Born with a legacy

  • What is it like following up a legendary act? We get the children of iconic Nepali figures to share their stories with M&S.
Born with a legacy

Feb 26, 2015-

The world is filled with legends; individuals who leave indeniable marks on the public consciousness. But to the children who are born and brought up under the canopy of their parent’s larger-than-life achievements, would life mean living with fore-earned advantages, or a constant struggle to live up to their parent’s legacies?  

Satya Raj Acharya and Swaroop Raj Acharya

Singers, sons of Bhakta Raj Acharya.

What do you reckon are the advantages and disadvantages of having a famous parent?

Swaroop: I don’t think there’s anything harder than to take on the responsibility of continuing on your parent’s legacy. People assume that we had it easy being sons of Bhakta Raj Acharya, but its only half true. Of course, we’ve had to struggle less than our father did. But, with us, regardless of what we achieve, we constantly have to prove ourselves in comparison to our father.

Satya: Apart from the fact that we had to tackle a good share of “leg-pulling” —just the fact that we were chosen to be born as the sons of ‘Bhakta Raj Acharya,’ is an incomparable privilege.


You’ve taken your father’s career path, but were you in any kind of pressure to do so?

Swaroop: There wasn’t any kind of pressure. Just that, when growing up, music and musicians were all around us, and maybe we subconsciously started piecing together what music meant. I am glad we took this path.  

You’ve also chosen to sing songs of the same genre as your father did.

Satya: When we started singing 20 years ago, we actually started with pop music— something that’s a polar opposite to our father’s style. Today, although we follow his style, we look to add our own taste and personality into it. It’s true that at times we do sound like him, but even though we want to avoid it, we can’t.

Swaroop: I get so many songs that click in my head, but I can’t continue on with those songs. We do try to experiment with our music, but unlike with other artists, we have a leash in the form of our father’s name, and that doesn’t let us stray away too far.

Tell us what is it like to be mentored by Bhakta Raj Acharya.

Swaroop: Mentoring happened at every moment while growing up and it still continues. There wasn’t any specific time allocated for that; sometimes we would have it over our meals, and other times with proper instruments. He still constantly shares his inputs on how to sing right, on correcting the pronunciations, and how music should be taken seriously.

Satya: Buwa is a moody guy. So whenever he agrees to take a listen to our music, we just grab our instruments and start playing for him. Every waking moment with him is a music class for us.

Walk us through the ‘father side’ of Bhakta Raj Acharya that the media doesn’t know about.

Satya: To put it simply, Buwa is a very difficult person (chuckles). We haven’t seen any other person that is as disciplined as our father. He is an honest man who is true to his words and doesn’t lie. But many don’t know about his “cleanliness freak” side. We’re told that he used to carry three handkerchiefs when going out—one for his hands, one for his glasses and another, inside his socks, for his shoes. He used to bathe twice a day and then bathe again, if someone touched him.  

You also portrayed your father’s role in his biopic Acharya. How was the experience?

Satya: I believe I got an opportunity to understand Buwa much more closely because of the film. By retracing his roots and revisiting the places of his struggles I realised how far my father had come—from a labourer at a tea estate to a national-level singer at Radio Nepal to gaining a legendary status. It made me realise how privileged a childhood we had lived; how comfortably we had learned music; how easily we reached where we have.

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Shrijana Singh Yonjan

Executive Director, Creative Statements, Daughter of Gopal Yonjan

What do you think are the advantages and drawbacks of having a famous parent?

The biggest advantage is that people automatically look at you differently—with more respect. The respect people had for my father reflects in the way they interact with me—we’re taken more seriously.

You didn’t follow in your father’s footsteps, but did it still make it easier for you being known as the daughter of Gopal Yonjan?

I didn’t take up music, but in a way I’m associated with the arts—I organise, train and present programmes to do with arts. There is a passion in me for performance arts. I do get asked about not singing as a daughter of Gopal Yojan a lot, but people have to get out of that mindset, you know.

How was growing up in a family with such a musical influence?

Ever since I was a little girl, I remember people coming to our house to rehearse; they played every type of instrument. I think that instilled a sense of beat in me, and I took up classical dancing. But of course it has its downsides too. No matter how soundproofed our top-floor studio was, you could hear singers. And my father was the type who didn’t give up on people so there were times when we would literally have to listen to the same song the whole day. I remember one time begging to go out of the house as I couldn’t bear to listen to any more singing. I also joke that the reason I don’t sing is because I overdosed on it while growing up (smiles).

What is your perspective on music now?

At this juncture of my life, when I listen to so many of his songs I understand the meaning more clearly. Even the songs he wrote in his twenties had the wisdom of someone who had experienced life. Those songs are like my guiding lights.

What was your father like at home and with family outside of the media’s eyes?

He didn’t like socialising much. He used to stay in his corner at home with his music, in his own world. My mom still says that his first wife was music. In general, whatever name, fame he garnered, he wasn’t after them, nor was he after any positions. He was also a very forgetful person—even when he was bestowed the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu, he forgot that he had to go collect it.

One impactful moment with your father that you will always remember.

One of the biggest and probably the last impact he had on me was when he was in the hospital in Delhi. He was a person who never liked asking anything from anyone. When he was there, news spread about him falling ill; there were artists who wanted to raise funds, but he said no. The artist community got riled up by that. He used to say, “Never beg from anyone and never create a reason to lower your head in front of others.”

You’re extending your efforts to keep his work alive. How do you intend to go about it?

There’s a misconception that old songs need to be sung only by old artists. If so, how else will you carry it on? My mother and I are working to expose Gopal Yonjon’s treasure of songs to the younger generation. We want to let them discover their musical heritage; to let them listen to the lyrics during times like these when words mean so little in songs.

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Mohit Acharya

Actor, restaurateur, son of Hari Bansha Acharya

So, what according to you are the advantages and disadvantages of having a famous parent?

Having a well-known parent is a big help; I haven’t come across any disadvantages just yet. Like, when I opened Bricks Cafe three years ago, I gained goodwill more quickly than it would’ve ordinarily taken. The fact that the restaurant belonged to a famous person’s son helped me launch my venture.

What was the moment when you realised that your father was someone famous?

During my kindergarten, I remember being given special treatment because I was the son of Hari Bansa Acharya. I could hear teachers, and even my friends’ parents, talking about it. That’s when it hit me that my dad was a well-known person.

You’ve somewhat followed your father’s career, but were you under pressure to continue in his footsteps?

I’ve always been asked if I ever intend on taking over my father’s legacy. But I personally don’t consider it as pressure; it’s just something people naturally tend to be curious about and with me dabbling in acting as well it’s all the more understandable. I’ve been exposed to my father’s work since I was a toddler—from accompanying him to sets to theatres to music recording—that must have seeped in.

So what are your future plans? Will you follow acting more aggressively or focus more on your restaurant business?

I have no plans of leaving acting—I only recently performed at the MaHa Jatra with dad. I am keen on taking both my business and acting career together—it’s a balancing act, really.

Tell us something people don’t know about your father?

I can’t think of anything; he’s just been interviewed too many times. He’s always been an open book, and especially after he released his autobiography—Cheena Harayeko Manche—I don’t think there’s any more detail left to be talked about (laughs).

One special father-son moment that you will always cherish.  

Our recent Maha Jatra US Tour will always hold a special place in my heart. We had been sort of out of touch for a while due to my work, but the three months on the tour together was a great bonding experience.

Published: 26-02-2015 15:45

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