Bollywood, from the time one can remember, has been about Punjabi sense and sensibilities. Over the years it did open up to other ethnicities, but only recently has the industry embraced northeastern identities and even locations. Take Rangoon for instance, which has been shot in Arunachal Pradesh or actress Andrea Tariang, who hails from Shillong and made quite an impact with her stellar performance in Pink. Aadil Hussain, from Assam and Patralekha, whose origins lie in Shillong, have also seen their popularity soar in the recent past. If these indicators are to be believed, it seems as though northeastern elements are now very much a part of the Bollywood melting pot.
Andrea, who is still high on the success of Pink, says, “I am happy that I am able to represent north east in Bollywood. Pink was the first film offered to me and it was a really nice experience. I think the future looks bright for the northeast actors and it’s only going to get better.”
According to Patralekha, it’s more about what the script demands. “Priyanka or Deepika were cast in Hollywood because the roles demanded an Indian woman. Similarly, if Bollywood movies have characters that are northeastern, it is only apt that someone from there play the role,” she says, adding that she is elated by the fact that such offers are coming her way.
The Northeast has always eluded mainstream representation, so the inclusion of the area on celluloid will play a big role in busting any myths or stereotypes about the place and people. Andrea particularly is rooting for this change. “Earlier, I used to get very upset when people used to call us ‘Chinese’. But honestly I just feel sorry for the people who don’t know the geography of their own country. It’s such a shame. However, now things have really changed for us with these better portrayals in movies,” she says even though she admits that there’s a long way to go before the bias is done away with completely.
Rock On 2 is another film that made a conscious north east connect. The team shifted the location of the film to Meghalaya and Shillong, after the attack on Manipuri students in Delhi. Director Shujaat Saudagar recounts his experience of shooting there when he says, “It was Farhan’s idea to shoot Rock On 2 in the northeast. The intention was to rope in the region in commercial Hindi cinema. The people there are very friendly and so conscious about the environment. No one has ever shot a film there and I don’t know why.”
While the Rock On team showed their solidarity to the Northeast by shooting parts of the film there, Priyanka Chopra’s production house has gone a step further and is actually actively looking for talent in the area. Madhu Chopra (PC’s mother), who heads the production company, elaborates that this has come about as a result of Priyanka’s involvement in Mary Kom (a biopic on the world renowned boxer). “When Priyanka did Mary Kom she had the urge to work with Northeast talent. There is enough talent in Northeast and we just need to make a platform for them. We have a script ready, for which we will rope in many talents from Northeast, who deserve this platform. We have already started auditioning and the film will go on floors soon,” she reveals.
Actress and model Dipannita Sharma, who hails from Assam, and has been a part of the industry much longer than her contemporaries, is also happy about the trend. “When I started, there was barely anyone from that part in the industry and people were largely unaware. It makes me very happy and proud that in some way I have contributed to it and I welcome this change with open arms,” she says confidently....