Raj Ballav Koirala is one of the most celebrated actors of the younger generation of the Nepali film industry. Born in Pokhara, he began his career as a radio host in his hometown.
Later, he ventured into modeling and music videos. It was in 2008 that he did his first film “Parkhi Basen” which was a massive success. Five years into the industry, Raj has some 20 films to his credit. He takes only one film at a time and was until recently busy with “A for America.” But the film has been postponed for some reasons unknown to him.
Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri in Bollywood and Hari Bansha Acharya and Nir Shah in Nepal and Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio in Hollywood are his idols. He lives by the notion of “you’re born free” and believes anything is attainable with hard work and passion.
He also has a secret passion for poetry, and writes verses when he is by himself. Of late, he is making headlines in the entertainment industry for bagging a role in an international film project.
Here is an encounter with the actor:
Did you always want to become an actor?
Not really. I didn’t really have a particular aim as a kid. However, I recall mimicking teachers and actors. I was actually punished for copying my English language teacher while at school. Later, when I joined a radio station in Pokhara, I continued my mimicry. One of my most successful shows was entitled “Brakefail” where I mimicked famous actors. It was then that I took a serious look at the field.
You graduated in film studies. Is that correct?
Yes, the idea that I would be in the first batch of a film studies school excited me. If I took up the course, not only would I be one of the first film studies student but the first actor in Nepali cinema to have studied the field. My first real attempt to act, however, was the national acting competition where I got selected. I got to know quite a lot of filmmakers through the program and they showed interest in working with me. It was exciting that I could work with veterans of the industry and incorporate the academic knowledge I had gained in cinema.
The scenario hasn’t changed much, though, isn’t it?
Well, every film is group effort. A good actor alone can’t make the film stand out. As Frank Capra said, there are no bad actors. I think it’s the director who needs to understand and explore an actor’s potential. Whenever I’m in the field for shooting, I like to go by the belief that I’m the director’s tool and he can utilize me in the ways he wishes. It’s sad that this seldom happens and although I want present films that are unique and fresh, it turns out little in that direction. If there were no Tim Burton, Johnny Depp wouldn’t be there, too.
But I would like to mention that the scenario is changing and we do have good films these days. Of course, change isn’t a one-day thing. I request the audience to be patient and support the film industry. Talking about my films, I think “Masan” is beautiful, and who knows, it may even bring home the Oscars!
Tell us about your latest venture, “Highway to Dhampus”?
I learnt that the makers were looking for a Nepali actor and so I thought why not try for it. I knew that a couple of other Nepali actors were auditioning for the role but that didn’t affect me. I was asked to give an online audition through Skype and so I did. I was given two scenes from the film itself which I enacted and got through.
The shooting is to begin in mid-January. There’s very little I can share about the film in terms of plot and other such details. For now, all I can say is that the film is being made by John de Blas Williams and Rick McFarland. For those of us who know little about them, I can say they are filmmakers. Rick McFarland is the producer of “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” the 2010 American romantic comedy. I can also share that in the film, I’m a pilot and the film will be shot in both Nepal and America.
Could you give us a sample of your poetry?
Well, here’s an excerpt from one of my poems, called “human”:
not real and somehow believable not true and somewhat rhetorical not to the things but to you and perhaps to them people today are certified actors readily willing to act not for the audience but for themselves