Bhutan, Bikes, Buddhism and art buoy Kelly Dorjee

Beyond the Page 3 hype around his ex, Lara Dutta and once-upon-a-time friend Dino Morae, Kelly Dorjee has a persona that juggles spirituality with his passion for bikes, doing hospitality, art, event management and charity too, besides acting in and directing films. Here is a sneak peek into Dorjee’s life, minus his link-ups


Please tell us about your journey from Bhutan to India’s tinsel town Mumbai?

I went to study history at St Xavier’s in Bombay. It was only after I managed to secure a first class in my final year in Bachelor of Arts, that I was permitted to model to make some pocket money. After I returned from London where I spent two years doing ramp and print, a friend Bobby Deol recommended me for his film Tango Charlie. I did it, and more offers kept pouring in.

What led to the transition from modelling, acting to now running a travel company?

I juggle four jobs. I am into acting, I run a travel agency, am an artist and art gallery owner, and also do event management. A few years back, I decided I wanted to live life on my terms. It takes guts to do that…life may turn around and say NO! But am happy to say I am happy!

What is the USP of Terton Travel? In what ways do you want to promote Bhutan?

I personally manage Terton Travel Bhutan. When people correspond with our mail, it is me writing back. I enjoy hospitality and I work hard to make sure the little details are taken care of for my guests, no matter where they are from. I do not believe in hard-selling. I work hard and you will notice I don’t have testimonials for my agency. I believe in the privacy of my guests and that once people visit Bhutan with me, they will form a habit of it. When I am in Bhutan during guest tours, I am there for them at a respectful distance. I am proud to show off my culture, people and the land I come from! After all, Bhutan is a top tourist destination!

In what ways is Bhutan different from India?

We are a completely different people and from completely different cultures. But Bhutan has formed a great relationship with India through the years. We are dependent on the Indian economy. Even as a land, I found the similarities between Himachal and Bhutan the closest in comparison, but still largely different.

Please tell us something about Bhutanese cinema.

Bhutan has a booming film fraternity…with an average of about 25 films being produced a year. Budgets are small and films are made for about ` 20- 25 lakh. We are heavily censored. After my first film in Bhutan, I face more obstacles than expected, as I want to hit out hard at social awareness and the degeneration of society. I have had to delay the launch of my production house. But I have three stories that I have written and plan to experiment in directing myself and indulging in whatever I like in my films!

What has been your contribution to the Tibetan cause? How did you get involved with the cause?

My grandmother is Tibetan. The occupying Chinese murdered my relatives and humiliated my great grandfather and killed him in captivity. He was the commander of the Army and one of the four Shapay or leaders of Tibet under the Dalai Lama. I still have relatives in captivity. We pray for their well-being and for the fairness of mankind to reveal its self, for the international community to rise out of the shallowness of caring for resource rich land and ignoring the peace loving people of the world.

But having said that, so much water has passed under the bridge, most Tibetans I know are pitching for autonomy in occupied Tibet. I am not political but rationally, this seems a reasonable gesture.

You had played the role of a Bodo militant leader in the film ‘Tango Charlie’. What do you know about the Bodo insurgent movement? Did that role change your perspective of the raging issues of Northeast India? Have you ever been to Northeast India?

I read about the Northeast and speak with my Naga, Manipuri, Mizo, Khasi, Assamese friends a lot about it.

Everybody feels right about where they stand. I am an actor. As for the Bodo part, the character was supposed to be representative of any militant in the Northeast. Only later did I realise that it was being given an identity. I am proud to stand behind the film’s director for his sensitivity and efforts to show more humane sides to the insurgents. Like the scene where my character is nursing and dressing wounded cadres. I spoke my own language mostly so that my fans and friends back home would enjoy my role without wondering what I am saying.

As an important note to my friends who don’t know me personally in India, when you wonder why I portrayed a bad Northeasterner, you must also realize that in other films produced locally, there are bad people portrayed there too. Commercial films are nothing without the portrayal of the struggle between desires.

Where are you based now? What kind of memories will you carry back from Mumbai if you decide to go back to your home country?

I never got used to Bombay. Even while I lived there, I spent little time there. A few years ago, I moved back to Bhutan and now I will never move back. Bombay is the epitome of stressful existence. The noise pollution, the anger on the streets and the unhealthy air pollution was always a concern for me. But, I do miss my friends. They make Bombay worth visiting.

Please tell us about your passion for bikes.

I have ridden all my life except during my stay in India. We have a motorcycle club called the Bhutan Dragons and we ride for charity. We collect funds and after tying up with local government and private agencies, we identify specific people with specific needs and then ride out to them to help them. Trips can range from two days to 15 days. Since our inception five years ago, we have averaged about four rides a year. Our members are private citizens who give up time and money to do this. We have about 60 people along with an Australian chapter, English Chapter and German chapter. Our friends in Shillong and Arunachal also help our cause and the passion of riding. Our club motto is, ‘Love to Ride, Ride to Love’.

What are your future plans?

I have finally decided to think about a family. So though there are not enough hours in the day for me, I think a family will calm me down.

You seem to have an element of spirituality in your life. In what ways does Buddhism steer your life’s ideals and principles?

I am a simple man. I can count the people in my inner circle on my fingers…but I am friendly to everyone.

I am an avid fan and follower of the Art of Living and my guruji, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I am also a listener to Thich Nhat Hahn, Sogyal Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche and Jamyang Khentse Rinpoche. They shaped my life.

And though I am a practising Buddhist in Bhutan, I am more a spiritual Buddhist…practical in life. My hero and role model and God, is the Fourth King of Bhutan.

Is there anything you would like to do for your home country Bhutan?

There are many issues to iron out here…the evils of a sham democracy are rampant and on a street level, people are already growling like dogs about to fight. I have faith in the political system though and I hope our people will participate whole heartedly in the democratic process… after all it isn’t democracy if people do not participate. We have issues of economy crisis, scandals and rampant corruption allegations.

If it were up to me, judging by the progress we made during the time of Monarchy, the system should provide for more stringent policing powers to whip politicians and corrupt officials into shape. Unemployment is on the rise, and drug use and alcohol abuse is a bigger problem than we are ready to admit. My concerns are in these areas but I have a different view of how we should tackle it. Domestic violence and care for the elderly is something I should like to concern myself with.