once a boy now a man and he’s just getting started
The definition of being a man is simple: a person who is an adult human male. So by this, once a person reaches the age of 18, he’s a man. As simple as that. But we wish it were that, for to be a man, it’s not just about biology. A hurdle one has trouble overcoming in order to obtain this state is the word ‘adult’.
The way we like to describe this word is by putting it synonymous to maturity, and the way to gain it is by experience. We’re not saying that it’s the one and only way, but it has been evident in Mr. Aashirman Desraj Shretha Joshi.
Being just 19, Joshi has bagged the title of the Best Debut Actor. For us, this is not just an individual accomplishment but a milestone for the whole Nepalese movie industry as it shifts towards a future that’s competent enough to give the international market a challenge.So, it’s needless to say that he is more than just a face women swoon over; he is a man on the rise.
First things first, and I’m sure you get this asked a lot, but, how does it feel to win the Best Debut Actor award?
To be honest, I did not expect it at all because the people I had worked with in Gangster Blues were exceptionally talented. For instance, the one who played as the antagonist of the film was a theater actor and he has done a brilliant job. And amidst all of that, I felt that there was no way that I could compete because I was a total newbie. I didn’t know anything, neither about professional acting nor about the technicalities that go into making a film. When they did announce my name, I was totally numb. Still am to this day. And I really can’t explain it at all. It’s just unreal. But yes, I am very happy with it.
For that, congratulations! Now, with that out of the way, let’s try to take this interview chronologically. Did you always want to be an actor?
Actually, yes. Ever since I could remember.
Back in my grandparents’ home, there’s a black radio. And as I remember, it just so happened that Ek Pal Kaa Jina from Kahona Pyaar Hein was on air. My grandparents just told me to dance, and I did so without any hesitation. When I did, I felt like I belonged in that state. I just felt like I could do this for a living because it just felt right.
This was back in either LKG or UKG, but ever since then, I knew that I wanted to be an actor. To be precise, I wanted to be in this particular field of entertaining people. I had to make the call to be an actor, or a singer, or a dancer, but I was sure that this was something I really want to do in life. Whenever someone asked me what I want to do in life, my prompt answer would be an enthusiastic “I want to be a hero!” Now, there is a stigma around this profession, but I have a passion for it. And that’s how and why I’m here.
And how did Gangster Blues come to be?
Before this, I was actually offered another movie. However, that didn’t come to life due to some reason. Then the makers of Gangster Blues saw me, took a liking, and offered me the movie. And actually, it was my brother, Aayushman, who got the offer first. But due to some reasons too, he wasn’t able to do it. Then after 4 or 5 years, that offer came to me.
Prior to it, did you have any experience with acting or any of those sorts?
I participated in a lot of school plays and dramas and tried to be in as many extracurricular activities as I could. This was in my +2, and before that, I was a very shy kid. I could not even make eye contact with people, let alone have a conversation with them. And everyone thought that I was too proud and full of myself to have interaction with anyone.
But when I did get into +2, I realized that I need to come out of my cocoon if I want to make it into this field. For this, my mom was a huge tower of strength as well as a pusher, helping me to get out there. And I did, gained some exposure, and just did more of what I was trying to do; unlocking every bit of my potential.
Since you mentioned your brother, you two are basically the poster faces when it comes to brotherhood in Nepal. But, do you ever see him as a competition?
We do. We do take each other as competitions. However, we see it in a healthy light. It’s not along the lines of trying to bring the other one down or hope the worst for one another. We only think good of each other and make no room for any negativity. We see it as a way of delivering a better performance than we had before.
So when did you realize that you’re going to be an actor for a living?
Like I said, I always wanted to do this. But when I started to get offers when I was doing my +2, I thought that it was a sign that I should actually see this through and that I can make a living out of it.
Like you said, you were as raw as they come. But you were able to pull it off at the end. Are there any tips and tricks that you could disclose for this?
The first take for the movie was shot in Assam where I and my co-actor, Anna Sharma, were in a boat that was in the middle of the river. Now, over the currents, I could not hear a word Mr. Hem Raj BC, the director was saying, who was at the shores. The only way for us to communicate was through walkie-talkies, which too was not helpful at all because I could only hear fragments of what he was saying.
Now, when I do look back at it, it was a pretty easy job. But being in that moment and it being my first take, I was genuinely freaking out. My mind could not process where to look, what to do or say. And with all the filmography jargons that were being thrown about, my nervousness was at the fever pitch. I kept asking Anna if the take was rolling while it was actually rolling!
After that day, however, Mr. Hem Raj sat me down and explained everything to me and just encouraged me to not be so damn nervous. So what I took away from this episode is that we actors, we need validations. Maybe it’s just an ego boost, but for me, I needed someone to say that I’m doing a good job, or the other way even. With that, I wouldn’t say that it’s a walk in the park for me now, but with experience, it does get easier.
WHAT I WANT
TO DO IN LIFE,
WOULD BE AN
“I WANT TO BE
With all of this, how are you handling the fame that comes with it?
I have grown to have two sorts of personalities. Not in a Split Personality kind of way, but if I am in a set, I’m in the character of that set, and if you were to meet me outside of it, I’m a completely different person. In a way, I hide and guard the real me. A lot don’t know this about me, but I am someone who needs to crack dirty jokes all the time. But that side comes out only when I’m around people I’m close with because I don’t think everyone should know about it. Now that my whole life has been made public, there are certain private things I like to keep as private.
And how do you handle the haters?
Thankfully, I haven’t come across that many haters. But yes, I do have those hanging around me. Before the movie happened, I had a wide social media reach and that’s when I started to encounter hate comments. Now, I’d usually brush them off and move on, but when it got a bit too personal, it got to me.
