Thirteen years after she acted in her last film of note, “Tirchhi Topiwale”, Monica Bedi, better known as the companion of jailed mafia don Abu Salem, has begun a new innings in Nepal, acting in a new film that could be the mirror image of her own aspirations.
The 36-year-old, whose glamorous looks survived her long ordeal in the past when the Indian government sought her extradition from Portugal along with Salem, and her subsequent stay in prison for passport forgery, starts shooting in a Nepali film, “Parichay”, directed by Mumbai-based director Akash Pandey.
On Saturday, soon after she flew into Kathmandu and dumped her baggage in a hotel in Thamel, the prime tourist hub in the Nepali capital, Monica was followed by the paparazzi to an ethnic restaurant in the Lazimpat area where she went to savour Nepali food and culture.
It was in the same neighbourhood that Nepali media baron Jamim Shah, alleged to have close links with underworld king Dawood Ibrahim, was gunned down in broad daylight in February 2010. Bharat Nepali, another mafia hit man who claimed responsibility for Shah’s killing, was himself shot dead in Bangkok nine months later.
Monica, whose links with the underworld have remained the subject of unquenched speculation, looked unaware of the gangster history of the area as she smilingly posed for photographers in dark skintight trousers topped by a dark Reebok jacket over a jazzy T-shirt, boots and a pair of large sunglasses.
While refusing to comment on the fake passport charge that landed her in prison in India, Monica was, however, happy to talk about the new celluloid venture that has cast her opposite Nikhil Upreti, Nepal’s action hero who last year left the Nepali film industry to carve out a niche in Bollywood.
Much of the shooting will be done in idyllic tourist town Pokhara, where earlier Govinda, Priyanka Chopra and decades ago Dev Anand and Zeenat Aman had flocked to shoot their new films.
In “Parichay”, Monica plays a girl from a middle-class family who works in an office but is driven by dogged ambition to become a film star.
It could be the true life story of the girl who was born in a village in Punjab and then taken, as a babe in arms, to Norway by her parents. But at 18, she spurned the staid and respectable life of her parents, who ran a garments store, to return to India to seek adventure and her fortune in Mumbai’s tinsel town.
Being made in Nepali and believed to have the investment of non-resident Nepalis, “Parichay” unfolds after Monica meets Nikhil at a dance bar and the two fall in love and marry, only to be parted by her unbridled ambition.
Years later, when both have carved out their own identities they meet again, leading to a twist in the plot.
The rest of the film will also be shot in India and Thailand.