Bengali beauty Nepal's new vox populi
Mar 26, 2007 - 7:40:25 AM

Kathmandu, March 26 - Bengalis in India and Bangladesh have a special reason to rejoice the success of Mampi Ghosh, the new voice of the masses in Nepal.

The 22-year-old willowy beauty, who resembles Bollywood's current sex symbol Bipasha Basu, is doing what the public has been itching to do - asking politicians, stars, decision-makers and celebrities all the direct questions they haven't had the nerve or the opportunity to do themselves.

Mamphi's grandparents are migrants from Bangladesh and her parents come from West Bengal's Malda district. Mampi was born and brought up in Nepal's frontier district of Jhapa and holds a Nepali passport.

About four months back, she assumed the persona of Pawankali, the heroine of one of Nepal's best-rated TV shows, beamed by the private channel Kantipur. Combining elements of MTV's Lola Kutty show and cartoonist R.K. Laxman's Common Man, the Pawankali show, however, is essentially Nepali.

Pawankali is a village girl, wearing the traditional long-sleeved high-necked blouse, long skirt and head kerchief worn by village women, and looking at what's happening in Nepal with the same wide-eyed wonder.

She also voices the common man's concerns in her tete-a-tete with Nepal's who's who, who have in the past included Maoist chief Prachanda.

Mampi took on the powerful Maoist MP and leader of their women's wing Hisila Yami in her show, asking her why Maoist leaders educated their children in India and abroad while shutting down schools and colleges in Nepal and persuading young Nepalis to take up the gun instead.

In another episode with Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, whose resignation is being demanded for the worsening violence in the Terai plains, she asked him why his party, which had been at the receiving end during King Gyanendra's rule, was now meting out the same rough treatment to protesters in the plains.

Mampi says it was a moment of jubilation for her when she bagged Pawankali's role after an audition that aroused the curiosity of all the employees on the sets.

'They all wanted to see how a Bengali girl would played Pawankali, who uses typically Nepali expressions and has a strong village accent,' said Pradeep Kaspal, producer of the show.

'However, though her accent slipped up at times, the general verdict was that her confidence level was high and she would do.'

Mampi, who left the family home in Jhapa to carve out a career in the media in Kathmandu and began as a radio jockey, says she began her debut as the voice of Nepal, on a note of nervousness.

'Though there's a rough script, most of it is impromptu - the questions depend on the answers,' she said. 'In the beginning, I would feel nervous that my celebrity guests would get angry at the blunt questions.'

But now, she says the spirit of Pawankali has descended on her.

'The aim of the show is to bring out the truth,' she says. 'To be able to do that I leave my fears at home when I come to the studio.'

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