After enjoying a successful career in Bollywood, actor Manisha Koirala is occupied with pursuing creative works these days. She is toying with different ideas like film production and writing a novel.
Guna Raj Luitel and Mani Dahal of Republica Daily met with the scion of the prominent Koirala family for a conversation.
The doctor had warned me that there was 90% of chance the cancer might recur within three years. I had to be very careful. Thankfully, three years have gone by and I'm feeling a bit relieved. I do have to take extra care of my health for the next seven years though.
After being diagnosed with cancer, what changes have you experienced in the way you perceive life and the world?
I feel I've changed a lot. I never placed a great deal importance on my health and my lifestyle before. But when my health worries began, I questioned myself why I didn't take better care of myself if I valued my life so much. This spurred me to think that should I die, I'd like to have no regrets. Now I'm living my life to the fullest.
My life today feels like an incredible gift and I'm always looking to enrich it. I live in the present. It's not that the future is not important to me but the present is more precious. When you go through a harrowing experience, you begin to understand that today is more important than what's to come tomorrow. Though I was a spiritual person before, it was more in principal. It's only experience that can actually teach you, change you.
Have you thought about what you want to do next?
I have different interests. But my mental and physical health is the priority. I'm an actor so I want to be involved in the film and arts industry. I'll be working on three films this year—one South Indian, one Bengali, and a Hindi. I'll begin working on a Nepali film's script this year, too. Art is a medium of expression and I want to express myself through films, paintings, and writing.
So are you writing a book?
I've been thinking about writing one for more than a year now. There are talks going on between me and different publishing houses like Penguin in India and another one here in Nepal. Currently, I'm working on a fiction which is based on a true story. The idea was with me for more than a decade though I hadn't thought about it seriously. The book will touch upon both traditional and modern topics. It looks like my first book will be published in Nepali. I've also started a blog—manishakoirala.me—where I write about my thoughts.
You're a member of the Koirala family. Do you have any political aspirations?
I don't think I can be actively involved in politics. Artistes have an innocent nature which is why I cannot pursue politics, I believe. It's not that I have no interest in politics, but the artist in me is dominant. I'm politically inclined and I have an interest in world politics. Because I grew up in a political background listening to political talks in the household, politics is in my blood. So I can't separate myself from politics but I cannot do politics, either.
You've been closely observing the political and social changes in Nepal. Where do you think we'll reach in the next 10 years?
I'm hopeful of great things happening here. I was diagnosed with cancer that nearly took my life, but now I feel like I'm stronger than ever. I've learnt from the mistakes I made in the past, not only have I apologized for them, but have vowed never to repeat them. Everything has fallen into place now. Likewise, crisis gives us opportunities; it helps us identify our strength and weaknesses. Crisis has the potential to inspire development.
What I'm trying to say is, if we learn from our mistakes, and take every chance the present crisis has given us, development is sure to happen. Otherwise we'll only be further divided, and perhaps slowly dissipate.
So Nepal does have a good opportunity to progress?
Definitely. The world is closely observing Nepal at present, and they expect a lot from Nepali leaders. This is the perfect time to make significant decisions and do something to prove our worth. I'm hopeful that our leaders will live up to this expectation.
Since you've spent a long time in India, you must have closely observed its leadership and progress. How does that compare to the same in Nepal?
India has advanced incredibly ahead of us. The development rate there is really high while Nepal has still been struggling for political stability. As long as there's instability, nothing good can happen. One party, irrespective of what philosophy they embrace, should be given the chance of handling a full term government so that they can complete the work they've started. Political stability is a must.
What do you think went wrong with institutionalizing democracy here?
Our democracy is relatively young, and since we are a small country between two really big ones, we've been facing several problems. However, not everything is negative here. There are rays of hope, too. Take Nepali people for example. They nurture progressive thoughts. It's important to encourage and institutionalize that first. Similarly, it's absolutely important to bring young people to the forefront. We should move ahead giving space to new ideas while embracing traditional beliefs, too. Having said that, again, the most pressing need of the hour is political stability and our leaders should take this seriously.
There's always a shadow of doubt over Nepal-India relations. How can we get over that?
I'm not an expert on this subject, but since I've been living in India for a long time now, I've seen that Indians have always been in support of Nepal. In the aftermath of the April earthquake, thousands of Indians personally approached me to ask if they can help Nepalis in any way. They came to me with love.
Nepali leaders, in times of need, should be able to firmly say that no one is allowed to override our honor, dignity and freedom; that we respect and love you and will even give you a place to stay, but we want to live a dignified life; that we won't tolerate repression of any kind. We should be able to communicate this message properly so that the other party doesn't take it as an offence.