Actor and musician Robin Tamang belongs to the class of men who make heads turn whenever they enter a room. People talk of him; some excitedly behind their back and some unabashedly in loud whispers.
Labisha Uprety finds out what its like to be on the other side
June 12. We are at the star-studded premiere of Mukhauta, heavily tagged ‘the most awaited movie of the year’. Gowns glitter in the hallway as suits flash in the camera-lights. Everyone is waiting for the stars of the movie. With half an hour to go for the premiere, Tamang finally enters with actor-turned-director Arpan Thapa. Robin appears in his iron grey suit and his trademark reflective shades; a wave here, a strong smile there and his tall frame makes way through the crowd easily. He doesn’t look nervous or too eager. “Excitement is when I play with my 4-year -old; everything else is just work,” he later tells me.
The movie begins to resounding cheers which is amplified as Thapa begins the movie by slamming a thug onto the floor. It goes on into a few flashbacks, introducing the lead characters and their stories. Five minutes into the movie and Tamang’s face erupts on screen to deafening cheers. Kohl lined, hard-mouthed and dressed in black with a cigarette butt dangling from his fingers, he looks every bit the drug lord he is impersonating. Some at the front try and get up to look at Tamang in person as he talks on screen; his eyes are well hidden from emotion but his lips curl into an embarrassed grin.
Although just two movies old, Tamang is already on his way to graduating to the big league, someone whom audiences get excited about seeing on screen; mostly because of his lengthy career as the frontman of Robin n Looza, later named Robin & the New Revolution.
“Chaddke happened when a friend talked me into it,” Robin reveals. His first movie had him playing a whimsical drug lord, a demi-guardian to a band of goons who carry out acts of violence. “The story seemed interesting enough and I thought, ‘Why not?’ Acting is like walking up on stage every day. In a way, we’re all acting every day anyway,” he says as he reclines back into his uncomfortable chair on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Robin Tamang was born into a British Army family which gave him endless opportunities for travel at a young age. This spanned from Hong Kong to Brunei to the UK. He recalls having an incredible number of diverse friends every day at home thanks to his siblings. He talks of home as one would of a long lost treasure, emitting a warmth of sorts. As he reminisces in the glory of absent friends and family, you can almost see a tiny Robin and friends goofing around in the corner as he lets off an easy laugh at every other sentence.
As he fiddles with his keys, he recalls how he had never thought of having a musical career and how having a houseful of brothers and sisters all strumming the guitar or humming endless tunes eventually led him to picking one up, more like taking up an instrument rather than anything else. He eventually finished his Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto but left his job after six months.
“I was 25. I couldn’t see why I was doing what I was doing,” he describes an early midlife crisis. “I was making good money though,” he laughs heartily, as he does often, open and loud, sometimes just to make the other person more at ease. This was when he decided to go into music but where people end up first doing music and then settling into business, he began with opening clubs first where he jammed to going on to become a full time musician.
Unexpectedly, talking to Tamang is easy even when things turn a little dark as he talks of things that have most defined him today, which include death at the top of the list. He has had the misfortune of having to bid goodbye to quite a few of his family members beginning at an early age, which cemented in him the idea that death is irreversible. He still doesn’t stall the flow of conversation in any which way and launches into stories and anecdotes every time I pose him a question. He is one of those guys, who even for the shortest elevator time can make you feel like they really want to know you more.
Was this the same man who has his name continually dragged into mud every now and then?
Adjusting the frames he swiftly picks up the topic himself, talking about how he always gets to read that he had been drunk-driving when he had been home sober. His family doesn’t seem to be too incensed with all the false publicity. “They’ve kinda gotten used to the whole thing though my younger one still doesn’t know what I do for a living. She just thinks being on TV is normal dad stuff!”
It has been more than an hour that we have sat closeted in a stifling room for the interview and Robin jokes that soon there is not going to be enough space on my notebook for any more writing. He now talks more of his daughters, of whom one can see, he is incredibly fond of. Soon, he dives into the challenges of raising girls and being a hands-on father and I am reminded irresistibly of Dwayne, the Rock Johnson raising children. He also talks of his wife, Helen, and how they had met at a concert and began dating and took road trips together. Helen had graduated from the Paris School of Arts but he confesses that she did not get much time to practice her craft much these years due to the girls, as he is away from home a lot for tours, plans of which are going on as we speak, for the Middle East, as his 7th studio album is in the offing.
As we begin to leave and we make small talk about his new album, we laugh out loud when he relates to an event during a concert when someone jumped on stage and grabbed his collar to demand a free CD, I feel like he would be incredibly easy to write about. He belongs to the class of men who turn heads when they enter the room; people talk of him; some excitedly behind back and some unabashedly in loud whispers. He’s one of those people who look like they’re living life rather than just going through it. He is among those terribly few musicians in Nepal who have managed to entrance not just one but two generations of music lovers and by the looks of it, a third generation to be nodding heads to his music is on its way.
“Come on now, how many musicians here can have that to say, eh?’ he laughs with a hint of pride, the keys to his Royal Enfield in hand and dwarfing the entrance. I couldn’t agree more.