Back then, people didn’t really know why I was famous so they’d say that I’m just like one of the Kardashians. Like, c’mon dude, I have talent! Like I said, I don’t usually let those sorts of things get to me, but there was a brief moment where I actually thought to myself why exactly I’m known around. And that really pulled on my heartstrings. I had to call my mom, my dad, my brother and whine about it to them!
But time’s a healer. I sprang up back again, and well, I’ve just stopped caring about those things and kept doing what I love.
So you said that you’re someone who has to crack dirty jokes all the time. Is there something else that the general public doesn’t know?
Why would I say such a thing?
Well, I want to use this question as a segway for the next one. It’s completely fine if you want to skip it.
Well, contrary to my dirty jokes, I’m a complete neat freak. I don’t want to say it’s an OCD, but in a way, it is. There’s a certain way I want things to be. For instance, I’m not happy with how your recorder is right now. I want it to be angled in a certain way.
But I can’t go around “fixing” things, now can I? So I’ve learned to manage it, give myself that pressure, and just suck it up.
In an interview for your upcoming movie, The Breakup, you talk about how the movie got delayed. You said that you weren’t happy with the script. Is this a part of you wanting to have things in a certain way?
Yes. But it wasn’t just me who was happy, it was the whole team. We went to our ends to perfect everything, and now, we can’t wait to go to Australia and start it.
Okay. So, the reason why I used that question is because I want to pry in a bit. Like, before, you can totally skip it, but, is there a certain regret in your life?
This may sound very clichéd, but I have none.
That’s a nice way to go about life. So, can you pin point a moment when you felt like you’ve made it?
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but there’s so much to do. The image I have set for myself, where I am right now is not even the 1% of it. There’s much more to achieve.
But there’s this one time where I did realize that I’m doing something big. This was in Chitwan where we were promoting Gangster Blues. And the crowd we were confronted with was something we could not even dream of. There were people crying, screaming at the top of my lungs, and I could not help but think that this was all because of me.
Now, fans here in Kathmandu are calm and reserved with your emotions. Outside, they’re much more passionate; if they love you, they’re going to scream it at your face. So finding myself in the middle of it, one side of me was excited and trying to coup with the sensation, but the other side of me was genuinely panicking and begging for the security to come. My t-shirt was being pulled about, there were scratches on my arms, it was absolute pandemonium. But, I loved every bit of it.
Well, I guess all of that did pay off at the end because the movie was well received. So, according to you, what goes into making a good film?
I’d say that it’s the team that makes all the difference. I don’t want anyone to think wrong of this, but our industry is in a dire need of better makers, better writers, and even better actors. Not just that, the whole team needs to have a tight game.
Now, I say all of this from experience. The people who are behind the camera and are holding the mics and the lights, they’re the real hard workers. I mean, they haul around all of their heavy equipment, spend hours to meticulously set it up, and hours more to pack it all up safely. And they do it day in and day out. Next to them, our work is easy; we just have to show up and do what our lines say. They, they’re the ones who make a good movie.
And the audience of course! If a tree falls in a forest, but there’s no one around to hear it, did it really fall?
So what does it take to make it in this industry of ours?
I think that not just for this but for the world over, one needs to have the patient. There’s going to be a lot of takes for a scene, and you may have to wait for hours for it to even happen. Now, The Breakup is my second movie and I had the experience from the previous one, so I know how things worked. But for those who were going through this for the first time, they were genuinely freaking out. They would be waking up at 4 and coming to the set by 7, and having their takes taken at 2 or 3. In the meantime, they’d be consumed with anxiety. And that’s when I’d step in and tell them to calm down. When your turn comes, you’re going to do the best you can. That’s it. You’re just going to have to wait for it.
Now, not to sound rude or anything, what do you think? Do you think you’ll be able to make it?
I do. Most certainly. Much like how Akshay Kumar put it, if not an actor, I’m going to be a struggling actor. For me, there’s no back up. To be honest, I’ve never seen the appeal of backups. I mean, if you’re so sure about something and have the hard passion for it, why do you need a plan b?
Sure, it’s always good to be safe. With a work line like mine, it’s not a very secure path to pursue. But times are changing. The industry is getting better by the day. Previously, people of my age group shunned the Nepalese movie scene, but now, everyone wants a piece of it. Like me, people are excited and want to take on more and more projects. So, a promising future is in the horizon, and all I want is to be a part of it.
MUCH LIKE HOW AKSHAY
KUMAR PUT IT, IF NOT AN
ACTOR, I’M GOING TO BE A
STRUGGLING ACTOR. FOR ME,
THERE’S NO BACK UP.
And what’s in that future?
A lot, quite a lot. I can’t mention the specifics, but I do want to change some things in our industry. And of course, I’d love to more and diverse range of roles.
How about branching out from being an actor?
I want to try everything. I want to try my hand at dancing and singing because I feel that these aren’t something you’re born with, they’re something to work for. If you look at Ed Sheeran, have you heard his voice from before? The reason he sings
like an absolute angel now is because he practiced. And I intend to do the same.
A lot of actors grow up to be directors. Is this in the works for you as well?
Like you said, a lot do that, and that’s a pretty clichéd way of going about things. For me however, I don’t want anyone to take it in the wrong way, but I do love being in the lime light. I don’t think I’ll enjoy being behind the camera.
Now, just by talking to you, I get the feeling that you’re quite mature for your age. But you’re just 19; that’s really impressive. What do you think has contributed to this maturity?
I’d say experiences. I don’t want to say which ones, I’d like them to remain private, but I’ve been through a lot. And just learning from them has made me the person I am today.
WORDS: NIRVEEK PPJ SHAH | PHOTOS: GAURAV XHOMPATE SUNUWAR | MUA: SHRADDHA MASKEY | LOCATION: BHOJAN GRIHA, DILLIBAZAR