Lin Laishram, who has worked in prominent Bollywood films such as Om Shanti Om, Mary Kom, Axone, and Rangoon, captured hearts with her charm and charisma on screen. The beauty of Manipuri has represented the North East on a world podium, however, her homeland is not as welcoming as it should be when it comes to accepting it like any other Indian, whether in real life or in real life.
Lin says the Northeasts had virtually nothing to do with Bollywood, with the few being done badly wearing bizarre tribal costumes and talking gibberish.
She said, âThe only person who belonged to the North East was Danny Denzongpa, but we also couldn’t identify with him because he was fluent in Hindi, which most of us didn’t speak. By the time Bollywood found out about us, we had already listed our films on the global platform with Aribam Syam Sharma’s masterpiece Imagi ningthem winner of the MontgolfiÃ¨re d’Or at the Festival des 3 continents, Nantes in 1982.
Laishram, who has worked in the industry for almost a decade, rose to fame with the 2014 film Marie-Kom with Priyanka Chopra Jonas in the lead role.
While the cast elicited negative reactions upon its release, Lin said, âI admire Priyanka for her hard work, she really spent a lot of hours looking like Mary Kom, but I always thought the cast is a milestone in the film. I believe in authenticity and inclusiveness, so a girl from Manipur or the North East surely could have been chosen to represent us.
Despite having high status given her work in showbiz, Laishram maintains that she has been the victim of racism within the industry on several occasions.
Elaborating on the same, she says, âWe are approached to play stereotypical roles like a spa girl, a prostitute or a waiter. Not that playing these characters demeans an actor, but it’s the way we are seen and labeled. Its little knowledge of our culture bothers us. When it comes to playing a player from the northeast, a non-northeast person is chosen as seen in Marie-Kom. On the other hand, why not consider the people of the North East as normal Indians in all walks of life that we are.
She further adds that Bollywood needs to be more inclusive and normalize having Northeasts, not only as an ornamental or geographic representation, but simply Indians.
Lin says, âThe latest example of great inclusiveness is family man 2. In the show, the people are from Tamil Nadu and speak Tamil, representing their local culture and ethnicity, and it has been so widely accepted and appreciated. So if the culture of South India can be accepted, then why not that of the North East? “
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in dozens of Northeasts facing racism. Speaking of his most horrific encounter to date, Laishram said: âWhen I dropped my parents off at the airport and returned home, I was followed by two men who kept chasing me. call it “coronavirus”, to the point of physical assault. It was really scary.
âI felt helpless and angry because there were a lot of people in the North East who were suffering in different ways. They were denied shopping, girls were spat on the road, students were kicked out of their PWs and homes. It was disgusting to believe that we would be treated this way in our own country, âshe adds.
Amidst constant ups and downs, Lin says she chose to become a Bollywood actress without thinking too much and will continue to strive.
âI didn’t know I would have another set of struggles because of my looks. Forget about having a sponsor in the industry. I had never seen or heard of a Manipuri actor working in Bollywood before me. It’s been a decade in the industry. The mantra is to keep striving and hope that things will change for the better, âshe concludes.
Axon is produced by Yoodlee Films and directed by Nicholas Kharkongor.
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Posted on: Tuesday June 15th, 2021 08:13 IST