With its gritty storyline and powerful performances, Amazon Prime Video’s Paatal Lok has emerged as quite the winner among web series released this year. 

While the lead characters definitely leave a powerful impact, the supporting actors are no less brilliant in their roles. Like Cheeni, who is one of the four people arrested for the alleged murder conspiracy of Sanjeev Mehra. 

A transgender, whose role in the mission was to pretend to be a woman and allow safe passage for the others, Cheeni’s story and struggles held up a mirror to society’s inhuman treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. 

And actor Mairembam Ronaldo Singh, who plays Cheeni, deserves complete credit for her honest, heartwrenching portrayal of the treatment meted out to a transgender in India. 

In an exclusive interview with Film Companion, show’s casting directors Abhishek Bannerjee and Anmol Ahuja shared that Mairemban is actually a transgender theatre actor from Manipur. 

And casting associate, Nikita Grover (who plays the lady cop in the show) was the one responsible for finding ‘this gem of an actor’. 

We needed a trans person for this part and we needed a Manipuri. These things could be difficult for casting directors. I remember watching Mary Kom and being disappointed with the casting. I remember casting experiences where I just didn’t know how to go about it: If you have to cast a South African team in Inside Edge, how do you cast the team?

So Nikita went to Manipur, found out local theatre groups, and found this gem of an actor. It’s the biggest win for us as a casting company till date. More than Mairembam, I think it’s our pleasure to get her her first screen role as an actor. 

Abhishek also added that though convincing her parents and partner took a lot of effort, it was important to cast someone who actually understood the character. 

We are a country of 130 crore. If we say that we don’t have such people in India to play that character then it’s a problem.

It is important that directors don’t focus on ‘star value’ but on actors who can do complete justice to the roles when casting. As the success of Paatal Lok has shown, when a well-developed story marries honest performances, then actors automatically become ‘heroes’. 

All images from Amazon Prime Video.