Dondup is played by Tshewang Dendup, a producer and reporter for the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS). It seems
everyone in Bhutan knows Tshewang. He stands out in a crowd. He certainly
stood out the day Khyentse Norbu spotted him amidst 25,000 people while
conducting a ceremony in 2001.
Tshewang was there not as a worshipper but
as part of the BBS crew covering the event. "When he beckoned, I thought
he was going to reprimand me because there were nine cameras and it was
a spiritual event," he recalled. Instead, Khyentse Norbu said, "Would you
like to come for an audition?" Tshewang readily agreed and he became the
first person to be cast in the film.
character of Dondup represents the modernisation of Bhutan and Tshewang
truly embodies transition. He has a son living in Toronto, posters of Che
Guevera and John Lennon hanging in his living room, and wears a denim gho
(traditional Bhutanese dress), the only one in existence, which is featured
in the film. Yet he also has a deep understanding of his culture and a
great respect for his country.
Tshewang was born in the Year of the Iron Dog (1970). His parents are from the eastern
Bhutanese town of Radhi but Tshewang was raised in Samtse on the Indian
border. Growing up he was exceptional and not just because he preferred
to run naked whenever possible. He graduated top of his class and was sent
to Sherubtse college, Bhutan's only college that awards degrees, graduating
in 1993 to take up a post at BBS. He took leave during the 1999 and 2000
school years to accept a scholarship to UC Berkeley, in California, where
he received a Master's Degree in Broadcast Journalism with an emphasis
on documentary production. He is currently writing a novel.
Lhamo was born in the Year of the Earth Dragon (1988) in Gelephu, Bhutan.
She is captain of her class at Lungten Zampa Middle Secondary School in
Sonam, the character, represents the unadulterated beauty of Bhutan. "I feel very
fortunate and lucky to represent a country like ours," she says. "Some
people don't even know Bhutan exists or they look down on it. But this
film will certainly show that even Bhutan is something special." Sonam
Lhamo is special, herself. She is courteous but not cold, delicate but
not fragile, attractive but not overtly, lovely but not aware of her loveliness.
And she's smart. One of the brightest students in her class. Khyentse Norbu
recalls meeting her for the first time. "She was fresh like a lemon. She
was even wearing green."
meeting new people, and joining impromptu dance parties at the camp, were
all part of the fun for the young actress but working with Khyentse Norbu
was the highlight. "Because religion plays a very important role in our
country and its once in a blue moon that you even get to see lamas and
Rinpoches," she says. "I was very fortunate to be acting in his film."
Lhamo hopes to help Bhutanese women and families by becoming a gynaecologist.
all the roles, Tashi was the most demanding to fill. Casting Director Karma Yangki simply couldn't
find someone enigmatic, good looking, and sharp enough. A few days before
the foreign crew was due in Bhutan she spotted BBS producer Lhakpa Dorji at a pay phone in the rain. She chased him up the main street of Thimphu
calling out "Tashi."
Lhakpa didn't know much about Khyentse Norbu. "I was told that more than 100 people
had auditioned and been rejected for the same role," he said. "But I did
it my way and luckily I got it.
spent much of his three weeks on set drenched to the bone, running through
thickets, or eating the same meal take after take. But he never complained.
was born in the Year of the Fire Dragon (1976) He studied in Motithang
High School then received his Bachelor of Business Administration from
University of Madras in Chennai, India.
Yangzom plays the young wife of Agay.
Early in 2002, Deki Yangzom accepted a last-minute invitation to a dinner
party held by her cousin Choing Tshomo. She came straight from her day
job in the HR department of the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan to find
herself in the middle of an impromptu casting call. "There were so many
beautiful girls there I didn't think I had a chance," she says. "I was
so shocked when they called me back."
Deki didn't know that Louise Rodd,
a tarot card reader from England, had spotted Deki from the crowd and whispered
to Khyentse Rinpoche, "she's the one." Rinpoche agreed, Deki's husband
and family gave her their blessings and she accepted the role. "I was extremely
happy and overwhelmed," she says. "I had never acted before nor even been
to a filming set, I really didn't know what to expect - camera, lights,
makeup and so on. And I knew we would be camping."
Deki probably had the
shiniest gum boots in camp. Her fastidiousness is Tashi...played
by Lhakpa Dorji, Deki...played
by Deki Yangzom her mother from Mongar, both Sharshogkpa speaking
amongst friends, Deki often speaks English. "Getting down the dialogue
in Dzongkha was tough," she admitted. "The character that I had in the
film had nothing really to do with my reality. But suppression and inhibition
do exist in such a conservative society." Acting was exciting but, she
says, "the most memorable moment was when I received the 'lung' (blessing)
of the seven line prayer from Rinpoche at Chelela Camp. Deki was born in
Thimphu in the Year of the Fire Dragon (1976). She studied in Khalingpong
and later at Lady Keane College in Shillong, India. She is married and
has a two year old daughter.
The Monk played by Sonam Kinga
looking very much at ease in robes, Sonam Kinga is really not a monk but
a researcher at the Centre for Bhutan Studies (www.bhutanstudies.org.bt).
He is the author and editor of numerous books and reports on Bhutan including
"Gross National Happiness" and "Impact of Reforms on Bhutanese Social Organisation."
He studied in Canada and Japan and speaks eight languages. His forthcoming
Rinzang Lhaden is a translation of Sophocles' play Antigone from English