Kathmandu: Before he became Bhasme Don, Phadindra Timsina and Bishnu Hari, transforming himself into some of the most iconic characters in the modern Nepali cinema, Bipin Karki was a full-time theater actor. Karki debuted in theater in 2006 with “Tara Baji Lai Lai”, appearing in which, Karki says, was “just a coincidence.”
He has come a long way since that coincidence. Today, Karki has over a dozen films to his credit and he might be the closest thing to a “method actor” in Nepal. Legend has it that he spent nights and days in and around Bhasmeshwor Ghat in Pashupatinath to prepare for Bhasme Don—the brash, ill-tempered, swearing, swaggering goon—in Pashupati Prasad. Karki might be one of the most bankable stars in the Nepali film scene today, but his affinity with the theater has hardly subsided. Karki recently appeared Anupasthit Teen, the Nepali adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit, staged at Shilpee Theater earlier this week.
Karki professes “a very strong attachment” to the theater. He returned to the theater after a hiatus of four years, after performing in Hariyo Dhunga at the same theater house. Karki says that while he wanted to do theater actively, his busy schedule in the movies did not let it happen.
“I feel relieved and fresh to work in theater after such a long time,” Karki told Nepal Live Today recently. “There were frequent movie shoots in between and then the pandemic came along.”
Inviting audiences to watch his latest output, Karki stated, “I started my journey of drama and acting career from the theater. Theater is my soul.”
What drew him to Anupasthit Teen? “Every actor wants to do a play that is written by a great writer and Jean-Paul Sartre is one of them,” Karki said. “Performing in the plays written by such great writers like Sartre gives a big opportunity to learn new and inspiring things.”
In turn, Karki has been injecting new and inspiring things into the Nepali film scene, where there’s a drought of fresh ideas and performances. But Karki stops short of claiming that a theater gig is important for actors appearing on screens. “Theater and movies are totally two different things,” Karki notes. “Their mediums to express and techniques to act are completely different. I’d say theater is not necessary for actors appearing in the movies.”
Karki himself can’t choose one among the two mediums. “I try my best to do both of them parallelly and smoothly,” he says, adding that both of them delight him and are a learning platform for him.
Karki entered theater and acting following his passion, and he says he never thought of making a career out of it or earning popularity through it. He has managed to do both. But not everyone might manage to do that, he notes. “For actors and technicians in theater and movies, it is still hard to sustain through them,” Karki says. “Secondly, a lack of proper schooling. There are very few academic institutions that are established with a motive to enhance the status of theater and film.”
For everyone working in film and theater, the pandemic has been a dispiriting experience. Karki also felt very frustrated himself and at one time felt as if the pandemic was going to kill all his creativity because he was idly sitting at home doing nothing creative.
For everyone working in film and theater, the pandemic has been a dispiriting experience. Theater houses have been closed and actors out of work. Karki also felt very frustrated himself and at one time felt as if the pandemic was going to kill all his creativity because he was idly sitting at home doing nothing creative. “It also made me anxious whether I will be able to perform well or not once things return back to normal,” Karki said.
Karki asks aspiring actors to not lose hope and never to give up. “Be passionate and focused on your craft and maintain strong confidence to struggle against any kind of hurdles,” Karki says. “Believe in yourself. Every person is a character and a unique one at that.”