Anek, directed by Anubhav Sinha and based on political conflicts in Northeast India, also started a conversation about the systemic racism that people from the region face.
Previously, the Netflix film Axone, starring mostly actors from the North-East, not only focused on the racial prejudice encountered by North-East people, but also highlighted the need for representation on screen.
While the subject certainly can not be spared, celebrities from the North-East speaking out about the discriminatory practices shows how deeply ingrained it is.
1. Adil Hussain
In response to the racism aimed at people from northeast India, Adil Hussain, a native of Assam, held Bollywood partially responsible for the continuing discrimination. He stated in an interview with The Citizen that it is “extremely disappointing” and “heart-wrenching” to see.
Northeast hasn’t been really portrayed in the mainstream media, in films and television much. I would hold Bollywood responsible and also myself responsible. People who make films and series should be held responsible at the national level… for not representing those faces from Northeast.
-Adil Hussain to The Citizen
2. Parineeta Borthakur
Parineeta Borthakur, a television actor, commented on the underrepresentation of North East people on the small screen, saying she wonders why they are never a part of any stories.
Apart from the show, Nima Denzongpa, I have hardly seen any northeastern-looking girl or boy playing the main lead until and unless it is based in the northeast.
-Parineeta Borthakur to HT
3. Andrea Kevichüsa
Andrea Kevichüsa, who made her Bollywood debut with Anek, also discussed the discrimination she faced in her field. In an interview, the model-turned-actor described an unpleasant incident in which she experienced racism because she was from the Northeast.
I was probably about 16 years of age and I remember telling the makeup artist that I have a flight to Nagaland and I am dying to go back home because I miss being with my parents. And she was like, ‘Oh is it? When are you going back to your country?’ I was really taken aback because she didn’t really know that Nagaland is a part of India.
-Andrea Kevichüsa to DNA
4. Lin Laishram
Lin Laishram, who has appeared in films such as Mary Kom and Rangoon, asserted that actors from the Northeast are typically given fewer chances. In addition, the Manipur-born actor believes that it is past time for Bollywood to stop stereotyping people from North-East.
My ethnicity has been my biggest struggle in the industry, a setback in getting me work. I have so many friends who are established now with whom I studied acting, did theatre… They are doing way more work than I am doing right now. If I have two auditions in a month, they have 15-20. It’s easier for them to get roles.
-Lin Laishram to PTI
5. Rima Das
Rima Das, the director of Village Rockstars and an Assamese native, acknowledged that stereotypes exist because stories are created by people who are unfamiliar with the culture.
We have to take responsibility while telling stories, and picking roles. Also, I feel we need to have more mainstream opportunities, because independent work gets a limited audience. If we get more visibility, our characters will also get more visibility, and the misconceptions will change.
-Rima Das to HT
6. Geetanjali Thapa
Geetanjali Thapa, a national award-winning actor from Sikkim, also revealed that her physical appearance was a barrier for her in the entertainment industry.
I have faced discrimination. I have been told I can’t do this as I don’t look Indian enough. People say ‘she is a good actor but she doesn’t (look) Indian’. I used to feel sad about it, but now I have developed a thick skin.
-Geetanjali Thapa to PTI
7. Dipannita Sharma
Dipannita Sharma reportedly struggled with the set idea of ‘Indian look’ in the entertainment industry. According to Hindustan Times, Sharma stated that people from the North-East have been subjected to racism for a long time.
When it comes to scripts and narratives in the media, people need to be extremely careful… If something like that is corroborated even as a joke on a popular show, then those who actually believe in that will get a lot more encouraged to go and pick on their north eastern colleague or neighbour. We must understand sentiments.
-Dipannita Sharma to HT
8. Merenla Imsong
Merenla Imsong, an actor and YouTube content creator from Nagaland, expressed her willingness to see protagonists from the North East exist in a film without any regard for their race. The Axone actor revealed that she has played nearly every character on screen who is stereotypically associated with people from the North East.
Massagewali (masseuse), salonwali (worker at a salon), and momo seller. We get these kinds of roles frequently. We end up becoming character actors too.
-Merenla Imsong to Silverscreen India
While things are getting better, there is still much work to be done.