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Nepal's Indian heroine on her way to Pakistan

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

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The leading lady of Nepal's fledging film industry, Indian Neeruta Singh, has bowled over Pakistani directors and producers.

Neeruta Singh, the doe-eyed beauty from Darjeeling, has just completed shooting for Pakistani director Iqbal Kashmiri's thriller "Jan Lewa".

She is expecting to sign up more contracts with the veteran director when he arrives here this month for the dubbing.

Neeruta, an accomplished Kathak dancer, was recently adjudged Nepal's best actress for her role in "Lahana", where she plays a rich man's rebellious daughter who stands by her poor suitor despite her father's opposition.

It is perhaps apt that she received the Dabur Anmol-Nepal One-instituted award for her role in the film by Indian director Tulsi Ghimire, who first discovered her and launched her in his 1993 film "Dakshina".

That was a movie where she played a na´ve village girl through whose eyes the drama in the life of a dedicated teacher unfolds.

Today, though she has acted in over 50 films and has received the best actress award, Neeruta is still unknown to the average filmgoer outside Nepal and the Nepalese diaspora abroad.

So far, Manisha Koirala is the only actress from Nepal to make her mark on Bollywood.

A second actress, Jharana Bajracharya, a former Miss Nepal, is hoping that the recently released Hindi film "Love in Nepal", where she is an "item girl", will get her a break in Bollywood.

Ironically for Neeruta, while Bollywood is unaware of her existence, her first cross-border exposure will be in Kashmiri's "Jan Lewa", which is in both Nepalese and Urdu.

The plot revolves round the two daughters of a rich businessman who is killed for his property.

One daughter, played by Pakistani actress Sarah, lives in Pakistan while the other, which is Neeruta, stays in Nepal.

Neither knows of the other's existence and are united only after their father's deathbed confession to Sarah, who then comes to Nepal searching for her sister.

In the first draft, Neeruta was to have gone to Pakistan to look for the sister she never knew.

"When Kashmirij chose me for the role, he thought I was Nepalese," Neeruta said. "It was only when he saw my passport that he realised I am Indian. At that time, it was unthinkable that an Indian actress would be allowed to act in Pakistan.

"I said he could replace me but he insisted that I was so right for the role that he would rather change the story."

Consequently, "Jan Lewa" was shot entirely in Nepal and now, since Neeruta's Urdu is rather rusty, Kashmiri is coming back again to dub it in Kathmandu.

"It was a pleasure working with the Pakistani film unit," Neeruta said.

"Everyone was happy with my work, including the producer and the distributor, who want to sign me on for other films."

The details are being worked out for another Kashmiri venture that was earlier to have been shot in Nepal or Sri Lanka.

But now, looking at the thaw in Indo-Pakistan relations, Neeruta is hoping she would go to Pakistan -- and create film history.


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