Even though cinema is considered to be one of the most effective ways to celebrate the cultures of different communities, nationalities and diversities, actors from the Northeastern remain underrepresented. Actress Lin Laishram says unless scriptwriters pen substantial parts for actors from the region, instead of mere tokenism, nothing will change.
“Becoming an actor is always a challenge when you are not from a film background, but when it comes to youngsters from the Northeast it is a different ball game altogether. For other professionals, they know that with constant hard work, they can find their way to success, but when it comes to actors from the Northeast, because of our Asian features, we are not even considered for major roles, it is just tokenism,” Lin told IANS.
“The rest of my colleagues are talking about meatier roles in films and the strong representation of women in cinema, but our struggle is still finding a representation in our Indian cinema. Being an Indian, in our Indian films, we are playing Indonesians, waitresses, Koreans and other characters — but not an Indian. We are Indians, right? I am a Manipuri, our state is a part of India. What kind of nationalism do we talk about?” Lin Laishram added.
The actress has appeared in films like “Mary Kom”, “Umrika” and “Rangoon” among others.
While it is interesting to notice that actors from Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Punjabi film industries find space and respectful representation in Bollywood films, Lin said cultural ignorance, casual racism and an unwanted exotism are few things, that are constantly making the path harder for actors from Northeast states.
“The most disappointing comments come from the most educated ‘global citizens’ in the business of cinema. Casting directors and filmmakers are playing important roles in representing characters of every community through cinema. If we are very casually called ‘momos’, ‘chinki’, Nepali or ‘chinki featured actors’, then that comes from the most educated, well-travelled people, in a way casual racism gets official approval. People find it cool to be racist. No, it is not cool. Yes, we are the minority and we have Asian features but we are part of India,” Lin Laishram said.
While the film “Axone”, which recently completed one year also addressed the same topic, and Lin played a pivotal role in the film, she emphasised on the importance of continuing the conversation with more representation in Bollywood films.
“Is it tough to treat us as equal, and not as someone is doing some ‘meherbaani’? Many times people would say, ‘you are from the Northeast, your eyes are small, skin and hair are so good, that is so cute!’ No, we do not want that pity party! We do not want to be exotic either. When films are shot in the Northeast, even though some of the beautiful virgin locations are explored, why is it difficult to include Northeast actors? It is my request to all scriptwriters and filmmakers to write more characters from the Northeast and include us in the regular stories of Hindi films,” Lin signed off.
Currently, the actress is working on two projects but both of them are under wrap and will soon be announced.