A WELL CHOSEN PATH: KARMA
Karma has left behind his bushy mane from his Sano Sansaar days as well as the braided dreadlocks he sported for quite some time thereafter. Today, he embodies the appearance of a well rounded performer who has matured into a well polished actor and personality. From a boyish young actor to a better rounded artist, Karma’s development seems in many ways methodical and strategized. Turns out, as a shy young boy, Karma (Mahesh Shakya) almost backed out from an opportunity that would lead him to a career that would turn him into a nationwide celebrity.
In an industry infamous for potentially cringe worthy performances and story lines, Karma has been amongst the few actors who have managed to captivate the audience and create a name for himself. His debut in Sano Sansar was celebrated among the audience and the Nepali audience accepted him with open hearts. The follow ups kept the ball rolling with acclaimed performances in Loot, First Love and Suntali, to name a few.His passion for acting and performing transcends off screen and onto the understated world of theatre. An alumnus of the prestigious Gurukul, Karma believes that theatre fuels and fulfills his search of eternal satisfaction.
TNM had a wonderful evening with him talking about the course of his journey, his beliefs, his aspirations and his vision, and it isn’t one to miss!
Heranya Hotel. Uttar Dhoka, Lazimpat. The lane on the left, the left, not the right, the left.
I’m not the best with directions, so it took me a while to find my bearings around Uttar Dhoka where I was meeting Mahesh Shakya, better known as Karma. I didn’t want to ask him for directions over the phone again because I didn’t want to come off as a broken compass that couldn’t find an 80 year old renovated building in the Urban Jungle.
Soon, it felt like I was in the right place, a patchy road led to an opening with a number of buildings and three boys practicing a form of martial-art. Kick boxing I assume. It wasn’t the most common of sights but I didn’t think much of it because the shiny emblem of Heranya caught my eye.
The building was well renovated and didn’t appear to be rickety as I’d assumed an 80 year old building would look. I asked for Mr. Mahesh Shakya at the reception and read the LED scroll while I waited for him there. “Majority of the power here at Heranya is Solar Powered”. Cool.
Shortly after, one of the staff escorted me to one of the rooms where Karma greeted me with a warm shake and pleasantries. Complementing his establishment I took a seat and we got to talking.
HOW WAS LIFE GROWING UP?
I was born in this very house. Then, when I was one and a half years old, my father left for United Sates. After that I moved around a lot. Since my dad wasn’t here, I spent most of my time at a hostel. Whenever we had holidays, which are rare in a residential school, I used to live in my mamaghar with my mom. I also spent a considerable amount of time with my beloved mama. He is a monk who had come back from Burma. I loved him. He was caring and a very affectionate person, so whenever I came back I used to go live with him in the monastery. A lot of his spirituality and calm rubbed off on me, but I was a very shy kid.
I studied in several different schools. First I was in Himali Boarding School in Kurseong which was very popular for their rendition of plays like Jesus Christ and Oliver Twist. I was always interested, but as a shy kid who’d hide behind his mother’s saree, participating in a play wasn’t going to happen any time soon. I still remember my aunt mocking me on it and asking me if I would shy away from my bride as well! (Smiles).
I STARTED DOING THEATRE BECAUSE OF MY PASSION, AND I INTEND TO DO IT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
IS THAT WHEN YOU FOUND YOUR INTEREST IN THEATER?
Yes, but I only pursued that interest when I was enrolled at St, Xaviers in Jawlakhel; this was when I was in grade nine. The father of our school had held out auditions for a play, and he asked me if I was interested. I was, but I declined the offer because I wanted to focus on my studies.
I went home and told my father what had happened, hoping he would admire my dedication to studies. Surprisingly, he told me that I should have taken up the offer. Without a second thought, I auditioned for a role the next day. It was a small role, but that was my first experience with theater.
I was more involved in plays and performances after that. The following year, having become more confident, I took a major role in a play where I played a Prime Minister.
WE’RE ALL INTO SOME SORT OF ACTIVITY IN SCHOOL, BUT TAKING IT UP AS A CAREER IS A DIFFERENT STORY. WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
Well, if it wasn’t for my St. Xavier’s’ father, I would still have been a shy and timid boy. But my first play gave me the push to face the public, so I consider that to be my break. After school I went to India for my studies. This time around, I really wanted to focus on my studies, so I wasn’t involved in theaters.
When I was done with that and my studies were out of the way, I was back to square one and wasn’t quite sure where to go next. I was personally very interested in joining the army. I wanted to have that life of discipline, toughness and dignity, but since there was a serious civil war going on in the country, my father suggested that it might not be a good career choice for me.
Having known my interest in theatre, he urged me to join Gurukul. I had heard of Naseeruddin Shah performing in the institute when I was in Pune, and I thought that was impressive. My father and I payed a visit to Gurukul and their performance of a play called Baal Bhairav blew me away. I decided then and there that this was where I wanted to be. I talked to the right people and I was asked to appear for an audition. I stayed there that night, gave the audition the next day, and hence started a new chapter in my life.
IT’S NOT THE MOST COMMON THING TO SEE PARENTS SUPPORT THEIR CHILDREN TO FOLLOW UNORTHODOX CAREERS.
My family was very supportive of me with my decision to pursue theatre. To be frank, they were probably relieved that their son was at least doing something! (Chuckles) But yes, there was a point when my mother asked questions like, “What are you doing?” and “What will your future be in this field?” My mama also had his doubts. He even urged me to quit theatre and join him in his business. But not my dad. He wanted me to do what I liked, no questions asked. Throughout my upbringing, he encouraged me to follow my path. He never forced me to take over his business. He supported my decision to take up theatre and is always happy with what I do.
I’D LIKE TO EXPLORE AND TAKE RISKS; SO ANYWHERE I SEE OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW, I’M TAKING THEM.
WAS GETTING YOUR BIG BREAK ABOUT STRUGGLES AND FAILURES OR WAS IT A FAIRY TALE?
You could call it a fairy tale. I was about to finish my studies at Gurukul and the quandary of what to do next was back. All of my friends had gone abroad after their +2 and I was beginning to think of doing the same. I came across a newspaper clipping of Quest Entertainment that said they were looking for actors and it brought a lot of excitement all over Gurukul. It was a tedious process of sending CVs, photographs from different profiles and their likes, but since I was planning on going abroad, I thought I’d give it a shot.
After applying, I was called for the first round of selection. In the audition I remember improvising and swearing in one of my dialogues. I was skeptical because I thought I’d taken it a step too far, but it turns out they liked me.
Photos: Bibhas Maharjan Suwal
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