Bollywood magnetized young Richa Sharma. She wanted to dance and act, fight and cry but she never could have imagined that being an actress would propagate her into the person she is today. With better understanding of the world and the deeper spiritual connection she finds in films, Sharma has found her place within this world in true, rich colors.
the Film Critics Society of Nepal (FiCSoN) recently elected Richa Sharma as the best actress for her titular role in the 2013 film Uma, directed by Tsering Rhitar Sherpa. Standing out against the critical pens of some of the best film critics in the industry isn’t merely a vote by default; Richa Sharma is indeed that good.
Her portrayal of a character in a scene is as dynamic as her real life persona; her emphatic advances in acting transcend the regular awkwardness we witness in most other actresses. She stands like a queen to Jungey sometimes, becomes a girl next door while falling in love in First Love, feels like a pitiable destitute when Talakjung is versus Tulkey, fills into the shoes of an exotic dancer in Highway, opens Uma’s chest to riddling bullets, or is just your regular visa girl as it so happens.
“As far as I can remember, I knew Bollywood fascinated me. I could repeat an entire dialogue flawlessly and I could recite an entire jingle once it took hold of me. I don’t know whether I want to step into the lights of Mumbai some day, but during my childhood, I would close my eyes and find myself on the silver screen of a Hindi film on any given day,” says Richa.
Actor John Wayne once said, “Acting is all about reacting.” In Richa Sharma’s case, the idea of reacting holds true as she doesn’t take acting as a mere profession. Sharma started participating in school plays from grade 6 at LA School. While she only did one act plays to a confined, seated audience, it did not hold her back from unveiling her potential at a very young age. She won the ‘best actress’ title for three consecutive years which cemented her ideas of acting in movies at a later stage in life.
Times change, situations change, people don’t. Growing up posed Sharma with the harsh reality of the times, the need to “do something substantial rather than just act” made her appear in nursing exams from Patan Nursing Campus. A few years later, Richa took the failed report card of her nursing exams and joined Ramp Modeling Agency in 2006.
“Maybe being camera shy could have dragged me down,” recalls Sharma. Richa eventually did a photo shoot with Ramp Modeling Agency which landed her a role in Alok Nembang’s music video. “Director Alok Nembang told me that I had expressive eyes. His compliments, however, did not complement the music video I did back then. I acted as a blind girl. But this taught me about acting; I cannot be Richa Sharma when I am into a particular scene. I have to become someone else, I have to become something else,” Sharma reflects.
It has been eight years since Richa Sharma did that music video. In Nepali film and entertainment industry, given the time frame any given actress would have appeared in innumerable videos. Richa did 35 videos, not much according to the prevalent standards. And this isn’t a new discovery. In fact, Sharma is accused of being ‘too choosy’, something that people who know her, feel is her weakness and something that people who don’t know her feel is an ‘attitude problem’. While actresses close to her and those who are already established in the industry too have to struggle to earn their bread-and-butter, Richa Sharma is still rooting for her passion , but is still rigid when it comes to selecting roles.
Richa elaborates, “Eight years into acting and I am still only eight films old. I expect neither sympathy nor angst for it as I am doing so by choice. I understand that before taking a plunge, a person must scrutinize whether it can drown you or safely steer you across. Every time I hold a script in my hand, I doctor it. If I were to remove the proposed character from the script, would it make any difference to the story? If yes, then I close my eyes and take the dive. If the answer comes to a solid no, then I say that it’s not meant for me.”
richa Sharma began her career in 2008 as a model and made her way into television in the subsequent years. Sharma’s brief stint in Kantipur Television’s sitcom Housefull gave her a first-hand experience in acting. The sitcom was a stepping stone to many actors like Nisha Adhikari and Aryan Sigdel. Café Kantipur sharpened her skills and she later worked as a VJ at Image Channel for a year and a half.
Richa Sharma was selected for the lead role in Simosh Sunuwar’s 2010 First Love. Eventually, Richa Sharma became one of the most sought after actresses. First Love was followed by Sudarshan Thapa’s Mero Love Story, Deepak Rauniyar’s highly acclaimed Highway and Bhusan Dahal’s TV project Hamro Team. In 2012, she landed the titular role in Prachanda Man Shrestha’s Visa Girl. The same year, she was seen in Nischal Basnet’s Loot as the only major actress in a pool of then unknown actors. In 2013, she did Tsering Rhitar Sherpa’s Uma. In the days to come, she will be doing Utkal Thapa’s Jungey and Nischal Basnet’s second feature Talakjung versus Tulkey.
A point to be noted here; most of the directors she’s worked with were debutants while they took Richa Sharma as their lead. Sharma says that while that is largely a coincidence, it has also something to do with her choice as well. “Newcomers are passionate. They push their limits and scrutinize their own work. I tend to push myself further with these guys,” she says.
To sharpen her skills as an actress, Richa Sharma took acting classes from January to March 2013 with Jack Walter who has groomed actresses like Natalie Portman.
What’s easy for Richa Sharma then?
“Action,” she answers matter-of-factly, “but everything after the camera turns off is difficult. Life of an actress is rather more difficult compared to anyone else’s. People aren’t open to actresses’ ideas or their inputs. We are treated like props. And fellow actresses don’t make it easy either. The temptation to be seen on the screen still glamorizes some and they end up doing random films,” opines Richa.
Richa hopes to contribute to films as long as her enthusiasm continues. She’s planning to open up an acting school someday and wants to get into production designing in the near future. Both of the dreams, as Sharma puts it are “soon to see the light of day.” She is also planning to step into theater one day. Apart from acting, she is also serving as a brand ambassador and goodwill ambassador to some social campaigns and commercial products. She is also working for Habitat for Humanity Nepal and Hamri Baini anti-plastic campaign.
“Society needs a bit of a clean-up,” she rationalizes her social endeavors, “but the film industry needs a cleaning campaign of its own too. Firstly, the audience needs to give the filmmakers a clean slate. Comparing every film to Bollywood is neither justified, nor is it doing any good. Secondly, the investors need to change their mindset. Saying, ‘there is no budget’ every time but expecting bonuses in leaps-and-bounds is plain wrong. And thirdly, we the actors need to clean up our act too. Originality is deficient within us. We have visionary makers, but we actors are too complacent with our limitations. If the audiences can give us more room, if investors can give us financial backing, and if actors can contribute their time and energy—then the Nepali film industry has the potential to thrive.”
Can the industry see the colors? Those rich colors? Only time can tell.