Lin Laishram talks racism in Bollywood, asks why Mary Kom played by Priyanka Chopra

Deccan Chronicle.  | Shreya Juyal

Entertainment, Bollywood

The Manipuri actress emphasised the lack of diversity and representation for north-eastern people in mainstream Bollywood

The actress, who hails from Manipur, says that people from the north-east barely have anything to relate to where Bollywood is concerned, as there is hardly any representation. (Instagram)

Mumbai: Lin Laishram, a notable presence in Bollywood, with movies like Om Shanti Om, Axone, and Mary Kom lining her career, recently opened up about why Bollywood and the north-east don’t go together.

The actress, who hails from Manipur, says that people from the north-east barely have anything to relate to where Bollywood is concerned, as there is hardly any representation. The only rare times, she said, are when north-eastern people are depicted wearing tribal garb and speaking gibberish, limiting that representation to a very stereotypical vision. As a result, there aren’t many casting opportunities either.

Further, she reiterated how the Indian audience isn’t open to accepting her as any other Indian who isn’t north-eastern, as opposed to other Indian actors playing north-eastern characters. Lin rose to fame after her role in the movie Mary Kom, starring Priyanka Chopra.

Lin 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.” The casting had received backlash previously as well, with Priyanka Chopra being cast to play boxer athlete Mary Kom, a Manipuri lady.

Laishram also spoke about her racist encounters in the industry, mentioning how north-eastern actors are only approached to play stereotypical roles like a spa girl, prostitute, or waiter. “Not that playing these characters demeans an actor but it's how we are seen and typecast. Its 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,” she said.

She also restated the need for Bollywood to be more inclusive in their casting and stories to showcase Indians from all regions and walks of life.

With the pandemic giving rise to crimes against people from the North-East, Laishram also spoke about the racist attacks she had to encounter during this time, and how she was followed by two men calling her “corona virus” while she was coming back from after dropping her parents off at the airport.

“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, 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, Laishram insists that she shall keep working in the Bollywood industry, and strive to make it a more inclusive and diverse place with proper representation for all Indian. “The mantra is to keep striving and hoping that things will change for the better,” she says.

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