We can’t focus on theatre much due to the bandhs. We are focussing on TV as it has a bigger audience and is not affected by the bandhs.
They are Nepal’s kings of satire and humour. They have used humour to bring about social and political changes in our society, and Madan Krishna Shrestha and Haribansha Acharya — better known as Maha Jodi — need no introduction to all Nepali-speaking populace.
Shrestha began his career as a singer but had to drop it because of his sinus problem. And comedy happened to him almost by chance. “I used to work at the Karmachari Sanchaya Kosh. During a coworker’s farewell, I did a stand-up comedy routine which was enjoyed by all. And the acting bug bit me,” says Shrestha, who then became an active participant at the Muna-sa, Gai Jatra and radio programmes.
Acharya, on the other hand, used to mimic his teachers and friends’ parents. “During a school play, they required sound effect of a whining dog. All the guys decided to bring a real dog and beat it, but one of my friends felt bad and asked me to do it. Later I received a certificate for my ‘doggy’ talent and I realised that my act not only made my friends laugh but also brought recognition,” says Acharya.
Then from a couple of stand-up comedy routines, he moved on to Gai Jatra Mahotsav and won a gold medal in his first performance itself, and did so for three consecutive years.
It was the silver jubilee celebrations of the Nepal Rastra Bank that brought these two talented actors together. Due to the time limit, the organisers asked them to act together and they performed a very successful Bankeshwor. Then Yamlok followed and there was no looking back for them.
And the Nepali entertainment world got a duo who have set the benchmark so high that it is nigh impossible for others to match (though many have tried and still are).
“In comedy, one’s fellow performer’s reaction is esse-ntial for a balanced act. And we share a terrific chemistry. Problems usually arise due to ego hassles and money matters, but we keep everything clear,” shares Shrestha.
Having entertained the world together for almost three decades, Maha Jodi has set an example for all.
And they believe that they have shone better as ‘Maha Jodi’ than as individual entertainers.
Though people generally categorise them as comedians flat, they have in their acts dealt with serious social, economical and political issues. Their acts always have a message though they never fail to make us laugh.
“When people start loving you, you feel this need to do something for them. So we decided to include political satire in our plots, which were successful and was well received,” shares Shrestha.
Soon people started to come up with suggestions about social issues and different organisations approached them too.
“We started making serials based on HIV/AIDS, girl trafficking, forest conservation and many more. After the leprosy based serial Ohho! (produced for BBC and Nepal government) went on air, 140,000 people went for check-up, out of which 14,000 were identified as positive. Lal Purja in a way brought the law that the land should be divided between the owner and caretaker. I think such changes in society are the biggest achievements for us,” adds Acharya.
Both are versatile and spontaneous actors without a doubt and have portrayed various characters with perfection be it in movies, theatre or serials.
“I like the way he infused life into his characters of Raat and Lal purja,” says Acharya of Shrestha, and Shrestha liked the way Acharya moulded his voice for Ban pale.
As Maha Jodi, Shrestha is cool in his working style, whereas Acharya is hyper and excited. But they say they balance each other well.
Be it positive or negative roles, they have done both with panache.
“When you do a positive character, you have to be in discipline. But it’s with negative characters that you get to show your acting calibre,” says Shrestha.
Acharya, who has done some really cunning and mean roles, shares a few incidents, “While Laxmi was being telecast, I had gone for a shoot when an old lady came and hit me with stones blaming me for the trouble the lead character was having. I told her it was just an act, but she was not convinced. Another similar incident happened when I took my son for medical check-up. One of the parents was complaining to the doctor that his child was unwell after watching 216777’s Ghas katne khurkera.”
More than partners who work well together, they treat each other like brothers. Shrestha is married to Yeshoda Subedi, who he met during his work at the Sanchaya Kosh. He has a son and daughter — Yaman and Shrana — both married and settled in the US.
After a year long one-sided love, Acharya managed to win wife Meera’s heart, with whom he has two sons — Trilok and Mohit.
Apart from acting, they are both very much into music and have sung a number of popular songs.
“I have penned a few songs and composed couple of them, but I can’t play any instrument,” says Acharya. Apart from singing, Shrestha also used to do little bit of art too, and now he is planning to come up with an album of spiritual songs.
They will be presenting 15 more episodes of the popular Hari Bahadur Madan Bahadur.
“We cannot focus on theatre much nowadays due to the bandhs that cause loss for sponsors, though we do plays abroad. Here we are focusing on television — it has a bigger audience, reaches places and is not hampered by bandhs,” they say.
As for the new talents in the comedy serials, Shrestha feels everyone is equally talented. Acharya feels they should concentrate more on the script, but understands that quality maintenance is difficult when they have to go on air every week.
In this age of remakes, Shrestha believes in leaving the classics as they are, but Acharya would love to remake Paral ko aago.
“But expecting in this industry is like torture. I went to watch Om Shanti Om recently and came out disappointed, not with the movie but with this question — when will the Nepal film
industry become that technology savvy?”