By: Vishal Gulati
The Malaysia-born Oscar winner, who has become the first Asian woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her multifaceted performance, survived the deadly earthquake that struck Nepal while she was visiting the landlocked Himalayan nation in April 2015.
Survivor of the devastating earthquake, actress Michelle Yeoh, famous for her roles in James Bond films 'Tomorrow Never Dies' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', has won the Academy Award for Best Actress and made history for her role in 'Everything, Everywhere All At Once'.
Michelle Yeoh has an India connection too. In the 'background' of her life is Buddhist leader Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the Drukpa Order based in India with over 1,000 monasteries across the Himalayas.
A disciple of His Holiness, in 2015, Michelle raised charity from Hollywood for Nepal earthquake victims on the advice of Gyalwang Drukpa for his 'Live to Love' foundation.
At that time she was the brand ambassador of the foundation.
With the earthquake, killing 9,000 people and causing massive destruction, Michelle was stranded in Nepal with fiance Jean Todt, then head of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), which governs the Formula One circuit.
After the couple's evacuation, she returned to the disaster-hit country again to help rehabilitate affected people.
Gyalwang Drukpa is also the founder and spiritual director of the award-winning Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, famous for being depicted as 'Rancho's school' from Aamir Khan's film '3 Idiots'.
"Raising awareness for Nepal was and still is an important role for me. What's happening is very real and there is so much work to be done to help rebuild the lives of the Nepalese," the Malaysian actor, who believes her best performance is yet to come, had told IANS in an interview in post-quake.
Quoting the spiritual leader, she had said: "Without appreciation, our life is like plastic. Not only do we have to remove the non-biodegradable rubbish from our external environment, but we also have to clear that from our mind too."
"Every little positive step we make individually, collectively we can make a huge difference. For me, this is what 'Live to Love' is about," Michelle, who made her name as an action star in Hong Kong in 1990, he added.
The honor at the 95th Academy Awards to her came after a long career in martial arts and action movies like 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon'.
"Ladies, don't ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime," was an inspirational remark of Michelle at the award ceremony. "For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibility."
She recalled being so scared after the Nepal disaster that she left the country with a sense of helplessness.
"We were so lucky that we were unhurt and able to go back home. I must say at that time, I didn't feel that I could do anything for them. I felt as helpless as the other victims.
"I was scared of the earth rattling. But when I left the place, I felt guilty. I thought I must go back. So a month after the disaster, I reached there again as the brand ambassador of the 'Live to Love' foundation of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa," she told IANS.
The actor, who stars as Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in 'The Lady' directed by Luc Besson, also wanted to focus on climate change.
"Global warming is a big issue now, it's threatening humanity. All this can be changed if we begin to have a little appreciation and a little more understanding about the interconnectivity between nature and us."
Asked about her role in Aung San Suu Kyi's biopic, she told IANS: "Out of deep respect to Daw Suu (Suu Kyi) and the people of Burma, we did our utmost to stay true to her story," although for better story-telling, "some liberties had been to taken."
The former Miss Malaysia has also been involved in the fight against AIDS for many years.
She was also the UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"It's a spiritual journey for me every time. This land of high mountain passes always reminds me of a stronghold of Buddhist art, culture, and spirituality, and this spirit of purity is rarely seen elsewhere in the world," she had told IANS at the famed 17th century Hemis monastery, where she came to attend the Naropa festival, a celebration of the 1,000th birth anniversary of the great Indian saint Naropa.
Buddhist leader Gyalwang Drukpa heads the 17th-century Hemis monastery, some 40 km from Leh.
The action heroine, who believes Buddhism is a philosophy, had said that the UNDP was working closely with ministries across the globe. "We are advocating that if we build safe roads now, you don't have to come back 10 years later to correct the mistakes after so many lives have been lost. So we have to work very closely with different departments." (KB/IANS)