Darjeeling girl wins Nepal best actress award

Neeruta Singh, a native of the Indian town of Darjeeling, has been recognised as the best actress in the Nepalese film industry.

She was honoured at the largest film awards ceremony here organised by Dabur Nepal and TV channel Nepal One Saturday.

At a five-hour extravaganza, the Dabur Anmol awards were given away for the first time to honour excellence and achievements in the 52-year-old Nepalese film industry.

The programme, attended by Nalini Singh who heads Nepal One, had a strong Indian presence.

"Lahana", a film by Indian origin director Tulsi Ghimire, was nominated for most of the 26 categories, ranging from best costume to best film and best actor.

However, though Ghimire bagged the award for best editing, and "Lahana's" lead pair were selected for the best actress and actor awards, the best film and best director tributes eluded him.

Nepalese actor Dilip Rajmajhi pipped Rajesh Hamal, the Amitabh Bachchan of Nepal, for the best actor award, and music director Sachin Singh picked up the trophy for best background score.

Neeruta had the joy of being chosen the best actress after having lost the place earlier.

Last year, she had lost to popular star Jal Shah, who won the Lux Film

Ghimire's film also enabled Bollywood-based singer Udit Narayan to win the award for best male playback singer. In the singer's absence, the trophy was collected by his wife.

Besides Ghimire's film, director Bijaya Chalise's "Sholay"-like thriller "Muktidata" was the other major contender, sweeping many of the other awards.

"Muktidata" had hit the headlines last year when it was shot in the Tibetan area of Mustang, setting a record for being shot in one of the highest altitude locations.

Besides bringing the whiff of a unique way of life and culture, "Muktidata" was also unusual because of the confession by its producer Rajendra Thakuri, who also owns a tourist agency, that the film was made to boost visitors to Mustang.

Dabur Nepal established itself in the cultural calendar of Nepal by becoming the sponsor of the Miss Nepal pageant.

Upendra Pradhan, a regional sales manager of Dabur Anmol, said films are a "mass category product" like Dabur products.

"Everybody, whether a town resident or living in the villages, aspires to imbibe the lifestyle of a film star," he said.

"By associating ourselves with the film industry, we would like to be part of that aspiration. Besides, our products, like films, give you value for money."

The most moving tribute to the Indian contribution to promoting the Nepalese film industry perhaps came from actress Shanti Maskey, the Lalita Pawar of Nepal, who was presented with the lifetime achievements award.

"I have been in the industry for 36 years," the white-haired frail actress fitted with a pacemaker told the audience. "And I finally got recognition thanks to Dabur and Nepal One, two Indian entities."