Inclusivity in cinema is just as important as any other field – this starts but doesn’t end at writing stories that are inclusive and casting actors keeping in mind the factor of ‘appropriation’. Sadly, Bollywood hasn’t always been very open to taking in new ideas or keeping in touch with authenticity. This not only keeps us away from the realities of our society but also increases the stereotypes that we associate with people due to the lack of representation.
However, these films and shows managed to get one step closer to being inlcuisve:
Jalsa not only had a well-written plot, but also a stellar cast and Surya Kasibhatla was one of them. The actor who portrays Maya’s son Ayush in the film, suffers from Cerebral Palsy. This was a notable milestone, given that the casting director cast an actor who has the same disability as his character. It’s a beginning of representation for actors with disabilities – and also in developing a more inclusive space by writing such characters.
The film not only talked about issues that people from North-East India face on a regular basis, but also did so with actors who portray experiences that are theirs. By casting most actors from North-East India, the film came one step closer to including experiences that are honest and also giving chance to actors, who are of the same ethnicity as their character. While Bollywood mostly comes up with offensive stereotypes, this was a step in the right direction.
3. Paatal Lok
The show that is loved by a lot of people, also did one important thing right – in casting a transgender actor to play the role of one. Cheeni, the character portrayed by Mairembam Ronaldo Singh brought an honest depiction of the treatment that a transgender faces in India – all because Mairembam was able to bring in her experience as a transwoman. Not only that, but it also brought up the need to make the industry an inclusive place for transgender actors.
4. Badhaai Do
With Rimjhim, we got a strong and important North-Eastern character in mainstream Bollywood. Chum Darang, who portrays the character, had an important story arc unlike most Bollywood films that typecast North-Eastern character to unimportant roles with small jobs. Rimjhim was portrayed as a self-independent queer woman, who broke the deeply-set stereotypes associated with people from North-East in movies. It was inclusion done right.
5. The Family Man
The Family Man emerged as an entertainer with its storyline and powerful performances. And, it also brought us an authentic experience with Tamilian actors playing characters that were from the same cultural background. Most times, Tamilian and other South-Indian characters are stereotyped in Bollywood with actors who aren’t aware of the language, experiences or even the understanding of the culture. With the series, we got that right.
6. Udta Punjab
The film that divided the audience definitely did one thing right – in portraying a sikh character as an important and serious character. With Diljit Dosanjh’s Sartaj Singh, we got a sikh character in mainstream Bollywood who wasn’t just present to make jokes. Often, such characters are used in Bollywood for comic relief, due to the lack of understanding. Giving substantial roles to sikh actors is important for representation that it honest.
7. Wake Up Sid
Wake Up Sid is still relevant for a lot of reasons, and the storyline remains one of them. But, it has also managed to be one of the few Bollywood films where a plus sized actor was not made a comical element. Where films keep putting characters with unrealistic body standards in front of us, Shikha Talsania’s Laxmi was relatable. And, the film didn’t leave us with uncomfortable fat-shaming jokes that make us question our bodies.
8. Chak De! India
Not only did the film put light on how women are treated in sports, but also gave us a glimpse of a sports team that was close to real – with players from all over the country. With characters like Mary Ralte, Molly Zimik and so on, the film took a step in the right direction to rope in actors with the same ethnicity as their characters. This made the film a more authentic watch than other Bollywood sports drama.
The trailer for the film is out and just by the looks of it, we’re impressed with the casting. The film that will revolve around issues faced by people in the North-East India will also be portraying so, with actors who are from North-East. This adds on to the anticipation because mainstream Hindi cinema has not been successful in putting emphasis on these issues – which means also opening up to stories that are inclusive and not just the casting.
10. Bombay Begums
The Netflix series portrayed strong characters and Ivanka Das’ character was one of them. The trans actor brilliantly portrayed a trans character who’s a prostitute in the show. While most Bollywood directors like Bhansali are still stuck in their ways by casting cis-gendered actors for transgender characters, Bombay Begums did it right.
There’s some hope for Bollywood, after all.