More than a decade ago, if you had asked me if Jaswant Dev Shrestha was going to snag a coveted Emmy Award and be celebrated as the first solid representation of Nepali talent in the
Hollywood industry, I would have said, “Without a doubt. He’s going to do it!”
There was something about him that was beyond authentic in his nature. He has a vision. He is kind. He has an extraordinary work ethic.
I believe both he and his absolutely stunningly beautiful wife are destined to do amazing things here and around the world. I was able to extract Jaswant from his extremely busy schedule while he was in Los Angeles to take a moment to congratulate him on his recent accomplishments and to get an update for NepalMinute.com about what is next from this talented yet modest star with hero looks and charm.
Alexis Kharel: What inspired you to pursue acting and film media?
Jaswant Dev Shrestha: My inspiration to be an actor started when I was four years old. The most significant contribution was Bollywood movies. I especially admired superstar Mithun Chakraborty. At a very young age, I went to Bombay to work as an actor. I could not navigate anything and did not get any opportunity to audition. However, that turned out to be a good thing. I started hanging out with many technicians like assistant directors, DP's, and all of those older people who had been working in the Bollywood industry for a long time. I became their younger brother, and they took me to their film sets with them. During their off days, they would hang out and always talk about the creative aspect of filmmaking, writing, editing, and directing.
So, that part of the world opened up to me, and I just had a light bulb go on in my head saying, “Oh, so films are not just acting.” There are a lot of other elements that go into making a film. I was interested in exploring those departments, so I started working as an assistant director. That's how my inspiration to be behind the camera came in.
Alexis Kharel: You have directed and produced both feature films and documentaries, do you find balancing the two genres difficult?
Jaswant Dev Shrestha: It's hard to balance both because it's two different forms of storytelling. Making good documentaries is much more complicated than making a narrative film because the most challenging part of narrative cinema is to have a good story and screenplay; once you have that, you have a blueprint. But when it comes to documentaries, a lot of the time, they are low-budget, so you can only hire a few people to help you.
Figure out the story, and you often shoot, thinking that you know this will be an exciting story. Then when you go to post-production to put it together, it doesn't turn out not as interesting as you thought it would be. So a lot of the time, you let go of those stories. So making good documentaries is very tough.
Alexis Kharel: You've been pretty active in the international film festival circuit, any particular film festivals you are fond of and why?
Jaswant Dev Shrestha: Yes, I have been active in the international film festival circuit. Fortunately, I have been awarded multiple times. However, picking only one festival I like is tough, because every festival is different. If I have to pick what kind of festival I like to attend, it will be the ones that involve tourism and culture because you get to explore many of those cultures and the country where it is held. My favourite one is in Portugal, the Finisterra Arrabida film art & tourism festival, and the second is the one I attended this year, the Amorgos International tourism festival in Greece.
Alexis Kharel: You have lived in the US a while now, but you rush to help Nepal whenever your fellow countrymen are in need. Could you talk about what your hopes are for your home country and where you see the film industry heading there?
Jaswant Dev Shrestha: Yes, I've been living and working in Hollywood for 11 years, fulfilling my childhood dreams. However, to make my dreams a reality, I had to leave my beautiful country and move to Los Angeles. But my heart is always in Nepal, and I am ready to come forward when difficult times hit my country, like the devastating earthquake of 2015. I try to help out in whatever way I can.
Being a son of Nepal, I must try and help promote Nepal and its unique culture continuously, so Nepal gets a boost in tourism which will help the country's economy. The only thing I know is telling stories; hence, I created the Docu-Series "FESTIVALS," released by Discovery channel in Asia, where millions have watched and are watching every day. Now we're working on getting it to the United States. In Europe, RAI Television is making it in Italian for Italian-speaking countries. "For me, it's not about what my country can do for me; it is all about what I can do for my country." The Nepali film industry has been rapidly growing. Great movies are getting made, but we still need the International market, and hopefully, it will come sooner than later.
I am trying to navigate more avenues for Nepali stories to be recognized and consumed as entertainment in the international market. I know we are a small country, so that's why all these giant OTT platforms don't even consider Nepal as a market. So, we don't have those broader distribution opportunities. But I am sure we will get those opportunities to share our stories with the world soon.
Alexis Kharel: You won a coveted US Emmy award for your work, the first Nepali to ever do so, what's next?
Jaswant Dev Shrestha: Hahaha... Yes! I did win an Emmy. Winning an Emmy and Oscar has been my childhood dream, and I have stepped onto that journey. You know this is my first EMMY win, and I promise it will not be my last.
Answering your question of what's next...
Oh boy! There's so much to do and so many stories to tell. I'm in post-production of another documentary series filmed in Portugal; once this project is completed, I'm going to jump into my narrative world. I will create some dramas, and then the next will be winning more Emmys and Oscars. Hahaha
I want to win an Actor Emmy and an Academy Award (Oscar) as an actor, so the goal and the bar I have set for myself are very high. That's why I'm working towards these goals every day; I have no weekend or holiday. My whole existence revolves around two things, family and
(Alexis Kharel currently lives in Los Angeles and is a guest commentator and interviewer for NepalMinute.com. She runs and owns Urban Rodeo Media, LLC which specialises in cultivating arts, culture, food and events from around the world in California and beyond.)