The Rise Of Saugat Malla The Actor
Fitted with a dark leather cap that shielded his face and a long brown coat draped over his shoulders, Saugat Malla picked his way swiftly towards the blue entrance. Taking long swift strides, he slipped through the gate before an unsure passerby could ascertain if that man was indeed ‘hakku kale’. We shook hands and exchanged greetings, matching our paces as we headed towards our studio where I learned that Saugat was a very quiet man.
MY HELPER, RENGMA, WOULD GO AND WATCH THE SCREENINGS AT NIGHT AND THE NEXT MORNING I WOULD LISTEN AS HE DESCRIBED THE ENTIRE MOVIE TO ME. I WAS IN LOVE WITH MOVIES AND ACTORS EVEN BEFORE I HAD THE CHANCE TO GO WATCH THEM FOR MYSELF.
Ironically, he was often getting into hot water for being too loud and manic as a kid. To the dismay of the other cinemagoers, he had a habit of standing on the seats, dancing, crying, and laughing along with the actors he saw on screen. While that may have created several embarrassing moments for his parents, the experiences nurtured a love for movies and acting in him.
“I still remember, it was a terrifically long time ago, families in our home town showed movies during wedding processions and pujas. My family was very strict and I wasn’t allowed to go”, Saugat recalled, “but my helper, Rengma, would go and watch the screenings at night and the next morning I would listen as he described the entire movie to me. I was in love with movies and actors even before I had the chance to go watch them for myself.”
As he grew up, Saugat was allowed to explore his interests. Dancing and mimicry became his solace, a way to gratify his urge to perform. Further along the way he performed in a few town plays. Although small roles, the audiences loved him and he received the acclaim of many; and from that point onwards, he was hooked to the business of acting.
Saugat Malla’s ascent as an actor has been truly remarkable. He started young, appearing as one of the extras or background dancers in movies like Ranabhumi, Daag and Panchi. However, pursuing roles that required getting beaten up by the protagonist of the movie or those that required him to stand and bob his head to the beat of the hero’s dance steps didn’t seem to hold much prospect. While Saugat found himself reconsidering his ambitions he would later realize that bigger things were afoot.
ACTORS ALWAYS RUN THE RISK OF BEING TYPECAST INTO A ROLE, AND THAT’S WHY I PUT SO MUCH EFFORT INTO ALL OF WHAT I DO. I’M SURE WITH LOOT 2 I WILL BE BRINGING SOMETHING DIFFERENT INTO MY ROLE; IT ISN’T GOING TO FEEL REPETITIVE.
Meanwhile, Saugat also tried his hand at theatre where he honed his acting skills. His silver screen debut came in Kaagbeni, but it wasn’t until his brilliant performance in Loot that people really started noticing him. Loot was a culmination of talented people and ideas weaved into a tremendous film that set a benchmark amongst Nepali movies. Furthermore, the movie appealed to the demographic that usually did not watch Nepali movies which was something of a milestone in itself.
In the movie, Saugat Malla’s portrayal of the anti-hero stood out and left a lasting impression on the audiences and the Nepalese film fraternity. At the same time, it cemented him as one of the most versatile actors in the industry and ever since, he has been doing a splendid job of upholding that status. While movies were becoming an ever-increasing part of his life, Saugat continued to immerse himself in theatre.
“Theatre has a different charm to it,” said Saugat, “it’s almost like you have more control over what you do. You get to practice your art more, and you have the opportunity to refine yourself after every show.”
He went on to explain, “With movies you shoot scenes in batches, but with theatre you step into the character for the entire duration of the performance. You get the chance to live in the moment. And because you get to make tweaks to your character with every show you do, you also get to improve your performance. It lets you become more creative.”
Theatre played an integral role in shaping Saugat Malla’s performances. Transcending the dedication and rigor he practiced in theatre into his movies Saugat has consistently delved inside his characters to bring out stunning personalities in each of his roles.
A lot of effort goes in in order to create what we see on screen, as Saugat described, “Getting to understand the role and live the role is important to me. I have to get into the character way before the shooting begins. Once I begin the process, everything I do centers around my observation and learning of my role. I observe everyday activities and visualize what my character would be like. It is a long and arduous process, but I love it.”
His dedication and energy is clearly reflected in his movies. Whether it’s his outlandish avatar in Chadke or the physically demanding cockeyed character he portrays in Lukamari, Saugat has successfully elevated the movie industry to a whole new level.
Likewise, the movie industry has been matching his strides; breaking new grounds with audiences all over. It is growing in leaps and bounds as the audiences for the movies grow larger in size accordingly with the improving quality standards of the movies. One of the most anticipated releases is the sequel of Loot, where once again Saugat steps into the shoes of the adored haku kale.
In person, Saugat is a reserved personality, completely different from what the general public sees on screen. He has been persistent and hardworking and that has effectively established his arrival as one of the best actors in the industry. As we await the release of Loot 2, where he will be reprising the character that helped catapult him into the limelight. While the success of the sequel is yet to be ascertained, one thing can be said for certain; at the moment he is untouchable at what he does. And I am confident that the quiet and unassuming Saugat Malla has a lot more to offer for his audiences.
WORDS: ANKIT SHAKYA
PHOTOS: PRITAM CHHETRI
WARDROBE: STORE ONE, DURBARG MARG