After a decade in the limelight since she won Miss Nepal World in 2012, Shristi Shrestha remains relentlessly productive not just as an actor but also as a strong supporter of animal shelters in Nepal.
After representing Nepal on the Miss World platform, Shristi found her calling in Nepali cinema. Acting came to her instinctively. “When I look back, acting was an integral part of my childhood. It reflected through the childhood games, and my love for films. Even today I guess what grounds me is how passionate I am about my work,” she says. I nod in vigorous agreement at that last line. After all, on her path to success, Shristi has held her head high and soldiered on despite having fielded criticisms and failures in her chosen profession. But neither naysayers nor trolls can deny the authenticity she brings to the screen and the characters she plays, a quality that has earned her some of the most demanding roles in Nepali cinema.
From her debut film, Gajalu, Shristi set out on a volley of compelling performances throughRomeo &Muna, Bandha Mayale, Poi Paryo Kale, MachhaMachha, Chiso Ashtray, The secrets of Radha and Michael Adhikari.
“The audience is actually the best judge of talent. You could come from a background that props you up but the audience will ultimately decide whether or not you belong there,” she says.
Shristi’s meteoric ascent in the industry is proof enough that she not only belongs in Nepali cinema but is well on her way to becoming one of its most enduring icons. “My ears are finely attuned to the thunderous applause my work rightfully receives,” she laughs.
When Shristi talks about her film journey, she is disarmingly honest about her challenges, she also speaks in a language most creatives can relate to, regardless of their domain. “I had flaws and I still do have some. My journey is all about learning from my mistakes and evolving with every film,” she says.
When asked what does creativity mean to her, she responds, “I am not sure how to define creativity; it’s a bit of an ongoing process. It’s constant. It is the only process in me that makes other things in life easier. It helps me try different things, explore who I am.”
Is keeping her personal life private integral to her process as an artist? She says, “Social media is a very easy addiction. But I am someone who tries to enjoy being in the present. I do take a lot of pictures and videos of my travel, nature and animals. And later when I sit and relive these moments, I post these.”
Shristi has crafted her own path, be it with her public image or her film choices. The self-made actor comes from Chitwan and took the theatre route into cinema. But acting is a taxing discipline. The pressure of imbibing new characteristics, convincing an audience of a character’s storyline, leaving something in their memories, and then shedding the mask to try on another; its unlike your average nine-to-five job.
“I absolutely love performing. With every project that I’m able to be a part of, my love and respect for the performing arts increases. I’ve been fortunate to be part of great teams and stories; they range from what you’d call a realistic to commercial cinemas. I’ve also had the chance to perform in theatre plays, hamlet and palpasa cafe,” she affirms.
Shristi outlines one of the biggest problems within the Nepali film industry – physical appearance. If you look a certain way, you are more likely to make it. Actors like her are often singled out to fulfill difficult or supporting roles and end up showing a limited range of their skillset. But it’s clear that Shristi has broken convention, in not just her roles but also speaking and practicing equal pay.
When I ask what motivates her to do so much in such little time, she is characteristically frank: “I can juggle multiple things and do them all well. So, why not?” Among these are her regular acting workshops in Mumbai, London, LA, theatre plays, women centric roles and spreading love for animals. Shristi believes, “As humans, we are capable of living and working dynamically. I’m learning and enjoying doing all sorts of work in this field.”
While many would be happy to achieve what she has in a short span, Shristi’s appetite and ambitions are set high. Besides carving out meaningful projects and roles, her cinematic vision is guided by a more overpowering force – the quest for creative satisfaction. “What difference does it make if a film I worked on made money? Did the process make me happy?” she asks rhetorically.
One hour into our chat, I am still full of questions as is expected when one is speaking to an actor of Shristi’s calibre. But as the interview comes to a close, I go back to our conversation about creativity simplifying life, I ask what that means to her. “Life is difficult in many ways. To find the meaning behind why you are here, what you are here to do, who you are… all these things are difficult. I think creativity brings the focus back to yourself.”
Shristi is passionately involved with animal shelters like Animal Nepal, Sanctuary Elephants Nepal and Situsit Foundation.
Concept & Photographer: Suzan Shrestha
Interview & Coordinator: Ankita Jain
Makeup artist: Nilima Basnet
Hair stylist: Asmita
Wardrobe: @nepwears.womenjacket @notbasic.brand
Footwear: @ _shop_liley __