Published: 01st June 2018
From hopeless drug addict to a campaigner for drug-free Bhutan, this actor-activist has come a long way
Jigme Yosel Jigme might have a varied list of talents and interests, but whatever he does, he ensures that it benefits the community.
Actor, producer, social activist and philanthropist, Jigme Yosel Jigme might have a varied list of talents and interests, but whatever he does, he ensures that it benefits the community.
Jigme, who grew up in Thimphu, Bhutan, always had a passion for filmmaking. After completing his Bachelor’s in Journalism at Madras Christian College, Chennai, he went back to Bhutan and started working on the film Chuut Wai, in which he played the lead role. Based on true stories, the film, directed by Phuntsok Rabten is about the rising number of drug abusers in Bhutan, and how it leads to suicide and anti-social behaviour.
First step: Jigme's first film was called Chuut Wai, in which he played the lead role
But what made the film so special to Jigme was the fact that he had been down the same path himself. Jigme had been using drugs for almost twelve years. Meanwhile, his grandfather, who was also his best friend, was sick and dying. Jigme wanted to be there for him and help him, but he couldn’t because after every few hours, his body would crave another hit and he couldn’t stop himself. “You get this terrible bone ache, sweating, strong irritation and shivering, and nothing else comes to mind until you satisfy the urge. I left my grandfather when he needed me the most,” Jigme sadly remarks. While he was in college, the withdrawals would get so bad that he started hallucinating. At one point, he even tried to kill himself.
The next time he saw his grandfather, it was already too late. Lying on his deathbed, his grandfather told him that if he were to stop taking whatever he was taking, he would be a proud grandfather. Those were his last words. A week later, he passed away. That’s when it hit Jigme. He decided to stop everything at once and since then, his life has taken a new turn.
Well deserved: In 2017, Jigme received the Indo-Bhutan Friendship International Youth Award
The film Chuut Wai almost became a mission for him to create awareness about drug abuse. Although the film revealed the other side of life in Bhutan, a country otherwise known for its ‘Gross National Happiness’, the Ministry of Health immediately bought the rights to the film to screen it across the country as a tool to create awareness among young people, in schools and among teachers and parents.
After his successful debut, Jigme went on to become a social worker, a part-time short film filmmaker and also acted in a commercial film, Singay and Gawa, where he played a villain. When asked about his time in India, he says, “It was amazing. The people of Tamil Nadu are so nice and helpful and I love the culture.” Perhaps that’s what inspired him to speak out for better ties between India and Bhutan. He was instrumental in getting youngsters of both countries to work together to address social issues. In 2017, his efforts were recognised when he received the Indo-Bhutan Friendship International Youth Award for his services. Jigme hopes to continue the good work and see a transformation in the country’s youth.