The year was 1945AD. The lavishly decorated Rana Durbar staged the play “Praladh”. A 14-year-old boy sang a song penned by Bal Krishna Sama so well that he not only became a subject of admiration, but was also awarded Rs 500. The boy was Hari Prasad Rimal, the acclaimed Father of Nepali Radio Drama, first singer of Radio Nepal, prolific actor, director and lyricist. The person who gave the cash prize was Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher.
Seventy seven years later, Hari Prasad, 87, vividly recalls that day—the grand palace, voguish royals in the audience row. More than anything else, he recollects his own enthusiasm and the then naive passion for stage and acting. In his life-long career as a director and dramatist, Rimal left an indelible legacy in Nepali art by staging hundreds of plays, radio dramas and films.
Rimal’s brothers—poet Gopal Prasad Rimal and dramatist Krishna Prasad Rimal—were among the first generation of Nepali dramatists to grow under the guidance of renowned dramatist Bal Krishna Sama, the founding father of Nepali Drama.
Rimal began his journey as a substitute actor in “Mukunda Indira”, written by Sama. A Nepali teacher at Durbar High School, Sama was a source of inspiration for many art enthusiasts including Rimal to enter into the world of art. Rimal considers Sama as his guru and guide to a professional career in Drama.
“Despite being a Rana family member, Sama wished to be treated as a common citizen. A truly loving and humble personality,” Rimal recalls.
If experience and work are anything to judge the true worth of an individual, Rimal is a university. The contribution he made to bring theatre, radio-play and movies to the present state is a legacy the nation can never forget. To stage a play was not easy during the Rana regime. The eight-day Gaijatra was the sole source of entertainment for the ordinary people. Moreover, it
was mandatory to take permission from the authorities prior to producing the play. But the adverse situation did not discourage them.
By the time the Rana regime ended, Rimal had already acted in a number of plays. He acted in plays like Praladh, Mukunda Indra and Uhu Mareki Chhaina.
The charm of play and artistic activities gradually faded after the fall of the Rana aristocracy. However, the strong-willed Rimal kept going, engaging himself in various artistic endeavours.
Rimal was one of the leading figures in the establishment of Gaurishanker Natye Samudaye, the first of its kind in Nepali history. The group dissolved later. Then he was actively involved in Rastriya Sanskriti Sansthan during the Panchyat period. Though platforms changed in name and place, the work and sacrifice of Rimal remained the same.
The unflinching determination of Rimal and the company to move through the adverse situation restored the charm of plays again. The perpetual sacrifice to advance arts and entertainment yielded as its cultivators had once dreamed of.
The role of Rimal in Ki Yeta, Ki Uta, a satire to evaporate the Rana aristocracy, was highly appreciated by the general public and prominent figures of that time. King Mahendra handed a special award to Rimal. The play was later adapted for the movie Paribartan with Rimal in a leading role.
Rimal played lead characters in various movies thereafter. His roles in the much acclaimed movies of Sindur, Santan, Manko Baandh and Paribartan are testimony to his acting skills.
Despite insurmountable success in films, Rimal, for whom art was more than name and fame, did not stick to the genre.
The beginning of Radio drama at Radio Nepal is probably the most significant contribution of Rimal. It was a prudent move in a sense that it represented the true needs of the people at that time. As there was no source of entertainment for the people, the plays became instant hit and were loved by all.
At the Sanskriti Sansthan, Rimal directed around 30 dramas. The response the plays gathered from the audience became catalyst for Rimal to work harder and produce more. Rimal considers that to be a fertile period for Nepali theatre and theatre-goers in every respect.
“A single drama would collect around Rs 5 lakh. People would choose plays over cinema,” he said.
The government move to offer jobs to artists motivated people to take acting as a career. This was a step towards professionalism in art.
While working for the Rastriya Nachghar, Rimal became the mentor of numerous famous artists such as Haribansha Acharya, Bhuwan Chand, Mithila Sharma and Suvadra Adhikari.
At Radio Nepal, Rimal sang a number of songs—Fagat Ek Nazarma was one. He was a good lyricist and wrote popular numbers like Murchunga.
Rimal had a cordial relationship with BP Koirala. Since Koirala had good regard for art and artists and his wife too was a good dancer, they would enjoy his company. BP was a good dancer although he never exhibited it in public.
“Both BP and King Mahendra were true nationalists. Mahendra used to take BP as an idol, evidently that he had hung BP’s photo in his bedroom. BP went to jail, giving way for Mahendra,” Rimal opines.
Rimal, who was a subject for a number of kings and prime ministers in various political stages, believes corruption is weakening the nation despite increased political awareness in public.
Like all those who devoted their life to art, Rimal feels the state has neglected the artists. He is suffering from a chronic lung disease. But the overwhelming love and support of admirers has been a solace for the true worshipper of arts.
“I would pray to god to make me an artist in afterlife too. Nothing pleases me more than the smile people get from my work,” said Rimal.