Unlike Manisha, other Nepali actors fail to crack Bollywood

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Monday, December 20, 2010

KATHMANDU - As Manisha Koirala, who was Bollywood’s reigning star in the 1990s, plans to spend more time in her home country, others from Nepal are finding it tough to break into the Hindi film industry in India.

“It is difficult,” says Mohan Saraf, a former Nepali film producer, and owner of Bishwajyoti, one of the oldest theatres in Kathmandu. Saraf’s family had close links with Hindi film icon Raj Kapoor.

“First, there’s the matter of looks. Nepali looks may not always appeal to the Indian filmgoer. Then there’s the question of talent. And finally, even if you have both, there’s the decisive thing called getting a break.”

Fired by Manisha’s success, Nepali actors and celebrities have been trying to carve a niche in Bollywood but with little success so far.

Manisha says she was lucky to get good directors.

“I can’t speak for others,” the 40-year-old veteran actor told IANS. “I can speak only for myself. I always sought to excel at what I did and I also got to work with the best directors, like Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.”

Manisha, who got married this year to a businessman, wants to be with her family and concentrate on directing her own films.

Six years ago, Nepal’s expectations arose when Bollywood director Rajat Mukherjee’s comic-thriller “Love in Nepal”, starring Sonu Nigam as hero, released with former Miss Nepal Jharana Bajracharya in it.

But despite her talent and undoubted sex appeal, Jharana’s role was little more than that of an “item dancer” and the physical exposure in a song and dance sequence generated more negative publicity in Nepal than appreciation. Nor did it help her catch the eye of more directors in India.

In 2009, another Miss Nepal, Malavika Subba, was cast in Indian director Sanjay Srinivas’ film, “God Lives In The Himalayas”.

Though Malavika had a meaty role, little more has been heard about the film so far and Bollywood is yet to discover the celeb master of ceremonies and talk show hostess.

Though Saraf feels Darjeeling girl Neeruta Singh, former leading lady of the Nepali film industry, has the looks that could captivate Indian audiences, she was unable to make the right connections.

When the doe-eyed beauty left Nepal for Mumbai last year, there was speculation that she was trying to break into Bollywood. However, Neeruta says she is camping in India’s tinsel town to do a course in interior decoration.

Now two more Nepali actresses are camping in Bollywood, with the avowed intention of trying to get a toehold.

Among them is Usha Poudel, an upcoming Nepali heroine who was last year chosen by Bollywood actor Rohit Roy.

Roy, who debuted in 1990 with teen romance “Aashiqui”, came to Nepal to announce that his One Stop Shop company would make a Nepali film and Usha was chosen to play his love interest.

Though shooting was to start this summer, there has been no further news about Usha’s career.

A second Nepali actor, Sanchita Luitel, is also seeking to enter Bollywood or the regional film industries in India. However, Sanchita carries some heavy baggage with her.

She is said to be accompanied by her new beau, Nepali action hero Nikhil Upreti, and the Nepali film industry has been speaking reprovingly of the alliance, especially as Nikhil is married and has a child in Nepal.

Nepali daily Nagarik offers another explanation for the failure of the new aspirants to make a mark. Their ages did not support their ambition, it said.

“Neeruta is in her mid-30s, Sanchita and Usha are in their 30s while film city Mumbai is flooded with aspirants who are 19 or 20,” the daily said. “In some (Indian) serials, even women who are 19-20 are playing the roles of characters in their mid-40s.”

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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