Being a celebrity in a movie industry like Nepal’s, is not an easy task. Neither is it worth the time and effort for most, nor does it offer any lucrative incentive. With fame that does not really pay the bills for the lifestyle you embrace; the stardom is artless, somewhat cheap, inelegant and rather short-lived. One reason why the industry sees less “creative” urban yuppies interested in Kollywood (a cheap borrowed version of Bollywood) and a critical mass for an audience, for most here in Kathmandu, it’s not even worth it. Very few take calculated risks and have the courage to bear the brunt of being a star. One is Namrata Shrestha.
And her life is as dramatic as a bad Nepali movie. Or at least the beginning of her career. The month of August 2009 was abuzz with an earful gossip of Namrata’s private sex video, leaked, shocking her newbie fans and supporters of her recently launched career. Few journalists who watched the video callously broke the story in their tabloid, without thinking of any possible unwanted consequences. An actress had committed suicide six years ago over the publishing of her nude photo in one of the weekly tabloids. Many suspected and rumors were afloat that she committed suicide. Most came to the presumptive conclusion that her career was doomed for life, before it even started. Namrata became the talk of the town, but not because of her blossoming career. Her wellwishers were saddened with the whole affair. Her sympathizers stood by her. Most mainstream dailies kept the news out of their priority.
For everyone else, it might have been juicy chatter, but for Namrata, it was her worst nightmare, come true. And the timing could not have been any worse. It happened right after a few days of the release of her second movie “Mero Euta Saathi Chha.” The movie was faring good reviews and people were thronging in to see a somewhat independent movie, which was targeted at Kathmanduites and the urban youth. As she was receiving the waha wahis and syaabash-es from different corners of society, things went spiraling down in her personal life, and that seemed to doom her professional life.
Everyone came up with their own stories, mostly exaggerated or rumored, related to the incident. Some said she died when she went off-the-radar for almost six weeks, while some said she would never again do films.
After almost a year, Namrata says she is “alive,” and “was never gone” and that “life is beautiful.”
Busy shooting Prachanda Man Shrestha’s big-budget debut “Purple Days”, based on a real story, Shrestha shared with Republica, all that she went through during these many months at her restaurant Attic Restro and Bar in Lazimpat.
For someone who was looked upon in the Nepali film industry as a change of guard, whose career was at taking her to make the best of her abilities, that tragic incident took away all that she had worked for in these many years. Formerly a model, a music video actress and a theatre actress, her dreams of making it big in the Nepali movie industry and “changing the way Nepali actresses are viewed” were shattering and her career became that castle of sand by the sea that got swept away by the tide.
“It came to me as a great shock,” she recalled. “Once my private video was out, there were millions of thoughts that went inside my mind ,” Namrata enunciated, remembering those early days after her personal sex tape was released unfortunately. “Definitely, it wasn’t easy to take that lightly. Definitely the road ahead was a tough journey to make”
With the tabloid dailies and weeklies in town printing the footages and publishing the news about her (not to forget blogs with thousands of comment posts), she had millions of thoughts coming to her now and then, leaving her indecisive to do anything. She had thought of calling a press conference, but later changed her mind.
This all happened as she was preparing for her further studies abroad, to study journalism.While all doors of hope were closing before her, surprisingly it was Namrata’s family who stood by her to make her stand on her own again. “If my parents were not there by me, I would not have been able to fight again for my existence,” staring at the attic of the restaurant, she shared.
Those family members of hers who kept on insisting her to fly abroad for her studies until the video scandal, asked her to drop the idea of going abroad and stay back to fight and face the consequences.
For a graduate in journalism, it was unwelcoming to see the tabloid and the dailies of the town assassinating her personal character over a very personal affair. “I had studied yellow journalism just the earlier year. I found out, the hard way, what it really was,” she added relating to the news published in different papers in town during that time.
In a society like Nepal where women are still preferred to live a discreet, chaste and submissive life with much expected of them; it was an ardent task to come out in the open and fight for one’s self respect. And because Namrata Shrestha was an actress, it became even more difficult to deal with the whole situation.
Namrata, who thought there would be helping hands for her in her difficult time, it was a shock to her to realize how many that she thought would always be there for her, turned their heads away. “It really turned me down when people whom I trusted did not show up while I needed them the most,” her moist eyes spoke the rest.
It, however, does not mean that she did not have enough people to support her morally.
“It happens in life. All that matters in the end is how you deal with it. Will you run away from it or will face it is totally in your hands,” the bold and beautiful actress made it loud and clear.
In retrospect, she has come to terms with the realization that perhaps she wasn’t able to handle the situation more appropriately and maintain the stardom as she should have, but she never blames herself for the guilt.
“What was my mistake? Making love! To trust someone! To become an actress! Or to have been born a girl in this orthodox country?” she questioned.
Back to a somewhat normal life now, Shrestha recently showed up as a brand ambassador at the Beach Cricket Tournament that recently took place in Kurintaar. Besides, she also enrolled in some upcoming music videos. Despite the fact that she has moved on, the memories from the past still haunts her today. But she says she will live with that pinch so she can carefully walk ahead in the days to come.
“I learned a lot,” she says, adding the whole ups and downs in her life have helped her grow as a better human being; also to be more responsible of her duties.
“I’ve learnt to live life properly. I’ve realized how important I was and I am to so many people. I’ve started loving myself even more.”
Accepting all that comes before her, this daring actress says she will never give up. She has a few names to thank for making her realize that her life is still worth living. First, it obviously has to be her parents, and then she will never forget what her best friend RJ and model Raymon Shrestha did for her, what the station manager of Kantipur FM did, and the moral support she received from lawyer and constituent assembly member Sapana Pradhan Malla, managing director of Quest Entertainment and film producer Bhaskar Dhungana, and her movie producer Prabhu SJB Rana.
“I won’t die unsuccessful. I’ll never step back. I still have a lot more to do,” the spark in her eyes made it ever so clear.
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