As Indian all of us can take pride in knowing that our country is one of the most diverse countries in the world. But how seriously do we take the motto of unity in diversity? Actress Lin Laishram, who has worked in prominent Bollywood films such as Om Shanti Om, Mary Kom, Axone, and Rangoon, recently spoke about the discrimination Northeast Indians have to face in their own country.
The Manipuri actress who has represented North East on a global podium feels that her homeland isn’t represented or welcomed as it should be when it comes to accepting her as any other Indian, be it in reel or real life. Lin also spoke that how North Easterners don’t have anything to relate to when it comes to Bollywood, with the rare ones badly done by wearing bizarre tribal costumes and talking gibberish.
She says, “The only person that belonged to the North East was Danny Denzongpa but we couldn’t relate to him either because he spoke fluent Hindi which most of us didn’t. By the time Bollywood discovered us, we had already entered our films on the global platform with Aribam Syam Sharma’s masterpiece Imagi Ningthem winning Golden Montgolfiere at the Festival des 3 continents, Nantes in 1982.”
Laishram criticised the casting decisions which were made for film Mary Kom. She states “I admire Priyanka for her hard work; she really put in a lot of hours in order to look like Mary Kom but I always felt that casting is an important step in film. I believe in authenticity and inclusivity, so a girl from Manipur or the North East could have been surely cast to represent us.”
Putting light on the racism prevalent in the industry she said, “One is approached to play stereotypical roles like a spa girl, prostitute or a waiter. Not that playing these characters demeans an actor but it’s how we are seen and typecast. It is little knowledge about our culture that bothers us. When it comes to playing an achiever from the Northeast a non-North Eastern person is chosen as seen in Mary Kom. On the other hand, why not cast people from Northeast also as normal Indians in all walks of life which we are.”
Lin also mentioned Family man 2 saying “The latest example of great inclusivity is The Family Man 2. In the show, people are cast from Tamil Nadu and speak Tamil, representing their local culture and ethnicity, and it has been so widely accepted and appreciated. So, if south Indian culture can be accepted then why not North Eastern?”
The discrimination against people from Northeast is not just limited to bollywood but can also be seen in our society. Speaking of her most horrifying encounter to date, Laishram says, “When I dropped off my parents at the airport and was heading back home, I was followed by two men who kept calling me ‘coronavirus’, to the point of physical aggression. It was really scary.
“I felt helpless and angry because there were a lot of people from the North East suffering in different ways. They were denied groceries, some girls were spat on the road and students were thrown out of their PGs and hostels. It was sickening to believe that we will be treated in such a manner in our own country,” she adds.
However Lin is not among giving up types her mantra is to keep striving and hoping that things will change for the better.