finalized yet. “In Highway, I am playing the role of a struggling actor. In Snow flower, I am giving life to the role of a soldier and in Loot that of a thug.”
When you are one of them, you can easily assimilate in the crowd. You are free like a bird but when the same bird attains special attributes, it is caged and sent to the zoo for everyone to look at the sparkling and attractive specimen. It is constantly watched upon since it is precious. “I have started thinking over my get-up, dressing sense. I need to be careful. It is what is demanded of me.” He doesn’t have a personal transportation. He takes public transportation, taxi and lifts on his friends’ bike. “My family has strictly forbidden me from riding any kind of vehicle till I reach 35, so I never thought of actually learning to ride and buying one of my own.”
The other thing you need to learn about Saugat is that he is not a ‘technologically equipped person’. He doesn’t text. “It takes a lot of time to write a message and I don’t have much patience. I find it difficult to strike a conversation. I also don’t have a facebook account. There is one in my name but I don’t use it and it wasn’t I who opened it.”
For his dedication to acting, Saugat had to renounce his interest over reading. “I can’t read when I’m working.” Refer to the concentration part mentioned earlier. “After a project is through, another script is read out and I start working on it. Also, I don’t read like earlier. The last book I read was on Prachanda to prepare for Deepak Rauniyar’s movie.”
He is not a ‘friendly person’- he and the other kind are not remotely related. “And nobody could have patience to be with someone like me” he adds. “I was close with Sushma while doing Ke Yo Maya Ho, and with Richa Sharma while doing Hamro Team and Loot. But after packing up, I would go my way. That is why I have only four or five friends. Less is good because there won’t be a whole lot of people expecting things of you- your time and your focus.”
A Casting Director
Saugat doesn’t like doing anything other than to act. But he can’t be choosy, so at times, he has to work as a casting director. “I block the ‘actor’ part in me when I am selecting actors. As a casting director, I get to select good actors.” Later he told me that to have Satya Raj Acharya was Prashant’s (the director’s) idea. Director’s and Producer’s interference in the selection of actors is usually there. There is always the pressure to get the actors proposed by the director or producer. Also there are usually two ways in which a casting director works: 1. In which you just cast the actors and audition them. And you are not required in the shoot. 2. You do all the above and also take part in the workshop and are equally involved.
He acted as the casting director for Acharya, and Hamro Team but the talk is there for other projects as well. When asked if he has been accused of ‘casting the Gurukul actors’, he defends “since I know theatre actors and they are good at their job, I take them. But I take actors from all the existing theatre groups.”
Living had earlier run a story on Saugat some two years before. Many things have changed since then but some still remain intact. Like the cut mark on his forehead, his inhibition from drinking, smoking, his discomfiture. He is still not tactful; he still hasn’t taken a course on ‘political correctness’, he still isn’t a crowd pleaser, he doesn’t know how to put on a mask just to get things done his way. He would rather bear the consequences than let go of his true self. Also, he still doesn’t have a girlfriend.
The actor who doesn’t act
She is four films old, but is one of the most sought-after female actors in Nepal. Industry insiders say she can give Rekha Thapa a run for her money. The ease with which Reecha Sharma reacts in front of the camera, has garnered her much appreciation. She is one actor who doesn’t act. Ujeena Rana writes more…
Actors don’t talk about their romantic association, but Reecha is not your regular breed. “Because we belong to the same profession, we understand each other better. We give each other space. “Mero Love Story”, he was signed before me. And for “First Love”, he was also there. He is in Highway (a cameo) but we don’t share any scene. I don’t suppose people offer us roles because of our personal status. I have been friendly with the media and have been open about my relationship and I am comfortable talking about my relationship with Vinay. When I have an audition, I rehearse with him. He has been very supportive. And my family feels secure that he is there. We haven’t thought of marriage as of now. We are doing well, we are happy; so we are living in the moment.”
When you have a handsome actor for a boyfriend working in the same field, there are bound to be talks and speculation. Sure, the interview wasn’t about Reecha’s love life so we moved on to other subjects.
Google doesn’t say much but Reecha started off as a VJ. Her first stint was for a show called ‘Superstar’. Then she joined Image Channel officially and hosted ‘Music of your Choice’; then she appeared in Houseful and Café Kantipur. Many people don’t know this, but she participated in the Miss Nepal 2007 contest . She joined Image Channel immediately after the beauty pageant. Then she went to Germany for studies but couldn’t stay there, so came back. “My mother was disappointed so I wanted to do something I could be proud of. Then ‘First Love’ happened followed by ‘Mero Love Story’, ‘Hamro Team’, ‘Highway’, ‘Loot’ and now ‘Visa Girl’- under her home production.
Home is a term that encapsulates a lot of emotions for her. Her father was an Indian from Dedhara Dun, but after he got married to Reecha’s mother, they started living in Dhangadi, Kailali. He then received a Nepali citizenship. She came to Kathmandu and got admitted in LA, in grade 6. “Now I am a Kathmanduite.”
“I like to call myself an urban audience and I like playing such roles. In ‘First Love’ I played the role of a girl who gets raped by her boyfriend, is an HIV patient. Hamro Team had me play a football coach. In Mero Love Story, I play the role of a single mother.”
Sure, she had done a host of movies but she got noticed only after Hamro Team. “It was a breakthrough in a TV series in Nepal. There were people who would shout ‘coach’ as I passed and it felt good.” She got rave reviews for her natural approach to acting. “I am not an alumnus from any acting school but I did one workshop with Nasurridin Shah on ‘Reality in acting’ and I think that actually helped me polish my skills. In Nepal, you are supposed to make everything very loud, you are expected to ACT.”
Audiences will get to witness her acting skills in Loot, Highway and Visa Girl next. “I have three scenes and a song in Loot. I play the role of a gangster’s girlfriend. Because of me, the gangster played by Sushil Pandey, a debutante, plans to loot. Besides me, there is Shrijana Subba, who plays wife to Saugat Malla. We two are the only women in the testosterone filled movie. Whereas in Highway, it is the role of a bar dancer and prostitute. The character is called Kabita. She is in love with this driver and is a divorcee. She is the mother of a 6-year-old daughter.”
With Visa Girl, she has turned into a producer. She is co-producing it with Vinay Shrestha. She tells me that the two of them had to knock many doors before CG Entertainment finally agreed to act as Financer. “I always wanted to make movies which I would watch as a viewer. I am a Bollywood buff. I go watch performances, styling and to see if I can take anything from there. We had read the script for Visa Girl some two years before. We went to corporate houses to finance the movie; to invest in Nepali films. And finally CG Entertainment approved it.”
“Now that I am into production, people think that I wouldn’t do their movies. The script has to convince me as an audience and only then will I sign it. First comes the script and then my character and how does my character serve in the movie, and also the director matters. I have also given an audition for a cross-over movie- an American film shot in Nepal. Someone also wanted me for a Bhojpuri movie- maybe because of the look but it is too soon for me.”
The conversation now leads to the classic question, “Can two people vying for the same movie, same role, same kind of fame and money be friends?” “I don’t think you can actually make friends in this industry. But I am friends with Nisha Adhikari. We play critic for each other’s movies. The same is with Vinay and me.” She says she is living her dream- playing various challenging parts and working with people she appreciates and loves.
What was the last Nepali movie that you watched? When asked this question, I felt a pang of guilt. It has been very, very long. I realized that for a self-proclaimed patriot, I have not been supporting the local film industry at all. Instead,