When Tulsi Ghimire gave up his Bollywood dreams 25 years ago, it wasn’t for nothing. The young boy from Kalimpong — he had already made it as an editor in Mumbai with films such as Shradhanjali (1982), Nai Dishayein (1985), Hukumat (1989) and Bandhan Kuchche Dhagon Ki (1989) — chucked it all to make it big in the Nepali film industry.
And the confidence paid off. What started as a desire to fulfill a promise made to his guru — making ten films in Nepali, his mother tongue — has today resulted in making him one of the most revered directors in the Nepali film industry. “It’s a decision I have never regretted,” the 58-year-old says.
While Ghimire went to Nepal in 1985, the Indian connection with Nepali films began way back in 1951 with the first Nepali film Satya Harishchandra, produced by Kolkata-based DB Pariyar. Indo-Nepal ties were further strengthened with Maitighar, the first Nepali film to be produced by a private banner in 1966. The film had Mala Sinha in the lead role, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Nath in guest appearances, Jaidev as the music director and the Mangeshkar sisters Lata, Asha, Usha as playback singers.
Though Ghimire shot his first film Dakshina (1994) in Kalimpong, he decided to stay back in Nepal. Today, he has 20 immensely successful films and five TV serials under his belt. Besides being the director, he also doubles as the editor, writer, screenplay and dialogue writer and lyricist. Ghimire is also the man behind Jagwal, the first Garhwali film, and several Bhojpuri, Punjabi and Haryanvi films.
The Indian connection carried on with Basuri (1983), his seventh Nepali film that was made with a budget of
Rs 4.75 lakh provided by a Bengali builder. Ghimire followed it up with Kusumey Rumaal two years later. It was singer Udit Narayan’s first appearance in a lead role and the first Nepali film to become a silver jubilee hit.
“I feel it’s my responsibility to take the Nepali film industry to the international level and create a platform for good directors. Sometimes, I do miss my old friends Anil Kapoor, Anil Sharma and N. Chandra,” says Ghimire, who is busy these days with Swarga ki Pari, the first Nepali film for kids and Durga Mall, a biopic on the first Gorkha soldier who joined the Indian National Army and was sent to the gallows in 1944 by the British.
There are many other Indians who charted a similar course in Kathmandu. Niruta Singh from Darjeeling has acted in nearly 90 Nepali films as a leading lady, did the playback for two films and three music albums and also dabbled in art direction and production.
“I started with Dakshina when I was only 16. After that I got so many offers that my parents reluctantly allowed me to move to Nepal in 1998 to pursue my dreams,” says Singh. The desire to go to Mumbai and try her luck in Hindi films was always present, but with the Nepali film industry booming in the past decade, Singh got busy with work in ‘Kaliwood’ (as the local film industry is also called). Ever since, Singh says she hasn’t regretted the decision either.
Ghimire’s brother Shrawan who came to Nepal in 1988, after spending a decade in Bombay, is an actor and has co-produced 10 highly successful Nepali films. Today, he is also one of the leading film distributors of the Nepali film industry, where at least 25-30 films are released each year.
Former Indian Idol winner and Darjeeling boy Prashant Tamang, who was working in the Kolkata Police before his surprise victory in the reality show is another ‘crossover’ making waves in Nepal.
With successful Nepali music albums like Dhanyabad and Namaste to his credit, the 26-year-old is all set to make his debut as an actor with the lead role in Gurkha Paltan.
And with former Bigg Boss winner Rahul Roy announcing his foray into Nepali films with an “entertaining love story” that will start rolling in April, the Indian connection with Kaliwood films is all set to become stronger.